Starwood Preferred Guest – Nights & Flights

With the announcement that Marriott is buying Starwood, many Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members might be worried about the future. When point balances and status qualification criteria are merged, it is safe to assume that the news won’t be all good for members of one or both programmes.

One of the interesting items to note about the two hotel chain loyalty programmes is that they both share one common feature – their best award options combine free hotel nights with airline miles. I thought it might be valuable to compare the two, and see what those with large SPG balances (such as yours truly) might gain by waiting to see what the conversion criteria will be for the almost certain conversion of SPG points into Marriott Rewards points.

Today I’ll look at Starwood Preferred Guest…  It offers an award option called Nights & Flights. (N&F)

N&F applies to hotels in award categories 3 and 4. A N&F redemption earns the SPG member 5 free nights at any hotel in Cat 3 or 4, plus 50,000 miles in most of SPG’s airline partner programmes (those that convert on a 1:1 basis such as British Airways Avios and many others). SPG members must hand over:

  • 60,000 Starpoints for a Category 3 N&F redemption
  • 70,000 Starpoints for a Category 4 N&F redemption

This is, of course, a substantial number of Starpoints, since members only earn between 2 and 4 Starpoints per US dollar spent at Starwood hotels. Of course, SPG point balances can be jazzed up by successful Best Rate Guarantee claims and buying Starpoints during the twice-annual 25%-off sale. There are also American Express credit cards that earn SPG points.

One of SPG’s better known award options is a straight conversion from Starpoints to miles. When 20,000 points is converted, SPG adds an extra 5,000 miles. So, 20,000 points = 25,000 miles. By doubling this, 40,000 points are necessary in order to receive 50,000 miles.

So, if we return to the N&F redemption, we know that we could spend 40,000 points to get those 50,000 miles. This leaves us spending:

  • 20,000 points for 5 free nights at a Category 3 hotel
  • 30,000 points for 5 free nights at a Category 4 hotel

Another of SPG’s features is the fifth night free on all hotel night awards in Categories 3 – 7. So, in order to book 5 free nights, a member normally requires:

  • 28,000 points for 5 free nights at a Category 3 hotel
  • 40,000 points for 5 free nights at a Category 4 hotel

For any SPG member who wants to book a five-night hotel stay AND convert some points into airline miles, SPG is basically giving away 8,000 Starpoints for a Category 3 award and 10,000 Starpoints for a Category 4 award. These are fundamentally free points…

The main additional subject to keep in mind is ensuring that the value of the free nights corresponds to the value of the points being spent – in other words, don’t spend 30,000 points for 5 free nights at a Category 4 hotel if the cash rate at the hotel is only $100 per night.

The final detail to note is cancellations and refunds. To avoid cheating since mile conversions cannot be reversed, N&F awards can be cancelled, but only 20K or 30K points will be refunded. The airline conversion is left alone and you will end up paying the standard 40K Starpoints for 50K miles.

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