Category Archives: SPG

Moments by SPG: Redeem Starpoints for Experiences

In general, you should use airline miles for flights only and hotel points for hotel stays only. There are a few exceptions.

For instance, Starpoints in your Starwood Preferred Guest account are great for hotels, but they also transfer at a favorable rate to 30 major airlines. Read my Starpoints Primer here.

Starpoints also occasionally offer incredible value through Moments by SPG. SPG Moments offer one-of-a-kind musical, sporting, or cultural experiences to Starwood Preferred Guest members.

Some of the packages are available for immediate redemption, and some are in an auction format. I was browsing the options the other day, and I ran across an “Exclusive Capital Cities Concert at Sheraton Buenos Aires.

For only 5,000 Starpoints, you can instantly get two tickets to see these guys perform in my favorite city, and two tickets to a pre-concert cocktail reception.

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At my valuation of 2.5 cents per point, that’s $125 worth of points for an awesome evening for two.

Even better, there are five auction packages that include the concert tickets, the reception tickets, and a meet-and-greet with the band.

Only two of them even have a bid.

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That’s probably because this is a band with only one hit playing a concert thousands of miles away from most SPG members eight months from now. But for me it means I can probably spend 5k points or just a little more for an option to have an incredible night in December if I’m in Buenos Aires.

There are a number of other live auctions to meet other musicians or sports stars all over the world.

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Again, this isn’t necessarily the best use of Starpoints. Nor will it appeal to everyone. But it is a nice option to have, and one to be aware of in addition to the bread-and-butter Starpoint redemptions:

Both the personal and business versions of the Starwood credit card offer 25,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first six months. Getting both and meeting both spending requirements would give you 60k Starpoints (which can transfer to 75k American, Delta, or US Airways miles.)

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Get the 30k Alaska Airlines Card Not the 40k Alaska Airlines Card

Two excellent offers are floating around right now for the Alaska Airlines credit card from Bank of America:

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It might surprise you to learn that the bonus of 30,000 miles is far better than the bonus of 40,000 miles.

Why? Why do I love Alaska miles?

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A Ranking of Miles from Most Broadly Useful to Most Niche

I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored my those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should  know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

Which miles do I consider broadly useful? Which programs do I consider niche programs? What are the niche programs’ strengths?

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Which is the Best American Express Business Card for You?

Updating this post

Predictions for Major Changes to Loyalty Programs in 2014

2013 was a year of several major devaluation announcements including:

  • United (kicks in February 1, 2014)
  • Southwest (kicks in March 31, 2014)
  • Delta (already kicked in on current award bookings for travel that starts February 1, 2014 or later)
  • Hyatt (kicks in January 7, 2014)
  • Ultimate Rewards (with three major transfer partners devaluing–United, Southwest, and Hyatt–the program took a major hit through no fault of its own)

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re still getting outsized value from our miles and points and traveling the world in style for next to nothing.

What’s my outlook for 2014 and what’s my strategy for earning and burning the major points’ currencies?

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How to Transfer SPG Starpoints to Airline Miles

Update: My transfer took two days. I made the transfer on December 18 and received the miles on December 20. Yours may take more or less time.

Starpoints (or SPG points) are the points earned from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Starpoints are the most valuable mile or point in my opinion–worth about 2.5 cents each.

They can be used for free hotel nights, complete vacations, discounted hotel nights, or transferred to airline miles with over 30 airlines. It’s not uncommon for hotel points to be usable for hotel stays and airline tickets. What’s unusual is to get a good value for your points doing both things. That’s true versatility.

Some of the airline transfer partners are some of my favorite mileage programs like:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Delta
  • British Airways
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alaska
  • Hawaiian
  • Japan Airlines
  • Lufthansa (Miles & More)
  • Singapore
  • Virgin Atlantic

All the airlines listed have miles that are ideal for certain awards, so to be able to transfer Starpoints at a 1:1 ratio to all those airlines is a huge boon! Even better, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you receive 25,000 miles in your airline account, a tidy 5k mile bonus.

I recently opened both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express on the same day, so I am sitting on 70k Starpoints, mulling my redemption options.

Yesterday, I decided to transfer 20k Starpoints to my US Airways Dividend Miles account to receive 25k US Airways miles. My US Airways account had 100k miles in it (from a recent Share Miles promotion), and the award I want–roundtrip first class to South America–costs 125k US Airways miles.

How did I transfer the Starpoints (with screenshots)? What tips do I have for miles transfers?

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Get Your Own Referral Link for the Starwood Preferred Guest Cards to Earn Up to 55k Starpoints

You can earn up to 55,000 Starpoints referring your friends to open the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, two of my favorite cards.

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I got both of the cards for myself in September because Starpoints are the single most valuable mile or point on the planet.

With my 70,000 Starpoints earned so far on the cards, I plan to do a Nights & Flights award, which would be five nights at an awesome hotel plus 50k airline miles with the airline of my choice.

For more info on Starpoints and more reasons why the Starwood cards are two of my favorite cards, see Starwood Preferred Guest Primer and Three Great Uses for the Starpoints.

How does the referral bonus work? How can you refer your friends?

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Huge SPG to Aeroplan Transfer Bonus Means Roundtrip To Europe Year Round for 40k Points or 80k Points in First Class

Right now 40k Starpoints plus taxes will get you a roundtrip economy class trip to Europe any time of year, 65k Starpoints will get you a roundtrip business class ticket, and 80k will get you a roundtrip in first class.

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a rate of 20k Starpoints to 25k miles. On top of that standard bonus, until December 9, 2013, Aeroplan is giving a bonus of up to 25k miles on transfers of hotel points to Aeroplan miles.

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These transfer bonuses combine to mean you can get up to 56% more Aeroplan miles than you had Starpoints, which you can redeem on a cheap award chart on Air Canada flights or any Star Alliance carrier.

If you redeem to Western Europe on United and US Airways flights, you’ll pay only 40k/65k/80k Starpoints in economy/business/first with no fuel surcharges.

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Luckily I’m flush with Starpoints from getting the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and business version in September.

How can you take maximum advantage of this promotion? How can you avoid the fuel surcharges? Where do you search? How do you search? Where do you book? How good of a deal is 40k Starpoints to Europe or 80k Starpoints in first class?

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25% Discount on Buying SPG Starpoints: 2.625 Cents Each

I just got an email today from Starwood Preferred Guest announcing up to a 25% discount on the purchase of Starpoints. Through December 13, 2013, you can purchase up to 20,000 Starpoints with the following discounts:

  • 500-4,500 Starpoints — 3.5 cents each (full price)
  • 5,000-12,500 Starpoints — 2.8 cents each (20% off)
  • 13,000-20,000 Starpoints — 2.625 cents each (25% off)

Should you buy Starpoints at the discounted price? Maybe…

Who shouldn’t miss this sale? Who can skip it? How can you get around the 20k Starpoint purchase cap?

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Third Night Free at Participating Starwood Hotels for SPG Credit Card Holders

Yesterday I received an email inviting me to book two nights and get the third night free at participating Aloft, Element, and Four Points hotels because I have a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

The offer indicates that on stays at participating Aloft, Element, and Four Points hotels, I will get the third night free if I pay for two nights with my Starwood card.

Will I be taking advantage? How good of a value is this offer?

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Should You Convert Starpoints to Avios with a 56% Bonus through October 15?

Until October 15, you can convert 20,000 Starpoints to 31,125 Avios, a 56% transfer bonus.

Ordinarily 20,000 Starpoints transfer to 25,000 Avios, the same 5,000 mile bonus you get on every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to all 1:1 airline partners. Until October 15, British Airways is giving a 25% bonus on all incoming transfers of hotel points to Avios. That means that the normal 25,000 Avios becomes 31,250 Avios.

The headline figure of a 56% bonus on transfers from Starpoints to Avios is eye catching, but is it a good deal? That depends on your valuation of Starpoints and Avios, which depends on how you use them.

For whom is transferring Starpoints to Avios a good deal? For whom is it a bad deal? How can you get Starpoints to transfer?

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Current Offer on SPG Cards: 25k Starpoints

Here are the current links for the SPG cards from American Express.

If you apply for both the personal and business card today, you’ll have 60k Starpoints after meeting the minimum spending requirement after meeting the minimum spending requirement of $5k per card in the first six months. (50k bonus points plus 10k for spending.) That’s 75k American Airlines, US Airways, or Delta miles.

Or it’s enough for five free nights at a Category 4 Starwood hotel plus 50,000 airline miles to get you to the hotel.

Use Starpoints to stay at the Sheraton Kona?

Or it’s enough for 30 free hotel nights.

In the last few weeks, I’ve written several posts about extremely high value ways (think 3-4 cents per point) to use Starpoints, which are the most valuable point/miles in the milesphere.

Tons of readers have excitedly emailed me to tell me they’ve been approved for the SPG cards and what their plans are for the points.

Finally, one thing that I mentioned only in passing in the Primer, but I think is crucial for small spenders to remember: both cards have a $5k minimum spending requirement over six months.

That’s only $834 in minimum spending requirement per card per month. These days it’s hard to imagine someone couldn’t meet both cards’ spending requirements at once.

 

 

Are Under-Categorized Hotels the Best Use of Hotel Points : Review of the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur

I am a lodging cheapskate. My ideal trip length is four weeks, so hotel bills would add up quickly. Right now I haven’t been in the US since February, so I’ve had to come up with creative ways to sleep cheaply.

But just because I’m a cheapskate doesn’t mean I don’t want to stay at fancy hotels sometimes too. I’m jealous that Rookie Alli has two nights at any Hilton worldwide. I have my own two free nights at Hyatts worldwide that I’ll be sure to use somewhere way outside my price range.

There is a third way, though, between the extremes of free ultra-luxury and cheap adequate accommodation: under-categorized hotels are a fantastic value play.

Free nights at hotels cost a certain number of points that are decided by which category a hotel places the hotel into. For instance, a Category 1 Hilton costs 5,000 points for a free night. A Category 10 Hilton costs up to 95,000 points for a free night.

The number of points needed generally tracks the quality, location, and price of the hotel, but some hotels are under-categorized and represent fantastic value with points.

Last night I stayed in one such hotel, the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur, which is a Hilton Category 2 property that costs only 10k Hilton points per night.

Continue for my review with photos of the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur and a rundown of all the freebies I got. What hotel award charts might have sweet spots? What are the best value free nights you’ve gotten?

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Limited Time: 50k AA Card Offer Plus Expiring SPG Cards’ Offer Means Round-the-World Business Class Award

Key Links:

Combined, the cards offer enough American Airlines miles for a round-the-world business class award with up to 15 stopovers.

You could take this trip in business class.

How can you go around the world in business class for just the taxes?

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Which is the Better Offer: 50k Business Gold Card or 30k SPG Business Card?

Update: 12/11/13: The 50k Business Gold Card offer is dead.

Update 9/3/13: The 30k bonus Starpoint offers on the personal and business versions of the SPG card are dead. For the current 25k offers, see here for the personal card and here for the business card.

With only five days until the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business cards’ 30,000 Starpoints sign up bonus ends on 9/3/13, I got an interesting question from reader JT who wants to know whether he should get the SPG Business Card or the Business Gold Rewards with a 50,000 Membership Rewards sign up bonus.

Key Links:

  • The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN with 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express with 30,000 bonus Starpoints

What’s the difference between these American Express business cards? Which is better for you?

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