Starwood Cash & Points Strategy

Starwood Preferred Guest’s Cash & Points redemptions are some of the best values in travel. While most hotel points are worth a fraction of a cent and dropping, SPG Cash & Points redemptions can get 2, 3, or even more cents of value from Starpoints.

Cash & Points stays are not pure awards where you use points for a free room. Instead, they are awards where you combine (as the name suggests) some cash with fewer points than you would ordinarily need for a free night–stretching your cash and points farther. Also, unlike free night awards, Cash & Points awards are capacity controlled.

That means, kind of like airline awards, you need to search for space and be flexible to use Cash & Points awards.

Three weeks ago, Starwood increased the cash and points prices of Cash & Points awards. At the time, Starwood claimed there would be an increase in the availability of the awards. Ben and Summer have weighed in, saying they have found increased availability. And I agree. Availability has improved dramatically.

Here’s the new Cash & Points chart.

 

 

Where’s the best value?

That depends on your hotel preferences. If you want opulence, and you’d otherwise pay $500 or more per night, then the top tiers might have real value.

If you’re like me–and you like very cheap accommodation–then the best value will be at the bottom tiers–1,500 points and $30 is pretty incredible for four walls and a roof.

Searching for Space

Cash & Points space is capacity controlled. You can search for it on SPG.com here.

These search results are a little messy, though, so I prefer to use the Wandering Aramean’s search tool.

I did several searches for the same July weekend in cities throughout the world, and I found great Cash & Points availability.

New York, image from http://www.wandr.me/SPG-Award-Search.aspx/

Buenos Aires, image from http://www.wandr.me/SPG-Award-Search.aspx/

 

Rome, image from http://www.wandr.me/SPG-Award-Search.aspx/

Let’s look at some of the Los Angeles properties, which are available the same weekend.

The Sheraton Downtown wants $349 per night plus tax or 5,000 Starpoints plus $75 plus tax.

That works out to more than 5.5 cents per point in value from each Starpoint since 5,000 points would save $274 plus tax per night.

The other hotels have less of an eye popping cents per point value. The Sheraton in Anaheim is also a Category 4 that costs 5,000 points and $75.

But since it only costs $209, the cents per point on the Cash & Points redemption is around 2.8 cents.

Sheraton Ontario is a Category 2, so it only costs 2,000 points and $35.

But it only retails for $79 per night, so the 2,000 Starpoints only save about 2.2 cents each (and a 3,000 point Free Night Award is a better deal.)

Cash & Points Value

From Cash & Points awards, you should always be able to exceed two cents in value per point. Even on “bad” redemptions like the Sheraton Ontario, we can get more than 2 cents per point. And on some phenomenal redemptions, we can get 5 cents or more per point.

Cash & Points awards still remain the best use of Starpoints. The second best use remains transferring Starpoints to airline partners like US Airways, American Airlines, and Delta in increments of 20,000 to receive 5,000 mile bonuses.

The average value you can get from Cash & Points awards, even if you don’t value hotels at their retail rate should be over 2.5 cents per Starpoint.

Load Up On Starpoints

The Starwoord Preferred Guest from American Express earns 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Those 30,000 Starpoints can be used for up to twenty Cash & Points award nights. Even at a conservative 2.5 cents per point estimate, 30,000 Starpoints are worth $750.

Because the SPG American Express earns one Starpoint per dollar, and because Starpoints are more valuable than any other type of point or mile, this is one of the best cards to put everyday spending (that doesn’t fall into other cards’ bonus categories) on.

The card has no annual fee the first year, and $65 thereafter.

Application Link: Starwoord Preferred Guest from American Express

Recap

Starwood has increased the amount of cash and points needed for Cash & Points awards, but they’ve simultaneously increased the number of hotel rooms made available for such awards.

Cash & Points awards remain the best use for Starpoints–delivering 2-5+ cents of value per point, and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express remains the best way to stock up on Starpoints.



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9 Responses to Starwood Cash & Points Strategy

  1. Hi,

    Can you please email me with your contact details as want to speak with you regarding your award booking service.

    I am blind and unfortunately your contact form has a graphical captcha and audio alternatives are impossible to understand normally.

    Thanks,
    Dale.

  2. I think this analysis is confusing the value of the free night award with the value of cash & points. The free night award is what is really driving the value realized here. Cash & points is simply allowing you to buy half of the points needed for that free night, and should be compared vs other ways to buy points. The cost to buy those via C&P is 2.0/1.75/1.57/1.50/1.83/1.80/1.83cpp for CAT 1-7, resp after the recent devaluation (significantly higher than 1.39/1.25/1.07/1.00/1.25/1.25/1.83 before). While not a horrible deal, the new C&P eff price per point is significantly above the cost at which SPG points can be easily manufactured. And using cash & points incurs hotel taxes on the cash portion, thus making the effective cost of buying them that way even higher vs manuf spend. So except for cases where I’d need to buy a much larger quantity of points than I already have or can manufacture, I do not find them attractive at all now.

    • Why do you prefer to compare C&P to Free Nights versus C&P to paid nights? I think either could be correct depending on your back up plan if you don’t book a C&P night.

      • I just feel looking at C&P vs free night offers add’l insight into the optimal way to play this. While C&P appears to offer a significant value per point vs the paid night rate (and as I mentioned it does in the case where you have insufficient SPG or no way to manuf enough) it still is effectively buying points at a higher price than can be done elsewhere.

  3. With SPG properties, I always check their AAA rates which are often lower than their flexible rates. I also seperate weekday from weekend dates to see if there is a price difference. Sometimes the AAA rate is so cheap that it’s worth just paying for the room with cash rather than using points. For example, I have been looking at the Sheraton Park Anaheim (which you mentioned here) for a 3 night stay June 13-16, the AAA rates is a mere $116 per night, and the regular rate is $129. At that price, I rather pay with cash and save my points for a future flight on Cathay!

    I do the same trick when I check Marriott hotels, and the price difference is even more substantial with Marriott!

  4. As a leisure traveller I am not seeing increased availability for C&P. For instance I looked at Maui. For the rest of 2013 there is Zero availability at Westin and Sheraton near Blackrock. At the other Westin to the north there is lots of availability with C&P with 15000 pts and $275 which saves about 1.1 cents per point off the regular $389/ night cost.

  5. The Miles Professor

    The geographical information that SPG gives about New York is a bit confusing and leads to confusing availability results in this post. The New York hotel information suggests there are 8-10 hotels available in New York. In reality, there are only two. I live in New York and there is almost no way a tourist or New York visitor would ever stay in Mahwah, Parsippany or Tarrytown. SGP has an issue where it shows you the closest hotels within some amount of miles, but this doesn’t really apply in this case.

    While W Hoboken may be somewhat reasonable for New York visits as there is a PATH train between Hoboken and the city, the ones in Mahwah and Parsippany are in NJ quite far away with no good transportation except by car or multiple buses and trains and getting back and forth is an extreme hassle. Those that commute to NY from those areas almost exclusively drive and parking in the city is also expensive.

    Anyhow, in reality, SPG Cash & Points availability in NYC is really not so good, unfortunately. It’s only available at 2 hotels out of the 10 SPG that are actually in NYC for the weekend you mention. Moreover, it’s only at Category 6 properties, where the copayment is $180.

  6. No love for free night awards?

  7. Ah, the HouseHunters approach. No one in reality ever buys 1 of only 3 houses, and likewise most people looking for a hotel would never just look at Starwood. It’s my experience that if you do broaden the search, redeeming SPG points for hotel rooms is almost never the best choice. I agree with Sharon, they’re much too valuable in airline transfers to squander on hotel redemptions.

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