Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards Program
The Starwood Preferred Guest® network is the loyalty rewards program for Starwood hotels, which includes more than 1,169 participating hotels worldwide such as: Westin, W Hotels, the new Tribute Portfolio properties, The Luxury Collection, St. Regis, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Four Points, Element, and Aloft. Let’s begin by investigating the benefits of being a loyal Starwood guest as we look at what it means o have “elite status” and how you can earn and redeem your SPG Starwood Preferred Guest points.
The Starwood Preferred Elite Status
There are two levels of elite status: Platinum Preferred and Gold Preferred. You can achieve lifetime status with 10 years and 500 nights of elite status for lifetime Platinum, or five years and 250 nights for lifetime Gold. Luckily, both award bookings and paid stays count toward elite status. Here are some SPG member benefits to think about when considering the program:
Gold Preferred Guest® membership is awarded after 25 eligible nights or 10 eligible stays in a calendar year. Instead of the regular two Starpoints per eligible dollar spent, gold status earns you:
- Three Starpoints per eligible dollar spent
- A welcome gift that’s your choice of a free drink, bonus Starpoints (250 and 500 at discount and full-service properties), or in-room premium Internet (already included if you booked via SPG.com)
- An upgrade to an enhanced room at check-in (excluding the suites and lounge level) subject to availability and a late 4pm checkout
Platinum Preferred Guest® membership is earned after 50 eligible nights or 25 eligible stays in a calendar year. In addition to receiving all of the benefits of a Gold Preferred Guest® membership, Platinums receive:
- A welcome gift consisting of the same bonus Starpoints, local amenity, or continental breakfast
- Health club access
- Club lounge access
- An upgrade to the best-available room at check-in (including standard suites)
- A guaranteed room if you book at least 72 hours in advance
Keep in mind that there are actually four levels of Platinum SPG status. For example, if you only have 30 nights and 25 stays under your belt and you continue to book at SPG properties, you’ll earn additional points once you hit 50, 75, and 100 eligible nights as follows:
- 50 eligible nights: 10 Suite Night Awards, each good for one night to be used on award or paid stays
- 75 eligible nights: Your24 eligibility, where you can choose your check-in time
- 100 eligible nights: SPG Ambassador service
In addition, Platinum guests receive other benefits at Caesar’s Entertainment Hotels in Las Vegas, including VIP lines for nightclubs, restaurants, casino cages, and check-ins. Platinum guests also benefit from perks such as priority boarding, priority check-in, and the first checked bag for free with Emirates through Your World Rewards and Delta Airlines via Crossover Rewards.
Keep in mind that you receive Platinum level for the remainder of the calendar year in which you attain the level, in addition to the next calendar year. For this reason, it’s often in your best interest to earn the status as soon as you can in the new calendar year so you can enjoy the full range of benefits for as long as possible.
How to Earn Points
Like most hotel loyalty programs, you earn the majority of your points through credit card spending or by staying at Starwood properties, and you can then, in turn, redeem these points for free hotel nights. Since it’s difficult to earn large quantities of points, Starpoints carry a high value, but there are plenty of redemption options available to you at the lower levels. Here are some ways to earn Starpoints:
SPG partners with Emirates and Delta so that you can earn air miles when staying at SPG properties or Starpoints when flying the airlines. Elites can take advantage of other benefits via Emirates Your World Rewards and Delta Crossover Rewards, including one Starpoint for every dollar spent on eligible flights.
You can purchase a maximum of 20,000 Starpoints per year for $17.50. The points are awarded in 500-point increments, or you can transfer your Starpoints for no additional cost to any member living at the same address as you. This can be a great perk for spouses looking to combine credit card sign-up bonuses for free.
Credit Card Spending
Like many airline credit cards, the SPG network allows customers to earn points with their branded credit cards. There are two credit cards that earn you Starpoints: the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card and the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest® Business credit card. Both cards include Sheraton club access for non-Platinum members and no foreign transaction fees. Keep in mind that there are no spending category bonuses with either Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card, so it can be difficult to rack up a lot of points. If you already hold a Starwood Preferred Guest® card, you can refer family and friends to the card and earn a bonus for each accepted applicant.
Whereas non-elite guests earn two points for every eligible dollar spent at SPG properties, Platinum and Gold guests earn three points. You can also earn credit for up to three guest rooms per stay if you’re staying in one of the rooms and paying all the room bills.
You can earn Starpoints at the same rate as above even if you’re not staying at a property as long as you present your membership number at your in-property bar or restaurant and your tab is a minimum of $10.
This program awards event and meeting planners bonus Starpoints and night credits based upon how much revenue your meeting brings to the property. For instance, if you book 76 room nights for colleagues, you could earn as much as 6,000 Starpoints, just for organizing the stay.
- SPG Promotions - Also keep an eye open for SPG promotions, either in the form of online instant-win games or added points for hotel stays.
- Uber - Earn between one and four Starpoints per dollar spent with Uber, depending on whether you’re using Uber during an SPG stay and whether you hold elite status.
- Broadway Tickets - Earn anywhere from 350 to 2,500 Starpoints for every Broadway ticket purchased through Audience Rewards.
- Rental Cars - Earn 250 Starpoints per rental day with SIXT rent-a-car and 50 Starpoints per rental day with Avis.
Award and Redemption Options
Properties are divided into seven categories, ranging from 2,000 to 25,000 Starpoints a night. At properties where rooms are more expensive because of a “full board requirement” during peak season or because the property doesn’t have standard rooms, you can expect to redeem up to 140,000 per night. Keep in mind that you won’t be charged service fees or taxes on free-night redemptions, and there aren’t any blackout dates. In other words, as long as the property has a standard room available, you can use your points to book it at no cost to you. Know in advance what the property considers a “standard room” and contact SPG if you believe that an award night should be available to you. When obtaining a fifth free night with your points, keep in mind you only need enough Starpoints to book four nights, not five. You might also be entitled to redeem your Starpoints for room/suite/club upgrades as well.
Flights & Nights
Redeem your Starpoints for 50,000 air miles and five free nights at Category 3 and 4 properties. 50,000 air miles and five nights will run you 60.000 Starpoints at a Category 3 property, and 70,000 Starpoints at a Category 4 location. Keep in mind that it can take five to 10 days to transfer points, and there’s no guarantee that space will be available by the time the transfer is complete.
Transfer to Amtrak/Airlines
One of the biggest value aspects of the SPG program is that you can transfer your Starpoints to Amtrak or one of 32 different airline programs. SPG will add a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, and you can book a ticket on almost any airline given the number of partners that the group covers. The Amex SPG card offers a points-transfer feature with more freedom and flexibility in terms of earning and redeeming points, so if you’re looking to rack up points on a single card and you need options as far as airline travel goes, then the Amex SPG Preferred Guest card may be your best bet.
Be careful not to confuse this option with transferring points to airline programs. SPG Flights allow you to exchange your Starpoints based on the revenue fair if you book directly through an online travel agency.
Cash & Points
Starting at $30 and 1,500 points, you can redeem a cash surcharge in addition to the 50% of the standard required points for a basic room at any eligible property.
With this program, you can turn your Starpoints into sporting, music, or cultural experiences. Grab a luxury suite for the Taylor Swift concert, attend a celebrity chef cooking lesson, or relax in a courtside seat at the big game.
- Donate - By donating 500 to 20,000 Starpoints to the United Nations Children’s Fund, The American Red Cross, or Clean the World, you could provide school materials or a one-month supply of soap to a classroom for a full year.
- 50% Off Rack Rates - You can request Rate ID: SPG50 for just 1,000 points. If it’s available, you’re entitled to redeem 1,000 Starpoints and receive a 50% discount on the hotel room rate for up to five consecutive nights.
- Car Rentals - Get a $50 gift certificate to SIXT rent-a-car or Avis for 3,500 Starpoints.
- Tickets/Gift Cards - You can redeem your points for gift cards to one of 13 different retailers, including iTunes, Banana Republic, Starbucks, and Amazon. $25 gift cards will cost you 2,800 points, and 14,000 points will get you a $150 gift card. Also consider taking advantage of the Audience Rewards program to redeem your points for Broadway tickets.
Getting the Most Out of Your Starwood Preferred® Guest Program
Keep in mind that, when it comes to the Starwood Preferred Guest® program, not all point redemptions are created equal. Since there are some not-so-smart ways to redeem your Starpoints, it’s important to avoid the pitfalls, especially if you’ve never experienced the programs before. Here are some smart strategies to consider:
- SPG Moments - This program is a fan favorite, mainly because it allows you to do things and experience moments you’d otherwise never be able to arrange or afford.
- Cash & Points - This program really lets your points go the extra mile. For hotels that run more than $800 a night, 15,000 points and $275 truly is a fantastic deal.
- 5,000-Mile Bonus - For people who regularly look at their SPG balances as airline miles in 20,000-block increments, there’s a certain peace of mind that comes with this program. In terms of points and miles, the 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 transferred Starpoints is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread.
The ability to transfer to 30+ airline programs with a 5,000-mile bonus and a reasonable free night award chart make the Starwood Preferred Guest® program a valuable asset in terms of loyalty rewards. Depending on your average credit card spending, the increasing partnerships, vast portfolio of properties, and variety of earning options allow your balance to grow at a steady rate. The basics are fantastic, and the added rewards are just icing on the cake. As it stands, SPG has plenty to offer road warriors everywhere.