The Starwood brand encompasses the following 9 brands: Sheraton, Four Points, the W, Aloft, The Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, Westin Hotels, Element, and St. Regis.
Free nights start as low as 2,000 Starpoints® for category 1 hotels (those hotels that routinely have their doors kicked in by the DEA). There are no blackout dates with Free Night Awards. The value of your Starwood points depends on several factors, including:
- The category (a rating which takes into account both the quality of a hotel and its location) of the hotel you stay at. Categories range from 1 (lowest) to 7 (ultra-high end death stars).
- The time of year you travel, as point requirements fluctuate to reflect on and off-peak seasons.
- Whether you are able to take advantage of special bonuses and incentives, such as the “5th night free” awards, offered by Starwoods.
Note: If you are looking for an excellent credit card to earn Starpoints®, you can jump directly to our review of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card From American Express..
The Quick Takeaway on the Value of Starpoints®
If you’re in a rush (and who isn’t these days!), this table gives you our estimate of the value of Starpoints® when redeemed for various benefits. Read on if you want to understand the details behind the numbers.
|Redemption Method||Point Value|
|Transfer to mileage program||1.52 cents|
|Airline tickets||1.19 cents|
|Gift Cards||1.05 cents|
The Starwood 50% Off Award
The “50% Off Award” lets you redeem Starwood points for a certificate that offers 50% off regular rack rates for a stay of up to five nights, exclusive of room tax, gratuities and service charges. Properties in Hawaii and the Sheraton Bahrain do not participate in this award. Unlike Free Nights Awards, 50% Off Awards are subject to blackout dates and availability of rooms at the time of reservation. Obtaining the 50% off certificate requires only 1,000 Starpoints, regardless of the category of hotel that you apply the certificate towards. There do seem to be significant limitations to the value of these awards, however. The three main complaints are:
- It appears many Starwood hotels may not accept them, or accept them only on a very limited basis.
- Limited availability of rooms
- Oftentimes the lowest available rate, which can be quite different than the rack rate, is either lower than the 50% off value, or much closer to it, so the savings in these cases won’t be nearly as large as one would hope for.
In light of these constraints, GetDebit has decided not to factor in the 50% award coupon into this analysis, though it is entirely possible that it could improve the value of Starpoints® above and beyond what we’ve estimated below. Check out this FlyerTalk Forum for some more insights.
Fifth Night Free Awards
The “Fifth Night Free Award” is available when you reserve five consecutive nights at the same Category 3, 4, 5 or 6 Participating Property, and redeem Starpoints® for the first four nights. The free night applies only to the fifth consecutive night within the same stay for which that award was ordered. If the reservation is modified to fewer than five nights or the guest checks-out before using the fifth night, then the free night is forfeited. There is no Starpoint refund or free night credit for any unused portion of a Fifth Night Free Award. We do include these awards in our value computation; see the Assumptions section below for more information.
Transferring Starpoints® to Airlines
You can also transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline frequent flyer programs, most on a 1:1 exchange rate basis. Additionally (and quite nicely), if you transfer 20,000 Starpoints®, Starwood kicks in another 5,000 points—that’s a nice 25% value bump. Of course, GetDebit will also estimate the value of this approach to see if it is more economically profitable than obtaining free stays. See Starwood’s Airline Partner List for more details.
Here are some of GetDebit’s key assumptions:
- According to our research, the average length of stay at hotels ranges between 2-3 nights. Thus, GetDebit assumes that only 20% of your travel will be for stays of 5 nights. Furthermore, we assume that for the other 80% of stays, they will be for an average of 3 nights. This enables GetDebit to calculate a blended average value of Starpoints®, taking into account the 5th night free award.
- Furthermore, we assumed that 75% of hotel stays would be spread evenly between categories 3 through 5 hotels. 15% of stays would be at category 2, and 10% at categories 6 and 7. We assumed no stays at category 1 hotels (we actually had a great deal of trouble even finding category 1 hotels in their network).
- In terms of establishing a market price for these hotels, we looked up prices for Starwood hotels across most Starpoints levels. These serve as the “market prices” to establish the dollar value per Starpoint. We considered 7 major US cities in our index.
- For transferring Starpoints to airlines, we analyzed the value of 7 well-known airlines (out of about 30). We felt that these airlines, for the most part, offered the best route coverage and would at least be approximately representative of the potential value of the airline component of this rewards program. When I quit my day job, I’ll analyze all 30. We also assume that you will transfer at least 20,000 Starpoints in order to earn the 25% mileage bonus.
|Category||Avg Starpoints/Night||Mkt Price||$ val/Starpoint||% of stays||Adj $ val/Starpoint|
Using Starpoints® for Frequent Flyer Programs
As mentioned above, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Program also allows you to use Starwood points to exchange for miles on 30 airlines. The table below highlights our valuation estimates for the 7 major airlines we included in the analysis. As you can see, Virgin Atlantic has the highest mileage valuation of slightly more than $0.02 per mile, but it’s important to note that from the US perspective, Virgin primarily translates to flying to London, so it’s quite limited. The highest valued global airline in the list, American Airlines, is valued at around $0.0151 per mile. Our all-in assessment of Starwood’s mileage transfer option, which takes into account usage of the various airlines based on mileage value and footprint of the airline, is $0.0152 per Starpoint. This is better than working directly through these frequent flyer programs, but not as good as the hotel option.
|Airline||$ value/mile post penalty||Starpoints Req’d for 1 mile||Post exchange $ val/mile||Value after 25% mileage bonus||% allocation||Starpoints post alloc|
Redeeming Starpoints® By Purchasing Airfare on SPGFlights.com
The SPG program also allows you to directly use your SPG points to purchase airline tickets. There are two real advantages of this approach versus transferring your points into a frequent flyer program, all else equal:
- When you use your points to purchase a ticket, you’ll be eligible to earn frequent flyer miles based on the miles flown on the route. For example, a round-trip cross-country would earn you an additional 6,000 miles.
- You won’t be subject to blackout dates and availability issues that often plague frequent flyer programs.
That said, we still need to analyze the actual value of redeeming for flights. To do this, we simply randomly selected 7 routes (4 domestic and 3 international flights). We used kayak.com to price out the “fair market price” for the ticket (we chose the lowest price for a non-stop flight). We then looked at how many Starpoints were required for the same route (again, lowest number of points for a non-stop flight). By then dividing the fair market price by the number of points, we were able to impute the value of SPG points for this redemption method.
As the table below aptly illustrates, at least for our modest sample, it appears that on average you get about 1.2 cents per Starpoint® when you redeem for airfare. We were actually (very) pleasantly surprised by this, given that usually these white-label solutions yield 1 cent per point at best. Of course, you’re still way better off redeeming for hotel stays:)
|Route||SPG Points Needed||Price on Kayak.com||Implied $ value/SPG Point|
|Boston to San Francisco||25,000||$280||$0.0112|
|Chicago to Dallas||15,000||$144||$0.0096|
|Houston to Atlanta||15,000||$198||$0.0132|
|Boston to Seattle||25,000||$280||$0.0112|
|Miami to London||60,000||$746||$0.0124|
|Los Angeles to Tokyo||65,000||$819||$0.0126|
|Boston to Paris||60,000||$784||$0.0131|
Redeeming for Gift Cards
Lastly (and, alas, leastly) you can redeem your SPG points for gift cards from a rather limited set of merchants (roughly 15 or so), including some big names like Amazon, Gap Stores, Nordstroms, Banana Republic, and Starbucks. We’ve done a quick analysis and determined that the best value you’re going to get is about 1.05 cents per point (and given that gift cards suck, that definitely puts this redemption option right at the bottom of the list).
|Gift Card||Starpoints® Required||Dollar Value per Point|
|$150 Amazon Gift Card||14,000||1.07 cents|
|$150 Nodstrom Gift Card||14,000||1.07 cents|
|$100 Starbucks Gift Card||9,500||1.05 cents|
|$100 Banana Republic Gift Card||9,500||1.05 cents|
|$50 Gap Gift Card||5,000||1.00 cents|
Summarizing GetDebit’s Thoughts on the Value of Starwood’s Starpoints®
In the final analysis, when Starpoints are used to stay at Starwood hotel properties, they have a value of around $0.0226 per Starpoint. While Starpoints can be exchanged at (mostly) favorable rates for airline miles across multiple carriers, in general you will be better off using them for hotel stays. If you are looking for an excellent credit card to earn Starpoints, you can read our review of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card by American Express, or apply directly below.