Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. includes nine unique brands: Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, W Hotels, Le Meridien, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Aloft and Element.
There are over 1,200 properties in nearly 100 countries worldwide. Almost half of the hotels are located in North America with the second largest concentration in Asia Pacific with over 200 hotels in that region. The oldest brand is Westin Hotels, which started out as Western Hotels in 1930 and changed to the Westin name in 1980. The latest to join the group, Aloft and Element, opened their doors in 2008.
Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) was launched in 1999 and made loyalty news with its policy of no blackout dates and no capacity controls–both industry firsts. In 2005, the program made a big splash at the Freddie Awards taking home 17 Freddies at the 17th Annual Freddie Awards. Recently at the 2014 Freddie Awards, the program took home Best Customer Service and Best Redemption Ability in the Middle East/Asia/Oceania categories and the program was singled out for their exceptional elite program winning the Best Elite Program in Europe/Africa.
Starwood Preferred Guest members earn two points, called “Starpoints”, for every eligible dollar spent at participating Starwood properties, including restaurant and room service charges, in-room movies and more. Members who achieve elite Gold or Platinum status earn three points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent.
Members may elect to earn miles for stays in the same way you would when earning points with more than 30 airline partners, most on a 1:1 conversion through the Airline Direct Deposit Program (see spg.com/moremiles). Southwest Rapid Rewards members can earn 600 Starpoints per stay. SPG elite members who link their SPG and SkyMiles accounts can also earn points on Delta flights through the Crossover Rewards program (see spg.com/crossover). SPG members who link their SPG and Total Rewards accounts can earn Starpoints and elite-qualifying night credits for stays at Caesars Entertainment hotels (see spg.com/caesars).
Even if you’re not a registered guest, you can still earn points with food and beverage charges of $10 or more at Starwood hotels’ food and beverage establishments when presenting your membership card.
Members can also earn points with an American Express co-branded credit card in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Japan; car rental partners and more.
SPG has seven award categories, ranging from “mid-priced, full-service hotels and resorts” to “uber hotels and resorts offering awe-inspiring surroundings in some of the world’s most spectacular destinations.” You can spend as few as 2,000 points for a weekend night at a Category 1 hotel (3,000 points for a weekday night) to as many as 35,000 points per night at a Category 7 hotel. There are no blackout dates for standard room award stays.
A member earning points through hotel stays only would need to spend $1,000 to reach a free night at the lowest level, which is the same amount needed to earn a free night with IHG Rewards Club (not including discounted IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks awards). Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors members can earn a free night after $750 in hotel spending (not including Marriott PointSavers).
Members can get the fifth night free when redeeming for four consecutive nights at Category 3-7 hotels for between 28,000 and 140,000 points.
Members can also choose to redeem their points for room upgrades on eligible rates, starting at 1,000 points up to 2,750 points, and suite upgrades starting at 3,000 points up to 35,000 points. Plus, you can redeem 1,000 points and receive a 50 percent discount on regular rack rates in any hotel category.
SPG allows members to redeem a combination of points and cash, starting at 1,500 points plus $30 for a stay at select Category 1 hotels, up to 15,000 points plus $275 for select Category 7 hotels. Cash plus points can also be used for upgraded rooms starting at 2,000 points plus $50 for Category 1 hotels to 16,250 points plus $315 at Category 7 hotels. Suites start at 3,000 points plus $75 at Category 1 hotels and go up to 30,000 points plus $625 at Category 7 hotels.
With Nights & Flights, members can redeem points for a vacation package that includes 50,000 airline miles and five nights at a Category 3 hotel (60,000 points) or Category 4 hotel (70,000 points). SPG Flights allows members to redeem points for the cost of a flight (including taxes and fees) on more than 350 carriers worldwide. There are no blackout dates and you can travel whenever you can find seats. Redemptions start at 10,000 points for a flight ticket price up to $150. A flight with a value between $735 and $800 would require 60,000 points. SPG lists the price-to-point conversion on their website at spg.com/flights.
SPG members can transfer Starpoints to airline miles, most at a favorable 1:1 exchange ratio. United MileagePlus is one of the few exceptions, with a 2:1 ratio. LANPASS is the only program offering 1.5:1 Starpoint and El Al, Iberia and Southwest Airlines, although partners, do not offer a transfer option. For every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you’ll get a 5,000-point bonus. There is a minimum SPG point transfer requirement of 2,500 points for all non-elite members; 1,500 points for Gold members and no minimum for Platinum members with most airlines.
SPG members can also redeem Starpoints for stays at Caesars Entertainment hotels in Las Vegas and other U.S. gaming destinations at spg.com/caesars.
SPG Moments allows members to use their points to buy and bid on money-can’t-buy experiences and events at spg.com/moments. This includes members-only performances, private skills clinics with sports leaders, chef’s table dinners with the world’s leading chefs, and more. Points also can be redeemed for merchandise, donated to the American Red Cross and UNICEF or spent for Instant Awards that vary by hotel and are available at check-in.
SPG has 33 airline partnerships, including Aeroplan, Air France/KLM, Alaska, American, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore, US Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic.
The popular Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express offers two points per dollar spent at hotels and resorts participating in the SPG program, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else.Each year, cardmembers receive credit for five nights and two stays toward SPG elite status among other benefits. Cardmembers also earn bonus points as new cardholders and pay no annual fee for their first year of card membership (a savings of $65).
Avis and Sixt are Starwood’s car rental partners, and members earn 50 points per day with Avis at airport locations and 250 points per Sixt rental. Members can also spend 3,500 points for an Avis or Sixt $50 off coupon.
SPG members also can earn points through Audience Rewards for Broadway shows.
SPG offers a two-tiered elite program, Gold and Platinum, as well as a lifetime status benefit. Both paid and award redemption stays and nights count toward earning elite status. To be welcomed into Gold status, a member must complete 10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year. Gold level members receive three points per eligible dollar spent at participating SPG hotels, which is inclusive of a 50-percent earning bonus, as well as 4pm late checkout, preferred room when available at check-in (except for Aloft and Element hotels), elite customer service phone line and Gold member’s choice of a welcome gift with each stay, including: bonus points, complimentary in-room Internet access or complimentary beverage.
Platinum status is reached when completing 25 stays or 50 nights per calendar year and includes all the benefits of Gold, plus upgrade to best available room at check-in, including standard suites (not offered at Aloft and Element hotels), based upon availability at time of check-in, complimentary in-room Internet access, Club- and Executive-level privileges where available, guaranteed room availability when booked by 3pm, 72+ hour prior to arrival (other conditions apply) and Platinum Concierge phone service. The welcome gift options include: continental breakfast, points or a local amenity. Platinum members who complete 50 nights in a calendar year will receive 10 Suite Night Awards that can be redeemed for upgrades to suites and premium rooms confirmed five days prior to arrival and those who complete 75 nights in a year will earn four points per eligible dollar spent–a 100-percent bonus over non-elite members–as well as “Your24”, the flexibility to choose your check-in. For example, check-in at 9pm and checkout at 9pm day of departure. Platinum members who complete 100 eligible nights receive the highest level of service available, Ambassador Service, offering members a single point of contact for all of your travel related needs from room preferences to restaurant reservations and special occasions.
Introduced in 2012, lifetime elite status offers lifetime Gold membership if a member completes 250 nights and any five years of SPG elite status. Lifetime Platinum status is offered to members who complete 500 nights and any 10 years of Platinum level membership.
Rules and Conditions
SPG points do not expire as long as you earn, redeem or purchase points once every 12 months. Points can be transferred for no cost between accounts only by members of the same household. Standard room award nights have no blackout dates or capacity controls. Cash & Points redemptions, however, are subject to blackout dates. Members do not earn stays, nights or points for Cash & Points awards.
Missing points can be claimed online up to six months from the checkout date.
Eligible point-earning charges include room rate, food and beverage purchases, telephone and in-room faxes, laundry/dry cleaning and in-room movie and video game charges. Members also can earn points at SPG hotel restaurants.
Eligible stays include hotels booked directly through spg.com, SPG mobile apps, Starwood-branded websites, Starwood customer contact centers and most travel agencies. Stays booked and paid for through third parties are not eligible to earn points or stay and night credits or receive in-hotel benefits.
Members can buy or gift a minimum of 500 points for $0.035 per point. Up to 20,000 points per year may be purchased or received as a gift into your account in increments of 500.
Via the spg.com website, members can ask a question for instant answers, read an FAQ, email, chat online or even “Click to Call” and request SPG to call them. There are also telephone numbers to call customer service. If you have a simple question that can be answered quickly, the online chat is possibly the fastest way to get an answer. Otherwise, we found the option to request a call from Starwood was a convenient way to cut down on your time on the phone. Another way to contact customer support is through Facebook (facebook.com/spg) and Twitter (twitter.com/spgassist). Starwood has historically been known for their good customer service.
SPG is a “go to” program for many frequent flyers with its points-to-miles transfers that offer a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express is also popular offering members flexibility when converting points to miles. Members appreciate Starwood’s lack of blackout dates for hotel awards, and although subject to blackout dates, the 50 percent discount on rack rates for 1,000 points can be a good value. The 50 percent point bonus for the lowest level elite is better than competing hotel programs.
Although Starwood boasts a no-blackout-date policy, it is restricted to standard rooms and members have reported difficulty booking awards when standard rooms sell out. Compared to other major U.S. hotel groups, only Hyatt has fewer properties and members may not find a Starwood hotel at their destination.
Report Card from Readers
[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Tony Wohlfarth[/tabtext][/tabcontainer]
I am a member of the Fairmont (FPC), Hilton (HH), Delta Privilege (Canada) and Best Western loyalty reward programs. The benefits of the SPG program eclipse all of the above. SPG offers complimentary breakfast, free upgrades (including suites), lounge access, late checkout and early check-in as standard benefits. As a Platinum member, I receive 50 percent bonus points plus regular bonus points for all stays. Most properties offer the Green Choice program, where I elect to forego daily cleaning service and receive 500 additional points. Unique to SPG, I also earn points on award stays. American Express has an SPG Platinum card and all charges accrue SPG points 1/1.
As far as award choices, the best option is free nights with no blackouts. SPG also offers a fifth free night for long stays, reducing the number of points/night. The cash-plus-points award also can be an attractive option. Award stays include taxes, surcharges and WiFi costs. I have never had a problem qualifying for a free night award with SPG. Moreover, they have a unique rule for Elite members. If you book a standard room night, you can convert it to an award stay. I have booked rooms at the rack rate, then converted the reservation to an award night. Saves me lots of money.
Qualifying for SPG Platinum is not easy as 25 stays is two per month. It helps that award stays count. SPG also offers targeted promos for re-qualifying, such as six stays in three months. SPG Hot Escapes offer last-minute stay options for mattress runs to ensure re-qualification is met. SPG Platinum concierge services are very good. Last winter when a snowstorm closed PHL, I booked three one-night stays in both PHL and LAX, to ensure I was not stranded by flight cancellations without a room. The SPG concierge called two of the hotels to cancel the reservations, after the 4pm guarantee deadline and I was able to cancel two out of the three without penalty!
[/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]
Overall Score 7.71
Earning Ability 7.5
Award Choices 8.5
Elite Level .8.0
Rules & Conditions 7.5
Service Support 7.5
Online Services 7.5[/box]
Starwood Preferred Guest
Stamford, CT 06902