Starwood Points: Getting Your Money’s Worth

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Many employees at American Express recommend the Starwood card to their friends as the best rewards card out there. Why the fuss?

How much is a Starwood Point worth?

NerdWallet estimates 1.25 cents on the low end, but 2.30 cents when redeemed at hotels.

Redemption Options for StarPoints.

  • Airline Miles

    - you can trade 20,000 Starwood Points for 25,000 airline miles, which is why we think Starwood Points are worth at least 1.25 cents each. This holds true on American, Delta, US Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. However, for Continental and United airlines you can only get half as many miles per Starpoint transfer. A full list of conversion rates is listed here.

  • Nights & Flights

    - a great deal. Trade 60,000 Starpoints for 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a Category 3 resort (Westin, Four Points, Sheraton). Trade 70,000 Starpoints for 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a Category 4 resort (W, Westin, Sheraton). Redeemed in this fashion, points are worth around 2.0-2.1 cents.

  • Hotel Nights

    - Point values vary but range from 1 cent to over 5 cents. Over a sample of 57 hotel rooms all over the world in August 2010, points averaged 2.3 cents each. As a general rule of thumb, the Category 2 and 3 hotels tend to have the highest redemption values.  But if you’re a high roller and Category 6 or 7 is more your style, go for the highest price rooms within any given category to earn the highest redemption rate since the number of points required is constant.

  • Gift Cards

    - $25 card = 2800 Starpoints. $50 card = 5000 Starpoints. $100 card = 9500 Starpoints. $150 card = 14,000 Starpoints.

Expiration.

  • No expiration as long as you are an “active member”. Anyone who has earned or used Starpoints in the previous 12 months is considered active.

Buying Starpoints.

  • Buy 500 Starpoints for $17.50, a cost of 3.5 cents each.

For more info, see the Starpoints redemption options homepage.

The Starwood Credit Card allows you to earn 1 Starpoint per $1 spent. Details:

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
American Express Starwood Credit Card
Apply Now

on American Express's
secure website

starstarstarstarhalfstar
  • Starpoints® bonus: earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership
  • That's enough for a weekend getaway to a Category 4 Hotel.
  • Free Hotel Nights: redeem Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide - with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • Free Flights: redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights - with no blackout dates
  • No limits on the number of Starpoints you can earn
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
  • Terms and Restrictions apply.
thumbsupPros
  • High rewards rate
thumbsdownCons
  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65 Earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership. 15.24% - 19.24% variable None

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  • Tony

    I am a little confused. Are Starwood points worth 1.25 cents per point or is is 1.25 points per cent.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com Tim

      Hi Tony,
      You get a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to most domestic airlines. This is why we believe a Starpoint is worth 1.25 airline miles. Therefore if you assume an airline mile is worth 1 cent, a Starpoint is worth about 1.25 cents.

      However, redemption options at hotels are even better, therefore NerdWallet estimates a Starpoint to be worth 1.5 cents.

      • nerdwallet

        Update: We dug down a bit deeper and have determined these points to be worth closer to 2.3 cents on average

      • Sun W. Kim

        I guess I also like to think of points as the real-world cash value. To me, the value of the card is based on what kind of cash I can retrieve using a different credit card. Does anyone else see it this way? I know it complicates the matter, but to compare Starpoints to what the hotel charges seems to exclude the “real-world” value of those points.

        When I book a Starwood hotel for 10k points, I think of it as spending $100 USD based on having reward cards that give 1% back. Now, if I had a Perk Street debit rewards card that gives 2% back, I think of spending 10k point on Starwood as costing me $200 USD.

  • Nick G

    I’ve had this card for years, and I don’t think much has changed — it’s still the best points card anywhere. While the cash cost of Starwoods Hotel rooms has gone down slightly, this might push hotel night redemption from 3-4 cents to maybe 2.5-3.5 cents, not much lower as indicated above. 3 of the last 4 hotel bookings I’ve done using the card were over 3 cents per point, based on the published cash rate for the room.

    Best points card available…. if you like Starwood Hotels.

  • http://www.boardingarea.com/blogs/loyaltytraveler Ric Garrido

    I do not really understand your graph and statement : "As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive the hotel room, the more points tend to be worth."

    How does this relate to SPG hotel reward categories?

    In my numerous analyses of Starwood Hotels, I generally find the more expensive the hotel's average rate, the higher the reward category.

    Starwood Hotels in the high category 6 (20,000 points for a free night) and category 7 (30,000 points for a free night) generally reduce the value of points compared to redeeming points for a category 2 weekend night (3,000 points per night) or a category 3 hotel (7000 points per night).

    • nerdwallet

      You're absolutely right Ric, my language is a bit imprecise. You can see in the table above that the points tend to align themselves in lines, and each of those lines actually corresponds with a given tier.

      Within each tier, the more expensive hotel rooms mean higher point values, but as you point out the absolute highest point values belong to the relatively cheaper Category 2 and Category 3 rooms, which can get as high as 5 cents or more.

      I will change the language to reflect this. Thanks again for bringing it to my attention!

  • LCS

    I think the statement about expiration is a little misleading. As long as you’re a cardmemember (with an annual fee), the points don’t expire. But if you’re no longer a cardmember and you don’t have a paid stay at a Starwood hotel, you get deactivated and your points disappear. So if you cancel the card and then wait a year before planning to redeem the points, they might not be there anymore. That happened to me and SPG did replace them after I called, but I think that’s a critical point. Other activity, such as redeeming for airline miles or buying something from a partner (which isn’t much of an option with SPG anway) doesn’t save the miles, it has to be a paid hotel stay at least once a year to keep you active if you don’t have the credit card.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

      Thanks for the note LCS. According to Starwood’s and AmEx’s terms and conditions, points don’t expire as long as you have any SPG account activity within a 12 month period. So it has more to do with whether you are still an active SPG member, not on whether you still have a Starwood credit card.
      How long ago did you have this problem? Maybe the terms have changed since?

      I’m glad to hear they made you whole once you pointed out the issue.

      • LCS

        This was a few years ago, but it’s still the rule. You’re right, it’s in the terms for being an active SPG member, where you have to have a paid hotel stay once a year for your points to not be deleted, unless you are an SPG AmEx cardholder. Here’s the text from the T&C: “You will be considered an “Active Member” so long as (a) your Membership has not been cancelled (by you or us), and (b) you have had an Eligible Stay at a Participating Property within the previous 12 months, or (c) you have earned Starpoints by using a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card during the previous 12 months. Starpoints resulting from transfers or earnings from Program affiliates do not count toward active status.”

        So effectively, you have to stay a cardmember (w/annual fee) or have at least one paid hotel stay per year to keep your points. To me, that devalues the points compared to other programs that have free ways of maintaining active status, such as Hilton HHonors (through the shopping mall, any other partner, donating points to charity, or the Citibank HHonors card that has no annual fee). SPG doesn’t allow any free way of maintaining your status, since point redemption doesn’t count (has to be an eligible, i.e., paid,s stay).

        • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

          Hm, good to know!

  • das

    Your estimate of the value of a Starwood point for hotel redemption seems too low, and I suspect it’s because you have neglected the “cash & points” redemption option, which is by far the most efficient redemption option. For instance, I just used cash & points to stay at Le Meridien in Philadelphia, which is a category 4 hotel that would have cost $229 + taxes/fees (total of approx. $269), for $60 and 4000 Starpoints. When you back out the cash, you see that I netted about 5 cents per point, and this is typical of a cash & points redemption. Since you haven’t explicitly addressed this option, I assume it has not been factored in to your calculations?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi there,
      Thanks for letting us know about the program! We ran the numbers on 9 hotels in the San Francisco and New York City areas, and found that redemption rates ran from 1 cent per point to 6 cents per point – so pretty much the same as other hotel redemption options, the value is contingent on how you use them. If you can find the highest dollar nightly rate in the same category, you’ll get a high redemption value. Generally (very generally), low categories (2-3) tended to deliver the highest redemption rate. But keep in mind that the points and cash option does have blackout dates.

      We’ll be sure to add this!

      • das

        Thanks for your quick response. That is true about the blackout dates, though I have found that black-out dates are few and far between. I have done quite a bit of reading about the cash & points option, and the overwhelming consensus seems to be that it is by far the best use of Starwoods points. That said, most of the articles out there are anecdotal (as was my post), so I’ll be very curious to see the value of each point quantified based upon your sampling. Great site, keep up the good work!

  • Starwood new user

    what kind of gift cards do you mention above? are these Star wood hotel gift cards only?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      You can get gift cards at a number of retailers, including Amazon.com and Nordstrom’s.