Starwood Offers 35% Discount on Awards at Top Resorts That Are Usually Outrageously Expensive

One of the best things about Starwood Preferred Guest is that they have many participating properties that are really nice, aspirational places where I really want to spend my points.

I make a lot of business stays at cookie cutter hotels domestically. I like to reward myself with special, unique stays which the points I earn make possible.

One of the frustrating things about Starwood Preferred Guest is that some of their nicest properties cost so many points.

Not only did Starwood over the years introduce a category 6 and a more expensive category 7 for redemptions, they said:

  • Standard awards are available for standard rooms. Where suites are available, those cost double points.

  • Some of our top properties in categories 6 and 7 have only suites. So the basic redemption at those hotels cost double the category 6 or 7 price.

Of course what makes a hotel so special, and pricey, is often the accommodations. The fact that they are ‘all suite’ accommodations may be why they have high enough room rates to be category 6 or 7 in the first place. So members get penalized twice for the same thing. The hotel is all-suite, so expensive, so category 6 or 7. But since they’re all suite they get charged at double the category 6 or 7 price.

Here’s the award chart:

Categories 5, 6, and 7 have ‘ranged’ because some dates at each property are designated as ‘high season’ and cost the higher number of points.

But then there’s a handful of properties that are extortionately priced in points.

Free Night Awards at the following locations require higher Starpoint redemption amounts either because the hotel does not have standard rooms or the standard rooms it offers have a mandatory Full Board requirement in peak seasons

  • Sheraton Denarau Villas, Nadi, Fiji
  • Canyon Suites at The Phoenician; Scottsdale, Arizona
  • St. Regis Resort Bora Bora
  • Le Méridien Bora Bora
  • St. Regis Bali Resort
  • W Retreat & Spa – Maldives
  • Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort, Key West, Florida
  • Westin Resort and Spa, Playa Conchal, Playa Conchal, Costa Rica
  • Mystique, Santorini, Greece
  • Pine Cliff Residences, Albuferia, Portugal
  • Cala Di Volpe, Porto Cervo, Italy
  • Hotel Pitrizza, Porto Cervo, Italy
  • Hotel Romazzino, Porto Cervo, Italy
  • W Retreat Koh Samui, Koh Samui, Thailand
  • Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

The really odd thing is that Sheraton Denarau Villas is category 3, double points, so 14,000 points per night. Yet there are ‘all suite’ Sheraton Suites hotels that charge the regular price.

And some rooms aren’t double points, the ranges are huge. Pine Cliff Residences and Canyon Suites at The Phoenician are 40,000 to 100,000 points per night. The rest of the hotels on this list range from 60,000 to 140,000 points per night.

At a base earning level of 2 points per dollar, 3 points per dollar spent for Golds and 50 night Platinums, that’s a lot of spending at Starwood hotels to redeem for a single night at these properties. I’ve mostly written them off (though I stayed at the St Regis Bali when they were only charging ‘single’ points and was fortunate to stay in Bora Bora prior to the introduction of category 7).

For the past couple of years they’ve helped to mitigate this somewhat with a 35% discount promotion for some of these resort properties. The offer came out in Spring 2013, was renewed, but then expired in this spring.

Fortunately it’s back.

They’re offering 35% off the points price at 7 of these hotels through March 8, 2016 (and based on past precedent, the offer could well be extended).

While the 35% discounts are welcome, they also underscore just how outrageously expensive Starwood prices its top end hotel redemptions to begin with. This promotion makes a handful of outrageously priced redemptions a little bit less (but still) outrageous.

Take a base room at the W Maldives. After the discount, for the first set of random dates I picked (shoulder season — not peak peak dates but not rainy season) you’ll get about two cents a point in value. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s hardly a special promotion and points out that without the promotion you do very badly by you points redeeming for hotels like this.

Still, with fifth night free and having stayed at the same resort in the Maldives four times, this is actually tempting.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. We stayed at Al Maha for one night on points – it was awesome. I would absolutely go again, and would try for two nights. Even at 70,000 points, it was worth it.

  2. When you can stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives for 25,000 points a night it’s hard to justify that many points even with the discount.

  3. while this is second hand, a friend has stayed at both PH MLE and the W and said it was no comparison W was a different class of hotel

  4. @Justin I just looked over the pictures and I will say it looks pretty damn amazing. That second floor with the balcony and swing on the standard room is simply awesome. I still wouldn’t be able to get myself to pull the trigger though. I’d rather save the 232k Starpoints it would cost for the 5 night stay we’re looking at doing and convert them to 290k airline miles and put out 125k Gold Passport points the PH is going to cost. Since Chase UR transfers 1:1 with Hyatt GP the points are so much easier to come by. Lately I’ve had a hard time parting with Starpoints for anything over a category 4. If Amex MR transferred 1:1 with SPG I might feel differently.

  5. Totally insane, and folks still complain to this day about the Hilton’s purported 2013 cataclysmic devaluation! To spend 70,000 starpoints/night on a redemption would be like spending 420,000 HH points/night, which is insane. Getting a 35% discount on that would still not make it worth it, but YMMV.

    In fact, even top-tier SPG’s standard awards are by far the most expensive in the business, which may be why their loyalty program was ranked near the very bottom in the 2015 J.D. Power & Associates survey. Paying 30K-35K starpoints/night for a category 7 SPG award would be akin to paying ~60K-70K Hyatt GP points/night or ~180K-210K HHonors ponts/night at their respective properties, which is insane. No wonder starpoints are popular for redeeming for free airline tickets instead free hotel stays.

    To achieve a redemption value of 2.2 cents per point for a standard award at a cat 7 SPG property that requires 30K starpoints/night, the room rate in $$ would be $0.022 * 30,000 = $660/night. That would be like paying ~180K HH points/night for a comparably priced room at a Hilton property, which would yield a redemption value of $660/180K = $0.037 or about 0.4 cent/HH point. From that example, it is clear why one cannot claim that starpoints are worth more because each is valued at 2.2 cents, whereas HHonors points, e.g., are valued at 0.4 cent each. To do so is to compare apples and oranges because SPG and HH awards are on different scales, and it is why one simply must consider the relative earn rates of loyalty points in figuring out their objective or subjective “value”.

    Why did SPG decide to have their awards range between 3K and 35K? There is no logical reason. It is totally arbitrary, just as is HHonors’ awards ranging between 5K and 95K. It should thus be clear that the reason the redemption value of starpoints comes out as a bigger number than most is due to their arbitrarily small-number standard award chart in relation to their comparatively high room rates in $$, and not because they are more “valuable”. The preceding should make that simple concept abundantly clear to anyone who is still confused. 😉


  6. @Gary — LOL. So, your “proof” is your own take on the JD Power & Associates’ survey, whose results you disagreed with because they did not rank Hyatt and SPG higher, like first and second? I read the survey and it matched my own educated perception to a “T” (I might even have commented about it then).

    If JD Power is smart about lots of things, and they are, then they are quite likely also smart about hotel loyalty because a well conducted survey, which JD Power is known to do rigorously as an arm of the academically well-respected McGraw Hill company, would yield results that reliably take the consumers’ pulse on what it polled..

    Usually, there are loyalty programs or features of such programs that bloggers rank very high but that the wide majority of consumers do not care for, meaning that it really does not matter what bloggers think since at the end of the day it is what consumers like and “consume” that affects a company’s bottom and not what bloggers like or tout to be the “best”…

  7. The earning rate at a “non-bonused” categories for Hilton cards are lower. @3pts/$1, it comes out around 1.2cents vs. 2.2 cents for SPG.
    Hilton properties go for 265K points in high season. Even in low season, dumpy Hiltons locations charge large amounts like 50K easy whereas SPG has nice properties ~2-3K.

  8. @ff_lover — You are confused. Creating exceptions and referring to non-standard awards would not change the fact that SPG is by far the most expensive and least rewarding hotel loyalty program in the business.

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