Starwood’s Major Cash & Points Benefit Enhancement

I’ve give Starwood a hard time lately, because their points devaluation was a pretty big deal. But they’ve taken a step to give back a lot of value to members with changes to the Cash & Points program.

One of the better features of the program over the years has been the ability to combine points and cash at a pretty favorable rate towards award nights. So instead of spending, for instance, 10,000 points on a category 4 hotel you could spend just 4,000 points + $60. This was a better option because you were basically ‘buying’ the difference in points at just 1 cent apiece.

However, only some hotels would participate each quarter. Starwood would have to solicit them to do so, and most would opt out except for in their slowest seasons. As a result they were only bookable for short windows, at those properties where they were available at all, and even when Starwood began wrapping up a year’s worth of participation at a time the first quarter’s participants weren’t known very far in advance making planning difficult.

Furthermore, Cash & Points only went up to Category 4 and with hotel category inflation this left a whole bunch of properties (even those that had chosen to participate in the past) out of reach.

Now Starwood has implemented a program where nearly all properties participate in Cash & Points and where category 5 and 6 hotels are no longer excluded (though those few category 7 hotels aren’t part of the program). There are still capacity controls on the awards, in other words a hotel doesn’t have to make them available on all nights or for all standard rooms. So a participating hotel may not be offering the award when you want it. But it might be, also.

Now, a couple details.

Category 1 and 2 hotels only participate in the Asia/Pacific region, though again they participate year-round. Those few hotels at category 1 and 2 elsewhere don’t participate in Cash & points. However all hotels through the Starwood system in categories 3-6 participate year-round.

The cash and points prices of Category 1-4 properties remain the same:

  • Cat 1, $25 + 1200 points
  • Cat 2, $30 + 1600 points
  • Cat 3, $45 + 2800 points
  • Cat 4, $60 + 4000 points

And the cash and points prices of Category 5-6 properties will be as follows:

  • Cat 5, $90 + 4800 points
  • Cat 6, $150 + 8000 points

As before, guests are still responsible for taxes on the cash portion of the rate (though some hotels have been known not to realize this, and adjust the cash portion such that the total comes out to the amount in the chart). I imagine that resort fees do apply, except when booked online unless those fees are bow being disclosed in advance through Resort fees have always applied to telephone bookings, but now to online bookings because of the disclosure issue – and for some reasons the web gurus at Starwood never implemented a fix.

Cash and points doesn’t earn stay credit and doesn’t earn points on the cash portion of the award rate. And unlike traditional category 3 and up awards, the fifth night is not free on cash and points.

If you have any award stays planned with Starwood, you might try rebooking them in the coming weeks if Cash & Points are available for your dates..

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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