In my opinion, Starwood Preferred Guest is the most valuable loyalty program out there. SPG points are undoubtedly the most flexible and valuable points currency available to Canadian travellers. Ironically, most Canadians aren’t even familiar with SPG points, or how to earn them.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts is an American hotel company with many different brands operated under the same loyalty program. Properties vary from limited service, budget friendly options to ultra-luxury resorts:
How To Earn
The three easiest ways for Canadians to accumulate SPG points:
- Stay at Starwood properties
- Credit card spending
- Stay at Marriott properties and transfer to Marriott Rewards to SPG (3:1 ratio)
The first option is fairly self explanatory. Earn 2 SPG points for every $1USD spent at any participating Starwood property. For frequent or business travellers, points can add up very quickly by being loyal to the Starwood brand.
For those who don’t travel often or want to earn thousands of SPG points quickly and easily, then The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is the way to go. Highlights of the SPG credit card include:
- 1 SPG point for every $1 on everyday purchases
- 2 SPG points for every $1 on purchases at Starwood or Marriott hotels
- 20,000 SPG welcome bonus after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership
- Upgrade to Starwood Preferred Guests Gold status after spending $30,000 in a calendar year
The third option is new, courtesy of the merger between Marriott and Starwood. Although SPG points can’t be directly earned at participating Marriott properties, guests can easily transfer Marriott points to Starwood online. This option will be available until November, 2017, when it’s expected a joint program will be announced by Marriott.
For frequent travellers who plan to stay multiple nights at Marriott or Starwood properties, I would encourage applying for The American Express Platinum card or The American Express Business Platinum card for instant Starwood and Marriott Gold status, amongst other perks. Gold status benefits include late check-out, welcome amenity, and upgraded room based on availability. Marriott Gold members also get access to the executive floor lounge at participating properties, which includes access to the executive floor lounge with daily breakfast, evening canapés, bar service, dedicated check-in etc. The value in having status with a hotel can easily justify the steep annual fee on The Platinum card for frequent travellers.
Marriott also has a co-branded credit card in Canada issued by Chase, which is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Marriott Reward points (or 16,667 SPG) with no minimum spend or annual fee for the first year. Although the sign-up bonus and annual fee waiver certainly make this card a good option to boost your points balance, I don’t consider this a good card for everyday spend due to the poor earning potential compared to other cards.
Ways To Redeem
SPG has a large portfolio of properties all over the globe which can be booked with SPG points. As mentioned earlier, properties range from limited service hotels to luxury resorts, and everything in-between. Redemptions start at just 2,000 SPG points per night for a weekend night stay at a category 1 property to 35,000 points per night for a category 7 property during peak season:
Starwood offers a 5th night free on reward redemptions (in category 3-7 properties) which lowers the required number of points by 20 percent for 5 night stays. This can also be repeated for longer stays, meaning a 10 night stay would only require 8 nights worth of points!
Hotel redemptions can provide exceptional value, especially when rates are high during peak season, or for stays 5 nights or longer. I recently redeemed 35,000 SPG points for a night at The St Regis New York City, where the base rooms were selling at $1,000USD per night.
Airline Transfer Partners
SPG points are transferrable to most major airlines at a ratio of 1:1. Furthermore, SPG provides a 5000 mile bonus for each increment of 20,000 SPG points transferred. So, if you wanted to transfer 20,000 SPG to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, you would receive 25,000 miles. If you wanted to transfer 40,000 SPG points, you would receive 50,000 miles, and so on. Starwood limits the number of points you can transfer in a day to 79,999, so if you’re planning to transfer a large number of points it’s best to limit yourself to 60,000 per day to maximize the transfer bonus.
This flexibility is great when booking award travel, as you can essentially search all airlines for award space, and transfer the points when needed. There is nothing more frustrating than having a large balance of one mileage currency and finding award space on another airline. It should be noted that SPG transfer times are not instant, and usually require a few business days for the transfer to complete.
Marriott Rewards Flight And Hotel Bookings
I find that SPG is a superior program to Marriott for redemptions with one exception: flight and hotel packages through Marriott. If you’re planning to convert your SPG points to a specific airline, I would strongly suggest exploring this option before proceeding. In many instances, you’re able to transfer the same number of points for the flight and get a 7 night stay in a Marriott property for no additional points. Here’s an example:
Say you wanted to book a roundtrip ticket to Hong Kong from North America on Cathay Pacific in business class. Alaska Air Mileage Plan offers roundtrip business class for 100,000 miles, or 80,000 SPG points (1:1 ratio plus 4 X 5,000 transfer bonus)
Alternatively, you could transfer 83,334 SPG points to Marriott for a total of 250,000 Marriott Reward points and redeem for 100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and a 7 night stay in a category 1-5 Marriott property.
What’s best is you don’t have to redeem the hotel stay at the same time as the mileage redemption. Marriott will simply keep a certificate valid for a 7 night hotel stay on your profile that will remain valid for one year.
Here’s an example on how a couple could earn enough points for a week in Hawaii using 290,000 Marriott Reward Points for a flight+hotel package:
Person A applies for the American Express Starwood Preferred Credit Card and earns 20,000 SPG points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership, netting 21,500 SPG points with a total cost of $120 (first year annual fee for SPG card)
Person A refers Person B for The American Express Starwood Preferred Credit Card and earns a referral bonus of 10,000 SPG points. Person B earns 20,000 SPG points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership, netting 31,500 SPG points with a total cost of $120 (first year annual fee for SPG card)
Person A applies for The American Express Gold Rewards Card and Earns 30,000 Membership Reward Points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership and adding a supplement card (for Person B) during the application. 30,000 American Express Membership Reward Points transfer to SPG at a 2:1 ratio, netting 15,000 SPG points at no cost.
Person A refers Person B for The American Express Gold Rewards Card and earns a 5000 Membership Reward Points referral bonus. Person B earns 30,000 American Express Membership Reward Points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership and adding a supplement card (for Person A) during the application. This nets another 35,000 Membership Reward Points, which transfer to 17,500 SPG points. At this point, the couple has accumulated 85,500 SPG points, or 256,500 Marriott Reward points.
Shift all spend to the SPG credit card to earn points on everyday purchases and earn 1 SPG point for every dollar spent. Depending on your monthly budget for everyday purchases, you could earn the additional 11,200 SPG points required for the redemption in as little as 3-6 months.
Transfer all SPG points into one account (SPG allows free transfers between household members living at the same address for more than 30 days). You should have a total of 96,700 SPG points which you can now transfer to Marriott for a total of 290,100 points – enough for two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from the west coast using British Airways Avios for an Alaska Airlines flight.
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was rated as one of the best resort hotels in Hawaii by Condé Nast and regularly sells rooms at $600USD per night. In the above scenario, you could a trip to Hawaii easily valued at over $7,000CAD for $120 and two credit card applications per person. That is incredible value.
SPG points are a must have points currency for any Canadian traveller. Not only are they great for hotel redemptions, but they can also be transferred to various airline partners at a 1:1.25 ratio. Furthermore, SPG points can be transferred to Marriott Rewards and redeemed for flight+hotel packages, which can represent phenomenal value. Consider applying for The American Express Starwood Preferred Credit Card for a 20,000 SPG welcome bonus and start earning points on everyday purchases to start travelling sooner!