***Update as of June 2, 2018. There have been huge changes to the SPG card in Canada, including devaluations to the welcome bonus and referral program. Get all of the information in my updated post here***
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
- 50,000 American Express Membership Reward points 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.
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.
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 50,000 point welcome bonus and start earning points on everyday purchases to start travelling sooner!