Posted by Ric Garrido

SPG Promotion Progress: Paid $685 and received estimated $2,760-$3,960 in hotel and airline travel value.

Westin St. Francis San Francisco wide room floor hallways

Westin St. Francis San Francisco wide room floor hallways

Kelley observed the hallways at the century old Westin St. Francis and The Palace Hotel in San Francisco have wide hallways on the room floors. Modern hotels tend to squeeze more room space on floors with narrow halls.

 

 

Ten years ago when I first started reading FlyerTalk I wondered about all these traveler stories on great loyalty promotion offers and elite status benefits. The deals sounded too good to be true.

I came into travel loyalty programs as a relatively low wage person seeking a way to travel comfortably at an affordable price for someone with limited vacation money. I learned that spending time planning travel could reduce the cost of travel by 50% or more while going upscale. In other words, I learned to travel in upper upscale style for the price of Priceline rooms.

Even after learning many strategies over the years with FlyerTalk, I needed to ante up thousands of dollars to test the loyalty program waters when it came to the high value promotions.

In 2003 I planned a trip to Australia and Starwood Preferred Guest ran an Asia/Pacific hotels promotion for 50,000 Starpoints for any SPG member who stayed in 5 of the 6 Starwood brands: Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels, Luxury Collection, Four Points, and St. Regis.

Australia had all these brands except for St. Regis (China). At the time I was a Hilton HHonors Diamond elite. I applied for a Starwood Preferred Guest elite status match and I was given complimentary SPG Platinum elite membership normally requiring 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year. I have been SPG Platinum since 2003.

My first qualifying hotel night for the 50,000 points bonus was at the Luxury Collection Sheraton Southgate in Melbourne, Australia. Reviews on FlyerTalk were not kind to this hotel.

I received a three room corner suite. I wouldn’t normally call a bathroom a room in a suite, but when it has a walk-through shower for two leading to a Jacuzzi tub large enough for a small party, the bathroom qualifies its status as a room. Kelley was blown away by the size of the room.

The second night at the hotel was under Kelley’s name and we had to move to a standard room. Kelley was only SPG Gold elite.

Four out of five of our stays in Australia followed the pattern of a lovely preferred view room or suite for my reservation night as a Platinum elite, followed by a move to a smaller room, or the less desirable view for Kelley’s reservation as SPG Gold elite. Four Points Sydney was the exception to the rule by keeping us in the same hotel suite for two nights.

Starwood Preferred Guest Elite Status and BRG claims

The current free nights promotion is a great deal for any SPG member. The deal is awesome for this SPG Platinum elite.

And if you are not SPG elite, then there is no better year to go for 25 stays. The ability to earn a free night at nearly any Starwood Hotel worldwide is an incredible offer.  

Request a status match to SPG elite if you have status with another hotel loyalty program.

Potential Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) claims are all over the place with lower online travel agency competitor rates on sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and Hotels.com.  I have submitted over a dozen claims in the past month and many more I passed over since I have scheduling issues due to Kelley’s cancer treatments keeping me from taking advantage of many Starwood Hotel deals I have found. The online travel agencies are blasting the web with hotel rate discounts and undercutting Starwood Hotel’s own sites.

There are 7 Starwood Hotels in the city of San Francisco and 3 Starwood Hotels at San Francisco airport. In the past three weeks I have submitted BRG claims for 8 of these 10 hotels.

I don’t even bother with the St. Regis San Francisco since its rates are over $300 per night. I plan to use some of my free nights there.

And I haven’t noticed a BRG rate for the W San Francisco yet, but with rates as low as $150 per night, the W is already showing rates as low as I have seen in the past six years.

I keep finding multiple properties for the same night. I have thought about applying BRG claims under Kelley’s account, but that takes me back to the issue of elite status.

I booked a BRG claim for the Westin Market a couple of weeks ago. My lowest category room reservation for a traditional room on Floors 4-7 was upgraded to a full suite on the 33rd floor. I received a $400 value complimentary suite upgrade on a $110 BRG rate. ( I underestimated the upgrade value in the table below.)

Kelley currently has no elite status with SPG. Submitting a BRG claim under Kelley’s name will get the same rate as I would receive, but we are unlikely to get the same type of room. Kelley would likely be booked in a room on Floors 4-7 at the Westin Market Street. Kelley would likely receive the booked room for a double bed in a room with no view at the Westin St. Francis rather than the Junior Suite room I received with Union Square view room.

Elite status makes a big difference in the hotel experience. So if you currently do not have status this is the time to go for it.

My ‘go for elite’ advice: Hammer out 25 stays at the lowest rates you can find during this Starwood promotional period through July 31. In many locations this can be achieved for about $2,500 for 25 stays. Earn platinum elite status by July and then use your free weekends for resort stays in August and September after you have attained Platinum elite. Your $400 per night free room may well be upgraded to an $800 per night free room.

SPG Promotion Progress: Paid $685 and received estimated $2,760-$3,960 in hotel and airline travel value.

Paid $595 for 6 hotel stays + $90 taxes = $685

Received $1,055 in room value through complimentary upgrades based on SPG Platinum elite status.

Earned $430 value in Starpoints based on purchase price of $35/1,000 points.

Earned 3 free weekend nights from Stay Two, Earn One Free Night promotion. ($1,200-$2,400 value?)

Earned 6,000 Northwest Airline miles from combinable airline miles + free nights promotion. ($75 value)

 Hotel

 

 SPG Category

Rate/ Type/

room category

Category room received

Upgrade Value

 Bonus Points

Four Points SFO

Cat 2

$79/BRG/traditional 

$119 Penthouse Bi-level  Suite

$40 upgrade

2,000 BRG points + 250 Platinum amenity

Westin Market Street

Cat 4

$110/ BRG / traditional

$250 33rd floor full  suite

$140 upgrade

2,000 BRG points + 500 Platinum amenity

Westin St. Francis

Cat 4

$107 AAA traditional

$250 Historic wing Junior Suite partial Union Square view

$150 upgrade

500 Platinum amenity

Luxury Collection The Palace

Cat 5

$134 AAA  traditional

$172 Junior Suite

$40 upgrade

500 Platinum amenity

Four Points SFO

Cat 2

$76 BRG  traditional

$119  Penthouse Bi-level  Suite

$43 upgrade

2,000 BRG points + 250 Platinum amenity

Sheraton Gateway SFO

Cat 2

$89  BRG  traditional

$145 Club Floor

$56 upgrade

2,000 BRG points + 500 Platinum amenity ; Club lounge access; complimentary breakfast; free appetizer; $6 parking

My Starwood Hotel promotion summary for completed stays:

$595 paid rates

(+$90 taxes)

 

San Francisco has >15% room tax.

$1,055 value of rooms I stayed in, if booked at lowest rates at the time I made my reservation.

$470 complimentary value-added upgrades

10,500 bonus points in BRG claims and Platinum elite amenity points; plus

1,785 regular points earned

($595x 3 points/$1)

 

$430 value

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

8 Responses

  1. PLS explain what a BRG claim is.

    Comment by mommafrica on May 27th, 2009 at 11:53 am
  2. Awesome, awesome articles by you, I am totally fascinated, you basically take the essence of how-to-use high-end chain hotels knowledge and present it in an easily understandable way. I would have to spend several nights at Flyertalk to get the info you have here. I am surprised no elite travel magazine has picked you up!

    Comment by Richey66 on May 28th, 2009 at 4:09 pm
  3. mommafrica – BRG is a Best Rate Guarantee policy all the major hotel chains and online travel agencies offer.

    Starwood Hotels will give either a 10% discount on the lower price being offered by a competitor or the lower price and 2,000 Starpoints.

    I consider 2,000 Starpoints to be a $70 value. Most of my BRG claims are based on finding a rate that is $10 or $20 less than Starwood.

    For example: Say there is a $100 Starwood Hotels rate for a Sheraton. If Orbitz.com has the same room for $90 then I can have either:

    a) $90 rate + 2,000 Starpoints

    or

    b) $90 rate – 10% = $81 rate.

    2,000 Starpoints are worth much more than $9 so I would take the 2,000 points.

    Imagine you see a resort that is $250 per night on Starwood and $199 on Expedia.com.
    If you file an approved Best Rate Guarantee for a 5 night stay then the 10% discount is a much better value.

    Starwood would reduce the rate from $250 per night to $199 – 10% or about $180 per night. In this case you would get better value taking 10% off and paying $900 for the 5 nights.

    $350 saved would be much better than 2,000 Starpoints.

    Of the 11 approved BRG claims this month the biggest savings was a $90 rate from another site compared to $119 on Starwood Hotels.

    I took 2,000 points and a $90 rate.

    Comment by loyaltytraveler on May 28th, 2009 at 6:04 pm
  4. Hello,

    I was just wondering if you are currently employed and if not, how you maintain all of your elite traveling?

    I am a 20 year old student, who just got laid off from AMEX. I love your website and totally aspire to do what you seem to be doing.!

    I have been a Platinum SPG member for a little over a year and that’s what got me to reading your articles….

    Hope to hear from ya,
    Danny

    Comment by tuscany2007 on June 2nd, 2009 at 3:30 am
  5. Loyalty Traveler is my licensed business since April 2006 in the city of Monterey, California. I am currently a freelance writer, primarily covering hotel programs. I have also written frequent flyer program guides.

    The catch-22 of travel writing as a job is making enough money to travel and write without working all the time on projects that keep you from traveling.

    I have the advantage of being married to an employed spouse to pay many of the bills. I have the disadvantage of being married to a full-time working spouse which creates issues if I travel too long on solo trips. Kelley gets jealous.

    Starting a blog is easy. Getting readers is a bit more challenging. Randy Petersen has been extremely helpful in sponsoring me here at BoardingArea.com and InsideFlyer.

    I have ideas for growing Loyalty Traveler, but money has been tight. Now the cancer issue has also made time tight. After we beat this cancer I would consider going to work with another web company focused on travel.

    I established Loyalty Traveler as a lifestyle entrepreneurial business. I work to live and I tired of living to work. The internet has changed the types of jobs we can do to survive. I think we are in the time right now where society is so fragmented that a person can focus on a small niche and find a global audience to support that interest.

    Ideally I would like some entrepreneurial spirits to work with me to create consumer-oriented traveler advice and info projects. There are certainly severe limitations to being a solo business person.

    One of my favorite quotations:

    “Travel is the frivolous part of serious lives and the serious part of frivolous ones.”
    Anne Sophie Swetchine

    Another one is “Work interferes with seeing the world.” my variation of a Dutch saying.

    My plan for 2009 was to get my ass in gear and monetize this whole Loyalty Traveler gig, but then my wife was diagnosed with cancer in January. My primary objective right now is to get her healthy. Traveling alone gets lonely.

  6. Help if you can SPG told me they have taken all my points away 300,000 because i had not stayed at a Sheraton for three years and canceled in 99 my card and points they then say they gave me a new card and number in 01 but when asked this week how many points i had they said none. When i pointed out to a supervisor that i have indeed stayed at lots of spg properties not only this year but over the years she found only three this year and gave me 12,000 points.

    She said she would put in a request for my old points but they did not come. they don’t even have me at Gold.

    My finance and her sister booked @ the W times square unfortunately through Priceline at the time I could not go now i can have a free ticket through airline partner anyone have any suggestions, in order for us all to be at the W Times Square?

  7. I agree w/ Richey66-ur top-of-the-line. And don’t worry about Kelley-that thing is definitely about to be beaten & whipped. Soon she’ll be back on the trail w/ u & jealously nagging u w/ that true love that she has always given u(my prayers r w/ the 2 of u).
    As for that entrepreneurial vision-I wish that I could learn ur craft. Being that I am on disability, this would be “right down my alley.”

    Comment by mommafrica on June 6th, 2009 at 3:06 pm
  8. [...] My Starwood Free Night Promotion Progress (May 20, 2009) [...]

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