I have been redeeming Starpoints since 1999 and I am familiar enough with the program to remember when SPG charged $50 per 1,000 points to buy Starpoints. The price today is $35 per 1,000 points with recurring promotions for $28 per 1,000 points.
Another longstanding view I have about SPG is the cost in points for Category 7 uber-resorts is so high that my analyses in the past usually conclude that paying the published rate is a better deal than spending Starpoints.
Does a 35% discount on award nights at seven category-7 resorts change that conclusion?
The SPG Award Discount Offer
Seven SPG resorts offer a 35% discount on award stays through March 1, 2014.
- Pine Cliffs Residence, a Luxury Collection Resort, Portugal (SPG Category 6) = 26,000 points.
- W Retreat Koh Samui, Thailand (SPG Category 6) = 26,000 points.
- Vana Belle, Koh Samui, Thailand (SPG Category 6) = 26,000 points.
- Le Meridien Bora Bora (SPG Category 7) = 39,000 points.
- Mystique, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini, Greece (SPG Category 7) = 39,000 points.
- Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, a Luxury Collection Resort, Dubai, UAE (SPG Category 7) = 39,000 points.
- W Retreat and Spa Maldives (SPG Category 7) = 58,500 points.
The top end of SPG awards are a confusing landscape of award cost. Category 5-7 hotels have peak seasons with higher rates.
Category 5 = 12,000 points or peak season 16,000 points.
Category 6 = 20,000 points or peak season 25,000 points.
Category 7 = 30,000 points or peak season 35,000 points.
Normally the first thing to look for is whether the hotel is charging peak season rates for your dates.
In addition to peak season higher rates are properties with no standard rooms that charge double or triple Starpoints per award night.
Pine Cliffs Residence Albufeira, Portugal, a Luxury Collection Resort = 26,000 points with this offer.
The fine print of the SPG awards page states
the minimum number of Starpoints required for a free night at the Pine Cliff Residences, which is a Category 6 hotel, is 40,000 to 100,000 Starpoints.
This apartment style property only has one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartment suites.
One-Bedroom Apartment Suite
Take in unforgettable pine grove views from the tranquil balcony or terrace of a 65- to 70-square-metre One-Bedroom Apartment Suite. Some of these suites include access to the beautifully-manicured garden that infuses the air with pine and wildflower fragrances.
Cream and azure hues coat the interior walls that house wengé wood furnishings designed for entertaining in the lounge and dining room. The décor is complemented by such modern amenities as an LCD Flat Screen Television with satellite channels and High Speed Internet Access. An updated kitchenette comprises all the necessities to create a full meal, including a stove with vitroceramic cook top, a juice maker, and fine cutlery.
In the bedroom, a double Luxury Collection bed offers the ultimate in comfort with pure cotton sheets and plush pillows. The room features its own LCD flat screen television with satellite and pay-per-view channels.
Distinguished by a rainforest shower and bathtub, the suite’s bathroom is generously appointed with plush bathrobes and slippers, and a personalised selection of fine bath amenities from our Luxury Collection.
A variety of One-Bedroom Apartment Suites is available. Opt for Comfort, which provides all the modern amenities you need for an enjoyable stay; Panoramic, featuring a larger terrace for a better appreciation of nature; or the top-floor Penthouse with its commanding views.
I checked several dates for Pine Cliffs and the one-bedroom apartment never came up as a room option.
Checking dates for a 5-night stay, September 22-27, 2013 shows the lowest rate at 328 EUR per night on a prepaid, nonrefundable rate or 500 EUR per night with two days before arrival flexible cancellation rate for a two-bedroom apartment. These rates include tax.
Rate Comparison for Sep 22-27, 2013.
- 26,000 points per night with 5th night free = 104,000 points.
- 328 EUR per night for 5 nights = 1,640 EUR or USD $2,178 (prepaid rate) = 2-bedroom suite.
- 2,500 EUR or USD $3,320 flexible rate = 2-bedroom suite.
The award rate is a decent value if SPG allows the 26,000 points per night award on a two-bedroom unit. I checked several dates and I did not see any one-bedroom availability.
I did notice significant rate drops at the hotel with the two bedroom room rate dropping 100 EUR per night in October and another 100 EUR per night in November when rates for a three-bedroom suite are lower than the two-bedroom in September.
Pine Cliffs Residence Albufeira, Portugal November 10-15, 2013
- 145 EUR per night for 5 nights = 725 EUR or USD $963 (prepaid rate) = 2-bedroom suite.
- 158 EUR per night for 5 nights = 790 EUR or USD$1050 = = 2-bedroom penthouse suite.
- 189 EUR per night for 5 nights = 945 EUR or USD $1,255 flexible rate = 3-bedroom suite penthouse suite.
Assuming you could even get one of these two or three bedroom apartments at the discount 104,000 points for 5 nights in the off season, the redemption value is barely 1 cent per Starpoint. That is like getting 1% cash back on your SPG Amex card which is a low return on investment in your loyalty credit card program.
Le Meridien Bora Bora, category 7 resort at 39,000 points per night.
Again I’ll look at the 5-night rate since that gives one free night when redeeming points.
Le Meriden Bora Bora is an all-suites property with a standard rate of 60,000 Starpoints per night. 35% off reduces the rate to 39,000 points. I would want to see rates well over $800 per night to justify using Starpoints. A five night stay will cost 156,000 points.
August is the height of peak season for Bora Bora when the rainfall is lowest of the year and Europeans are traveling. There are few rooms available in August. September and October are still in peak season with low rain and November is considered one of the cheapest times combined with better weather before the December to April rainy season when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
November 10-15, 2013
- Beach Bungalow King Bed is 540 square feet on the beach = $556 per night.
- Overwater bungalow King Bed 540 square feet = $645 per night.
- One Bedroom Villa on the beach with private plunge pool is 1690 square feet = $734 per night.
These are all prepaid and nonrefundable rates with 25% discount. 14% tax and boat transfers are on top of daily rate.
Le Méridien Bora Bora
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Phone: (689) 605151 Fax: (689) 605152
1 Room, 1 Adult
Beach bungalow: King Bed, Smoking
- 540 sq ft / 50 m²
- Newly renovated
- Beach location
- Air conditioning/ceiling fan
- Spacious terrace with tables & chairs
Check in: 11/10/2013 – 1:00 PM
Check out: 11/15/2013 – 11:00 AM
Save 25 percent – Prepaid Rate. This reservation must be paid in advance and includes a 25% discount off our standard Prepaid Rates. It is completely non-refundable.
Room Rate Total for your stay: XPF 250,000.00 (USD $2,782)
Taxes: CITY TAX of XPF 150.00 Per Person / Per Night is not included in the rate.
VAT of 10.00% Per Room / Per Night is not included in the rate.
Hotel Charges: BOAT TRANSFER of XPF 8,250.00 Per Person / Per Stay is not included in the rate.
SERVICE CHARGE of 4.00% Per Room / Per Night is not included in the rate.
Note: Actual total will be in hotel’s local currency at the exchange rate in effect at time of charge.
Basic One Bedroom King at Le Meridien Bora Bora is $2,782 + 14% tax = $3,172.
Discount 5th Night Free Award for 5 nights at Le Meridien Bora Bora = 156,000 Starpoints.
$3,172 / 156,000 points = $20.33 per 1,000 points redemption rate.
Again, this redemption is equivalent to 2% cashback for someone earning Starpoints via SPG Amex spend. That is a relatively low redemption rate.
The flexible rate is 25% more and gives a similar cancellation penalty to the award rate. The redemption value certainly improves when comparing the paid flexible rate to the award rate.
Starpoints can easily provide savings of $30 to $50+ per 1,000 points when used for Cash & Points and many low category hotel awards where 3,000 points at a category 2 hotel will buy a $150 room on a weekend night.
Bottom line is there are probably some great deals on certain dates using these discount awards. Careful planning of a paid stay when rates are low allows the SPG member with a large account balance to save points for better redemption opportunities rather than blowing a large number of points for a low value redemption at a high-priced Category 7 Starwood Hotel.
Starwood Resorts Award Promotion T&C
- Offer only applies to the participating property’s most basic room category that can be booked using a Free Night Award redemption (which in some cases may include suites) and is subject to the participating properties existing SPG redemption policies.
- This offer cannot be reserved online and must be booked by calling the SPG Customer Contact center. Discounted Starpoints will be deducted from Member’s account at time of booking.
- 5th Night Free offer may be used in combination with this offer.
- Rooms reserved using Cash & Points, 50% off Awards, and Nights & Flights are not eligible.
- Award stays under this promotion will count towards the SPG Member reaching the Eligible Night and Eligible Stay milestones needed to earn elite membership status.
- Offer cannot be combined with other redemption promotions unless specifically permitted according to these terms and conditions.
- There is no limit on the number of times or nights a member may reserve using this special offer during the Promotion Period within the guidelines of SPG Free Night Award redemption.
- All promotions are subject to the Starwood Preferred Guest program terms and conditions, which are subject to change without notice and can be found at spg.com.
- Offer is applicable to single members only and not to groups.
- Not responsible for omissions or typographical errors.
- Starwood reserves the right to discontinue this offer at any time.
Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.