Starwood Preferred Guest – “You Choose” Fall 2008 promotion

Starwood Preferred Guest – “You Choose” Fall 2008 promotion

Starwood Preferred Guest yesterday unveiled their SPG 4th quarter promotion, “You Choose”, with plenty of fan-fare and some complaints among the FlyerTalk crowd.   Bottom line:  The promotion has competitive value for the end-of-year offerings among the major hotel loyalty programs. 

SPG Promotional Offer:  There are 12 offer choices and the SPG member has until November 15, 2008 to register for a promotional offer.  Offer choices are outlined below in this post.

Note: All stays/nights within the promotion dates will apply retroactively towards the SPG offer choice selected, except for the “Double Stays” or “Double Nights” offer requires the SPG member to register and select Double Stays or Double Nights for this option to take effect.  No retroactive credit for Double Stays/Nights before registration. 

Promotion Dates:  Stays and nights from October 1 – December 31 are eligible for promotion.

Choose Your SPG Offer Carefully: Once you select your choice of the 12 offers, there is no changing your mind.  Unless you plan to choose Double Stays and Nights, there is no reason to make your decision right away, as all other options will apply retroactively to October 1 stays and nights as long as you register by November 15, 2008.   

SPG actually has recommendations for promotion choices based on your anticipated stay pattern for the final quarter of 2008.

SPG Promotion 12 Offer Choices:

1.      Elite Status – Double all eligible nights and stays.  SPG elite status normally requires 10 stays or 16 nights for Gold elite membership.  Platinum elite membership takes 25 stays or 50 nights. 

Loyalty Traveler analysis: Double stays and nights reduces the elite qualification for Gold membership to 5 stays or 8 nights.  Platinum elite will take 13 stays or 25 nights.  A member who can reach gold or platinum elite status will hold that membership level through February 2010. 


Platinum elite benefits include regular upgrades worth $50 to $100+ per night when staying at most hotels.  Platinum elite members can receive 500 points per stay as a platinum amenity gift with each hotel stay (250 points for Four Points stays).  Platinum elite members have no minimum transfer requirement for Starpoints to airline miles. (It is a nice feature to be able to transfer 10 Starpoints into an airline frequent flier account to extend the expiration date for miles in airline programs with no activity.  Gold members have 1,500 points transfer minimum and non-elites have a 2,500 points transfer minimum.) 


2.      Free Weekend Night – two choices for earning a free weekend night at any Category 1-5 hotel.  A category 5 hotel in peak season is a 16,000 point value.

a.      Four stays earns a free weekend night  (limit of two free weekend nights after 8 stays)

b.      Eight nights earns a free weekend night (limit of two free weekend nights after 16 nights)

Loyalty Traveler analysis:  These options potentially have the biggest return for the least investment.  Four stays can be earned for as little as $300 in some locations and there are some Category 5 hotels with $400/night minimum rates.  The drawback is the limit of two free nights for this promotion.  As an SPG platinum member I like this choice because I will probably receive a $200+/night complimentary upgrade on the free stay. Eight stays will provide an equivalent of 24,000 Starpoints for two free weekend nights at a Category 5 Starwood hotel.  Keep in mind though that Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights offers a free night with every two stays during this same promotional period.  Also, the offer of 25,000 points for 10 stays awards points which have much greater flexibility in use.  A Category 5 hotel on a Cash & Points award only costs 4,800 points and $90 per night. 

Free weekend nights choices are all about the redemption option you think you can use.  An advantage of the SPG free nights offer is the redemption period is through April 30, 2009 whereas Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights must be redeemed by February 28, 2009.


3.      Bonus Starpoint Offers (7 choices)

a.      Earn 2,000 bonus Starpoints with every two (2) stays. Maximum of 10,000 bonus Starpoints with 10 stays.

b.      Earn 2,000 bonus Starpoints with every four (4) nights. Maximum of 10,000 bonus Starpoints with 20 nights.


Loyalty Traveler analysis: These offers are geared for the person who does not want or need elite status and who has limited stays/nights planned for the rest of 2008.  Choose nights if you plan a multi-night trip.  If you are looking at maxing out this offer, then consider going for the higher threshold offers with 6 stays or 12 nights to earn more points.


c.       Earn 9,000 bonus Starpoints with every six (6) stays. Maximum of 36,000 bonus Starpoints with 24 stays.

d.      Earn 9,000 bonus Starpoints with every twelve (12) nights. Maximum of 36,000 bonus Starpoints with 48 nights.


Loyalty Traveler analysis: These two offers favor the frequent guest who can reach 6 stays or 12 nights, but is confident that travel will not allow 10 stays or 20 nights during the promotion.  A travel plan for 10 stays or 20 nights will earn substantially more points with the 25,000 bonus point offers below.  A mattress run to cover the difference between 6 stays and 10 stays will earn an additional 16,000 points for just four more stays.  That is a bonus worth earning if you can plan your travel for it.


e.      25,000 bonus Starpoints with every ten (10) stays. Maximum of 100,000 bonus Starpoints with 40 stays.

f.        Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints with every twenty (20) nights. Maximum of 100,000 bonus Starpoints with 80 nights.


Loyalty Traveler analysis: These two offers favor the frequent guest who plans to be spending substantial time in Starwood hotels over the next three months.    Considering it would take 80 of 92 nights of the promotion in Starwood Hotels to max out at 100,000 points for the nights offer is quite a hurdle and takes a true SPG loyalty traveler.  2,500 bonus points per stay or 1,250 bonus points per night are good rebates in Starpoints on your paid stays.


Assume $150/night on one-night stays as a platinum elite.  The SPG member could earn 450 Starpoints + 500 platinum amenity + 2,500 points/stay = 3,450 Starpoints with a purchase value equivalent of $120.75.  Even more points with an SPG Amex card payment.  This is essentially a rebate of 70 to 80% of the room cost if averaging $150/night rooms.  Drop the average room rate to $100/night for your paid stays and the points earned are worth about the same amount as the room rate paid.


Maximizing promotional value: Assume no current status with SPG and a frequent guest completes 30 one-night stays at $90/night average room rate and 10% tax. 

10 stays = 1,800 base points (10 nights x $90/night) + 25,000 points = 26,800 Starpoints

Gold elite status earned after 10 stays and earn 50% elite bonus Starpoints.

20 stays = 1,800 base points + 900 elite bonus + 25,000 points = 27, 700 Starpoints

30 stays = 1,800 base points + 900 elite bonus + 2,500 platinum amenity (for stays 26-30) + 25,000 Q4 bonus points = 30,200 points.


Summary:  30 stays costing $3,000 earns platinum elite status through February 2010 and 84,700 Starpoints ($2,964.50 cash purchase value since SPG sells Starpoints for $35/1,000.)  84,700 Starpoints are sufficient for a 5th night free hotel stay at a Category 6 hotel such as the Westin Paris, April 20-25, 2009 with the current minimum room rate at 410€/night.  The value of this 5-night stay would be $2,901USD and as a platinum member the likely room upgrade would increase the value of your free stay on points.


This example shows that the Q4 promotional offer provides a way for the frequent guest new to Starwood to earn loads of Starpoints while earning high elite status.


4.      Double Starpoints with no earning limits

Loyalty Traveler analysis:  This is the choice for the SPG high-spender member who already has or doesn’t need status.  Since only base points (2 points/$1) are doubled, this offer favors the SPG member spending loads of cash.  10 stays can earn 25,000 points and 2 stays can earn 2,000 points with other choices in this promotion, so this offer is good for the person who may be paying $500/night for a hotel stay.  Assume $6,000 spent for a 12-night stay would only earn 9,000 bonus Starpoints (12 nights offer) or 6,000 Starpoints (2,000 points per 4 nights offer) with other promotional choices.   Double points on $6,000 spending earns 12,000 bonus points and may be the best option for some. 

Imagine you are a real high-roller and plan to spend $50,000 at Starwood Hotels, then this option is your route to 100,000 bonus Starpoints with far fewer than 40 stays or 80 nights.  As I recall, Starwood had a couple of properties on the $3,000+/night suites in a hotel survey I saw last month.


5.      $25 Amazon Gift Cards

a.      $25 Amazon gift card for every two (2) stays up to ten (10) stays for five gift cards.

b.      $25 Amazon gift card for every four (4) nights up to twenty (20) nights for five gift cards ($125).

Loyalty Traveler analysis: Poor value in my opinion.  Take a 2,000 Starpoints offer instead.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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