Wanted: Affordable Luxury Hotel Vacation
Solution: Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Cash and Points Awards
Last April I took a road trip from Monterey, California to Phoenix, Arizona and booked two of my hotel stays using Starwood Preferred Guest’s Cash & Points option for resorts in the Palm Springs and Scottsdale area. In Palm Springs I stayed at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage and posted about the experience here, in “Wanted: Room with a View”. In Scottsdale I was upgraded to a suite at the Westin Kierland Resort on my Cash & Points award stay. I had a great view at the Westin Mission Hills, but I suspect there are hundreds of people every year disappointed with their parking lot view rooms. A hotel loyalty plan for travel could prevent that let-down.
Cash and Points is a type of hotel loyalty program award allowing the frequent guest member to substitute a fixed amount of cash for a portion of the hotel points normally required for a free hotel stay. This payment strategy can be one of the highest value ways to use your hard-earned hotel points.
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
SPG Category 5 Hotel
Payment Option 1 – Best Available Rate: $479 per night ($538 per night with 12.27% taxes)
Payment Option 2 – Free Night Using Points: 12,000 Starpoints per night
Payment Option 3 – SPG Cash & Points award: $90 + 4,800 Starpoints per night
All Cash Payment: Out of the three payment options for the Westin Kierland I toss option 1 out at first glance as it is $479/night. That is the lowest rate, nonrefundable, and another 12.27% tax is on top of the $479 base room rate to reach $538 per night.
All Points Payment: Payment option 2 using 12,000 points for a free night is commonly the only other choice for a one night hotel stay. An advantage of the Starwood hotel loyalty program is the easy redemption of points when and where you want to stay. You can even buy 12,000 Starpoints from the SPG website for $35/1,000 points or $420 for 12,000 points if you needed to stay at the Westin Kierland. The all points option will save $118 compared to the fully paid rate if you have to buy all 12,000 points. Awards on points generally do not have additional taxes, which is a significant savings to consider.
Cash & Points Payment: Payment Option 3 uses a combination of $90 cash + 12.27% tax ($11.05), plus 4,800 points. Cash & Points Hotel Night costs 4,800 points + $101.05 per night.
I feel much more comfortable parting with 4,800 Starpoints rather than 12,000 points for a hotel stay. And financially the Cash & Points award is a fantastic savings on the nightly rate.
Purchasing Starpoints from SPG (link to SPG)
Assume you have zero Starpoints. You can enroll for free in Starwood Preferred Guest if you are not a current member. As soon as you are a member you can buy Starpoints.
You simply purchase 5,000 Starpoints for $175 from the SPG website link shown above.
Total cost for the Westin Kierland has been reduced from $538 for a fully paid one night stay down to $276.05 per night for a Cash & Points award stay.
You can book a two-night stay using the SPG Cash & Points option for just a few dollars more than a one-night fully paid cash stay.
SPG Cash & Points is one of the best hotel discount strategies available.
Another Sample Hotel Cash & Points Savings
W Mexico City, November 10-13
SPG Category 5
Lowest nightly rate: $394 (+17% tax) = $466.83/night or $1,400.49 for 3-night stay.
Cash & Points $90 + 4,800 points = $105.30 (after tax) + 4,800 points per night.
You can purchase 15,000 Starpoints for $525 and the cash portion of the 3-night award stay will be $315.90 for a total cost of $840.90 at the Starwood Hotels W Mexico City.
W Mexico City, a 3-night stay will be at least $560 less using Cash & Points Award nights compared to the regular paid rate for the sample date searched. And if you have SPG elite status you can anticipate an upgrade to an even better category room.
Important to remember
Cash&Points awards are capacity controlled and many Starwood hotels will not have this award option during peak seasons.
I searched a couple of weekends in San Diego for October 2008 and there were no Cash & Points options for any of the San Diego area Starwood hotels.
I did not see any Cash & Points options for New York City hotels over several dates I searched.
Starwood Preferred Guest Category 5 and 6 hotels, the properties that trend toward a luxury and resort clientele, generally will have the high average room rates to make Cash & Points a lucrative savings opportunity.
Cash & Points are a hotel savings strategy to consider when you want a luxury getaway at an affordable price.