Starwood Preferred Guest Cash & Points awards are the best way to get excellent value out of your SPG points. Cash & Points Award Nights, when offered, provide a 60% discount in the points required for a free room night in exchange for a specific cash co-pay that is set according to the SPG hotel redemption category.
Free nights using points-only is covered by the SPG “No Blackouts” policy, but the Cash & Points option is not. Cash & Points may have blackout dates, and in fact, are frequently not offered on the SPG website when points-only rooms are available. [Tip from Gary Leff is to call the hotel anyway and check for Cash & Points even when they are not appearing on the website. He reports this frequently works for Cash & Points awards.] When you have the Cash & Points award option it is a great way to conserve points on a hotel stay.
Here are some important points regarding Cash & Points award stays:
Cash & Points Awards are not applicable to the 5th Night Free Awards. A 5-night stay requires 5 nights of Cash & Points payment. A “Points-Only” 5th night free award requires only 4 nights of points-only payment.
Cash & Points award stays do not earn Starpoints on the paid cash portion. You are eligible for Starpoints on other eligible hotel charges like dining. A Cash & Points stay may not even show up on your account. Check with the hotel or SPG if no points post on additional charges from your Cash & Points hotel stay.
Cash & Points award stays are not eligible for elite qualifying credit. This also applies to points-only award stays.
Cash & Points award stays may not be upgraded in advance with supplemental points. Points-only award stays may be upgraded in advance based on availability using additional points. As an SPG Platinum member I have frequently received very nice upgrades on Cash & Points awards.
International hotels priced in non-US Dollars will be converted to local currency for payment. (Loyalty Traveler note – some exchange rates are wacky. I have ended up paying 20% less than the US dollar amount and I have paid 20% more than the US dollar amount for Cash & Points stays outside the US.)
Yesterday’s Loyalty Traveler post displayed a qualitative table based on a scale where an excellent redemption value for your points results in a cash savings greater than $35 per 1,000 points spent. The table points out the difficulty in getting a high redemption value in the range of $35 per 1,000 Starpoints when redeeming points for SPG high category hotels.
An SPG Category 6 hotel needs to be over $700 per night when spending 20,000 points for a free night in order to realize a cash savings of $35 per 1,000 points redeemed. Most Category 6 hotels are not priced that high in the present hotel travel economic environment.
The value of Cash & Points becomes apparent when running the numbers for these awards at a Category 6 hotel.
For example, St. Regis Monarch Beach at Dana Point, California is a SPG Category 6 property. A check of rates for next week shows Cash & Points availability for the dates Tuesday, November 3 to Friday, November 6 for a 3-night stay.
Here are the options: (I am ignoring the $25 per day resort fee in these calculations. The resort fee is additional to numbers shown for the three options. Tax is a confusing issue. Sometimes I have been charged hotel tax on the Cash portion of the Cash & Points award and other times I have not paid the tax. In the past two years the hotel tax has usually been applied to the cash portion for my US hotel Cash & Points award stays.)
St. Regis Monarch Beach Payment Options
Cash & Points: $150 + 8,000 points per night = $450 + 24,000 points
Points-Only: 20,000 points per night = 60,000 points
Cash-Only: $470 per night (includes 10% tax) = $1,410
The SPG redemption options are either spend 60,000 points to save $1,410 or spend 24,000 points to save $915.
$1,410 cash-only rate – $495 cash portion of Cash & Points rate = $915 equivalent value of points.
(I added 10% hotel tax to the cash portion of $450 for 3 nights = $45 tax for the award stay).
Spending 60,000 points for 3 hotel award nights gives a redemption value of $1,410 ÷ 60,000 = $23.50 per 1,000 Starpoints.
I rate this as a “Fair” redemption value in my Redemption Quality table shown above for SPG Category 6 hotels.
Spending 24,000 points to save $915 gives a redemption value of $915 ÷ 24,000 = $38.12 per 1,000 Starpoints and now the redemption value rates as “Excellent” in the Loyalty Traveler Category 6 redemption quality scale.
At this rate of redemption value the remaining 36,000 points saved by using Cash & Points rather than 60,000 points for Points-only free nights at the St. Regis Monarch Beach next week has a value of $1,372 for future cash savings on hotel stays. (36,000 points x $38.12/1,000 points = $1,372)
The economics of Cash & Points provides high value opportunity for Starwood Preferred Guests.
Here are SPG Cash & Points Redemption Quality tables to correspond with the Points-Only tables from yesterday’s Loyalty Traveler post.
SPG Cash & Points Redemption Quality Guide