Starwood Hotels Starwood Preferred Guest Travel Research

Excellent Value with SPG Cash & Points Awards



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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Cash & Points award stays are not eligible for elite qualifying credit. This also applies to points-only award stays.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)


SPG Cash & Points Award Table with Loyalty Traveler Excellent Quality Scale
SPG Cash & Points Award Table with Loyalty Traveler Excellent Quality Scale

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

Loyalty Traveler's SPG Cash & Points Redemption Quality Guide
Loyalty Traveler's SPG Cash & Points Redemption Quality Guide


  • […] hotel award value. The tables were based on the purchase price of $35 per 1,000 points needed for Cash & Points awards, free night awards, and 5th night free awards. These awards are even a better bargain at lower room […]

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  • […] Excellent value with SPG Cash & Points awards […]

  • Ken August 11, 2010


    in calculating original room rate after tax, you must mean after tax + not counting the co-pay for Cash & Points. I.e you have category 6, $35 per 1000 = room rate of $430, which saves 12,000 points ($150 + 8,000 vs. 20,000).

    However, the original room rate would have to be $580 after tax for the redemption to be $35/1000.

    $580 = 20,000 = ($150 + 8,000). 12,000 pts = $430, = $35.8 per 1000 pts. At an after tax room rate of $430 originally, the calculation is as such:

    $430 = 20,000 = ($150 + 8,000), or $280 = 12,000 pts. Redemption of $23.3 per 1,000 pts. Am I looking at this wrong?

  • Ric Garrido August 11, 2010

    Ken – I had to think about this for a couple of minutes. Mathematically I think you are looking at this wrong.

    You have three payment choices for a SPG category 6 hotel night:

    1)$430 after tax
    2)20,000 points
    3)$150 + 8,000 points if Cash & Points is available

    12,000 points does not come into the equation.

    I compared a Cash & Points award to a paid stay. The points-only award is not a factor in this. In general the points-only award will almost always have a lower cash equivalent points value than a Cash & Points award.

    I compared a Cash & Points award to a paid hotel night after including tax. In my experience there is generally no hotel tax paid on the cash portion of a Cash & Points award stay although some hotels will charge hotel tax on the cash portion.

    Paid night: Assume a SPG category 6 hotel with $385 nightly rate + 12% hotel tax = $431.20 for one night.

    A 20,000 points award night would have a value of $431.20/20,000 points = $21.56 per 1,000 Starpoints.

    Rather than paying $431.20 or using all points for a free night the better value might be the option of a Cash & Points category 6 award for $150 + 8,000 points.

    In this example you are still paying $150 of the $431.20 nightly rate. You are essentially exchanging 8,000 points for $281.20 in cash saved.

    $281.20/8,000 points = $35.15 value per 1,000 points.

    The simplicity of this points valuation ignores the fact that a paid stay would earn points, elite credit, and likely some kind of SPG promotion credit.

    $385 per night would earn 770 points for a base member or 1,155 points per night for elites. Incidental spend and Platinum amenity will be same for Cash & Points award stay as a paid stay.

    The points are redeemed for higher value using Cash & Points ($35.15 per 1,000 points) than using 20,000 points for the free night ($21.56 per 1,000 points).

  • Ken August 13, 2010

    Ric, you’re right. I did it as this equation:

    20k = $430 = 8k + $150

    and subtracted $150 from $430 = $280, and the 8k from the 20k = 12k. Somehow it made sense at the time to simplify the equation to:

    12k = $280, when technically it should have been:

    12k – $150 = $280, or 12k = $430 = 3.5 cents.

    And you’re right, the 20k should have even come into the equation in the first place. the easy way to do it is the way you did:

    $430 = $150 + 8k

    $280 = 8k. $280 / 8k = 3.5 cents.

    Sorry, it’s been awhile since I’ve taken Algebra. Keep up the good work!

  • […] I'd use the SPG Amex and use it for hotel stays. Check out Ric Garrido's post from awhile back:…points-awards/ […]

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  • Charles Clarke April 20, 2012

    Okay, I realize that this popped up to the comments because of a spam comment, but the different ways of looking at the points valuations caught my mind…

    Especially Ric’s response of “12,000 points does not come into the equation.”

    I think 12,000 points does come into the equation if you look at it in a different way.

    You have a $430/night room. As Ric details, with Cash & Points, you can choose to save $281.20 for 8,000 points for $35.15/1000 points. If you choose a points only award night of 20,000 points, Ric shows the average value used of those points at $21.56/1000 points.

    Another way of looking at that is that first you can choose to use 8,000 points to save the $281.20. Then you can choose to use an additional 12,000 points to save $150 for a savings of $12.50/1000 points.

    By looking at the incremental savings, you can compare it to your earning rate, how much it would cost to purchase points factor in how big of a bank of points you have and decide if the incremental use of 12,000 points makes sense.

    e.g. If you have the SPG Amex and earn enough for the 8,000 points(times the number of nights you plan on getting) through it or another means, does it make sense to use it more to earn the extra 12,000 points or does it make sense to use another card that earns more than $12.50/$1000 spent (in the above case).

    On the burn side, does it make sense to burn those 12,000 points here to save $150 or use 8,000 of them on another night saving $281.20 and having 4,000 left over? Unless you have points to burn or don’t want more hotel nights, the answer gets real clear.

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