How the Starwood Preferred Guest Program Works

Alyssa Furtado
by Alyssa Furtado January 23, 2015 / No Comments

The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program is one of the most popular rewards programs for frequent travelers. SPG rewards points, also known as Starpoints, can be redeemed for flights and trains, but the reason most people become Starwood members is so they can eventually earn free hotel stays. If you find that accommodation is one of the most expensive costs on your trips, you may want to consider joining. And if you want to collect Starpoints faster, there’s one travel rewards credit card that can help you do so.

How to Earn Starpoints

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is the only credit card in Canada that lets you earn Starpoints with regular day-to-day purchases. With it, you’ll earn 1 Starpoint for every $1 spent on the card, and it also comes with a new sign-up bonus of 20,000 Starpoints*, valued at approx. $446.

In addition to this credit card, you can also join Starwood’s member program for free. As a member, you’ll receive an SPG card and member number, which you can use at the time you book a stay at any Starwood member hotel. You can also earn additional Starpoints at the hotel’s restaurant, or on room service and in-room movie charges.

To maximize your earning power, remember to use both your Starwood’s member number + your Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card to earn 2 Starpoints per $1 spent on your hotel stay. Just keep in mind that you must book your hotel stay through the Starwood website, hotel website or call centre.

Gold and Platinum Status

The SPG program rewards top members with Gold and Platinum status. To qualify for Gold status, you need to reach 10 eligible stays or 25 eligible nights in a calendar year. And yes – free nights booked with Starpoints are considered eligible. Once you reach Gold status, you earn 3 Starpoints for every $1 spent at Starwood member hotels. You also receive benefits, such as late check-outs and room upgrades when available.

To qualify for Platinum level, you need to reach 25 eligible stays or 50 eligible nights in a calendar year. Members with Platinum status also earn 3 Starpoints for every $1 spent at Starwood member hotels. With Platinum status, you also receive upgrades to the best room available at check-in, access to the hotel’s health club/gym and the opportunity to use the Platinum Concierge Service.

How to Redeem Starpoints

While you can redeem Startpoints for flights and trains, the main focus of this rewards program is for free hotel stays. There are nine hotel chains which make up Starwood’s worldwide network of more than 1,150 hotels. They are:

  1. Four Points by Sheraton
  2. Sheraton
  3. Aloft
  4. W Hotels
  5. Le Meridien
  6. The Luxury Collection
  7. Element
  8. Westin
  9. Regis

To redeem for a hotel, simply login to the Starwoods website and click on “My Account” to see how many Starpoints you have accumulated. Then go back to the homepage, search your destination + dates, and use the compare tabs to see the lowest standard room rate, as well as the points required for an SPG Free Night and for the SPG Cash and Points option (not an option for all hotels).

There are seven categories of hotels which require different quantities of Starpoints:

spg-rewards-program-hotels

For hotels in Categories 3-7, if you redeem Starpoints for 4 nights, the 5th night is free. As we said above, some hotels will give you the option to use Starpoints and cash. A Category 3 hotel, for example, requires 7,000 Starpoints but can also be booked with 3,500 Starpoints plus $55 cash (US). Using Starpoints and cash is a good option if you are short on the required number of Starpoints for your stay.

Starpoints can also easily be redeemed for flights. You can book flights online using Starpoints travel service. In addition, the SPG program allows you to transfer Starpoints to other airline rewards programs at a 1:1 ratio. And, if you transfer 20,000 Starpoints, you receive 5,000 bonus points for free. For example, if you are an Aeroplan user and transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Aeroplan, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for a total of 25,000 Aeroplan miles. Here is the list of airline loyalty programs that you can transfer Starpoints to.

The Value of a Starpoint

Have you ever wondered how much 1 Starpoint is worth? It’s exciting when you finally have the opportunity to redeem your Starpoints, but many Canadians don’t understand the exact value they are getting from them. According to our research, the average value of 1 Starpoint = $0.0223, but the value you get varies depending on which hotels you redeem them for.

As mentioned above, the program divides hotels into seven categories; Category 1 being the lowest quality and Category 7 being the highest. Certain hotel categories and destinations offer you more value for your Starpoints. For example, if you choose to redeem your Starpoints for a Category 5 hotel in Vienna, 1 Starpoint could be worth $0.03, which is an incredible value for any rewards program. But if you used the same Starpoints for a Category 5 hotel in Montréal, 1 Starpoint could be worth just $0.015.

Here are some examples of how you can calculate the value of your Starpoints, before you redeem them. By doing the math yourself before you book, you can ensure you’re getting the most value from this rewards program.

Example: Redeeming Your Starpoints for a Category 6 Hotel in Bangkok 

Price of the lowest standard room = $249.00
Starpoints required = 20,000
Value of 1 Starpoint: $249.00/20,000 = $0.0125

If you redeem 20,000 points for 1 night in a Category 6 hotel in Bangkok, your Starpoints will only be worth $0.0125 each. The reason this figure is low is because hotels in Southeast Asia are generally inexpensive, so a luxury hotel (i.e. a Category 6) costs significantly less there than if you stayed at one in somewhere like Paris or New York City. As you’ll see in the example below, if you redeem your Starpoints for hotels in more expensive areas, you will receive better value.

Example: Redeeming Your Starpoints for a Category 6 Hotel in Paris

Price of the lowest standard room = $424.00
Starpoints required: 20,000
Value of 1 Starpoint: $424.00/20,000 = $0.0212 

In this example, because 1 night at a Category 6 hotel is more expensive in Paris than in Bangkok, your Starpoints will be worth $0.0212 each. As you can see from this example, it’s a good idea to redeem Starpoints at the most expensive hotel in any category, to get the best value. And if you ever do this math and find you’re not getting a good enough value from your Starpoints, you can always choose to pay for your hotel stay (with your SPG American Express!) and save your points for another time.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

starwood-preferred-guest-from-american-express

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  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn one Starpoint per dollar spent
  • Receive 20,000 bonus Starpoints after you make $1,500 in the first three months
  • Enjoy a Free Weekend Night Award when you reach $40,000 in purchases each year

If you’re a frequent traveller and want to earn Starpoints on day-to-day purchases, which can be redeemed for future hotel stays, apply for the SPG Credit Card from American Express today!

More details about this credit card:

  • Experience Starwood Gold Preferred Guest status when you reach $30,000 in purchases each year
  • Redeem Starpoints for Free Nights with no blackout dates at over 1,200 of the world’s most desired hotels in nearly 100 countries
  • Use Starpoints for flights on over 150 airlines with no blackout dates with SPG Flights
  • When you redeem Starpoints, they cover all taxes and service charges
  • Experience once-in-a-lifetime events with SPG Moments
  • American Express InvitesTM opens the door to great music, theatre, dining, film, fashion and shopping experiences. Be among the first to know, and among the first to go!
  • Annual interest rate 19.99% on purchases and 21.99% on funds advances