One of the best uses of Starwood points is their cash & points option whereby you can redeem part points and part cash for a hotel stay. The catch is that unlike their “free night” awards, cash & points is capacity controlled.
I find the “sweet spot” with cash & points to be category 3-5 hotels, where the savings are substantial enough to forgo the ability to earn points on a stay. On the low end, I find most category 2 hotels to be cheap enough so that I’d rather pay ~$80 and earn points (and qualify for any promotions) than to save a few bucks and pay 1,600 points plus $30 instead.
On the high end with category 6 hotels, I find most of them a bit overpriced at 8,000 SPG points plus $150 per night. For example, the St. Regis Bangkok is a category six hotel and regularly has room rates of ~$200 per night. So would I really spend 8,000 SPG points to save $50? No way.
Up until now Starwood excluded category 7 properties from cash & points redemptions, though they’ve finally changed that policy, and with what they’re trying to charge — 15,000 SPG points plus $275 per night — why wouldn’t they?
The following category 7 hotels are eligible for cash & points:
Cervo Hotel ,Costa Smeralda Resort
The Chatwal, New York City
The Gritti Palace, Venice
Hotel President Wilson Geneva
The St. Regis Aspen Resort
The St. Regis Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico
The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort
The St. Regis Bali Resort
The St. Regis Florence
The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort
The St. Regis New York
W South Beach
W Paris- Opera
At the end of the day new options are a good thing, though I really don’t see myself taking advantage of this anytime soon. I have a hard time justifying spending 15,000 points OR $275 for a hotel night, let alone both. That’s not to say it won’t be a decent value in some cases, though I suspect since it’s capacity controlled we’ll see a lot more cash & points availability in the off season.
The issue is that the increase in the cost of cash & points is disproportionate compared to redeeming for a free night. If redeeming a free night, the increase in the number of points required is 50%. So keeping the same math, 50% more than 8,000 SPG points and $150 would be 12,000 SPG points plus $225. Instead they nearly doubled both the cash & points required compared to a category 6 hotel.
I value SPG points at 2.2 cents each, so in order for this to be worthwhile for me the room rate would need to be at least $605, and that’s not even factoring:
- The points I’d be forgoing by not booking a paid stay.
- The benefits I’d be forgoing by booking an award stay vs. through Virtuoso or American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, given that most of these properties belong to those programs.
Anyway, I appreciate the option, but no thanks!
(Tip of the hat to Gary)