Just yesterday Starwood’s devaluation of their cash & points program kicked in, which for years has been one of the best hotel redemption values in the industry.
With the exception of category seven properties, the cost of cash & points redemptions went up by roughly 20-25% across the board, which is a pretty hard hit to the value of this redemption option. However, one of the positives of this change is that they promised “expanded availability” of cash & points as a result.
So while there’s a chance not all hotels have updated their cash & points inventory yet, I think it’s worth visiting this a day after the change. Has cash & points availability improved? I think the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Now, while I have no way of comparing the cash & points availability at all 1,000+ Starwood properties before and after the change, I do notice a lot more hotels releasing cash & points availability for a lot more dates.
For example I’m going to Rio de Janeiro soon courtesy of the cheap American fares a while back. Previously the Sheraton Barra had very little cash & points availability, while now it’s available almost every day.
Meanwhile hotels like the St. Regis Singapore are still pretty stingy with cash & points availability, with no more space than I saw before the change.
Then there’s the W Hong Kong, which was previously extremely stingy with cash & points availability, though now releases a fair amount.
I’m seeing much of the same from the neighboring Sheraton Hong Kong, which previously virtually never released cash & points availability, though now releases a fair bit (though not amazing amount) of space.
So I give Starwood kudos for not only staying true to their word, but doing it so quickly.
The big question is whether the improved cash & points availability makes up for the price increases. Secretly I was hoping that cash & points availability would now match the “free nights” redemption availability. Before y’all call me crazy, hear me out.
Here’s Starwood’s new cash & points award chart:
And here’s Starwood’s standard “free nights” award chart:
Let’s crunch the numbers as to how much you’re paying per “saved” Starpoint when choosing cash & points over a “free night” redemption, assuming they were both available. To keep the math simple let’s forget about both weekend/weekday pricing and the fifth night free, both of which only apply through “free nights” redemptions and not cash & points (they kind of balance one another out, in my opinion).
With that in mind, here’s the math of what you’re basically paying per “saved” Starpoint when choosing cash & points over a “free night” redemption (the Starpoints figure is the difference in Starpoints needed between a cash & points redemption and a “free night” redemption, while the cash figure is the co-pay on a cash & points redemption):
Category 1: 1,500 Starpoints or $30 = 2.00 cents per Starpoint
Category 2: 2,000 Starpoints or $35 = 1.75 cents per Starpoint
Category 3: 3,500 Starpoints or $55 = 1.57 cents per Starpoint
Category 4: 5,000 Starpoints or $75 = 1.50 cents per Starpoint
Category 5: 6,000 Starpoints or $110 = 1.83 cents per Starpoint
Category 6: 10,000 Starpoints or $180 = 1.8 cents per Starpoint
Category 7: 15,000 Starpoints or $275 = 1.83 cents per Starpoint
So you’re basically “paying” anywhere between 1.5 and 2.0 cents per saved Starpoint for choosing cash & points over a “free night” redemption. While that’s a rate at which I’d rather save Starpoints, you’d think it’s also a rate at which Starwood would rather have the cash than the points, no? Surely for their internal purposes they don’t value a Starpoint at more than 1.5-2.0 cents per point, do they?
Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I’m not meaning to bash them here. This was somewhat inevitable and Starwood has done a ton to improve their program lately. Let’s not forget that two years ago they started counting award stays towards elite status, so you can more or less earn top tier status exclusively on cash & points bookings, which is a value that’s tough to beat. And last year they introduced breakfast and confirmed suite upgrades for Platinum members, which was also huge. So I’m still a much happier Starwood customer than I was a year ago.
But was I really the only one secretly hoping that cash & points wouldn’t be capacity controlled after the change? 😀