SPG

Review: US Grant Hotel San Diego

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Ford and I recently spent the weekend in San Diego visiting Tiffany and her husband. I’ve reviewed quite a few hotels in San Diego, including the Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Sheraton, and W (which is now a Renaissance). San Diego isn’t a terribly exciting hotel market. What I’ve noticed over the years is that there’s very little variability in rates across hotels.

While other cities will have 4-5 star hotels ranging in price from $150-1,000, the San Diego market just doesn’t seem to be able to command a premium for luxury hotels. So there’s not much variability in terms of cost or quality among those hotels.

One hotel I’ve stayed at probably five or so times over the years is the US Grant, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. I reviewed it eons ago, but haven’t reviewed it for my past several stays. However, the hotel recently underwent a renovation, and I was really impressed by the work they did, so figured an updated review would be helpful.

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Is The Starwood Platinum Status Challenge Worth It?

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For the most part loyalty programs are becoming less generous when it comes to status matches, since I assume they’re finding that in many cases they don’t actually change consumers’ long term behavior. There are exceptions, of course, but there’s a reason we’ve seen many loyalty programs discontinue status matches over the years.

For example, Starwood Preferred Guest stopped status matching in 2011, and has been offering a status challenge ever since. However, only recently did they publish a webpage with the details of the challenge. So this seems like a good time to look at Starwood’s current status challenge, especially in light of Marriott’s takeover of Stawood.

You can earn Gold or Platinum status through the Starwood status challenge, by completing a certain number of nights over the course of consecutive three month period, as follows:

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Review: Sheraton Kuwait

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Before returning to the US we had a one night layover in Kuwait — we were arriving at 12:25PM, and departing the following day at 9AM. As someone who tries to stay at Hyatt and Starwood properties whenever possible, the options were fairly limited — the city has no Hyatt properties, though has both a Sheraton and a Four Points by Sheraton.

The Four Points is a Category 5 property, meaning that a free night would cost 12,000 Starpoints. Meanwhile the Sheraton is a Category 6 property, meaning that a free night would cost 20,000 Starpoints. Kuwait clearly isn’t a cheap hotel market.

The price difference in cash wasn’t huge between the hotels — the Sheraton was ~$300, so we decided to stay there, and paid cash, since that seemed better than redeeming 20,000 Starpoints.

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Review: Presidential Suite At The Le Meridien Dhaka

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We had just under 24 hours in Dhaka — our flight from Paro arrived at 9:05AM, and our flight to Kuwait City the next day departed at 8:55AM. As a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist I had a few hotel options. Hyatt doesn’t have any properties in Dhaka, though Starwood has a Le Meridien, Westin, and Four Points.

We decided to book the Le Meridien, given it seemed to be the property closest to the airport, and also looked the most modern. At the time I booked I didn’t realize that the Le Meridien is actually widely considered to be Dhaka’s best hotel.

The paid rate at the Le Meridien was about $220 for our night, while a free night redemption would have cost 10,000 Starpoints, as this is a Category 4 property. That’s roughly a breakeven redemption (I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each), though when you factor in the points you’re forgoing by redeeming points, paying cash seemed like the better value.

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10 Of The Starwood Hotels I Most Want To Visit

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While I stay at a variety of hotel chains, I spend more nights at Starwood properties than any other hotel group. I’ve stayed at a lot of great Starwood properties (most of which I’ve reviewed), and I certainly have my favorites. For example, it’s tough to beat the W Taipei, St. Regis Maldives, Keraton at the Plaza, Cala Di Volpe, etc.

However, I also love sharing the travels I’m considering, which is what I’m doing with this post. I figured it would be fun to do a post about 10 of the Starwood properties I most want to visit, in the same way that I’ve shared the destinations I most want to visit, and also the airlines I most want to fly.

This post is focused primarily on the hotels rather than the destinations, though admittedly the locations in some cases factor into what interests me about these hotels.

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LAST CHANCE (Possibly Ever): SPG Amex 35K Point Sign-Up Bonus

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Well, folks, this is your last chance. The increased sign-up bonuses on the SPG Amex Cards will be pulled at some point during the day tomorrow (Wednesday, April 5, 2017). This increased sign-up bonus has been around since mid-February.

Both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are offering sign-up bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, plus the first year’s annual fee is waived (it’s $95 per year thereafter).

I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, so to me the 35,000 point sign-up bonus are worth $770, which is a huge sign-up bonus.

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Amex Platinum Card Benefits: Free Hotel Status

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Recently we saw The Platinum Card® from American Express relaunched with new benefits, a bigger sign-up bonus, and a higher annual fee. The card now has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months. On top of that, the card’s annual fee increased by $100, though I think for most people the new benefits will more than make up for the increased annual fee.

I get a lot of questions about the details of the benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express, so I’m writing a series about the various benefits of the card.

In this post I wanted to talk about the free hotel status you get just for having the Amex Platinum Card. This is a benefit that’s available as long as you have the card, though you do have to activate it. I imagine a majority of cardmembers don’t take advantage of this opportunity, so here’s an explanation of how you can do so easily.

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How Long Do Starwood Preferred Guest Points Transfers Take?

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If you’re collecting miles & points through credit card spend, I always recommend doing what you can to accrue transferrable points currencies. That’s because these points are much more flexible than when you’re earning an individual airline or hotel points currency. You have the flexibility to transfer these points to all kinds of travel partners, and you’re safeguarded from a devaluation in a specific points currency.

Starpoints aren’t a traditional transferable currency, in the sense that Starpoints are actually directly hotel loyalty program points. However, Starpoints are often considered to be the fourth transferable points currency, since they have many great airline transfer partners, and this is actually a good use of points.

So while I previously wrote a series about transferring points to the other three major points currencies, several people asked if I could write a similar installment about Starpoints, which is what this post is about.

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Review: Le Meridien Paro

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After three nights at the Le Meridien Thimphu, we spent the balance of our time in Paro, and stayed at the Le Meridien there. As a reminder, we booked this stay using Cash & Points, which I considered to be a great value.

While the Le Meridien Thimphu is located right in the heart of the city of Thimphu, the Le Meridien Paro is about 15 minutes out of town, so it’s pretty secluded. There’s nothing within walking distance of the property.

The hotel was stunning from the outside. It’s right on the river, and it’s just such a beautiful setting. As much as I spend most of my time indoors sitting in front of my laptop, there’s nothing I love more than being in a place with natural beauty and fresh air, and just sitting by the river delivered plenty of that.

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Review: Le Meridien Thimphu

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Le Meridien has two properties in Bhutan, which is pretty cool. Bhutan is a country that has a lot of independent hotels, and then also a lot of super high end luxury hotels (like Amans), which run $1,000+ per night. So it’s great to have a mid-range option where you can redeem points. There aren’t really any other mid-range chain hotels in the country where you can redeem points, which is why I was excited to review these hotels.

With five nights in Bhutan, we split our time between the two Le Meridien properties — we spent the first three nights at Le Meridien Thimphu, and then the next two nights at Le Meridien Paro. The order and number of nights we stayed was entirely dictated by availability. The Paro property was sold out for the first three nights, which is why we did the first three nights in Thimphu.

At the time I booked, both of these hotels were Category 5 SPG properties, and both had Cash & Points available, so the cost was $110 plus 6,000 Starpoints per night. Both hotels had cash rates of $400+ including tax and service charge, so I considered that to be a good deal.

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6 Reasons To Apply For The SPG Card Over The Marriott Card

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At the moment we’re seeing limited time increased sign-up bonuses on three Marriott and Starwood credit cards, with the opportunity to potentially earn up to 317,500 bonus Marriott Rewards points if you apply for all three cards. The basic details of these offers are as follows:

— The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is offering 100,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 7,500 Marriott Rewards points after adding an authorized user and having them make a purchase within three months; $85 annual fee

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SPG Amex Vs. Hilton Amex — Which Limited Time Sign-Up Bonus Is Better?

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American Express’ co-branded hotel credit cards are on fire at the moment. We’re seeing huge increased sign-up bonuses on both the Hilton and Starwood co-brand cards.

The details of the increased Starwood Amex bonuses (which expire on April 5, 2017) are as follows:

— The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

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Introduction: Journey To Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, And Kuwait

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For about a year now, Ford has expressed interest in visiting Bhutan. While I had heard of Bhutan, and could have probably roughly pointed to it on a map, at the time I didn’t know much about it at all. But the more research I did, the more interested I became. It’s supposedly this incredible shangri-la with the happiest people in the world (heck, Drukair’s frequent flyer program is called “My Happiness Rewards”). Is that actually the case, or…?

There are two things to understand about visiting Bhutan:

— It’s the most expensive place in the world to visit in terms of the entry fee (though I don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds) — they do this to preserve their country, to pay for many services for their citizens, etc.
— It’s a pain to get there, as only two airlines fly to Paro Airport, and both have limited destinations and high pricing

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Less Than 2 Weeks Left To Earn 70K+ Starpoints

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For a bit over a month now, we’ve seen great increased sign-up bonuses on Starwood’s co-branded American Express cards. Both the personal and business versions of the card are offering sign-up bonuses of up to 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, as follows:

— For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

While 35,000 points might not sound like a lot, keep in mind that Starpoints are among the most valuable points currency out there, so 35,000 Starpoints are worth more than that many points in just about any other points currency.

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