The Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express is one of the greatest reward credit cards ever invented. Cardholders earn points in the program of Starwood hotels, which include Sheraton, Westin, and several other brands. These points can be used for free nights in hotels, but they can also be transferred to the programs of over thirty different airlines. Although these features are amazing, it can be quite difficult for new cardholders to figure out the best way to use these valuable points.
The key to receiving the most value from Starwood points is figuring out how many cents per point you received. And with hotel awards, that is a simple matter dividing the price of the room to the amount of points needed for the award. With Starwood, the best values are often at the lower end of their system. For example, a hotel in category 1 or 2 will require 2,000 to 7,000 points, but cost $150 – $250. These are typically airport hotels or properties outside of major cities.
But the ideal points redemption is for a five night stay. That is because Starwood always offers the fifth night free, increasing the value of your points by 25%.
Airline point transfers
This is where things get complicated. Starwood offers point transfers to miles with over 30 different airlines. And since each airline offers awards with their partners, the permutations are nearly endless. But here is what cardholders need to know. First, always redeem points in increments of 20,000. That is because Starwood offers a 5,000 bonus when 20,000 points are transferred to miles.
Next, never transfer points to United Airlines, as Starwood only offers one point for ever two redeemed, half their standard rate. If a traveler needs to fly on United, he or she can transfer their points to any Star Alliance partner such as US Airways or Air Canada. Note that US Airways will exit the Star Alliance when its merger with American is completed.
But beyond the issue with United, cardholders will find that their miles will go further depending on which airline program they are in, so it is smart to compare the miles needed across several different carriers. It is also wise to examine which airlines will add fuel surcharges, as many foreign carriers charge hundreds of dollars for their award flights.
There are no other credit cards that have the power to turn your points into miles with so many airlines as the Starwood card. By using these points as wisely as possible, cardholders can unlock an incredible variety of award travel options.