Tag Archives: Starwood Hotels

Hotel Points

This post is dedicated to my sister who has recently joined the travel hacking family.  As the Frugal Travel Guy talked about today, networking is one of the best things you can do in this game.  And I’m so happy to have another family member joining this game.  One thing that she said she wished she knew more about was how to earn and maximize use of hotel points.  I do not profess to be an expert in this arena, but it did get me thinking.

I love the Starwood Amex credit card.  I’m sure you’ve heard many travel blogger touting this card and there’s a reason why.  You get a point for every dollar you spend.  When you transfer 20,000 points to an airline program, you get an extra 5,000 points transfer, essentially making your earn rate 1.25 per dollar spent.  But the feature I like best with Starwood points is the cash and points option for hotel redemption.  For example, if you wanted to stay at one of their category 5 hotels, it would cost 12,000 – 16,000 points OR 4,800 points and $90.  The cash and points option allows you to stretch your points further which is important for those of us who don’t have as many points.

You could also get one of the other hotel credit cards if you don’t want to stay at a Starwood hotel.  The one that I like the most right now is the Chase Hyatt Visa.  It comes with 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt (you get the first one after your first purchase and the second one after you spend $1,000 on the card within 3 months).

Another option is to get a non-hotel credit card that allows you to transfer points to hotel programs.  There are many credit cards that fall into this category.  My favorite all around use card that allows this is the Chase Sapphire Visa.  It is now my go to card.  However, there is a great offer out there for the Bank of American Virgin Atlantic American Express card.  You get 20,000 miles after first purchase and another 25,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on the card within the first 3 months.  (You can also get another 5,000 miles if you add 2 authorized users to the account.)  Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 rate.  So this deal will yield you nearly 100,000 Hilton points!

Now 100,000 points means very different things in different programs.  So how do you know if 100,000 points is any good?  My suggestion would be to check out the Million Mile Secrets web site.  One of the top tabs on the site is called Miles & Points Resources.  This gives you a drop down Airline Award Charts, Airline Frequent Flyer Program Sign-up, Hotel Reward Night Charts, and Hotel Reward Program Sign-up.  It’s a quick and easy way to navigate to each program’s chart (so you don’t have to hunt and peck around each site).  In Hilton’s case, 100,000 points will get you 4 nights at a category 3 hotel, about 3 nights at a category 4 – 5 hotel or 2 nights at a category 6 – 7 hotel (you could get quite a bit more at a category 1 – 2 hotel, but personally I wouldn’t stay at a category 1 – 2 hotel).  Hilton also has a cash and money option, so you could stretch your points even further.

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Back from Hawaii and Thinking About Disney

You may have noticed a lack of posts for the last week or so.  The reason I wasn’t posting is we were in Hawaii!  Yes, the long awaited trip was fantastic.  I’ll post a trip report over several days in the coming week(s).  I’m finally getting back on East Coast time so I’ll be awake enough to put one together. 

And after taking such a lovely vacation, I want more.  I’ve turned my attention to our trip to Disney that we have planned for this April.  Originally, I was planning on using Starwood Hotel points to book a room at the Disney Swan resort.  However, I have reconsidered that.  Disney is running a promotion (that ends today) where you can book some of their hotels for 30% off. 

Here’s why I reconsidered my hotel strategy.  When redeeming points, I want to get at least a 2 cent return for each point redeemed.  We are planning on staying in Disney for 5 nights.  The only option to redeem points at the Disney Swan was the free night option (cash and points was not available).  Since we were staying for 5 nights, I could do the redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free option.  Each free night would cost me 10,000 points.  So I would have to spend a total of 40,000 points for the stay.  Now you could say that that means I’d have to get at least $800 worth of value out of the stay.  But you can redeem 40,000 Starwood Hotel points for 50,000 airline points (Starwood gives you a bonus 5,000 points for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline).  So I want to get at least $1,000 worth of value out of the stay.  Plus I’d really like to do better than $1,000 in value because I value Starwood points more than other points.

Technically, I would have done better that that with booking at the Swan.  A night at the Disney Swan resort was running about $240 (not including taxes/fees).  Since we were staying 5 nights, that would be nearly $1,250 in value.  But I needed to look at the alternatives.  With Disney’s promotion, I could book a night at one of the moderate hotels for about $140-$150/night.  And since it was a hotel run by Disney (unlike the Swan, which is on Disney property but run by Westin), I could also take the Disney Express to the hotel from the airport (so I won’t have to pay for transportation from the airport to/from the hotel).  Plus I still had a credit with Hotels.com from this promotion last year where you got a free night if you booked one night through them.  With all that taken into consideration, the hotel stay would only cost us $660 in total.  We’ll be staying at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort, which both a friend and Mousesavers.com recommended.

Every time I plan a trip, I look at the alternatives.  That’s why it’s not possible to give people a one size fits all strategy for booking a trip.  In general, I try to minimize out of pocket expenses.  However, in this case, it made more sense to pay money for the hotel stay than to use points.

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Cyber Monday, Chase Ink Bold

Chase Ink Bold

According to Chase’s application, today is the last day to get the Chase Ink Bold 50,000 point sign-up bonus.  This card is a business card.  Darius from Million Mile Secrets is questioning whether the deal will really be pulled.  And he sites some good reasons for his scepticium.  If you don’t want to gamble though, you should put in your application today.  You get the points after spending $5,000 on the card within the first 3 months.  The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Cyber Monday Starwood Deal

Starwood Hotels is offering 15 – 35% off some of their hotels for reservations made today through December 2 for stays through April 30, 2012.  The hotel that is getting a lot of buzz is Westin Laungamar Ocean Resort Villas.  I saw it on the Today Show this morning and it’s also on the One Mile at a Time blog.  Lucky is saying he’s finding rooms for $11 US.  I’m sure it’s not going to last at that price.

Christmas Quote

Here’s your Christmas quote for today: “I don’t care if the turkey said the dog was a turkey! The dog is not the turkey! The turkey’s the turkey, you turkey!”

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Starwood American Express Card New Lower Minimum Spend

Starting today the Starwood Amex Card has lowered its minimum spending requirement for the second bonus from $15,000 to $5,000 within 6 months.  This definitely makes it a more attractive card for most people.  You earn 10,000 points after first purchase and 15,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months.

I really like this card for its flexibility.  I’ve talked about this many times before on the blog.  Starwood points can be transferred to a number of frequent flyer programs.  And if you transfer 20,000 at one time, you get a 5,000 point transfer bonus.  These points can also be used at Starwood Hotels which include Westin, Sheraton, W, Le Meridien, Luxury Collection, St. Regis, Four Points, aloft, and element Hotels.

I personally have this card and I am very careful as to how I use the points.  I used some of our points on our trip to Hawaii last year.  I love the Cash & Points option when redeeming at their hotels.  We stayed at the Westin Ocean Resort and Villas for $90 plus 4,800 points/night.  They’ve now upped the category for that specific hotel to a category 6, so it would cost more now. 

You can see some of my other posts about Starwood here.

HT: Frugal Travel Guy

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Tomorrow’s the last day for the 30k Starwood Amex sign-up bonus

If you don’t already have the Starwood Hotels Amex credit card, you may want to consider the current offer.  The deal ends tomorrow (8/22).  It comes with a 30k point sign-up bonus after $4,500 spend in 3 months.  Before this offer, the sign-up bonus was only 10,000 points after first purchase and another 15,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 6 months.  I really like the Starwood Amex because of it’s flexibility which I’ve written about in other posts.  I used Starwood points for hotel stays on our trip to Hawaii.  The points are the last points that I try to use when booking a trip because they are so valuable (because you can use them for hotels and transfer to many airline programs).

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