The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express 30K Offer is back! Get $1200-2400 in value for this sign on bonus!

September 4, 2013: This offer has expired and it is back to the usual offer of 25K SPG Points for both the consumer and business versions.

Maybe twice a year, the SPG Business Amex and SPG Amex run a special for 30K SPG points instead of the normal 25K. This is one of those times!

Starwood are in my opinion the most valuable points and in the past I have gotten great value from my points.  On my most recent Europe trip, I received 4.1 cents per Starpoint in value at the fabulous Turnberry Resort.

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I also received a Free Upgrade to a giant suite in Lima for only $30+1600 points per night earlier in the year.

Couch in Living Room
Couch in Living Room

It never seems that I have enough Starpoints and I am constantly trying to keep my balance up so I can have the juicy redemptions at Starwood’s awesome properties around the world. This limited time sign on bonus (ends Sept 3, 2013) is the perfect way to boost your Starpoints account.

30,000 points is as good as it gets for these particular cards so if you were thinking about getting it, now is the time! The worst value I have gotten from my Starpoints is around 4 cents per point and the best value is around 8 cents per Starpoint. This means if you redeem the smart way like I do, this sign on bonus is worth between $1200-2400!  Here are some of the details:

  • 10,000 SPG points after the first purchase
  • 20,000 SPG points after spending $5,000 in the card in the first 6 months
  • No fee for the first year, then $65
  • Instant Preferred Plus status which can give you free room upgrades, 4 PM Checkout and more
  • 5 nights or 2 stays worth of credit towards your gold or platinum status qualification.
  • Up to 5 points per $ spent at SPG properties (2 starpoints per dollar spent on the card plus the starpoints you get as a SPG member), 1 point per $ everywhere else

If staying in awesome suites for peanuts sounds like something you are interested in, then apply for the SPG Business Amex or SPG Amex before September 3, 2013

Eurotrip 2013: Part 2 – Planning for Hotels in Europe for Maximum Miles

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Turnberry Resort by Starwood Preferred Guest

This is the second post in a series about my 2013 trip to Ireland, Scotland and Great Britain.  Part of the free plane tickets were funded by the 40,000 point sign up bonus of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

When I started planning the hotels for my Europe trip, I wanted to take advantage of many of the hotel promotions that were going on this quarter and strategically redeem points where necessary when I was getting good value.  I don’t consider myself a hotel expert and rely on the excellent Loyalty Lobby blog to get a lot of my hotel promotions information.  In particular for this trip I accessed the Top Hotel Promotions June 2013 Guide.  I had Platinum status with Starwood and Le Club Accorhotel and Gold Status with Hilton going into the process.  I did a status match with Priority Club and Club Carlson via my Starwood status to get Platinum status with Priority Club and Gold status with Club Carlson. This would insure that I got the best treatment for my bookings on my trip. I saw from the promotions guide that Priority Club, Marriott, Hilton, and Club Carlson had the best promotions currently.

I’m going to give a run down of which hotels I chose in which cities, the prices, and why I thought each was the best choice. I knew we were going to have some expensive stays in Dublin, St. Andrews, and London so purposefully picked some cheaper properties with a good location when I thought I could.

Fairfield Inn by Marriott JFK Airport – $152 on a senior rate (traveling with Dad pays off!)

The Morrison Dublin, a Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – 2 nights @ 246 Euro on a senior rate

  • Hilton’s Daily Grand promotion should give me 1,000 bonus points and 1000 Virgin Atlantic Miles and my Gold Status will get us free breakfast so we can hit the ground running each day without having to go to an outside restaurant.

Waterford Marina Hotel in Waterford, Ireland – 79 Euro

  • This was one that my Dad’s picks because of the golf course located here.

Holiday Inn in Killarney, Ireland – 129 Euro

  • By stacking multiple promotions I expect at least 10,000 Priority club points from this stay (which could be enough for two PointsBreak nights in the future.)

Radisson Blu Galway, Ireland – 2 nights @ 136 Euro on a AAA rate

Holiday Inn Express Queen’s Quarter in Belfast, Ireland – 85 GBP

  • Stacking Multiple Promotions and multi stay bonuses.

MacDonald Rusacks in St. Andrews, Scotland 2 nights @ 282 GBP

  • This was one of my Dad’s picks because of the golf course located here.  They did have “The Club” loyalty program that I signed up for but it doesn’t look like it gives much to start.

Holiday Inn Express in Inverness, Scotland – 93 GBP

  • Stacking Multiple Promotions and multi stay bonuses.

Turnberry Resort, Luxury Collection Starwood – $110+6000 Starpoints

  • This was one I added on because of the golf course and that I could get a Cash and Points rate of $110+6000 star points which gave me a value of 4.1 cents per point redeemed.

Hilton Paddington London – 129 GBP

Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt London – 2 nights @ 44,000 Club Carlson Points

  • Redeemed 88,000 Club Carlson points for 2 nights in a 328 GBP a night room, yielding a value of 1.1 cents per point

Renaissance by Marriott London Heathrow Airport – 135 GBP

Holiday Inn Express Frankfurt – 114 Euro

  • Stacking Multiple Promotions and multi stay bonuses.

Once all of the points post I will do a summary post to see how I did.  I hope this gives you a feel for some of the thought that goes into booking hotel stays on an extended trip for maximum value.

Starwood announces Double Take promotion for 3Q2013

Starwood Double Take

Starwood today opened up registration for their Double Take promotion.  The promotion runs from May 1, 2013 to July 31, 2013.  Under this promotion you will receive double Starpoints on the base Starpoint earnings (so 4 Starpoints per $ spent instead of 2 Starpoints).  You will also get a 500 Starpoint booking bonus for booking at SPG.com or using their mobile app.

The 500 point booking bonus is for all of their properties, but the double Starpoints has a decent sized exclusion list so check before you book if the double Starpoints are a deciding factor.

The summer is high season for hotel chains and this offer I think reflects that and isn’t something I am terribly excited about.  If you are going to be staying at their properties anyways though free points are free points!

Click here to sign up now for this promotion.

Starwood partners with Delta for their Crossover Rewards program

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Starwood Preferred Guest recently announced a new program called Crossover Rewards that rewards people that stay at Starwood properties and fly Delta with elite status that “crosses over” between the two programs.  Since I am a newly qualified Platinum Starwood member, I was anxious to see how it worked.

If you have Gold or Platinum Status with Starwood you now receive:

  • One Starpoint for every dollar spent on eligible Delta flights
  • Priority Check-in on Delta Flights
  • Priority Boarding on Delta Flights
  • First Checked Bag Free on Delta Flights

If you have Diamond, Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion status with Delta you now receive:

  • 1 mile for every dollar spent on eligible room rates

If Diamond or Platinum Medallion status with Delta you additionally get:

  • 4 PM Late Checkout
  • Elite Check in at Starwood properties
  • Complimentary in-room internet access
  • Upgrade to an enhanced room at check in when available.

This is on top of whatever Starpoints or Skymiles you would have normally received!  Any time they add new benefits for free I am a fan and in this case, it might make me book a flight or two with Delta since it will give me extra Starpoints. To sign up, just click on this link, log into your SPG account then enter your Delta Skymiles number and then you are all set to get extra miles and points!

Free upgrade to a giant suite at the Sheraton Lima? I’ll take it!

This post is the second in a series about my trip to Inti Fest 2013 in Peru.

  1. How I am going to Inti Fest in Peru in Business Class for only $65!
  2. Free upgrade to a giant suite at the Sheraton Lima? I’ll take it!

After almost missing my flight as usual in a dramatic fashion, I made it on my nonstorp LAN Peru flight from Miami to Lima. Mental note: always get there at least an hour before takeoff because many carriers “close” the flight an hour before even if you aren’t checking bags. The 767-300 plane had an upgraded business class section with completely lie flat seats which made the overnight flight much more pleasant.

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I have found that it is much harder for me to get good rest with the “angled flat” than the completely flat that are 180 degrees. There was the usual assortment of video on demand and music that is pretty much standard these days. and a nice big screen to view it on. It even had a port to plug in your iphone and view pics, videos or music from there! I didn’t really take advantage of this though since it was an overnight flight and I wanted to sleep.  I took the Express Dinner option which gave me more time for sleep by skipping the 2nd course of the meal and bringing everything else out at one time.

Upon arrival in Lima, I found a taxi who offered to charge me 50 Peruvian Soles (~19 USD) to take me to the Sheraton in Central Lima. This in retrospect was definitely overpaying and 30 Soles would have been a fair price. Taxi drivers in Peru have no meters and instead everything is negotiated before you get in their car. The Sheraton Lima is definitely not in the best area since central Lima is far from the tourist area of Miraflores, but since I had been to Lima before I didn’t mind staying a little further away. One of the primary reasons was the great Points and Cash rate of $30 + 1600 Starpoints that was available. This would also be the first time I stayed at a Starwood property since I got Platinum Status last year by Mattress Running and I was anxious to see what kind of treatment I would get.

Since my flight got in at almost 6 AM, I was at the hotel by 7:30 AM and was hoping to push the limits of the platinum early check in benefit. I wasn’t disappointed and they checked me right away into a junior suite. The room was a bit dated and looked like it was last renovated circa 1982.  I was too tired to argue and knocked out for a few hours until about 12.  It was during this nap that I found out that the air conditioning was also functioning like it was from 1982.  I’m the type that has to be cold to sleep well, so this wouldn’t do at all.  Since it was now also noon, I was hoping another room would be available.

This brings up another point that I am finding to be more and more true.  When you have status, don’t be afraid to expect a high standard and ask for things.  The hotels put these programs in place to reward frequent visitors and it is OK to be a little picky about things because you really do have a choice in where you choose to stay. I explained to the nice woman at the front desk (who spoke great English by the way) that the A/C wasn’t working well and asked if I could have a different room.  She did a big of talking to what I assumed was the manager and came back with a smile and said she had found a very nice room for me due to the trouble.  As I took my luggage upstairs, I was greeted with the 18th floor Ollantay Suite, named after one of the first writings that explained the origins of the Inca people.

As I stepped into the room, I realized why the woman was smiling.  This was a pimping suite!

She also explained that since I had platinum status I would get the free buffet breakfast in the dining room for me and a guest (which was super amazing by the way) or I could eat in the club lounge on the 17th floor if I wanted more privacy for my breakfast.  They also had afternoon hors d’oeuvres in the lounge which worked perfect as an afternoon snack.

The room was a pretty incredible value for $30 a night!  This trip was off to a great start!

Starwood Announces Hotel Category Changes

When a hotel chain announces category changes, it is rarely good news because it seems like most of the time more go up in category and down.  This is definitely the case with latest Starwood announcement where about 50 hotels go down in category and over 200 go up.  Here is a listing of all the changes.

Starwood Hotel Category Changes 2013

The only one that might impact me directly is the Westin Cadillac in Detroit where I normally stay is going from a category 4 to a category 5. These changes take effect on March 5, so make sure to make any reservations before then.  Keep in mind that most of the points and points+cash reservations are fully refundable with no penalty up until the day of or the day before arrival so there isn’t any reason to wait if you have a potential reservation in the future.

Starwood increases cost for cash and points award bookings and makes some other changes

spgpointsandcashchanges Something I have heard over and over is to not hoard your points and today is a perfect example of why earning and burning is the way to go.  Starwood’s cash and points has long been one of the best values in the points world with possibilities of 5 cents or better per StarPoint if your are shrewd in your redemptions.  I have written about some of my great redemption values in the past such as 8 cents per point in Santiago.  Well, this great value is changing to a less great value with the points and cash requirements going up across the board. The cash and points are going up an average of 20% in both the cash and points amounts. Here is the current chart good until March 5.

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They do now offer the ability to get upgraded rooms (higher floor, better view etc) and suites for more points and cash which might be good if you don’t have status which would entitle you to a free upgrade.  This could be valuable because you can guarantee a suite on a certain trip instead of waiting until check in to see if you get upgraded.

The moral of the story is that inflation in awards is guaranteed over time, so don’t hoard your points, use them!  You have until March 5 to make reservations under the old award schedule so if you know you have SPG stays planned, go ahead and make the reservations now.  There usually is a window for cancellation right up until the reservation date so as long as you have enough points in your account it is better to reserve now and cancel if your plans change in the future.

Starwood Preferred Guest announces 1Q2013 Power Up Promotion

spgpowerup It’s that time of year again and SPG has announced it’s first quarter promotion called “Power Up”. This offer certainly isn’t that exciting compared to some of the other offers out there, but free bonus points are free bonus points.  The offer is for 2,000 bonus Starpoints for every four eligible nights you stay (up to 8,000 bonus Starpoints for 16 nights).  Eligible nights are paid nights and don’t include award nights or cash and points nights.  If you can get 20 eligible nights during the promotion period (of January 15-April 15, 2013), then they give you 10,000 bonus Starpoints. If you max out this offer at 20 nights, this gives you 18,000 bonus Starpoints for an average of 900 bonus points per night.

There may be some other stacking opportunities available like the Aeroplan offer I took advantage of last quarter that I will be on the lookout for. Since it doesn’t cost anything to sign up for these promos you should sign up even if you don’t have any SPG stays planned.  Because you never know where last minute travel will take you.  So what are you waiting for?  Sign up now with this link!

Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum: Mission Accomplished

StarwoodPlatinumThe end of the year is a busy time for us mile collectors, chasing the last bits of whatever we need to get premium statuses for the coming year.  For me, I decided I wanted to get Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum for the reasons I outlined in this post.  Well, my “mattress runs” are all done and my nights have all posted and platinum status is mine!

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I had gotten 2 stays / 5 nights credit towards my status by having my SPG American Express card which also has a sign up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints.  I was also able to take advantage of the Aeroplan bonus off I talked about in this post and snag 5,000 Aeroplan miles while I was getting the rooms I needed to reach platinum.

StarwoodAeroplan

Starwood includes some awesome upscale brands including St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin, and Le Meridien. Their other brands include aLoft, Sheraton, Four Points, and Element.  I stayed at Sheraton, Westin, and aLoft hotels in my recent dash to platinum status and was particularly impressed with the aLoft brand which is the W Hotels take on a discount hotel chain. Here is a picture of the lobby at the Jacksonville aLoft airport which I got for just $25 + 1200 Starpoints.

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I am looking forward to using this status at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in May at the Westin where I also stayed last year to hopefully get a nice suite. I know many of you are just getting started, but the beginning of the year is a great time to decide which chains you want to get status with so you can start working on it now!

Why I sometimes pay for rooms I don’t even stay in, a.k.a. Mattress Running: Chasing Starwood Platinum Elite status.

As the end of the year comes, one of the things that is on every savvy traveler’s mind is elite status for the next year.  I had obtained Starwood Gold Elite status due to the number of stays I had plus the two stay credit I got from my SPG Business Amex, but was about 10 stays away from Platinum status.

Starwood Gold Status gives you after 10 stays or 25 nights:

  • Three Starpoints for every dollar spent
  • 4 PM Late Checkout which can be very useful
  • Upgraded room at check in when available
  • Choice of welcome gift of either bonus Starpoints, free internet access, or a free beveragestarwoodgold

Starwood Platinum Status additionally gives you after 25 stays or 50 nights:

  • Upgraded to best available room including suites
  • Free in room internet access.
  • Club floor access which can give you breakfast and afternoon snacks etc
  • Choice of a welcome gift of either bonus starpoints (2x as many as gold), continental breakfast, or local amenities (such as a local cheese plate or gift)starwoodplat

While the internet access and the free breakfast are definitely valuable (especially for a blogger like me), the real platinum benefit I wanted was the suite upgrades.  Paying for the cheapest room with cash and points and getting upgraded to a suite can be a huge value. Imagine getting this suite at the Le Meridien in Bangkok for $45 + 2800 starpoints.

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Since I needed 10 more stays to hit Platinum, I wanted to see what the cheapest way to reach it was while at the same time combining some of the available promotions.  My three options to hit platinum were:

  1. Buy 10 cheap 1 night stays
  2. Buy 10 cash and point stays for $30+1600 starpoints each night
  3. A combination of the two.

I knew that with the Better by the Night promotion I could get

  • Double starpoints on one night paid stays
  • 500 bonus starpoints for booking using the iPhone app
  • 250 starpoints for checking in on foursquare.

There was also the Aeroplan promotion I wrote about for 5,000 Aeroplan miles for up to 5 stays.  I could get rooms locally that cost $79 on a AAA rate.  This gave me a per night cost of $79 and Starpoints of 237 (Base Gold 3x Rate) + 158 (Better by the Night promotion) + 500 (iPhone booking bonus) + 250 (Foursquare checkin) = 1145 Starpoints per night and 1000 Aeroplan miles per night for the first 5 nights.

I decided to do a combination of the two options and get 5 paid stays and 5 cash and points stays.  This would allow me to maximize the Aeroplan promotion and end up with Platinum status for a cost of $545 and 8000 starpoints.  But I will be getting 5725 Starpoints for the stays plus 5000 Aeroplan miles that are worth at least $100 when I redeem them. Considering that just one or two suite upgrades could cover this cost, it seemed like a no brainer to go for it.

Unfortunately since it was so close to the end of the year, I didn’t have a lot of travel planned where I could use the hotel rooms I needed. So I ended up doing what we call “Mattress Runs” for some of the stays.  A mattress run is when you go check into a hotel with no intention of staying there or you stay there just to get the status or points.

I was able to combine a few of the stays with some trips to see friends, but a fair amount of them were for hotel rooms I never even slept in!  But as you see above, it will be worth it for me next year when I get upgraded to suites for some of my trips for free! I know this is a concept that doesn’t make sense at first, but when you really start thinking ahead for the next year, it makes sense to consider it if you are close to the next status level.

As always if you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will try to answer them