Should I buy Starpoints at a 35% discount? (2018)

You can save money on hotels and flights by purchasing Starpoints at a discount!

Update September 2018:  As of August 2018, SPG, Marriott Rewards, and Ritz Carlton Rewards are now one combined program.  The new program name has not yet been released, so for now the currency is called Marriott Rewards.  Basically, SPG points and Ritz Rewards points are now extinct.  You can buy points to book stays at SPG properties, but you will be buying Marriott points, not SPG points.  Click here to read more about the merger.

Starwood is one of my favorite loyalty programs.  SPG is unique because unlike most hotel loyalty programs, you can transfer points to several airlines at a 1:1 ratio.  So in addition to using Starpoints to book hotels, you can also use them to book flights when you transfer them to airline partners.  This makes Starpoints extremely flexible when it comes to redemption options.

I received this email last week and it has me thinking about whether or not I should buy Starpoints.  From now until March 16, 2018, you can buy Starpoints at a 35% discount.  You must purchase at least 5,000 points to get 35% off.

Update July 2018: The offer is back! Through July 20, 2018, you can buy Starpoints for 35% off. 

should I buy starpoints

You do not have to have an American Express Starwood credit card, but you do have to have a Starwood account (which you can create for free).  Per the terms, your Starwood account must be 14 days old in order to purchase Starpoints.  But that’s okay, you can create an account now and then buy the points after 2 weeks if you’re interested in this deal.  This is available through March 16, 2018.

While offers like this have great potential, I generally do not recommend buying miles and points unless:

  • You just need a few thousand to top off an airline/hotel account to book an award ticket/stay.
  • You’re ready to book a hotel stay and have confirmed award availability for your dates and the cash value of the stay is more than the cost to buy the points needed to book the stay.
  • You are ready to book a flight and have confirmed award availability for your dates and the cash value of the ticket is more than the cost to buy miles/points.

It is not a good idea to buy points without an immediate plan to use them!

How much does it cost to buy Starpoints?

Normally they cost 3.5 cents each.  At a 35% discount, it means you’re purchasing Starpoints for ~2.3 cents each.

I can usually redeem Starpoints for at least 3 cents per point, but I’ve gotten as high as 6-8 cents per point.  Those numbers may not mean anything to you but the simple translation is you’re getting a huge value if you can redeem at values like that.  Click here for more info on calculating the value of miles and points.

The maximum amount of Starpoints you can purchase in a calendar year is 30,000. 30,000 points will cost you $682 after the discount. Remember that if you transfer those miles to airlines, you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 transferred. So 30,000 is effectively 35,000.

You might be able to milk another 5,000 airline miles out of this promotion

If you and your significant other share an address, Starwood allows you to pool your points together.  If both partners buy the max, you have a total of 60,000 Starpoints after combining them into one account.  So now one person has 60,000 Starpoints. If that person transfers 60,000 points to an airline, they get 3 bonuses of 5,000 miles! (60,000/20,000=3). So that’s a potential of 75,000 airline miles.

60,000 Starpoints to get 75,000 airline miles will cost each person $682, so that’s $1364 total.

So, is this Starpoints promotion a good deal?

It depends.

First of all, you can earn 25,000 Starpoints for free after opening and meeting the minimum spend on the American Express SPG credit card.  Why buy points when you can earn them for free with a credit card sign-up bonus?!

If you’re not eligible for the credit card sign up bonus, buying Starpoints could save you money on a trip you planned to pay for anyway (as opposed to booking with points).  For example:

  • If you can book a hotel stay for a total of 30,000 Starpoints that would otherwise cost more than $682, it may be a good deal.
  • If you can find an award ticket (or two) for 35,000 miles on any of Starwood’s 1:1 airline partners and the paid fare is priced higher than $682, you may want to consider this deal.

Buy Starpoints to book stays at Marriott or SPG properties for half the price or better!

Buy Starpoints to book Disney World on peak dates

starwood star points Disney world Disney dolphin

If you’re planning a trip to Disney World and want to stay on Disney property, you can book the Disney Swan and Dolphin with Starpoints.  I talked about those hotels in this post. The Disney Swan costs 12,000 per night and the Disney Dolphin is 10,000 per night.  Since you get the 5th night free on an award stay, it only costs 40,000 Starpoints to stay at the Disney Dolphin for 5 nights.

One parent can purchase 30,000 points for $682 and the other can purchase 10,000 for $227.  You will want to pool your points because if one person books 3 nights for 30,000 and one books 1 night for 10,000, you will not get the 5th night free.  You can divvy up the purchase of your points however you like.  As long as you’re purchasing more than 5,000 you will get the 35% discount.  So both parents can purchase 20,000 each or one parent can purchase 30,000 and the other parent 10,000.  I know I keep saying parent but if you’re just 2 adults trying to go to Disney thats perfectly fine too! As long as you share an address.  Otherwise you cannot pool your SPG points together.

$909 is the total for 40,000 Starpoints.  A 5 night stay at the Disney Dolphin would likely cost more than $909.  During peak dates-and let’s be honest, there are ALOT of peak dates at Disney- I’ve seen the rates go $350+ per night (and that is NOT  including taxes).  That would mean a total of over $1750 for 5 nights.  So you’re getting your stay for about half of the out-of-pocket cost.  If you were planning on paying anyway and you have no other need to purchase Starpoints in the near future, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to purchase points to book.  You can pay $909 to buy the points to book or you can pay over $1750 to book.  Why pay twice the price?

disney dolphin spg points, should I buy starpoints

If you’re going to buy Starpoints to book a hotel stay, make sure there are rooms available to book on points first!

Before you purchase the points you will want to make sure the dates are available for stays on points.  You can do this easily on their website.  Just put in your dates as if you’re booking with cash and it will show you the cash price and the cost if you book with points.  If there are no points options (it will probably say “find available dates” as in the screenshot above), either check for alternate dates that work for you or don’t buy the Starpoints!

Buy Starpoints to book a ski trip for less
Whistler blackcomb, should I buy starpoints

Stays at ski resorts are some of my favorite ways to use hotel points since room rates tend to be very high.

For example, during peak season, rooms at the Westin Whistler are often anywhere from $500-$900USD per night.  Westin Whistler is a category 5 SPG hotel which goes for 12,000 per night.  Since the 5th night is free, you can book 5 nights for 48,000.  If one person buys 30,000 Starpoints ($682) and the other buys 18,000 Starpoints ($420), that’s a total of $1102.  At a minimum,  for 5 nights, you’re getting a $2500 stay for $1102.  That means you’re saving over 50%.  And that’s a conservative estimate.  Again, if you were already planning to pay for a trip, it doesn’t hurt to look at Marriott and Starwood properties to see if this promotion could save you some money!

I wrote a more detailed post about our most recent trip to Whistler here.

Whistler Blackcomb

For 60,000 Starpoints, you can stay at a Marriott category 9 hotel for 5 nights!  

How is this possible? Well, thanks to the merger, you can transfer Starpoints to Marriott at a rate of 1:3.

Category 9 is the highest Marriott Rewards category.  Higher category usually (but not always) means high rates and the best hotels.  You can save lots of money by booking these stays with points.

60,000 Starpoints transferred to Marriott equals 180,000 Marriott Rewards.  A Marriott category 9 hotel costs 45,000 points per night, but the 5th night is free, so your total is 180,000.

I’m going to use the 5-star Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as an example because we just returned from a trip to the Big Island.  We stayed in a house on Mauna Kea Resort property so we had access to this resort and I highly recommend it!  This is part of the Autograph Collection which falls under the Marriott umbrella. It is a Marriott Rewards category 9 hotel.

Starwood Big Island hotels
The beach at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is so beautiful!

The best prices I could find for any dates at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel were $404-$417, but that rate often gets to $700 or higher.  I’ll keep it conservative and use 404-$417$.

For 5 nights at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel the lowest price I could find is $2355 total!! Also note that they add 296$ in taxes and fees on top of the rate…

If you buy 60,000 Starpoints (2 people buy the max of 30,000 and then combine points), you get this room for 5 nights for $1364! And there are no taxes and fees.  Remember these are the lowest prices I could find so you save at least $1,000 this way, but possibly much more. $1364 for 5 nights in a 5 star hotel in Hawaii is a damn good deal!

Click here for a list of Marriott and Starwood properties in Hawaii!

Flights you can book with 30,000 Starpoints or less

This is assuming award tickets are available at the saver level.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about read this.  It’s about American Airlines but the same principles apply to most airlines.

  • Two roundtrip tickets from DFW to Mexico (25,000 Starpoints) To do this you would buy 25,000 Starpoints (cost is $586)to transfer to British Airways.  This gives you 30,000 Avios thanks to the 5,000 miles bonus for every 20,000.  Two tickets to Mexico will likely cost more than $586.  More details about this are here.
  • One roundtrip business/first class ticket from DFW to Mexico (25,000 Starpoints).  First/business Class to Mexico is nothing to write home about, but roundtrip economy tickets often cost around or more than $586 so if you were going to pay with cash anyway, why not give yourself a free upgrade?  You can get a business class award ticket for any direct flight on American Airlines less than 1150 miles in distance by booking with 15,000 British Airways Avios each way.
  • 2 economy roundtrip tickets in North America for direct flights on AA less than 1150 miles in distance (25,000 Starpoints for 2 tickets; 15,000 for 1). This is for flights booked with British Airways Avios on nonstop flights on American Airlines flights between cities less than 1150 miles in distance.  Each way is 7500 Avios per person.
  • 1 Roundtrip ticket to Hawaii from anywhere in the continental US (20,000 Starpoints)– The best way to get to Hawaii is to spend 25,000 Korean Air miles to book flight on Delta.  SPG is a partner of Korean Air.  You would only need to purchase 20,000 Starpoints (for $455) to get 25,000 Korean Air Miles.  It depends on your departure city, but that ticket is likely to cost more than $455, especially if you’re on the west coast.  More info about the best ways to fly to Hawaii can be found here.

Those are just a few examples but there are so many ways to leverage this deal.

star points starwood hotels Hawaii
Tay and I at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Transfer Starpoints to airline partners to book award plane tickets in premium cabins

You can get a lot of value out of your Starpoints when you transfer them to airline partners, especially when booking premium cabin travel on long-haul flights.

Sometimes you can purchase the miles needed to book an award business/first class seat for the same price you would have paid for an economy revenue ticket.  To clarify, I mean if you’re paying cash (by cash I mean hopefully using a credit card that gets travel awards) for your economy ticket, you may be able pay a similar amount of cash to buy points/miles and then use those points/miles to book premium cabin travel.

This particular Starpoints offer is kind of limiting for premium cabin award tickets since 30,000 Starpoints is the max one person can buy.  But it’s something to keep in mind when you see airline miles go on sale as airlines normally have much higher maximum allowances on purchased miles.

a few things to keep in mind if you plan to buy Starpoints to book plane tickets

If you need to pool your points with someone, that process can take a few business days. Then you have to transfer the Starpoints to an airline which also usually takes a few business days. Even if the airline allows you to hold an award ticket, they usually won’t allow it for more than a few days. You may be cutting it close.  So you run the risk of getting the miles and then when you go to book, the award ticket is no longer available.  Once you transfer Starpoints to airline miles, you’re kind of stuck with them. You cannot transfer them back to SPG.

If you’re chasing airline elite status, remember that you do not earn miles on award tickets.

Will I buy Starpoints at a 35% discount?

Possibly.  Because I do have a plan for them.

I could use some extra airline miles for 2 long-haul business class tickets I’m trying to book later this year.  I will most likely use Alaska Airlines or Japan Airlines to book the tickets, but I need to do a little more research.  Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines are transfer partners of SPG.

Ryan and I both already have the Alaska Airlines credit cards so no sign up bonus for us unless we close those accounts and wait a few months.  Japan Airlines does have a co-branded credit card but the sign up bonus isn’t worth it.  Neither of these airlines partner with our other favorite programs which are Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.  So transferring from SPG is pretty much our only option for both airline programs.   Anyway, the fact that SPG transfers to Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines really makes me consider buying Starpoints.

The good news is we have until March 16, 2018 July 20, 2018 to decide whether or not to buy the points!

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