In my opinion the SPG program is best for redeeming for low- and mid-tier properties, up to their Category 5 hotels. Their points are hard to come by since their credit card earns one point per dollar on all non-SPG spend, and even on SPG hotels you don’t always want to use the card because they charge foreign transaction fees.
They do, however, offer a really great Cash & Points option that reduces the nightly redemption cost of points by half (or more) and allows you to pay the remainder in cash, adding flexibility for people that don’t have enough points. These reward nights can be a fantastic value anyway as it can make your points worth more more (I’ve redeemed Cash & Points to get 8+ cents/point out of my SPG points).
SPG has now added even more options to their already busy reward chart, allowing you to book suites and upgraded rooms with SPG Cash & Points. These rooms are not available to be booked online unfortunately, so you’ll have to call in. Here’s the reward chart (click the image to expand) and my analysis follows.
- Category 1: 2,000 – 2,250 points + $50 – $60
- Category 2: 2,500 – 2,750 points + $55 – $60
- Category 3: 4,000 – 4,250 points + $75 – $85
- Category 4: 5,500 – 5,750 points + $95 – $105
- Category 5: 6,750 – 7,250 points + $135 – $150
- Category 6: 10,750 – 11,250 points + $210 – $230
- Category 7: 15,750 – 16,250 points + $290 – $315
The term “Upgraded Rooms” can mean a lot of different things and will vary by property. It could mean anything from a room with a view to a club floor room to larger rooms. Every hotel can classify their rooms differently as there’s no real standard. For example, some hotels have very few “standard” rooms available because they call a room with a better view a “premium” or “upgraded” room, even when the room itself is exactly the same.
With that being said, it might make a huge difference if you’re at a property like the St. Regis Princeville and you want an Ocean View room instead of a Garden/Mountain view room. Let’s take an example to see how this works.
In the example above, the price difference for these two rooms is $175 per night, whereas the difference between the normal Cash & Points option and the new Upgraded Rooms option is only an additional 750 – 1,250 points + $15 – $40. If you wanted to be sure you got that upgrade, the incremental cost isn’t that bad in my opinion if you were booking with Cash & Points anyway. That’s still a lot of cash to spend, particularly when I just wrote about how you can get this property for less than that by manufactured spending, but it’s not bad.
In my view, a benefit like this is better used for high-end properties like those listed in SPG Category 6 and 7. Keep in mind that SPG’s most aspirational properties are not available for normal reward redemptions.
- Category 1: 3,000 points + $75
- Category 2: 4,000 points + $95
- Category 3: 7,000 points + $125
- Category 4: 10,000 points + $175
- Category 5: 12,000 points + $275
- Category 6: 20,000 points + $450
- Category 7: 30,000 points + $625
The first thing that jumps out at me is that the points value required is the same as the standard room redemption rate. For example, to redeem for a standard room at a Category 1 property, it costs 3,000 points. For a Category 7, it costs 30,000. It looks like they’ve just added on a cash payment to the standard award rates.
First of all, I’ve never seen Category 1 or 2 suite that I’d want to pay that much for. Otherwise, my first impression of these rates are that they’re pretty high, particularly when you look at the price jump between Category 5 and 6. I mentioned earlier that I think it’s usually best to redeem for properties up to Category 5, and the cost increase in this new chart is helping me hold firm to that opinion.
If there is a positive from this, it’s that Categories 5, 6, and 7 usually have a cost range for points that changes depending on the season. For example, Category 5 hotels are 12,000 – 16,000, Category 6 is 20,000 – 25,000, and Category 7 is 30,000 – 35,000. The suites award chart takes the lower of these. So on a Category 7 property, for example, you can save 5,000 points (worth at least $125 in my book) but pay an extra $625 to confirm a suite during high season.
That’s not something I would ever consider doing, and in general I wouldn’t recommend paying that high of a cash price. Take a look at how much a suite at the St. Regis Princeville goes for if paying with cash:
The cash price is “only” $820 on this date, which I randomly selected. That means that if you booked on the new Cash & Points suites rate, your cash savings would be only $195 ($820 – $625 = $195) while effectively paying an additional 30,000 SPG points. That doesn’t make sense at all because the value of those points is much higher, so for high end properties I don’t think this makes much sense.
If, however, you’re traveling with a large family or group and want the extra space a suite affords, it might make sense for those mid-tier properties where the extra payment is ~$200. You’ll have to decide if that extra space is worth the extra cash.
Keep in mind that SPG Platinums are often upgraded to suites just for having status.
I applaud SPG for finally adding options, something that Hyatt has long offered on their award chart. The costs may be high, but more options is generally better than fewer options. It might make sense for some people that really want to confirm that upgrade in advance but I don’t foresee myself ever taking advantage of these new redemption options.