Last week I wrote about why Nights & Flights packages are among the best use of SPG Starpoints. As long as you have plans to spend five nights at a Category 3 or 4 hotel (and there are many good ones), then you can tack on 50,000 airline miles for a relative bargain. Or, if you were going to transfer your points to miles anyway, look at it as a way of getting five hotel nights for very cheap.
Actually earning the Starpoints in the first place can be more difficult. The program doesn’t issue many to hotel guests, and most SPG Amex credit card purchases earn just one point per dollar.
Through April 30 you can buy up to 30,000 Starpoints and save up to 25%, bringing the cost per point down to 2.625 cents. SPG runs a couple of these sales each year, although the exact terms of the offer aren’t always the same (sometimes you get bonus points, sometimes the discount is a little less). If you need more than 30,000 points remember that you can combine points from two accounts of members who’ve lived at the same address for more than a month — you don’t have to be spouses.
- Get 10% off purchases of 5,000 to 9,500 Starpoints
- Get 15% off purchases of 10,000 to 14,500 Starpoints
- Get 20% off purchases of 15,000 to 19,500 Starpoints
- Get 25% off purchases of 20,000 to 30,000 Starpoints
Imagine you buy 30,000 points for yourself and a family member. You then combine the points into one account — you have 60,000 points total at a cost of $1,575. That’s enough to book a Category 3 Nights & Flights package. You’ll get five nights at a Category 3 property and 50,000 airline miles.
Imagine you were going to transfer those Starpoints to Alaska Airlines. There are other good options, but I know people who routinely buy Alaska Airlines miles for 2 cents each, so that seems to be a pretty good estimate of their value and 50,000 miles are worth $1,000. You’re now getting five nights at a Category 3 hotel for $575. Subtract tax, which doesn’t apply to award bookings, and it’s like you found a room rate of $100 a night.
Check out a full list of Category 3 hotels. Most of them have published rates higher than $100.
Buying points isn’t for everyone, and as I’m not in great need of either Starpoints or Alaska Airlines miles I don’t plan to take advantage of this offer. If you choose to stay at an even cheaper hotel or transfer to a less valuable airline then the case for buying points will be less compelling. But I went through the math to show that despite the large upfront cost it isn’t much different than pre-paying for a hotel and flight, except that you’re booking award travel.
Award availability is limited. I prefer working around those limitations because I can get a much better value (e.g., business class) for less than if I paid directly in cash. That, to me, makes it worth going through a few hoops to buy miles and points as an interim currency.