|by Jason Steele|
Like most travel and reward card aficionados, I am a huge fan of the Starwood Amex. My hunch is that there is a surprisingly large number of Starwood Amex holders that rarely use their card at an actual Starwood hotel, they just accumulate Starwood points with their card for free hotel stays or to convert to airline miles. I am one of those people.
Using My Starwood Amex To Actually Stay At A Starwood Hotel
Last week, I did something remarkable, I actually paid for a hotel stay at a Starwood hotel. Well, kind of. I used 48,000 Starpoints to stay 5 nights at the Westin St. John in the US Virgin Islands, while my parents were generous enough to allow me to bill their stay to my Starwood Amex. Each of my award nights was 12,000 points, but the fifth night of any redemption is free. This hotel normally charges between $400 and $500 a night, but they paid $329. They received the lower rate because I used a 50% off the rack rate coupon that Amex gives to it’s Starwood cardholders every year, with the rack rate being higher than most normally discounted rates. They were able to realize a significant savings right there, because I had the Starwood Amex.
After taxes and resort fees, our bill ended up at around $2,000. On the final night of our stay, we treated ourselves to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, and charged it to our rooms. Conveniently, all charges at a Starwood property receive the same allocation of Starpoints as your room stay does. As I will demonstrate, that allocation is considerable.
Triple Word Score!
You know that great feeling in Scrabble when you can combine bonuses and your points really add up? That is the feeling you get when you figure out how many Starpoints you get when you actually use your Starwood Amex to pay for a stay at a Starwood hotel. Normally, you get two Starpoints per dollar spent at a Starwood, regardless of how you pay. I happen to be a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, a title earned solely by spending $30,000 a year on my Starwood card. To be honest, I had a little help last year from the US Mint if you know what I mean. As a Gold member, I get another 50% Starpoint bonus, just on my stay, so I received three Starpoints per dollar spent when I checked out, about 6,000 Starpoints.
We Are Just Getting Started
When I get my credit card bill, the $2,000 spent at the hotel will result in double Starpoints; 4,000. So as a Starwood Amex holder and a Gold level member, I went from 4,000 Starpoints I would have otherwise received, to 10,000. In this case, the paid room cost $329 per night, plus $26 in taxes, for a total of $355 a night or $1,775 total. The room paid with miles cost 48,000 miles and there was no tax. Therefore, in this case, my miles spent were worth 3.7 cents each. The miles earned from spending $2,000 at the hotel (room plus resort fees and meals) therefore had a value of $370. Another way to look at it is that as a Starwood card holder and a Starwood Gold level member, I got about 18 cents on the dollar back.
But Wait, There’s More!
We also took Westin’s vacation timeshare tour. I feared the promised 90 minute presentation would be an aggressive sales pitch, but it was actually a fairly relaxed tour of the property, albeit two hours long. For my time, I received another 6,000 Starpoints. Finally, they had an offer to forgo housekeeping for a day for 500 Starpoints or a $5 credit. Since I have just proven that Starpoints are worth closer to 4 cents than 1, you will understand why if that offer of cash insulted my intelligence. We took the 500 Starpoints voluntarily one day, and another day we received the points because they didn’t vacuum our room. We finished our 48,000 point stay with 17,000 points back. Not bad. To put that in perspective, remember that a mere 20,000 Starpoints can be transferred to 25,000 miles on dozens of airline programs, enough for a free domestic round trip.
What To Take Away
As I said, I accumulate valuable Starpoints almost exclusively through their Amex card, and this was one of the first times I actually used my card to charge a hotel stay. The results of using my Starwood Amex combined with my Starwood Gold status exceeded my expectations, even if the hotel itself did not. If I was ever in a position again where I was traveling on business, I would probably go a great deal out of my way to make sure that I was staying in a Starwood, and charging my stay to my Starwood Amex. You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Starpoints!