With all the hubbub about the upcoming Marriott category changes, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about whether they should be buying SPG Points with the current ongoing 35% discount (the sale ends 21 July 11:59am SGT) to take advantage of limited time opportunities.
My answer: it depends on what you want to do with them!
You should be buying SPG points if…
You intend to redeem them at a Cat 8 property between August and end of 2018
It’s true that with the category changes, some of Starwood’s most luxurious properties fall into the too-good-to-be-true range.
The classic example is the St Regis Maldives, which costs 95,000 SPG points right now. Come August, two things happen:
- All SPG points are multiplied by 3 to become points in the new program
- The St Regis Maldives becomes part of Category 8 where rooms cost 85,000 new program points a night
But Category 8 pricing doesn’t start until 2019, which means that Category 8 hotels will price as Category 7 ones until the end of the year at 60,000 new program points a night.
Long story short, from August until the end of the year, this property costs the equivalent of 20,000 SPG points. Bought at 2.275 US cents each, and keeping in mind that the 5th night is free on award stays, you could get a room here as low as US$364 a night. Revenue room rates are upwards of US$2,500, so this is an insane deal.
The catch? Obviously, everyone else has the same idea. I’m going to say that if you’re buying points with the express purpose of redeeming a specific uber luxurious property, you’d better reconsider.
Unless you’re very flexible with dates, or are ok to change your plans to select other top tier properties depending on what’s available, you may well be disappointed. I’ve laid out in this article my gameplan for Category 8 properties, which you may find useful. There’s more to the world than just the Maldives!
You want to convert them into Alaska Mileage Plan miles
Alaska Mileage Plan miles are very valuable if you’re looking to redeem premium cabin awards. I’ve spelled out all the uses here so I won’t repeat them again, suffice to say that JAL, Cathay, Hainan Airlines and Korean all partner with Mileage Plan and are good options for redeeming your miles.
Mileage Plan is currently running a sale where you can buy miles at a 40% discount, or 2.11 cents each. However, you could buy SPG points at a 35% discount and convert them to Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1 ratio (with a 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 points transferred), which means you’re acquiring miles at 1.82 cents each. The catch is that you’re limited to buying 30,000 SPG points in a calendar year, but there’s no such limit on buying Mileage Plan miles from Alaska, so keep that in mind.
You want to redeem a Marriott Hotel + Air Package before August 2018
Any SPG points you buy can be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a ratio of 1:3. Why would you want to do that? Because you want to get a Marriott “Nights and Flights” Hotel + Air Package before it gets devalued.
Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages give you 7 nights at a particular hotel category, plus a certain number of airline miles. They’re great for booking a trip- use the 7 night certificate for your stay, and the airline miles for the flight. There are currently a few different charts depending on the airline, but here are the two main ones you’d be interested in:
From August, there will only be one chart:
Let’s compare this to the existing Hotel + Air Package 1, which includes very useful Alaska Mileage Plan miles. You can see that the highest package, 7 Nights + 120,000 Miles increases in price dramatically from 270,000 points to 330,000 points if you’re looking at Category 1-4. The devaluation is even more acute at the upper end, where you’re seeing up to a 210,000 point increase. Even worse- you used to get 120,000 miles, but that’s being reduced to 100,000 miles.
So if you want to redeem a Hotel + Air Package, you’d best do it before August. Important point to note: if you have an unredeemed ‘floater certificate’ for the 7 night stay after the programs merge, it will be cancelled and an “equivalent” amount of points refunded to your account. What that is has yet to be clarified. Refer to the FAQ here for more details, as well as this useful post.
You should not be buying SPG points if…
You want to convert them into KrisFlyer miles
I’ve gotten more than a few emails about this so I have to assume that some people are earnestly considering doing it.
Even if you convert 20,000 SPG points and get a 5,000 mile bonus (i.e. 25,000 miles total), you’re looking at paying 1.82 US cents per KrisFlyer mile. 1.82 US cents is 2.47 SG cents. There’s no reason you should be paying this much for miles, especially when you can buy as many miles as you want for 2 cents each via UOB PRVI Pay (and potentially at 1.9 cents each if you can afford the UOB Visa Infinite Metal Card)
You’ll redeem them for staycations in Singapore
Singapore’s a very bad market for redeeming hotel points, as Ben from OMAAT has noted. It’s that annoying zone where the cash prices seem really high, but not high enough that you’d get good value from using points.
I’ve laid out below the different SPG hotels in Singapore, the cost for a full redemption, the cost for a cash and points redemption and the revenue rate for a random night.
|Hotel||Points||C+P||Revenue||Value/Point (Full Red)||Value/Point (C+P)|
|Westin Singapore||25,000||10,000 + US$180||USD 327||1.31||1.47|
|Four Points Riverview||10,000||5,000 + US$75||USD 135||1.35||1.21|
|Vagabond||12,000||6,000 + US$110||USD 218||1.81||1.80|
|Sheraton Towers||12,000||6,000 + US$110||USD 184||1.53||1.23|
|St Regis||25,000||N/A||USD 421||1.69||N/A|
|W Sentosa||25,000||10,000 + US$180||USD 357||1.43||1.77|
|Le Meridien Sentosa||12,000||6,000 + US$110||USD 211||1.76||1.68|
See what I mean? You’re consistently getting less than 2 US cents per point, so if you’re buying points at 2.275 US cents each, you’re much better off paying revenue rates.
This isn’t confined to Singapore, of course- the general principle should apply no matter where you’re redeeming your points. Before you buy, take a look at the cities where you’ll most likely spend your points in. Compare the points rates versus revenue rates. Do the properties seem to be offering good value redemptions?
You don’t like risk
This is sort of a rehash of what I’ve said above, but well worth emphasizing again. When the floodgates open in August, everyone’s going to make a mad rush for the crème de la crème properties. There is no guarantee you’ll get the redemption of your dreams. It could happen, and it’d be amazing, but you don’t want to be stuck with points you have no use for otherwise.
Fortunately, your points will be valid as long as you have some sort of account activity every 24 months, so even if you can’t get a redemption straight away you can still wait till later in the year to see what dates are left over for Category 8 hotels in 2019. Even better, since you can book rooms 350 days in advance, waiting a bit longer will allow new inventory to open up that wasn’t available in August 2018.
I’ve bought SPG points for myself and my fiancee in anticipation of what’s to come. Each account is limited to buying 30,000 SPG points per year, but as a workaround you can transfer points among family members so long as the addresses on both accounts match for at least 30 days.
If you’re buying Starpoints, you can use the following cards to earn 4 mpd:
- DBS Woman’s World Mastercard (you’ll need to manually appeal for your bonus points to be credited, because the system doesn’t automatically flag Points.com transactions as online)
- Citibank Rewards Visa or Mastercard
- UOB Visa Signature, with a minimum of S$1K foreign currency spending in a statement period and maximum of S$2K