The New York Post runs a piece on the devaluation of Starwood points resulting from annual ‘category creep’.
The author of the piece (and her editors at the Post, apparently) can’t do match and or catch reverses of some of the numbers. For example:
A 66 percent hike for what Starwood calls “elite” hotels, including W New York, the Westin St. John Resort and the Meridien Beach Plaza in Monte Carlo (now 12,000 points instead of 20,000).
A 40 percent hike in points needed to stay at the Westin Embassy Row, Washington, DC, or the Westin Sydney Australia (now 16,000 points instead of 10,000).
I find the tone of the piece overly alarmist, especially this year as compared to last. But then I guess that’s the New York Post.
“It’s sneaky. Did they think no one was going to notice?” Starpoints gold member Jonathan Yarmis said. “This is not an adjustment. This is a significant change.”
“Brands spend so much time cultivating a ‘we’re your friend’ persona, but things like this make you realize ‘you’re not my friend,’ ” Yarmis said.
The changes this year were minor in comparison to the 2007 bloodletting and introduction of a new category 7. (I wish I had booked the Bora Bora Nui back in the days before the introduction of category 6, but am thankful I was able to stay there prior to the introduction of category 7!)
It’s good to call attention to these changes. But the coming category creep on March 4 really seems like a non-event, except at some specific properties. And on the whole they’re driven by higher occupancy rates (and thus higher room rates) at many properties, combined with the declining value of a dollar (thus the same room rate in Euros and Baht actually costs more dollars than it did last year).
At least you can still transfer Starwood points 1:1 into tons of airline programs (with transfer bonuses when moving 20,000 Starpoints) and 1:2 into LanPass.
In the past I’ve predicted a devaluation here. My rudimentary understanding is that frequent flyer transfers are more expensive on a per-point basis than basic hotel redemptions (when the hotel is at less than 90% occupancy). I’ve suggested that higher point costs for award nights would drive folks towards airline mile redemptions. And as a result, devaluing hotel awards would wind up costing Starwood Preferred Guest more on net. So they’d be forced to get their desired cost reductions out of changes to the mileage transfer chart.
However, the changes have really been few and far between. United and Continental now transfer at 2:1 instead of 1:1, the general assumption being that the airlines (with pressure from their credit card partner Chase) have pushed this on Starwood, rather than Starwood looking to these transfers for cost savings. (This is supposition only, not actual knowledge.) Qantas used to transfer 1:2 and is now at 1:1. But on the whole these minor variations over a period of years haven’t affected the core 1:1 ratios.