Loyalty Traveler Blog covers the news that Starwood has introduced Cash and Points awards for Category 1 and 2 propoerties in Asia, the U.S., and Canada (though he can’t find any category 1 and 2 properties in the U.S. currently offering cash and points availability).
Starwood’s Cash & Points awards are useful because they stretch your points. And they’re almost always more valuable than a points-only redemption, it amounts to selling you the difference in points at a deep discount (usually just over a penny a point).
Unlike regular award nights, cash and points awards are not always available when a hotel has standard rooms available. Starwood will reimburse a hotel its full average daily room rate on a regular award night when a hotel hits 90% occupancy. Not so with cash and points, Starwood pays roughly the same for the room but without the extra revenue when the hotel is full. So hotels don’t offer cash and points when they expect to be full, since the cash and points award night might trade off with selling a revenue room for more money.
One other difference between regular award nights and cash and points is that regular nights can be upgraded at booking with additional points, whereas cash and poiints bookings usually can not be (there was a special promotion last year that offered it, but that was the exception). The only points-upgrade on cash and points reservations would be instant awards which are usually handled at checkin, though I secured one at the Sheraton Saigon in April in advance (I emailed the hotel and they deducted points before my stay to move from the regular hotel to the towers section, and then gave me a confirmed in advance status upgrade to a suite).
Cash and points have only been available at categories 3-6 properties (and until two years ago, only at category 3 and 4 properties). Now they’ve introduced them at categories 1 and 2, but while the offering is well worthwhile during the week since Starwood also discounts regular redemption nights at those category levels on the weekend cash and points for category 1 and 2 is of questionable value on the weekends. Instead of effectively purchasing points at a bit over a penny apiece, on the weekends at category 1 and 2 properties the cash and points offering equates to purchasing points at a bit over 3 and 2 cents apiece, respectively.
More options are always better, and this is especially welcome for weeknight redemption, less useful for weekend redemption.
(Note that this chart assumes that Starwood retains the February decision to eliminate peak season surcharges for regular award nights.)