Starwood Preferred Guest’s website gets a lot of criticism, including from me. I’m frequently frustrated that it won’t display all reservations, especially if the reservation involves an upgraded room or if the hotel has touched or modified the reservation in some way. Detail on points posted to your account is limited as well, my own biggest frustration being that any given Platinum 500 point amenity doesn’t ever appear linked to a property so it’s difficult to track down missing point or to tell Starwood if a particular set of points are missing from a given stay.
That said, the website is much improved. I like their hotel search function that shows availability on a single screen for lowest cash price, award availability, and availability for cash and points. (I do wish SPG50 rate plan availability could be searched online, but it cannot.)
One frustrating website glitch I’ve recently learned about, though, is that the Starwood Preferred Guest website doesn’t seem to accurately display cash and points award availability. In my recent experience with several hotels in Asia, the website said cash and points was unavailable but a quick call to Starwood confirmed that the availability was there and I had no problems making the booking.
Cash and points awards are always a better deal than the comparable points-only redemptions. Take for example a category 4 award comparison. An award night is 10,000 points. A cash and points award is 4000 points and $60. The difference then is cash and points $60 to save 6000 points, you are buying back your points at 1 cent apiece. Starwood points are worth much more than that.
While standard award nights are available (or are supposed to be!) whenever a standard room is available for sale at a hotel, cash and points awards are not. A hotel receives roughly the same overall compensation for both types of award nights, but with a standard award if the hotel’s occupancy exceeds 90% for the redeemed night then Starwood Preferred Guest has to pay the hotel it’s average daily room rate for that night instead of the discounted award rate. (That gets expensive, and is why higher occupancy rates at hotels had been driving up Starwood’s costs over the past few years.)
Starwood Preferred Guest, on the other hand, does not increase a hotel’s compensation on a cash and points award night when the hotel turns out to be full. As a result, hotels only try to make cash and points award nights available when they expect occupancy for the night to be light.
Cash and points award nights have limited availability, are a better deal, and can be searched online… Sometimes. Until this glitch is corrected, it’s worth calling Starwood whenever you’re looking for a cash and points night and the website says it is unavailable.