Starwood’s New Terms and Conditions Go Into Effect October 15. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Starwood Preferred Guest’s terms and conditions announce changes going into effect in two weeks,

This version of the terms and conditions for the SPG Program will become effective on October 15, 2014

The change to Starwood terms and conditions is mostly a clean-up of language, some clarifications on what third party rates won’t earn points or stay credit, and changes to accommodate the introduction of SPG Pro in place of points-earning for companies (and other programs).

However, there are some items worth knowing that are now spelled out directly or that have changed and may affect the way you earn with the program.

If you give an award night to someone else, neither of you earn any credit for that night.

In the event that an SPG Award is given to a third party in accordance with the prior sentence, neither the SPG Member nor the third party will earn any Starpoints, Eligible Nights, or Eligible Stays in connection with such SPG Award.

Instant awards can’t be used to pay your room rate. There are times when a hotel’s rate, perhaps through a discounter but where you still pay the hotel on checkout, will be a much better deal than redeeming Starpoints. I’m thinking of properties like the W Maldives where the points price is exorbitant, but if you book through a Maldives-specialist travel agency you can get some pretty good rates. In the past some members have used Instant Awards … still not getting much better than a penny a point, but a better value than if they had redeemed points for an award night.. to cover the room cost. That’s now explicitly against the rules.

Instant Awards may not be used to pay for the rate of any guest room.

A bunch of language about fraud. Probably no changes to the status quo in terms of how the program is managed, but lots of references to Starwood being allowed to monitor your account, make corrections, slow down and refuse points transfers if they suspect fraud.. such as:

Transfers of Starpoints may be delayed if they are suspected to be fraudulent. Transfers found to be fraudulent will be voided

Divorce. This is one of the few programs that explicitly contemplates complying with a divorce settlement and splitting up points as-directed. (But, then, Starwood also allows transfer of points already between accounts at the same residential mailing address.) They clarify this section that they will not transfer elite status in the same manner. I guess that’s been an issue, where one spouse tries to negotiate for Starwood Platinum!

Required notice to members of changes in the program. I never noticed this language before which is not new.

Starwood will provide notice if changes to the SPG Program or the SPG Program Terms materially decrease the number of Starpoints an SPG Member will earn for Eligible Rates and Eligible Charges at SPG Participating Hotels or materially increases the number of Starpoints an SPG Member needs to redeem Starpoints for rooms at SPG Participating Hotels.

I suspect they intend the bolded portion to mean that they’ll provide advance notice of the introduction of a new higher redemption category, or increases in the number of points required for each existing category. But I read this just that same as saying that when they increase the points required to redeem for a given hotel, such as by increasing its award category, that advance notice is required. The relevant question is whether this is a change to the SPG Program or not. To me, it is — the SPG Program used to require 10,000 points per night to redeem for hotel A, now it requires 12,000 points to redeem for that hotel, the program as a whole has now changed from what it was before. And since that hotel is 20% more expensive it seems material.

New members can seek retroactive credit prior to enrollment. All of your friends who have stayed at an SPG property and not joined the program, encourage them to go back for their points!

New SPG Members. A new SPG Member will be eligible to receive Starpoints for Eligible Charges, and Eligible Stays and Eligible Nights for Stays, that are incurred and paid for by the SPG Member during the 30 days prior to his/her enrollment in the SPG Program (the “Pre-Enrollment Period”), if such credit is requested within 60 days of the applicable Stay or Eligible Charge transaction.

If you’re an SPG member you agree not to challenge their trademarks (!). There’s the sort of language in an adhesion contract that I have a hard time imagining a court enforcing, but they clearly see this as a potential problem and wanted this argument to make. Most of you will probably never challenge Starwood’s marks, so you have nothing to worry about…

13.18 Trademarks. Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Preferred Guest, Sheraton, SPG, Starwood, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, and Westin and their logos are the trademarks of Starwood or its affiliates, and SPG Members shall never, directly or indirectly, interfere with, challenge, file applications for, or claim ownership to these trademarks anywhere in the world.

All in all not big changes despite adding 7293 new words to the document, deleting 1267 words, for a net 46% change to the document.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @GlobeTrotScott put the room in your own name, though it’s fine to add their name as a second guest on the room, and make sure you pay for the room on your own card at checkput and you will be entitled to credit.

    What the third party gifting of an award means for credit is that if you gave me a points reservation — you put the room in my name and not yours, you weren’t staying in the hotel and/or didn’t pay for the room charges at checkout (if any) — then you would not be entitled to credit for the stay AND NEITHER WOULD I be.

  2. The line, “file applications for, or claim ownership to these trademarks anywhere in the world”, (see 13:18), only applies IF you are an SPG member.

    It’s a pretty funny statement when “anywhere in the world” is used. Mars okay? How ’bout a new planet. I’ll go to Black’s Law Dictionary and look up the word “world”.

    P.S.: To the politically correct on the word “Black”, that is the name of the dictionary. When Obama used the phrase “Black Sea” a few weeks ago, he was being a racist. Thanks.

  3. What about when I book a points room and let my daughter check in. The res is in my name but she is noted in comments section as the one checking in.

  4. @GetToThePoints if the hotel thinks you are there you should get credit. It’s when you “book an award for someone else” rather than “adding someone else to your award reservation” that this comes into play I would think. Technically your card needs to be used to pay for incidentals on the stay (you settle the bill at checkout) but whether this is enforced is YMMV

  5. Sorry I am slow on this one. If I give an award night to someone else (e.g., use my 8,000 spg points to book a room for my friend), then why would anyone expect to earn any credit (I.e., spg points)? Thanks.

  6. Regarding the guest stay credits, I always book the rooms in my name. No matter if they are cash and points, Points or just cash. Possibly 20% of the time the hotel gives me a hard time because they say I will not be in the room. I always complete credit card approval forms and send it in when I make the reservation. Whenever I complain to the call center the hotel won’t honor, I get a lecture about how if I am not in the room, I am not entitled. I usually get the credit. NOTE to SPG if you are reading, when I book a room for a colleague and I am paying for it, I get to decide where they stay just the same as if I was staying myself. I choose a Starwood property for the points and night stay credit. Take it away from me and I will place the guest at a Hilton where there is never a question. I love my Starwood Points and go out of my way to stay at a Starwood properly. Please, don’t make me someone else’s loyal customer.

    Best Regards

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