Hotel Savings Trick: How 1000 Starwood Points Just Saved Me $400

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I’m not sure I’ve ever made a redemption with a value of 40 cents per point before.

There’s a hotel I wanted to stay at in about 3 weeks where the lowest cancellable rate is $450 a night. There’s a 10% discount for a prepaid rate, and I really hate prepaid rates. I also hate spending $400 per night on a hotel room so I wasn’t likely to be able to stay where I really wanted to.

The property’s rack rate is $500 per night. And Starwood has a trick — redeem 1000 Starpoints for 50% off rack rate on a hotel stay up to 5 nights. That brought my rate down to $250 per night, a savings of $200 per night off the best cancellable rate. So $400 less for my two night stay. (It’s even better than this because hotel taxes are proportionately reduced, too.)

The ‘SPG50’ rate plan is subject to availability and bookable by phone (online chat should also work). The rate isn’t valid in Hawaii.

While the rules say that the 50% off award can’t be used in conjunction with ‘upgrade certificates’ I’ve had no problem using Suite Night Awards on SPG50 rates.

Perhaps as importantly though many hotels will allow SPG50 redemptions for suites. It can be the best way to actually book the suite you want at the best price. That’s because pricing on suites is often closer to rack rate for the room type to begin with. At times it brings suites down to the otherwise-best price for a regular room.


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Now the SPG50 rate may not always be better than the best otherwise-available rate at a property. Or it may offer only miniscule savings. And when a hotel’s rates are high they may not have SPG50 availability. That means this is a niche play, but it’s one to remember to keep in the toolkit.

Years ago the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express used to come with a paper SPG50 certificate each year, but that was discontinued. I suspect members were frustrated by the certificates because they didn’t understand them. They’d call up thinking it was 50% off whatever the lowest room rate on the website was and would be disappointed.

Instead these are a strategic play for those in the know since you cannot see these rates online.

Terms and conditions:

50% Off Award is subject to availability; advance reservations required. Callers must advise they are using a 50% Off Award and request Rate Plan ID: SPG50 when making reservations. The number and type of rooms offered may be limited and black-out dates may apply. 50% Off Award may not apply to suites at all hotels.

50% Off Award is valid for a maximum of up to five consecutive nights at SPG50 participating hotels worldwide. Using the 50% Off Award for less than five nights, forfeits any unused nights, and the 50% Off Award is no longer valid for use in connection with any other stay.

Most, but not all, Starwood Preferred Guest participating hotels participate in the 50% Off Award. 50% Off Awards are NOT valid in Hawaii or at the Bahrain Sheraton Hotel.

At Sheraton Vacation Resorts and Westin Vacation Resorts, the 50% Off Award length of stay requirements may vary. Please call for specific requirements. However, only one certificate is required regardless of how many nights a guest is eligible to stay at Vacation Resorts.

50% Off Award is valid on regular (RACK) room rates based upon availability of the SPG50 Rate Plan.

50% Off Award may not be applied toward service charges, room tax, food and beverages, parking, gratuities, gift shop purchases, or other incidental charges and taxes.

Starwood Preferred Guest Members are eligible to receive Starpoints for the paid portion of the stay only. Starpoints cannot be earned on any paid portion of the SPG50 Rate Plan at Sheraton Vacation Resorts or Westin Vacation Resorts.

50% Off Award reservations are commissionable to Travel Agents.

Standard Guarantee and Deposit Policy applies and varies by hotel.

50% Off Award is not combinable with other room or rate promotional discounts or special programs, including Upgrade Certificates.

50% off Award is good for only one room during the stay.

50% Off Award has no cash value.

For reservations: In the United States, please call 1-800-521-9672, or contact your nearest Starwood Customer Contact Center.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. Hmmm…an interesting though (as you note) probably limited option. Thanks for posting about this. Like Thanh, I’d be interested in knowing whether you have to call in to check the rack rate, as it doesn’t seem to pop up at the spg or hotel websites I’ve checked.

  2. Wow. Thank you for the reminder Gary. Many years ago I used these often but it’s probably been at least 8 years since I’ve redeemed one. And I don’t think I ever tried them on suites before. On paid stays going forward I will remember to at least compare this option. Great tip !

  3. Gary, thanks for sharing as this sounds really interesting. However, I do have a few questions I am hoping you can answer.

    1) How do you go about getting these 50% off awards, ie. do you need status, X number of nights, or some other qualifier, or are they available to all SPG members who are willing to redeem 1,000 points for one?

    2) Is there a way online to determine a hotel’s rack rate? If not, do you have any tips on how to determine the rack rate short of calling the hotel directly or reservations?

    3) Are there any limits to the number of 50% off awards you are able to redeem in a calendar year?

    I could definitely see some use for this depending on how the various hotels price their rack rate.

    Thanks,

    JC

  4. availability of these SPG50 awards is about as good as availability of saver business class awards on AA metal

  5. Niraj, I’ll let Gary correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the answer to your question is no. Rack rate is, in effect, the highest rate. It’s usually much higher than the best available rate, unless a hotel is nearly sold out and the best available is the rack rate.

  6. Thanks Steve, that’s helpful. The rack rate is then the rate that’s physically displayed on the back of the hotel room door or in the closet.

    Yeah, don’t know if that’s ever made available online….

  7. You’re welcome! Yes, the rate on the back of the door is often the (very high) rack rate. However, for what it’s worth, I’d imagine the rack rate can fluctuate much more frequently than a hotel changes that back-of-door rate.

  8. Forgive my possibly ignorant question, but does this work for Marriott properties, now that they’re associated with SPG?

  9. I’m also very interested to understand more about this… it sounds great but is a little confusing (possibly on purpose by SPG?)

  10. Historically when SPG first launched the 50% off redemption it really meant something
    Significant savings.It was awesome,But members started using it frequently
    Starwood & Hotels years ago purposely overly inflated their rack rates to insure excessive discounting of rooms didn’t happen to a large degree.
    I would argue every time I have tried to use the 50% off award the rates over the past 7 years 50% off rates were considerably higher then all the membership AAA AARP Member rates and published discounted rates available to the traveling public
    I’ve been with the program 18 Years and watched the value of the SPG 50% off award plummet
    Its winning the jackpot if its agreeable less expensive and even available
    Signed a lifetime Plat 🙂

  11. I used this for a st Regis bora bora stay in May of this year – I was trying to use points, and the phone rep suggested this instead — really penciled out well, didn’t know about it prior to that call

  12. a fascinating however (as you note) most likely restricted alternative. A debt of gratitude is in order for posting about this. Like Thanh, I’d be occupied with knowing whether you need to bring in to check the rack rate, as it doesn’t appear to fly up at the spg or inn sites I’ve checked

  13. I LOVE SPG50!! I always suggest this as an option if my guest doesn’t have enough points for a res or doesn’t want to spend all their points. I don’t believe RACK rate will be visible online. It is not BAR to answer someone’s question. As with all rates, it is limited availability.

  14. Just priced this out for Vancouver Element Metrotown. The rack rate is a ridiculous CAD 589 for King Room (June 2018) so even with this SPG 50 rate a basic King room costs CAD 294 + 1500 SPG points (or 1000, can’t remember). Somehow the website doesn’t show me the Best Available rate but a prepaid rate is CAD 320 and extended stay (not prepaid, fully flexible; as I searched for 5 nights same as limit for SPG 50 rate) is also CAD 320. And as usual it’s only the most basic room available (I was hoping for a one bedroom suite). So yeah, doesn’t look very useful to me in this case as I guess they just jacked up the rack rate so high that this deal isn’t really worth it in most cases. But good to have this option, maybe it works at other hotels.

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