Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How I got £370 of value from my Starwood Amex sign-up bonus!

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There is always something satisfying about making a good value redemption, especially when you can see the saving in hard cash!

My wife has been sitting on 21,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points for a while.  She got these when she took out the SPG credit card at the end of last year, when they had doubled the sign-up bonus from 10,000 points to 20,000 points.

We just discovered that she will be off to a Westin beach resort next May for a conference, which happens to fall during the half-term holiday.  It therefore made sense to book a second, interconnecting, room in the same hotel and for the kids and myself to join her.

The cheapest rate I could find for the hotel (pool below!) was around £190 per night including taxes.  Using Starpoints, it was 12,000 points per night.  SPG runs a permanent ‘pay for 4 nights, get a 5th night free’ promotion, so for the 5 nights we want it averages out at 9,600 points per night.

I transfered some American Express Membership Rewards points across to make up the additional 27,000 points, and booked the room.  This represents just under 2p per SPG point of value.

The 21,000 SPG Amex points we received were therefore worth around £400.  There was a £75 annual fee for the credit card, but I got £45 cashback back.  That means we received £370 of value just for applying for one credit card and spending £1,000 on it.  When you see a result like that, you realise why collecting miles and points is worthwhile.

(I also managed to snag Reward Flight Saver flights for us all as well!)

Comments (8)

  • Britbronco22 says:

    Shame you had to transfer the Amex points at 1 for 2, but then again they were probably free from a referral 😉
    Still at 1p per MR point that is just about an acceptable value.
    This redemption example also supports the use of the SPG as a regular spending card too. Of course you can get Avios redemptions worth 2p per Avio too (and more), but 2p SPG redemptions aren’t rare. The last 2 redemptions I have made were both over 3p per point. Cash and Points tend to be very good value!

    • Raffles says:

      Yes, Cash & Points would have been even better. If it opens up nearer the time I will switch to C&P but given that this conference is taking out a large part of the hotel it is unlikely. 1p per MR point is about as good as it gets, to be honest – I only value Avios at 0.75p so at the standard transfer rate that is under 1p. Club Carlson at 1:3 can get you well over 1p but only at a select number of their poshest properties. Amex to Hilton at 1:2 can also get you 1p at a high-end hotel in a big city. Not that many other routes to get 1p on my valuations, though.

      • Britbronco22 says:

        I know you only value Avios at 0.75p which is a sensible conservative value for general evaluations, but it is certainly possible to get more value than this, for example MFU’s, Reward Savers, last minute bookings and bookings you need to be flexible.

        I guess they other way you can get way over 1p value on MR is that you can top off balances to get to an award. (If you consider the marginal value of them).

        • Raffles says:

          True. If you only do 1 Avios redemption a year using a 2-4-1, then the Avios you collect for that award are worth a lot more than 1p. In my case, though, I do a lot of long-haul redemptions without a 2-4-1 which brings down the value I place on the Avios. I also never do MFU’s because I need the flexibility to cancel at will, which an MFU (unless booked with a full-fare WTP ticket) does not allow. I also have a large pile of Avios, so I place a low marginal value on them – 0.75p is also the same value I use when looking at a ‘deal’ to earn Avios. I have a £2.5k National Insurance bill to pay this week, for example, and I will pay the 1.4% fee to use my BMI Mastercard because it gets me Avios at 0.7p (I have the ‘2 per £1’ old card).

  • Britbronco22 says:

    If you value the flexibility of Reward bookings I hope you aren’t using inflexible fares to price up the 0.75p value!
    However although I value Avios around 1p (and try to redeem for more), I wouldn’t buy for that price due to the illiquidity of them as a currency, and also I have a fairly large pile too.

    • Raffles says:

      I am, because it is a reasonable assumption. I WANT flexibility (I have 2 little kids who could fall ill, work pressure etc, but not enough to trigger insurance) and do what I can to get it – hence my dislike of MFU’s. However, I am not willing to pay the cost of a fully flex ticket to get it. If we wanted to go somewhere and had to pay cash, we would buy a cheap non-refundable ticket like everyone else and take the risk that we might end up dragging 2 snotty, chicken-poxy or whatever kids across the ocean.

  • Raffles says:

    My life is, frankly, chaoticaly mad when it comes to hotels. We regulary run to £500 a night as we often take suites to ram the kids in. Forgotten what Sandy Lane cost in May, but Dubai pre-Christmas is about £600-700 a night I think.

    However, I spent Saturday night in the Holiday Inn Sheffield (on a redemption) which is certainly not the greatest place on earth (the floor in the room wasn’t even flat!) and I also spent a couple of weekends this Summer at Crowne Plaza Marlow as I posted. (You can get this for £44.50 a night on the 2-4-1 rate.)

    I spent a night, two weeks ago, at The Three Tuns in Filey which is one of the worst reviewed properties in the UK on tripadvisor (and those reviews were not wrong)! This was with 3 friends. The same 3 friends and I were at the One & Only Cape Town in January, which is probably the finest hotel in Africa and priced accordingly. I mention this only to show that I am fully aware of all ends of the hotel spectrum and act accordingly!

    You do touch on an interesting point. The more money you have, the more ‘real’ money you save with points. If I couldn’t have got 4 CW seats on Avios to Dubai at Christmas, I would have bought them, so it is effectively a real saving. Most people would have gone Economy instead and so get a lower cash benefit. Similarly, if I can’t redeem for a five-star hotel then I pay for one when with the family – in fact, I almost always do pay because we take suites where possible which are rarely a redemption option.

  • David says:

    Tim, everyone is different in terms of:
    – what they prefer
    – what they need
    – what they are doing anyway
    – what level of flexiblity they need
    and in terms of what value they place on the above.

    All posts by all contributors and commentors on the topic an all sites, always need to be considered by the reader in terms of the golden rules:
    – know the value of any points to you
    – know your personal travel patterns
    – …

    You say these are false economies, well they might be for YOU, for YOUR travel pattern and what is important or necessary for YOU. However, that is not the same for everyone.

    I dont assume that everthing I read about is suitable for me. [You would be a victim of marketing if you did.]

    “The rates are fake and not paid by anyone real.”
    This is simply not true. They are paid by a number of people.

    I personally only use any scheme because I can turn a profit on it – or it enhances my stay/experience such that it is worth it. I get sucess on both counts with hotel schemes. If you can’t get a fit for any hotel scheme to your needs then you are quite right to reject them, but that is becasue your needs don’t (according to you) fit a scheme, not becasue the scheme is flawed.

    I wouldnt dream of spending above 200 GBP a night on a hotel, even above 100 gets me concerned – outside certain circumstances, but I turn a profit on hotel schemes – compared to not using them.
    .