The biggest hurdles everyone faces when traveling is 2 things. Not enough time free and traveling is just too darn expensive. Well, I can’t get you anymore free time, but I can help you stretch your money further!
In just the past 12 months I have spent 25 nights in some of the most expensive downtown districts in the United States. I have stayed in Manhattan, Boston, Philadelphia, Martha’s Vineyard, Pittsburgh, Maui, Toronto,Portland, Lake Placid, and many more.
Now I like to think I have worked very hard to get where I am in my career, but even I could not afford 25 stays per year if I did not utilize rewards programs and shop for the best rates. Travel rewards are so vital when it comes to saving money, and while it may take a few trips for you to accumulate some value worth redeeming, it can add up quick if you know some tricks! I utilize so many different programs but here is my favorite and how to maximize it!
Starwood Preferred Guest(SPG)
SPG takes the cake in my portfolio of rewards programs because the starpoints you accumulate in the program are so valuable and versatile. Part of the allure is Starwood’s merger with Marriott giving you access to 29 hotel brands to earn and redeem points on. Make sure you are signed up with Marriott rewards to fully take advantage since you are able to transfer points between the two, at a 3:1 ratio from Marriott to SPG.
The base status, Preferred, earns you 2 starpoints per US Dollar spent, compared to Marriott Rewards which earns you 5 points per dollar. Marriott needs more points to redeem for a category 1 room though, 10,000, compared to just 2,000 from SPG.
This may seem like a lot of spending at Starwood or Marriott hotels to reach a free night, but in just 3 nights at Marriott hotels in February of this year, I earned enough Points for a stay at a Category 1 hotel.
Both programs will run promotions for you to earn extra points and this is key. In February, Marriott had a promotion that allowed you to earn 2.5x points per stay until April. I was planning a long weekend in NYC and a long weekend in Philadelphia so I booked with Marriott during the program window. With 2 stays totaling $615 dollars, I earned 13,000 rewards points. compared to just 3,075 without the promotion. I then transferred these points to my SPG account and helped bump my account up to almost 9,000 starpoints!
SPG is currently running a promotion through September that will earn you extra starpoints per stay of at least 2 nights. 3x starpoints for weekends and 2x for weekdays. That means book a Starwood brand hotel before September 4th for $250 a night and you will earn 2,500 starpoints! If you hold the SPG American Express card, you earn an additional 2 starpoints. Bringing that 2,500 to 3,500 starpoints!
Enough for a free night at the Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa in Cairo, Egypt!
Now, the points are great, and will save you money in the long run, but how do you save money when booking the room first? Simple!
The hotel wants you to book directly with them instead of using an outside source such as Hotels.com or Expedia. Make sure you shop all platforms until you find a valid price from a search engine, then use this when booking with the Hotel. Let them know the rate you received and ask what benefit you would receive booking with the Hotel directly. They may give you a lower rate, extra points, or just match it and throw in free continental breakfast. Always make sure you book with the hotel directly because you can not receive points at all if you do not.
How any starpoints do I need for a free night?
Starwood Hotels break down into 7 Categories with Category 1 hotels needing only 2,000 starpoints for a free night.
Are there blackout dates?
Nope! As long as there is a standard room available, it is yours!
What does it cost to sign up?
Sign up for as many programs as you can!
The trick is to sign up for as many free rewards programs as possible. This allows you to shop for the best rates, find the best hotel for you, and when you do , you have a rewards program ready to be taken advantage of!
I am a member of 15+ rewards programs and I hope to review another one soon! Is there one that you love and utilize a lot? Let me know!