Loyalty programs are so in right now. Knowing which one to choose, and how to use it, that's the hard part. Unbeknownst to many, one of the best programs to earn airline miles, and enjoy some once in a lifetime experiences, not to mention stay in hotels is Starwood Preferred Guest. It's kinda like a Swiss army knife for travelers with some really cool tricks...
Transfer To Airline Miles
You can't imagine how funny it is to tell people daily that one of the best ways to earn frequent flyer miles is to earn Starwood Hotel points. It doesn't sound right, but it's absolutely true. Unlike other hotel points, SPG points transfer to almost every major airlines at a 1:1 ratio, allowing you to take advantage of some seriously sweet deals using miles. For example, I recently highlighted that for just 55,000 Starwood points you can fly Emirates Business class round trip, or for just 40,000 points you could fly Lufthansa First Class one way. You even get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline. Nice!!!
Ever wanted to sit in a suite at your favorite artists sold out concert? Or have VIP access to top sporting and culinary events? SPG moments offer really cool packages which allow you to use a relatively small number of points for experiences that would otherwise cost you thousands. For example, you could've seen Adele at the 02 in London with floor seats for two for 15,000 points, or scored a luxury box for two with wine, food and shade at the US Open tennis for 25,000 points. Really, really cool.
Sometimes it's really worthwhile to pay for a hotel room. You obviously earn points and status each time you stay, and when it's affordable it's not worth using points. Well, when you find a good rate at a great hotel but want to live a bit, a Suite upgrade can be very very sweet. For example, for as little as 10,000 SPG points you an upgrade to an executive suite or "wow" suite, turning your stay into something epic. In cities where your Starwood hotel offers a great view, it's hard to beat a high floor suite. For just 10,000 points, why not right?!
Cash + Points
Cash + points is a really neat way to stretch your points while saving cash on hotels. If you find that a hotel you really want is going for an insane nightly rate, say...$450, you can use cash and points at a set rate like 10,000 points +$180 to book the same place, making the nightly rate irrelevant. Cash and points rates are fixed for each hotel so again, no matter what it says it's going for each night using just cash, the cash and points rate will always be the same, creating some savings in your wallet and your points bank.
Five Night Stays Using Points...
Why five nights you ask? Because you get the fifth night free every time you use your SPG points to book a hotel. Starwood's hotels are grouped into categories 1-7, with 7 being the fanciest. There are some really nice, solid hotels in the category 3-4 range, which can run just 7,000 points a night. So for 28,000 points you can stay for five nights, even in some vacation areas in great brand such as Sheraton and Westin.