Or, how I spent 38,514 points without stepping foot in a hotel.
As you may be away, Starwood is a hotel chain. If you weren’t away, now you are! Earlier this year, I signed up for the Starwood SPG credit card by American Express when the sign-up bonus was 35,000 points. After I completed the spending requirement, I had a balance of 38,514 points. This is the tale of how I didn’t use a single point for hotel stays.
One of the great things (some say the greatest thing) about Starpoints is their convertability (not a word you say? It is now!)–they can be exchanged for numerous airline miles and Amtrak points. In most cases, it’s a 1:1 ratio, which is pretty good! Starwood sweetens the pot when you transfer in increments of 20,000 points by adding 25% more points to the transfer, so, for example, 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 Virgin America eleVAte miles.
So, how did I use those 38,514 points?
First, I transferred 25,001 points to Virgin America in June to take advantage of the jetBlue points match promotion (read about it here, here, and here). Those 25,001 points became 30,001 because of the transfer bonus.
Then, after completing the jetBlue promotion, I was awarded 50,000 jetBlue True Blue miles, which I wouldn’t have earned had I not completed the transfer to Virgin America, so I’m going to credit this windfall to SPG.
Next, I transferred 10,000 points to Amtrak, as I’m more likely to need/want free train travel in the near future. 10,000 points can get me two roundtrips on either the Northeast Regional to Boston or the Lake Shore Limited to Utica, definitely a good value in my mind.
Finally, I transferred the balance of the points (3,513) to American Airlines to add to my cache of points. I’m sitting on ~100,000 of their miles, patiently waiting for Nick to let us book another vacation :).
You may be saying, “Sam, just because you have more points doesn’t mean they’re worth more.” AU CONTRAIRE, MON AMI/E. Each month, The Points Guy publishes his list of point values, based on his experience. According to him:
There isn’t a mathematical formula at work here. At some point I’d like to create a system that could calculate a precise value based on award availability, fees, award levels and ease of accrual, but for now these valuations are based on a combination of how much I would pay to buy points if given the opportunity, and the overall value I could get from redeeming them.
Using his values, we can determine that Starpoints are worth 2.5 cents a point; therefore, 38,514 points is worth $962.85. Using this baseline, my transfers should (hopefully) be more valuable than this. Let’s look!
- 30,001 Virgin America points, valued at 1.9 cents each: $570.02
- 10,000 Amtrak points, valued at 2.5 cents each: $250.00
- 3,513 American Airlines points, valued at 1.5 cents each: $52.70
Before you add in the 50,000 points I earned from the jetBlue point match promotion, my value comes in at $872.72, so had I not participated in that promotion and still made the transfers, I’d be looking at a $90.13 loss.
Thanks to that promotion, I also got 50,000 jetBlue points worth 1.2 cents a point, with a total value of $600.00. That means my total value in these transfers was $1,472.72!
In other words, my 38,514 Starpoints became 93,514 travel points across four programs and I am getting even more value out of those Starpoints. Not too shabby for not setting foot in a hotel!