Should you invest in Starpoints now?

12

Starwood is once again offering 35% off on the purchase of SPG Starpoints through July 20th. This means that it’s possible to buy Starpoints for 2.275 cents each.  And, since Starpoints convert to Marriott Rewards points 1 to 3, that’s equivalent to buying Marriott Rewards points for 0.75 cents each.  Considering that Marriott sells points for 1.25 cents each, this is a relative bargain.

But…

The fact that Starpoints / Marriott Rewards points are available for purchase at a very low relative price does not mean that it makes sense to buy them.  Whether or not buying points makes sense depends entirely upon how you plan to use them.

Let’s look at various uses for Starpoints & Marriott Rewards points to see whether this is really a good deal…

Domestic Round Trip for $455

Many airline programs charge 25,000 miles for a domestic round-trip economy award.  Given that Starpoints transfer to airline miles at a rate of 20K Starpoints to 25K miles, we can estimate the cost to buy a round trip ticket as follows:

  • Buy 20K Starpoints for $455
  • Convert 20K Starpoints to 25K miles
  • Result: Round trip economy ticket for $455

Verdict: Bad Deal

Why: Round trip domestic economy awards are usually available for 25K miles only when the flight is far from full.  When that’s true, it is usually possible to get a good cash price for the same flights.  Last minute flights can be an exception.

Top Tier SPG or Ritz hotel for $455

Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Santorini

In August, Starpoints will automatically be converted 1 to 3 to rewards points.  And, from August to early 2019, the newly combined Marriott / SPG / Ritz award chart will top out at 60,000 points per night.  This means that during that window it will be possible to book the most expensive SPG and Ritz properties for the equivalent of 20,000 Starpoints per night.  Via this promotion, each free night will cost you $455.  Or, if you take advantage of 5th night free awards, you can average $364 per night for a 5 night stay.

  • Buy 20K Starpoints for $455
  • In August, 20K Starpoints automatically convert to 60K rewards points
  • Between August and early 2019, book top tier hotels for 60K rewards points per night
  • If you have enough points, take advantage of 5th night free awards

Verdict: Bad Deal*

Why: Many top tier properties are routinely available for under $500 per night, especially if you watch for sales.  If you buy Starpoints now with the hope of booking a top tier property that is usually much more than $500, this can offer very good savings, but it still locks you into having to finalize your travel plans before early 2019.

* This would be a good deal if you have specific plans to stay at a hotel that costs much more than $455 per night and if standard rooms are available during your travel dates.

Mid Tier Hotel for $273 per night

Residence Inn New York Central Park

When Marriott unveiled future award pricing for New York City and a few other markets, we were surprised to see that a number of New York City hotels will be available for only 35,000 rewards points per night.  That’s equivalent to 11,667 Starpoints per night.  With the current promotion, you could buy 12,000 Starpoints for $273 and have a few points left over.

  • Buy 12K Starpoints for $273
  • In August, 12K Starpoints automatically convert to 36K rewards points
  • When programs merge in August, book mid tier hotels for 35K rewards points per night
  • If you have enough points, take advantage of 5th night free awards

Verdict: Bad Deal*

Why: Many mid tier properties are routinely available for under $300 per night, especially if you watch for sales.  If you buy Starpoints now with the hope of booking a mid tier property that is usually much more than $300, this can offer very good savings, but only if you don’t come across a better sale before your stay.

* This would be a good deal if you have specific plans to stay at a hotel that costs much more than $273 per night and if standard rooms are available during your travel dates.

Bottom Tier Hotel, 5 Nights for $227.50 ($45.50 per night)

TownePlace Suites Jacksonville NC. Currently a category 1 Marriott hotel

Currently, category 1 and 2 SPG hotels do not qualify for 5th Night Free awards.  But, when the Marriott and SPG programs merge in August, all hotels will be eligible for 5th Night Free awards.  And the lowest category hotels will be available for 7,500 points per night:

If you book 5 nights under the new award chart, you’ll pay 7,500 x 4 = 30,000 rewards points (10,000 Starpoints) for 5 nights.

  • Buy 10K Starpoints for $227.50
  • 10K Starpoints convert to 30K rewards points
  • Book 5 nights at a category 1 hotel for 30K points
    • Before August, this is only possible at category 1 Marriott hotels.
    • When the programs merge in August, this will be possible at category 1 SPG hotels as well
  • Average cost per night: $45.50

Verdict: Good Deal

Why: If you have a real need or desire to stay in a category 1 hotel for 5 nights, chances are good that the paid rate alternative will be quite a bit higher than $45.50 per night after taxes and fees.  Alternatively, for those chasing elite status, this is a fairly low cost way to earn 5 elite nights.

One-Way International First Class for $1,365

Cathay Pacific first class

SPG offers point transfers to airline miles at a rate of 20K Starpoints to 25K miles.  If you buy enough Starpoints, you could use the resulting miles to buy first class flights:

  • Buy 60K Starpoints for $682.50 x 2 = $1,365 (See: How to buy more than 30K SPG points)
  • Convert 60K Starpoints to 75K airline miles
  • Many international first class awards are available for 75K miles one-way or less (see this post for examples)
  • Result: One-Way International First Class for $1,365 plus taxes & fees.

Verdict: Good Deal*

Why: A good international First Class flight often costs $8,000 or more round-trip.  Using points in this way would likely represent significant savings, even after accounting for fuel surcharges imposed by many carriers.  Caveat: Finding available first class awards when and where you want them can be tough.

* Even though this is a good deal, investing in travel packages can be a better deal.  See the section two below on round trip flights plus 7 night stays for details.

One-Way International Business Class for $1,365 (with points left over)

ANA Business Class
  • Buy 60K Starpoints for $682.50 x 2 = $1,365 (See: How to buy more than 30K SPG points)
  • Convert 60K Starpoints to 75K airline miles
  • Many international business class awards are available for 60K miles one-way or less (see this post for examples)
  • Result: One-Way International Business Class for $1,365 plus taxes & fees, with points left over for other uses

Verdict: Bad Deal

Why: It is often possible to find round-trip international business class fares for less than $3,000 (i.e. less than $1,500 each way).

Round Trip International Biz or 1st Class, plus 7 Night Hotel Stay for $2,047.50

Qantas Business Class

Marriott Travel Packages offer an intriguing alternative to using Starpoints directly:

  • Buy 90K Starpoints for $682.50 x 3 = $2,047.50 (See: How to buy more than 30K SPG points)
  • Convert 90K Starpoints to 270K Marriott Rewards points
  • Use 270K Marriott Rewards points to book a 7 night category 1-5 travel package resulting in 120K airline miles of various sorts, or 132K United miles plus a 7 night stay certificate.
  • Many round-trip international business class awards, and some round-trip international first class awards, are available for 120K miles or less. See this post for examples.
  • Result: Round-Trip premium international flight plus 7 night hotel stay for $2,047.50 plus taxes and fees.

Verdict: Great Deal

Why: While it’s possible to find similarly priced premium flights, this option gives you the option of flying some of the most luxurious premium cabins in the world.  For example, with Virgin Atlantic miles you could book ANA first class from the US to Tokyo for 110K or 120K miles.  Or, use Alaska miles to book Qantas or Fiji business class to Australia for 110K miles or Cathay Pacific for 120K miles.  Or, use Alaska miles to fly business class to Asia for 100K round-trip on Cathay Pacific or Hainan, or 120K round-trip on JAL.  United charges 140K round-trip (8K more than the miles you would get from the package) for partner business class to Europe, and less for their own flights.  And, significantly, United does not pass along fuel surcharges.  Caveat: Finding available business or first class awards when and where you want them can be tough.

If you need the miles, this deal is good even if you don’t have use for the 7 night stay certificate.  If you can find good use for the 7 night stay, then obviously the deal becomes way better.  For more about Marriott travel packages, see these posts:

Caveats to all of the above

#1: Whether or not something is a good or bad deal depends on your circumstances

I tried my best to indicate above whether or not I think each option is a good or bad deal, but your circumstances are undoubtedly different from those that I imagined.  Please use your own judgment to decide.

#2: Investing in points or miles is never a good idea without a plan for how to use them

Some of the flight options I described above sound amazing and are undoubtedly a great deal if you actually take advantage of them.  In reality, though, maybe you won’t.  If you’re thinking that you might try one of these award flights someday, but you don’t know when someday might be, I’d recommend against buying the points.  Chances are good that the miles will devalue before you go, or you might have other better options when the time comes.

#3 There are cheaper ways to get the needed points and miles

Buying points and miles at a discount is probably best for those who live outside of the US or for those who are unable to qualify for good credit card signup offers in the US.  For those in the US with good credit, a few credit card welcome bonuses could easily get you all of the points you need.

For example, here are the currently available Marriott point offers (click on any card link to go to a detailed Frequent Miler page about that card):

Card Offer
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
125K points + up to $200 in statement credits
125K points after $5K spend in the first 3 months plus up to $200 in statement credits for US restaurant purchases in the first 6 months. Terms apply.
(Offer Expires 5/12/2021)

$450 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: None

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
100K Points + up to $150 in statement credits
100K points after $5K in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership + up to $150 in statement credits for eligible purchases in the first 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 5/12/2021)

$125 Annual Fee

And here are the top transferable points offers (press Next for more). Click on any card link to go to a detailed Frequent Miler page about that card:

Card Offer
The Platinum Card® from American Express
100K points + 10x US Gas Stations and US Supermarkets + $200 statement credit
100K after $5K spend in first 6 months plus 10x on eligible purchases at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15K in purchases in the first 6 months, plus up to $200 in statement credits at select US home furnishing stores in the first 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 5/5/2021)

$550 Annual Fee

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card
100K points
100K after $15K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

See: How to sign up for Chase Ink cards

Recent better offer: 80K after $5K spend. Many preferred the 80K offer due to the much lower spend requirement

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
80K Points + up to $50 in statement credits
80K after $4K spend in 3 months + up to $50 in statement credits for grocery purchases within the first year

$95 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: None. This is the best we've seen.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited
75K points
75K after $7.5K spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee

See: How to sign up for Chase Ink cards

Recent better offer: None. This is the best we've seen.

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
75K points
75K after $7.5K spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee

See: How to sign up for Chase Ink cards

Recent better offer: None. This is the best we've seen.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
100K points
100K points after $15K spend. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$595 Annual Fee

Some report being targeted for a 130K offer.

Recent better offer: 150K after $20K Spend (Targeted)

American Express® Gold Card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
125K points + up to $200 in statement credits
125K points after $5K spend in the first 3 months plus up to $200 in statement credits for US restaurant purchases in the first 6 months. Terms apply.
(Offer Expires 5/12/2021)

$450 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: None

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
100K "Miles"
Up to 100K "Miles": Earn 100K with $20K spend in 12 months, or still earn 50K with $3K spend in 3 months.

$95 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: This matches the best we've seen in recent years

Citi Premier Card
60K points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

Alternate offer: There is an in-branch offer for 65K points (or 70K for CitiGold members) after $4K in purchases in 3 months. Some have reported success getting matched to that higher offer by request (YMMV).

Recent better offer: None

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
100K Points + up to $150 in statement credits
100K points after $5K in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership + up to $150 in statement credits for eligible purchases in the first 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 5/12/2021)

$125 Annual Fee

American Express® Business Gold Card
70K Points
70K points after $10K spend in 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$295 Annual Fee

Alternate offer: Some people clicking find that they are targeted for an offer of 85K points after $10K in purchases in the first 3 months.

Recent better offer: 70K points + up to $300 in statement credits: 70K points after $10K spend in 3 months + up to $150 in statement credits for US shipping purchases and up to $150 in statement credits US advertising purchases. [Expired 4/7/21]

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
60K Points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months

$550 Annual Fee

Capital One Spark Miles Business Credit Card
50K "miles"
Earn a one-time bonus: 50K "miles" after $4.5K spend in the first 3 months from account opening

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $95

Note: Capital One Business cards DO count against Chase's 5/24 Rule

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: Earn up to 200K "miles": 50K after $5K spend in the first 3 months from account opening and an additional 150K after $50K spend in the first 6 months from account opening [Expired 1/27/20 and breifly available in 2021]

Chase Freedom Unlimited
20K points
Earn 20,000 points (worth $200 cash back) after spending $500 in the first 3 months. 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.

No Annual Fee

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details). Even though this card is marketed as a cash back card, it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points which are redeemable for 1 cent each, or can be combined with other Ultimate Rewards-earning cards to get even more value. This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Recent better offer: 20K points + 5x on up to $12K in groceries for first year [Expired 1/13/21]

Chase Freedom Flex
20K points
Earn 20,000 points (worth $200 cash back) after $500 spend in 3 months. 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.

No Annual Fee

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details). Even though this card is marketed as a cash back card, it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points which are redeemable for 1 cent each, or can be combined with other Ultimate Rewards-earning cards to get even more value. This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Recent better offer: 20K points + 5x on up to $12K in groceries for first year [Expired 1/13/21]

Citi Rewards+ Card
15K points
15K points after $1K spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
20K "miles"
Earn a bonus of 20K after $500 spend in 3 months from account opening

No Annual Fee

Citi Double Cash Card

Recent better offer: None

And here are the top airline miles offers. Click on any card link to go to a detailed Frequent Miler page about that card:

Card Offer
Chase United Quest Card
Up to 100K Miles
Up to 100K miles: 80K after $5K spend in first 3 months + 20K after $10K total spend in first 6 months

$250 Annual Fee

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).

Recent better offer: None. This is a new card.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business Credit Card from American Express
90K miles + $100 statement credit
90K miles + $100 statement credit after $3K spend in the first 3 months. Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 4/28/2021)

$250 Annual Fee

AAdvantage® AviatorTM Business MasterCard®
Up to 75K miles
Up to 75K miles: 65k miles after $1K in purchases within 90 days and 10K miles when a purchase is made on an employee card that is added to the account at the time of application or within 30 days of the account open date

$95 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: Up to 75K miles: 65k miles after $1K in purchases within 90 days and 10K miles when a purchase is made on an employee card that is added to the account at the time of application or within 30 days of the account open date

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business Credit Card from American Express
70K Miles + $50 statement credit
70K miles + $50 statement credit after $2K spend in the first 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 4/28/2021)

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $99

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
65K miles
65K after $4K spend in first 4 months

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $99

Recent better offer: 75K after $5K in the first 5 months (Expired 1/16/20)

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card
60K miles
60K after $3K spend in 3 months

$99 Annual Fee

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).

Recent better offer: None. This is the highest public offer we've seen.

JetBlue Business Card
Up to 60K Miles
Up to 60K miles: 50K after $1K spend in 90 days plus 10K after a purchase is made on an employee card within 90 days

$99 Annual Fee

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard
60K miles
60k miles after 1st purchase days and payment of the $99 AF within 90 days

$99 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Alternate offer: There is an in-flight offer for 60K after first purchase with the 1st year fee waived. See this link; code 999999 may work for the promo code.

Chase United Explorer Card
Up to 65K Miles
Up to 65K miles: 40K after $2K spend in 3 months + 25K after $10K total spend in first 6 months

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $95

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).

Alternate offer: $250 statement credit after first purchase + 25K miles after $2K in the first 3 months. You may find this offer during the booking process or can possibly access it here.

Recent better offer: 60K after $3K spend in 3 months plus 10K after $6K in 6 months [Expired 1/13/21]

Chase Iberia Visa Signature® Card
Up to 100K bonus Avios
Get 50K Avios after $3K spend in first 3 months + 50K more Avios after $20K spend in first year. Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x)

$95 Annual Fee

Chase Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card
Up to 100K bonus Avios
Get 50K Avios after $3K spend in first 3 months + 50K more Avios after $20K spend in first year. Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x). Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x)

$95 Annual Fee

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve for Business Credit Card
80K miles + 20K MQMs + $200 statement credit
80K miles + 20K MQMs + $200 statement credit after $5K spend in the first 3 months. Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 4/28/2021)

$550 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: None

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Card
40K points + 3x dining for 1 year
40K points after $1K in purchases in the first 3 months + 3x dining including eligible takeout and delivery for first year.

$69 Annual Fee

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
40K points + 3x dining for 1 year
40K points after $1K in purchases in the first 3 months + 3x dining including eligible takeout and delivery for first year.

$149 Annual Fee

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
40K points + 3x dining for 1 year
40K points after $1K in purchases in the first 3 months + 3x dining including eligible takeout and delivery for first year.

$99 Annual Fee

The Hawaiian Airlines® Business MasterCard® issued by Barclays
Up to 70K miles
Up to 70K miles: 60K after $1K in the first 90 days + 10K after a purchase is made on an employee card

$99 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: 60K after $1K in the first 90 days + 10K after first purchase on an employee card [Expired 8/19]

Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card
50K Avios
Get 50K Avios after $3K spend in first 3 months. Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x) and a Travel Together ticket after spending $20,000 within the first 12 months.

$95 Annual Fee

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® issued by Barclays
60K miles
60K after $2K spend in 90 days

$99 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Alternate offer: You may be able to get 60K miles after 1st purchase via paper application distributed in-flight.

Recent better offer: 50K after $2K spend in 90 days + 25K after $6K total in first 12 months

Delta SkyMiles® Blue Credit Card from American Express
Korean Air SKYPASS Visa issued by US Bank
30K miles
30K miles after $3K spend in 90 days

$95 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: 40K after $2.5K spend targeted (last reported 2/26/2016)

30K: 15K after first purchase + 15K after $2k spend in 90 days

25K: 15K after first purchase, 10K after $2K spend in first 3 months (expired 1/18)

United Gateway Card
20K Miles + 3X Grocery
20K miles after $1K spend in first 3 months; Plus earn 3X at grocery stores, on up to $1,500 per month through 9/30/2021

No Annual Fee

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card
10K miles + $50
Earn 10K AA miles + $50 statement credit after $500 spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee

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