Note: As of 13 February 2019, Starwood Preferred Guest will be integrated into the Marriott Bonvoy program.
With perks like suite upgrades, free Internet access and continental breakfast for frequent travellers, you’ll want to pop an elite Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card into your passport wallet.
The program allows members to earn and redeem points at many familiar business and luxury hotels, including the Sheraton, W Hotels, Le Meridien and Westin brands.
Guests earn ‘Starpoints’, which can later be swapped for free hotel nights or frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and more.
Across the globe, over 1,200 hotels in 100 countries are part of SPG, with many of the world’s major business travel destinations well and truly covered.
There are many reasons for Australian jetsetters to join the SPG program, so we've put together this introduction to get you started.
Starwood Preferred Guest 101
Across the Starwood portfolio, members can earn and redeem Starpoints with Sheraton, W Hotels, Le Meridien, Westin, Aloft, Four Points by Sheraton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and Element.
Membership is free – to start collecting points, just head to the SPG website to enrol.
You’ll receive your SPG number immediately and a physical membership card can be requested through the same website.
Provided you earn or redeem Starpoints at least once a year, they’ll never expire.
That’s easily done by staying at any participating hotel, or by using SPG to boost your American Express and Diners Club points.
Beginning at the base-level Preferred tier, you’ll progress through Gold and Platinum as you begin to stay more at hotels within the Starwood portfolio.
Preferred members earn two Starpoints for every US dollar spent (or the equivalent in the hotel’s local currency) on hotel stays and incidentals like room service, telephone calls and more.
Members also receive their fifth night free when redeeming Starpoints and staying for at least five consecutive nights in the one property, and along with free in-room Internet when booking directly through Starwood.
Moving up through the program, higher status levels can be reached by either the number of stays or the number of overall nights spend with Starwood each year.
There’s no requirement to hit both – however you’ve qualified, you’ll automatically move up the ladder.
SPG Gold Preferred
After 10 stays (check-ins) or 25 nights in a calendar year, you’ll move from Preferred to Gold Preferred status.
For serious road warriors, 250 nights with Starwood over any 5 years of elite SPG status will net you SPG Lifetime Gold, regardless of how often you then travel.
Whether earned each year, gifted through the MasterCard promotion or held for a lifetime, Gold Preferred members earn three Starpoints per US dollar spent – 50% more than those at the basic Preferred tier.
Gold guests also receive upgrades to ‘enhanced’ rooms, where available, at all but Aloft and Element properties.
A choice of either bonus Starpoints or a free drink is also available with each stay.
For any telephone assistance, there’s a priority customer service line in most countries reserved for Gold members.
SPG Platinum Preferred
At the top of the pecking order is Platinum Preferred, yours each year after either 25 stays or 60 nights.
If you tally up a staggering 500 nights over the life of your membership and have held Platinum SPG status for any 10 years, SPG Lifetime Platinum is your reward.
After spending two months each year – or 500 nights of your life – in the chain’s hotels, you’d rightly expect some serious recognition – and that’s what Platinum delivers.
Over and above the benefits of Gold Preferred, Platinum guests are on the receiving end of upgrades to the best available room at check-in, including standard suites (except at Aloft and Element properties).
On arrival at each hotel, Platinum members can choose from bonus Starpoints, local amenities or a continental breakfast.
Club- and Executive-level benefits – including any hotel lounge privileges – can also be enjoyed where available, regardless of the room type that’s been booked.
Any charges usually levied for the use of hotel gyms or health clubs are waived, except where the facility is off-site or operated by a third party.
Even in fully-booked hotels, Platinum members can still grab a room when booking by 3pm, 72+ hours prior to arrival.
This benefit isn’t guaranteed – blackout dates and minimum stay requirements may apply – but it’s your best chance at nabbing a room at the last moment.
Starwood’s signature Platinum Concierge service is also at your beck and call, arranging just about anything for your next visit.
Above SPG Platinum Preferred
After 50 nights with Starwood each year, members receive 10 free Suite Night Awards.
These can be swapped for suite upgrades on paid hotel stays, and if you ask us, they’re best saved for travels with your partner – a suite is sure to impress!
Seventy five nights gets you four Starpoints on every US dollar spent: double that given to Preferred guests.
Journeys become more flexible and less expensive with Your24, where members can check-in for periods of 24 hours – say, from 9pm on Monday to 9pm on Tuesday.
That’s particularly great if you’re only on the ground in somewhere like Singapore or Dubai for one night as a stopover, as there’s no hassle for a late check-out or paying for an extra night if you’re arriving super early.
The benefits are less pronounced at 100 nights – ‘SPG Ambassadors’ take care of things like your room preferences, restaurant reservations and special occasions, although the Platinum Concierge provides similar assistance on request.
Within Australia, Starwood properties span Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Geelong, the Gold Coast, Noosa and Port Douglas.
At two Starpoints per US dollar, an overnight stay with a A$200 room rate and $25 spent on room service would earn around 336 Starpoints at any of these hotels, based on the exchange rate on July 10 2015.
On that same spend, Gold and Platinum members instead earn 504 Starpoints, while 75-night Platinum guests would reel in a respectable 672 Starpoints.
You can also easily earn Starpoints when using Uber – ranging from two to four Starpoints per US dollar spent, depending on your membership level and whether you're staying at a Starwood hotel on the same day you're chauffeured.
Starpoints are best traded for either a free hotel stay or for airline points or miles.
For the former, simply search for hotel rates on the SPG website – keeping your eyes peeled for ticks in the SPG Free Nights and SPG Cash & Points boxes:
Points can either be used to make a booking at no charge through SPG Free Nights, or a smaller number of points can help fund an SPG Cash & Points redemption, with a co-pay on the side.
On the quote above, the former provides the best value, and gives you the most return on your points – here’s why.
By blowing 6,000 Starpoints and US$110 (A$147) on a room that otherwise costs $266, you're getting about 1.98c of value from every point spent.
On the other hand, the SPG Free Night costs just 12,000 Starpoints for the same room, squeezing around 2.21c of value for every point used – an 11% improvement over the regular SPG Free Night.
These redemptions aren’t always available, but it pays to seek them out on your travels.
Starpoints can be traded for upgrades too, but if you’re already entitled to one as a Gold or Platinum member, we’d suggest saving them for something else – like frequent flyer points.
With partners like Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates, Starpoints can be sent across to most airlines on a 1:1 basis.
Better yet, you’ll get a bonus 5,000 frequent flyer points for every 20,000 Starpoints converted into airline currency – so 20,000 Starpoints could become 25,000 Virgin Australia Velocity points.
If you’re also funnelling your points from AMEX Membership Rewards or Diners Club Rewards through SPG, your balance is sure to take off in no time.
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