|Closest For Those Commuting Via Helicopter|
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015
SPG recently auctioned off an experience to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game. The package included two game tickets, a pre-game photo, and no hotel stay. The winning bid was 189,502 points. That equates to 20 free nights at my favorite SPG hotels, the The Westin Sydney or The Westin Palace Madrid. It also could be 50 free nights at the Sheraton Oklahoma City or 73 free nights at the Sheraton Athlone Ireland. The points could also be converted into 234,502 frequent flyer miles, enough four or five transatlantic business class flights. The auction winner bought a cool and unique experience that they could not buy with money. That is the value of points programs, they make the impossible achievable. I'm also certain I would not spend that much on an experience that lasts about 45 seconds.
Math Note: Math assumes maximizing the 'stay 4 get 1 free' room redemption pricing. I did not include any welcome gift or Make a Green Choice bonus points. Off season pricing used for Westin hotels mentioned. Frequent flyer mile math assumes 1:1 program transfer and maximizing the 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.
|Where Could 234,502 Miles Take You?|
Saturday, January 3, 2015
The most popular SPG point award in 2014 was the Sheraton NewYork Times Square Hotel and I’m disappointed to hear that. I stayed there once and did not care for it. The hotel is huge, but the rooms are tiny. They were so small; I had to use the bed to get from one side of the room to the other. The dresser and bed left space too narrow to roll my bag through. The club lounge was closed when I visited and lines were everywhere. I felt cramped everywhere I went. I hate to think this hotel is the aspirational award most redeemed in the SPG program.
The Sheraton Times Square is 12,000 points per night. The new Element New York Times Square West and newer The Westin New York Grand Central are both 12,000 points and much nicer properties. New York is spread out and easy to get around, so there’s no need to stay close to Times Square. The Sheraton Tribeca New York Hotel is another great 12,000 point option in a relaxed area.It is good value to spend points rather than money in New York because the hotel rates, plus 15%ish tax, are exorbitant. 2 to 3 cents cash value per point is available at almost every hotel. I’m sure the travelers spending points are seeing a good return at whatever hotel they select; I just hope next year they try to find a better hotel.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The Sheraton Phoenix Airport hotel wins the complex shower handle competition. I've never seen one like this before and the hotel even includes directions for use. The hotel is being renovated, so I hope on my next visit I can have regular plumbing.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
My Aloft Smart Check-In card came in the mail! It's a smart card that acts as my room key at Aloft hotels, so I'll get a text with my room number and I can skip the front desk. I don't have any Aloft stays booked at the moment, but I'll book one next time I have an excuse just to try it out. It would be very cool if SPG could roll this feature out across their brands, but the Smart Check-In program needs to make it out of the pilot testing phase first.
|Aloft Smart Check In Card|
Monday, July 30, 2012
If you haven’t thought about it already, you should start planning out your status qualification strategy. With five months left in the year, you are quickly running out of time if you are trending below your goals. Also, with this much of a heads up, you may be able to grab a good deal on some flights or hotels stays to top off your numbers (use ITA Matrix and try to force extra connections).
Hotels are not looking so good though. I have given up on Priority Club status all
together because of their recent award chart devaluation and my lack of hotel
activity (7/60th of the way to Platinum and 7/20th to
Gold both on points earned, it’s not happening). I am
safe at Hilton Silver because I have their Amex, but Gold is too far out of reach to
bother. Starwood Preferred Guest is my favorite program and I
will pull out all the stops to keep Platinum.
Right now I have 19 of my 25 needed stays booked or completed. This leaves me with 6 stays in 5 months, not
unreasonable, but it will be a stretch.
I have been bouncing hotels all year to increase my stay count without
needing more nights. I may be able to
grab another three stays from work travel, but the last three may come out of
my pocket. Not insurmountable, but the
$40 / night Four Points by me closed, so it may get expensive to make
Platinum. It’s still better than
finishing the year at a pathetic 23 nights.
|United Express ERJ-145 at MLI|
I’m doing fine for United 1K status this year. Flown and booked trips total about 96,000 EQM (elite qualifying miles), so I just need one or two work trips to close the gap and I am set. I did my United mileage math in June and booked two mileage run trips to SJU to make sure I get to where work travel can close the gap.
|W South Beach Miami Room Upgrade|
Monday, June 4, 2012
What is a point / mile worth? It’s a simple question with a complex answer. A mile or point in every program will have a different value too. Also, miles might not have any value until a certain number are collected. Ultimately the value is different for each person, but here are my answers and how I got to them.
|Jets Lined Up at FRA|
Miles and points are a currency that can be exchanged for goods and services. These goods can also be purchased for cash, making it a simple equation: Total Value / Total Points = $x.xx per point. If a flight to Europe is $1,000 or 50,000 miles, then each mile is worth 2c. The denominator will always be known, but the numerator gets fuzzy when you are buying awards that you would never buy with cash. A first class trip to Europe costs $13,000 or 135,000 miles; yielding almost 10c per mile in value! But I would never pay $13,000 to fly to Europe, so what is it really worth? Priceless is the best answer, but it doesn’t help with the math. I just total the perceived value of the experience and that’s the value. The means a first class award is more like 3-6c in value; still a good deal.
Do the math for yourself and use your answers to decide if to spend miles or cash. For example, I would use miles to book a $450 domestic round trip, but use cash for a $300 ticket. It’s a gray area for borderline redemptions. I’ll lower my threshold if my balance still has a large number of miles. Also, if your credit card doesn’t earn at least 2c in value for every dollar spent, just use the fee free Fidelity Amex. It has 2% cash back on every purchase and cash is accepted by any airline.
|Sun Rise at ORD|
SPG – 3c
Starwood Hotel (SPG) points are my favorite. With the Cash & Points redemption option, SPG points are consistently worth about 4c each, while full points awards run 2-3c. The SPG Amex (business card has the better sign up bonus) earns one point per dollar and two points for spending at SPG hotels. Points can also be transferred to about 30 airline programs with a 25% bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. This makes the SPG card better for earning American or Delta miles than the airlines’ own credit cards. SPG is my favorite program and currency because of its high value and flexibility.
|W South Beach Miami Hotel View|
Drawbacks: There aren’t SPG hotels everywhere and the top level hotels cost too many points to have any value. The cobranded credit card is an Amex and not everyone takes those (like my local liquor store). Mile awards with United and Southwest are poor value.
Minimum balance of 4,000 needed to achieve top value.
United – 1.75c
United miles are the best in the air. They are part of the Star Alliance (25 airlines and growing) and have a few other strategic alliances for miles redemption (Aer Lingus has great availability to Europe). Their reservations people are very good and the website can be used to find and book complicated award trips.
Minimum balance of 12,500 needed to achieve decent value.
|United Airlines Jets at EWR Sunrise|
American – 1.5c
American is a oneworld partner and doesn’t charge excessive fuel surcharges on awards. They allow one way bookings and have a decent award chart. American availability, coach and first, to most places not over the Atlantic, is second to none. Good off season discounts and a cheap oneworld partner chart (80,000 miles in first London to Australia). oneworld coverage is spotty and fuel surcharges pop up on European carriers.
Minimum balance of 12,500 needed to achieve decent value.
Delta – 1c
Delta has a three tier award chart and every time I want to redeem, my flight is in the second or third tier, destroying the value of my miles. They are a Sky Team partner and Virgin Australia partner, so It’s best to redeem miles with Air France/KLM or Virgin Australia. I wound up cashing in my miles for Economist subscriptions, 3,200 for a year or 3c in value. Not bad considering my options.
Minimum balance of 25,000 needed to achieve decent value or 3,200 for a year of The Economist.
|Not Every Trip Is Glamours|
Alaska Airlines – 1.6c
I credit my Delta and American flights to Alaska. Alaska isn't part of an alliance, but are partners with most airlines you would want to fly not in the Star Alliance. The award chart is downright cheap in places too. The flexible earning and redeeming of miles makes Alaska a great program to have miles in. One ways are allowed and there is a cash and points option. Partner awards have to be a single carrier plus Alaska to get you to the gateway city. Not Star Alliance good, but close. Other than flights and credit card spend (not a good deal), it’s hard to earn miles with them (SPG transfers mostly).
Minimum balance of 12,500 needed to achieve decent value.
US Airways – 1.7c
Star Alliance member with a reasonable award chart (more reasonable than UA to Asia in business). Only allow round trips. Can’t book partner awards online, so be prepared for an hour long call with reservations. Great deals on off peak awards. The Mileathon promotion runs annually and is a great way to stock up on miles. US Airways also runs frequent mileage purchase promotions. I constantly fear award chart devaluation.
Minimum balance of 25,000 needed to achieve good value.
BA is great for short one segment trips on American or LAN. BA has a distance based award chart, allows one ways, and has partner booking online. For long flights (less generous pricing), connections (each segment is charged, not total distance), premium cabins (x2 for business, x3 for first), or trips in Europe (steep fuel charges) don’t bother. Good deals are found mostly in the America’s. The scary high fuel charges take the value out of any BA, Iberia, of Finnair award.
Minimum balance of 4,500 needed to achieve decent value.
Other Carriers – 0-10c
Southwest will sell any seat at 60 points per dollar so they have a fixed value of 1.67c per point (not bad really). Other airline programs can be anywhere. My Frontier miles might only be good for a magazine subscription. Foreign carriers could have no value or tons of value, depending on if you need to use those airlines. If you are going somewhere only Emirates flies, then those miles will be worth much more. It’s too subjective for me to give a definitive value.
|Southwest and US Airways Jets at ABQ|
Sunday, January 1, 2012
- Easter Island
I booked the Sheraton Miami Airport hotel on SPG points because I would receive about $0.04 of value from each point. My personal SPG spend threshold is $0.03 of value per point. I was arriving in the evening and staying by the airport; getting to sleep sooner was more important than getting into town. The hotel shuttle came by in less than 5 minutes and it was about a 3 minute drive to the hotel. The check in process was fast and I was in my room less than 10 minutes from leaving the terminal.
I was upgraded to a suite, but I had never had one like this. It was two floors tall and a regular room wide. There was a spiral staircase connecting the lower living space with the upper bedroom. The room was a little dated, but everything worked and the bed was the Sheraton standard and wonderfully comfortable.
The club lounge was being renovated so I was given a voucher for the full breakfast buffet in the restaurant. The food was not worth the advertised price, but not a bad alternative to lounge food. There were also some snacks, drinks, and computers off the lobby for club level guests to use at any time. Nice set up really and much better than other what other hotels have provided when the lounge is closed. I liked this hotel and won’t hesitate to stay there again.
The best hotel of my trip was the W South Beach. I had a free resort night from SPG and this seemed like a great way to use it to save the $600 nightly rate. The W SoBe categorizes itself as a resort, so they do not honor all SPG policies like early check-in and late check-out. I did get a nice room close to the ocean and free wifi, so there were some benefits to being SPG Platinum. The room was amazing and the common areas were great. I also took advantage of the free Acura ride to go down to Smith and Wollensky’s. The driver was friendly and car was really nice too. It was the favorite part of my stay.
|W South Beach View|
The hotel is right on the beach and has a beach club set up for guests for a fee. There is also a small pool more for lounging around than swimming in. The W South Beach defiantly has more of a club feel than a resort feel, the quintessential W hotel if you read the brand marketing material. You can also buy residence, rooms like mine start at $750,000 + $800 a month.
|W South Beach Room|
The W South Beach did poorly on the human aspect. There were only two front desk people and always a line. Also, housekeeping didn’t do a good job of cleaning the balcony. The concierge staff just used City Search and didn’t have any insight or tips to share for good dinner spots (not the last of my concierge problems on this trip). The staff had a general arrogance to them that was rather off-putting. I've experienced similar attitude problems with W's, but never this bad and widespread. There are better hotels in the area in the same price bracket, but not a bad use of a free promotion night.