Why I Think SPG Points Are Overrated

The SPG Amex card has long been a staple in the travel hacking world. People love their SPG points, as well as their Starwood status. SPG points are one of the hardest points currencies to accrue given that you can only earn points either by staying in hotels or earning 1x on the credit card, but people laud the numerous airline transfer partners of the program and the fact that 20k SPG points gets you 25k miles. Thus, many say that SPG points are some of the most valuable points around.

SPG points are definitely valuable, and I would happily take them if someone were to offer them to me. The category 1 and 2 hotels can often be an incredible redemption value (e.g. Le Meridien Chiang Mai), and the flexibility in terms of airline partner transfers can be very helpful. But I don’t think it’s correct to think of earning 1 SPG point as equivalent to earning 1.25 airline miles, which is one of the reasons why people love the program.

You only get the transfer bonus if you transfer SPG points in increments of 20k points. This is a huge drawback in my eyes. 20k SPG points is a lot of points for the layperson to earn (of course, if you’re actively MSing a lot per month, 20k SPG points is nothing, but at that point, you’d probably prefer cash back to points). You can get 25k-30k as a sign-up bonus, and then that’s about it. If you travel for work frequently, you can supplement your points there by staying in their hotels, but otherwise, it’s a long slog to get to your next 20k increment.

And since you only get the bonus if you transfer in 20k increments, I imagine that a lot of people don’t want to transfer unless they have 20k points to transfer at a time, which means that their points will likely sit there unused when they could be put to better use. The numerous airline partners is one of the biggest benefits of the program, as you can “top off” a program when you’re close to an award, but the structure of the incentive means that people probably don’t use it this way as often as they should.

Yes, SPG points are valuable, but given how difficult they are to accrue as compared to other transferable points currencies like Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Thank You Points, I don’t think it’s right to take the 25% transfer bonus to airline partners at face value.

12 thoughts on “Why I Think SPG Points Are Overrated

  1. Al

    still dont see your argument of why they are overrated. you solely talk about spg pts from the airline transfer perspective, which is a bad deal anyway. those in the know, know that spg pts are better used for spg hotel award redemptions. and the fact that you mention how tough they are to accrue, should make them more valuable.

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  2. Kenny

    Definitely agree, especially since I don’t stay in their hotels. I have 30k pts and thought about spending enough to get up to 40k to get a 10K bonus on transfers, but it’s hard with so many other more lucrative options to put my spend on. Essentially it’s 1x 10k spending until I do hit that threshold. Unless I’m shooting for a big signup bonus, it’s hard to stick with just 1x spend, especially 10K worth…

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  3. 100K

    I love SPG points but only for hotels. Yes, some of us can’t accrue lots of points bc we use our spending on getting that next card. (first world problems, I realize) I do like the Amex offers and use them (only if I want the item) to help against that $65/now $95 fee. I still haven’t decided if I’ll keep the card but probably will keep it.

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  4. Bill

    Personally, I love that you share with others that SPG points aren’t the way to go…because the fewer people who work to manufacture or accumulate SPG points, the less likely there will be another SPG devaluation!

    I am SPG Plat and often stay at SPG hotels, obviously (as well as a lot of Hyatt and some Marriott hotels). I normally use my SPG points for SPG stays.

    However, I just used SPG points to transfer to AA (with the 25% SPG bonus + the 20% AA bonus now for SPG transfers) so that I could ticket business award tickets to Tahiti. With only AA-Air Tahiti Nui and Air France-Delta being the only miles available for award travel to Tahiti, that’s a very good deal with AA–and far fewer miles required than with Delta/AF for the same tickets.

    You may not like the 25% bonus only being applied by using 20k SPG points, but if you’re going for airfare, you’re almost ALWAYS going to be transferring more than 20k miles anyway. Any other general points transfers (Amex MRs, Chase URs, Citi TYs) don’t give any bonus at all. So your critique seems to obviate that earning 1 SPG point for every $1 actually can net you 1.25 miles for any of the 30+ airlines that SPG transfers can be made to. That’s more than any of the other transfer point currencies by far.

    Swing away at SPG all you like. It’s the only currency that transfers to the same foreign ones as the other currencies AND to American.

    The biggest challenge with SPG point value isn’t any of what you described…but is the longer delay in transferring the points to any airline. Fortunately, it takes about 4 days for the SPG-AA transfer to take place, so not too bad. But other airline transfers can take longer–and that is a cogent reason to be more careful about using SPG transfers to airlines.

    That being said, SPG and Hyatt are the only 2 hotel currencies that require 30-35k for their top properties. Hilton, Marriott, Ritz Carlton all require 80-90k per night for their top properties (or more)…so 1 SPG point effectively is worth far more than 1 Marriott or Hilton or RC point for that reason alone.

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  5. Rick b

    I would disagree with most responses here. SPG points are usually LESS valuable for the hotels, than for flights. I have been looking into using SPG points for free nights and over the past few years, I have rarely ever seen a situation where you get more than 2 cents per point compared to cash rate for the room. It happens sometimes with Cat 1-3 properties, and can happen with ultra high end hotels (like W in Maldives), but that’s rare.

    In most cases, it’s best to just use a 2% cashback card across the board, unless you’re someone who often stays in SPG hotels for work.

    On the other hand, 80k spg points, transferred to Alaskan, can get you anywhere on Emirates 1st suites. Also 40k SPG points is almost enough for a biz flight to Asia on Cathay. And those are not $1600 or $800 tickets if bought with cash.

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  6. tjp74

    I guess i have a very unique situation. we own a small business and purchase $30-$40k worth of stuff from business costco. as you all know, costco only accept amex for now. This is what made our trip on Emirates A380 for family of 4 possible earlier this year (SPG->Alaska) and another trip later this year on JAL first for 4 all the way, SPG->AA.

    but even without the huge business spending requirement on amex only, I wouldn’t know what credit card that earns 1.25 AA or Alaska miles on every day spending. Sure I have cards that earns over 2% cash back but I value 1.25 AA/Alaska miles more than 2% cash as my redemption value on AA on JAL trip was close to 10c/mile.

    yes, 20K transfer block size can be a problem and the fact that transfer isn’t often instant is very frustrating (nail biting) but with occasional bonus transfer promotions and nights and fly promotions, to me it’s got to be one of best cards out there.

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  7. faqthiss

    Obviously controversial material meant as click bait. Of course SPG points are among the most if not the most for travel out there. To use for airlines is a fools game. Someone who cannot get more than 2 cents per point is not trying hard. This was a not an article worth reading. The more you write crap like this the less credibility you have. Let’s move on to material worth reading.

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  8. Christian

    You raise some valid points. From another perspective, I have about 8k in uncategorized spending for my business expenses that accept Amex. Given the sheer versatility of SPG points, they make the most sense to me. I have very little business travel, so need to get status and points by spending, credit card signups, bonuses, mattress runs, and included status on various cards. I just completed the Hyatt Diamond Challenge, so that should hold me through next year. After that, I’ll get SPG Platinum, having lots of points to use the status. I’ll gradually draw down my points balance while maintaining premium status, since SPG counts award nights toward status. I would consider transferring SPG points, but only at great need.

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  9. Billy

    Your statements are true. But, in general, any reward program maximizes value when you carefully redeem “in house”. Southwest Rapid Rewards points are a good example. You get great value when you redeem for travel well in advance. But for travel the next day? You take a big hit. And if you redeem points for gift cards if you are a CHASE cardmember? Even worse. All travel reward programs are great. But mainly when you keep redemptions primarily to the company offering you those points/miles.

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  10. PointsPinnacle

    If i were to win 100,00 points/miles and i could chose which program to take those points/miles in it would hands down be starwood points.

    Best uses to me:
    1- transfer to airlines for redemptions on F tix.
    2- redeem for category 6 spg properties ,one week stays using the fifth night free.

    Thats pretty much it for us.

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  11. Henry

    This is an excellent post as the responses are quite good. I am sitting on over 850 K SPG points which I will judiciously apply for both hotel and airline awards. Unlike other brands, particularly Hilton Honors points which are the Weimar Republic equivalent, I will gladly benefit from my SPG investment as the best in this pursuit.

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  12. thewhitezone

    Maybe overrated isn’t the word so much as not worth the effort. It is a slog accumulating spg points. I can get bonus categories out of travel, groceries, telcom… what’s left in the unbonused spend column. Barely three-figures in monthly spend in my case.

    Hyatt is easier to leverage for redemption value so it’s hard to see why your 1x spend shouldnt go on UR cards instead of SPG.

    I carry my spg card in my wallet all the time but use it so infrequently that I wonder if I’d miss it

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