Category Archives: SPG

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.

Thailand 2014: Le Meridien Chiang Mai

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


Le Meridien Chiang Mai is a Category 2 SPG property, which means that weekday nights go for 4,000 points per night, while weekend nights are 3,000 points per night. They’re also known for having great treatment of SPG Platinums, with most Platinums reporting receiving an upgrade to a corner suite.

The hotel isn’t too far from the train station. It’s definitely walkable if it’s not too hot out and you don’t have much luggage. While the first touts right outside the train station wanted 150 baht to take us, we walked just outside the first ring of people and found a songtaew (Chiang Mai’s answer to transit) to take us for 30 baht per person. A regular trip should only cost 20 baht per person, but we did have luggage, so I didn’t raise a fuss. The driver did end up waiting a little bit longer to see if he could fill up his truck with more passengers, but we departed within a couple of minutes.

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

While I’m personally not an SPG Platinum, I do know people who are, and I may or may not have used this to my advantage to get upgraded to an executive suite. The room was nice and spacious, with a separate living area, large bedroom, giant walk-in closet, and huge bathroom with separate toilet, tub, and shower. The only downside to the room I found was the numerous light switches, which were somewhat hard to navigate (although I guess provided better customization?).

Living room of suite

Living room of suite

View of entrance to suite

View of entrance to suite

Bedroom of suite

Bedroom of suite

Giant bathroom and tub

Giant bathroom and tub

View from the suite

View from the suite

We received a welcome amenity of macarons and fruit, and I know you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but these macarons were easily the worst macarons I’ve ever eaten in my life. They were stale and hard and dense. I also found the assortment of fruit to be odd given that we were in Thailand.

Welcome amenity

Welcome amenity

Since we had executive lounge access, we decided to check out the lounge for afternoon tea. There was a typical assortment of snacks and desserts, and the lounge wasn’t crowded when we visited.

Snacks for afternoon tea

Snacks for afternoon tea

The gym was on the smaller side but had a decent assortment of equipment. There were a number of hotel guests using the hotel pool, but we stayed out of it during our stay.

Gym equipment

Gym equipment

Gym equipment part 2

Gym equipment part 2

Swimming pool

Swimming pool

The hotel has done a good job of staying busy, as there were always tons of people in the lobby. This unfortunately meant that you had to wait a long time to speak to anyone at the front desk and that breakfast was quite crowded, even very early in the morning. I chose to take breakfast in the downstairs restaurant for the first two days, but then I decided I was fine with the lesser selection in the executive lounge and ate in the much less crowded lounge for the remaining days. I thought the best part about breakfast was the noodle bar, which is perhaps a little odd conceptually for westerners, but I loved having a savory bowl of noodle soup for breakfast.

Breakfast pastries

Breakfast pastries

Breakfast hot food

Breakfast hot food

More breakfast options

More breakfast options

Noodle bar

Noodle bar

More breakfast food

More breakfast food

A lot of people like Le Meridien because of its location in the night bazaar. The night bazaar quite literally surrounds the hotel, but I found the night bazaar to be underwhelming and a little depressing compared to the Saturday and Sunday walking streets. The location for the hotel is good, though, and it’s within walking distance of a lot of good food.

Overall, I enjoyed this hotel a lot. The location is good, the price was cheap (3,000 points for a weekend night is a steal), and you can’t beat the price if you’re a Platinum member and are going to get an executive suite. While the service in the executive lounge was good, I was not impressed with the service at the front desk, and the fact that you almost always had to wait to talk to someone was not helpful.