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Starwood Hotels: Earning Starwood Points (1/5)

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–Aloft – Element – Four Points – Le Meridien – Sheraton – Westin – W – St. Regis–

The following is the start of a five part series covering points earned for Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) hotels. The following was written by my brother, an avid travel hacker who has qualified for Platinum Elite Status in the SPG program.

Introduction

FI Fighter has asked me to share some of my Travel Hacking tips for hotels! I have extensive experience with staying in Starwood Properties: Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin, W, St. Regis, and The Luxury Collection.

I’ll cover the following:

  1. Earning Starwood Points
  2. Redeeming Starwood Points
  3. The Value of a Starwood Point
  4. Starwood Elite Status
  5. My Starwood Strategy

Earning Starwood Points

Gift Cards and Bluebird:

ScreenHunter_28 Jul. 02 00.17

I earn Starwood points by buying Gift Cards with an AMEX SPG credit card ($1 = 1 Starwood point).

I pay $3 ($2.95 to be exact for Simon VISA Gift Cards) for each $500 in gift cards, and then I unload the $500 gift cards at Walmart into my Bluebird account.

There is a maximum of $5,000 that you can load into Bluebird in one month.

Then, I use Bluebird to pay off the $5,000 AMEX SPG credit card statement.

At the end of the month, 5,000 Starwood points cost me $30 (10x$3), which is enough for a free hotel night!

The end result is that I’m buying Starwood points at a cost of $.006 ($30/5,000pts), or .6 cents per Starwood point.

The goal is to earn the Starwood points for cheap, but redeem them for much more.

Buy Low. Sell High.

AMEX SPG Credit Cards:

ScreenHunter_28 Jul. 02 00.25

The fastest way to rack up tons of Starwood points is to open both:

  1. AMEX SPG Personal Credit Card
  2. AMEX SPG Business Credit Card

The standard offer is 25,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 in 6 months. The $5,000 spend can be finished quickly by simply purchasing $500 gift cards as mentioned above. After spending $5,000, you will receive 30,000 Starwood points for only $30 out of pocket.

$30/30,000 = $.001 or .1 cents per Starwood point!

Share Starwood Points:

ScreenHunter_47 Jul. 02 11.38

Starwood allows you to transfer Starwood points between two accounts – as long as both the receiver and the giver share the same household address.

This is a great way to pool together points!

You could sign up your wife, husband, parents, siblings, etc.

This becomes even more lucrative if each individual signs up of both AMEX SPG credit cards!

2x, 3x, 4x, 5x Bonuses:

ScreenHunter_48 Jul. 02 11.46

Once you become an SPG member, every $1 that you spend at the hotel will qualify for an extra bonus!

  • Regular Starwood Member: 2 Starwood points per $1
  • Gold or Platinum Member: 3 Starwood points per $1

But, if you pay with an AMEX SPG card you can get an additional 2 Starwood points!

  • Regular Starwood Member: 4 Starwood points per $1
  • Gold or Platinum Member: 5 Starwood points per $1

Tip: There are foreign transaction fees with the AMEX SPG Credit Cards. Therefore, don’t use them to pay for hotel charges overseas.

Is It Worth It?

If I can generate 5,000 Starwood points in one month with Bluebird, then I can accumulate 60,000 Starwood points in one year. Enough points for over 20 hotel nights!

If I have two Bluebird cards, then I can accumulate 120,000 Starwood points in one year. 😉

Starwood is my favorite hotel loyalty program, and once you reach Platinum Elite Status, it becomes even more lucrative.

Stay tuned… More to come!

ScreenHunter_49 Jul. 02 11.50

About the Author: Living Proof (14 Posts)

Living Proof is an avid real estate investor with a strong case of Wanderlust. He enjoys talking about his crazy lifestyle of collecting frequent flyer miles and hotel points. Within the next year, he hopes to declare early FI and to travel the world!


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{ 29 comments… add one }
  • RefinerrNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 9:12 am

    Thanks for the great post! I’m excited for the next one!

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 10:48 am

      Refinerr,

      Thanks for the feedback, and I hope this series helps you out!

  • Dave @ The New York BudgetNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 10:40 am

    Awesome – this is the exact kind of specific travel hacking post that I need (and that’s so difficult to actually find). Thanks!

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 10:49 am

      Dave,

      I’m glad I could help! This travel hacking game is really lucrative =)

  • Mr. FrugalwoodsNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 1:22 pm

    Starwood is a great brand, and starpoints can be ridiculously lucrative!

    When I was traveling a lot for work I was plat, and wow did they treat me well.

    I’ve redeemed starpoints with a lot of success in countries where the exchange rate is poor. There’s nothing like 5th night free in the center of London, paid with points! I typically redeemed at around 3.2 cents / point, which is pretty decent. A lot more if you consider the frequent upgrades when I had status. 🙂

    Looking forward to your series!

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 10:52 am

      Mr. Frugalwoods!

      Yes, I agree, Starwood is a great brand, and with many hotels world wide!
      Getting 3.2 cents/point is really good! Was this mainly in Europe?
      Part 3 covers how the value of each Starpoint shoots through the roof once upgrades and club lounge access is factored in 😉

      • Mr. FrugalwoodsNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 11:27 am

        Yep, this was in western Europe. Especially with the no blackout dates, there are some real deals to be had.

  • Kathy @ RentalRealitiesNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 1:22 pm

    What a great idea for a blog series – looking forward to the rest. 🙂

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 10:54 am

      Kathy,

      I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

  • WilliamNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 5:27 pm

    Great ideas! Having issues buying gift cards (Master Card, Visa, American Express, etc.) at Wal-Mart with a credit card. They say they can’t accept credit cards to buy these. Any one else having these same issues? If so what is the work around?

  • YoungNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 6:40 pm

    It would be nice if we can do the same, since we are boomers that who are about go on a trip a lot. I had my husband to read this blog to see if he is interested. My hats off to you young savvy guys. My head spins, every time I read this kind of blog–very informative and educational. Thank you for sharing knowledge that we can really use.

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 11:01 am

      Young,

      The best advice is to take it slow and only do what is comfortable for you.
      In time, you will get the hang of it, and it will become second nature.
      I’ve done this for a long long time, and the rewards are totally worth the time to learn!

  • The First Million is the HardestNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 6:57 pm

    I love my Starwood Card, the signup bonus they give out is pretty huge too. Took a free weekend trip just with those points!

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 11:03 am

      First Million,

      Yes, the AMEX SPG personal card is awesome! Now it’s time to get the AMEX SPG business card! Get that signup bonus again!

  • Living At HomeNo Gravatar July 7, 2014, 7:53 pm

    That’s a pretty cool way to earn some points! Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Henry

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 11:04 am

      Thanks Henry! Give it a try, and enjoy the game! But I have to warn you, it can get pretty addicting!

  • RichNo Gravatar July 8, 2014, 9:33 pm

    The Bluebird Walmart method seems to be getting harder and harder becoming more of a hassle. First off you need to be able to buy gift cards with a cc and live near a Walmart. Walmart in itself is a hassle. There is always a long line, and now you can no longer use Vanilla gift cards. Also, some Walmart’s are cracking down not letting you use any gift cards at all to load to BB and if you find one that does “they may say only gift cards with your name on them”. Just recently at my go to Walmart they stopped allowing loads at the cashier and said money center only for loads. Then depending on the cashier, they may only let you load 1 or 2 cards, they get annoyed when you try to load more then 2 gift cards cards or 2 BB cards in one swoop. Don’t even get me started on the Kiosk, I have 5 Walmart’s with Kiosks within a 30mi radius and all 5 are either disconnected or out of service. They never work, forcing you to go to the money center. Don’t get me wrong this way of earning points can be very lucrative, I am just pointing out the fact that it can be very time consuming, frustrating, and harder then it seems.

    • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 11:11 am

      Rich,

      I totally agree! The game is getting harder and harder. Here in the Bay Area, none of the Kiosks are working……The money center is a no go. The only way to load is through the cash registers. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two Walmarts that provide no hassle. I simply show up before 9pm, load $1k in two transactions, and then wait until the clock hits 9pm. At 9pm, the system resets to a new day (12am EST), and I can load another $1k.

      Buying gift cards is also super easy here, and with no headaches.

      Of course there are other ways to do this: Amazon Payment, Evolve Money, and Target AMEX. But, Walmart is still the most lucrative for now.

      Once you find a friendly Walmart, it’s totally worth the time invested! The challenge is finding one….

  • FI FighterNo Gravatar July 9, 2014, 1:38 pm

    Rich,

    Yes, this game is always changing and I guess that’s part of the “fun” and challenge of it.

    When Vanilla Reloads were still working at CVS, that wasn’t very straightforward either. Some stores took credit cards, while others didn’t. Some stores had daily limits, but if you were lucky, you could buy $5k in one swoop.

    Sooner or later, this will probably stop working at Walmart altogether. Then, we simply move on and find the next thing… the game will live on.

    All the best!

  • EvanNo Gravatar July 10, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Think I can do this exact same thing with my gold amex?

  • Living ProofNo Gravatar July 11, 2014, 12:35 am

    Evan,

    Yes! You can do the same thing with any credit card.
    All you need to do is locate gift cards with the lowest fee, buy them, and unload them to Bluebird at Walmart. This is most lucrative when you’re trying to meet minimum spend to unlock the credit card bonus!

    http://www.fifighter.com/travel/travel-hacking/2014/05/how-to-load-debit-gift-cards-at-walmart-visa-simon-mall-etc/

  • beepeeNo Gravatar July 20, 2015, 1:53 am

    Thanks for great info! Just wondering if this bluebird method at walmart still works (a year later)? :))

  • cindyNo Gravatar August 17, 2015, 7:57 pm

    ok, I think I am tracking you except for this
    you stated….
    “If I have two Bluebird cards, then I can accumulate 120,000 Starwood points in one year. ????”
    I signed up for Bluebird card tonight, but how do I accumulate SPG points with Bluebird cards?

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