I generally advise readers to try to use their airline miles for flights and hotel points for free hotel stays. This is because although many loyalty programs offer do alternative redemption options, these generally offer a poorer value for your points.
There are of course some notable exceptions and I am going to look at a couple of those today. I will first explore various options across a number of different schemes and then take a look at how to earn sufficient points in the various programs I am going to discuss.
Long-term readers will know by now that I value Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points as my most valuable points currency.
Yet, the following method of utilising SPG points can sometimes be enough to tempt even an ardent hoarder of SPG points like myself.
SPG Moments is a scheme that allows members to use their points for a variety of concerts, sporting events and cultural experiences. Given how expensive tickets to some of these events would otherwise be, this can represent phenomenal value.
How does it work?
There are 4 categories of events:
- Music moments
- Sports moments
- Culinary moments
- Culture moments
There is 2 version of packages available on the SPG Moments site. There are some available at fixed prices. You are able to purchase these on the spot, provided you have sufficient points in your SPG account.
Then there are experiences that are sold on an auction basis. These will usually fetch a premium points-wise, however, there is the possibility of a good ‘un slipping under the radar that you can pick up with a relatively low bid.
In the UK for example, Starwood has a hospitality box at the O2 Arena in London, exclusively for the use of SPG members. Periodically, they will release a slug of availability for forthcoming events. These are generally priced at 15,000 SPG points for a pair of tickets. These packages also include complimentary snacks, apps and beverages which are provided within SPG’s Luxury Suite.
Any of you who have purchased tickets through the Xexec Tickets Concierge will be familiar with this sort of setup.
Am I limited to London?
Definitely not. I have only chosen the O2 by way of an example.
In fact, for much more variety it is a good idea to broaden your horizons beyond London and perhaps also search for events taking place while you are travelling through a particular city abroad or even something you have always wanted to attend but the cost of purchasing cash tickets is astronomical.
Take Formula 1 for example, many of the Grand Prix’s on the Formula 1 calendar worldwide offer packages via SPG moments. These will include hospitality days for practice sessions, qualifying and the race day itself. Tickets for the US Open tennis are also a regular feature.
Given that SPG also has Luxury Suites at Madison Square Garden, the STAPLES Center in L.A and the Mercedes-Benz Shanghai Arena, there are likely to be regular opportunities to use your points for otherwise sold-out or highly priced events.
The Hilton version operates in much the same way as the Starwood concept, in that you can redeem your loyalty points for packages either at a fixed price point or via bidding in an auction. Personally speaking, I find SPG’s offering far more consistent in terms of releasing appealing looking events on a regular basis. The Hilton scheme just seems to lack the same verve.
There is still some good value to extract from the Hilton scheme especially for those wishing to only redeem smaller amounts of points. I took a quick look yesterday and saw that you can currently redeem 10,000 HHonors points for Premium seats at certain Luna Cinema screenings this summer. These are showing as sold out on the official website. Not the best value per point perhaps, but having access to otherwise sold-out tickets is a great perk.
Another lucrative niche to look for with Hilton@Play is that when broken down, their packages often can be excellent value for just regular hotel stays.
To explain, let’s take a look at the following offer currently available in Beijing:
Discover the heartbeat of Chinese society with Conrad Beijing. You and a guest will take a private tour of the city in a BMW limousine to the Great Wall and explore the city’s backstreets on a unique urban rickshaw tour. View a 300 year old Tibetan temple and dine at a UNESCO Award-Winning restaurant. You’ll also dine at Chapter Gourmet Library and Schoolhouse. After you explore the city, relax in your Presidential Suite at Conrad Beijing with a 270-degree unparalled views of the picturesque Tuanjie Lake Park, CCTV tower and Beijing Skyline.
This package for two (2) includes:
-Personalized welcome amenity with one bottle of champagne
-Dinner at Chapter Gourmet Library by Executive Chef Bruno Anon
-Tour of the Great Wall via BMW limousine
-Lunch at Schoolhouse
-Rickshaw Tour of the Hutongs
-Dinner at Temple Restaurant Beijing
–Two (2) night stay in Presidential Suite at Conrad Beijing
The above package is currently at auction with the highest bid at 275,000 HHonors points.
Considering that an Executive Suite at this hotel can be had for a ludicrous 400,000 points (base level room would cost 120,000 points for 2 nights) – paying 275,000 points for a Presidential Suite that can go for more than £6,000 per night is a pretty decent deal. And that’s before you factor in the various meals, tours and amenities that are also included in the package.
How to earn SPG/Hilton points
So, it’s all very well discussing spending 15,000 SPG points here and 275,000 Hilton Honors points there, but how do you earn these points in significant quantities?
- Hotel stays – With the nature of the promotions that Hilton run, this may be possible, but unless you are making regular, expensive stays at Starwood hotels, you are unlikely to rack up huge amounts of SPG points this way.
- The Platinum Card – This card earns Membership Reward (MR) points which convert to SPG points at a 2:1 ratio. That means that the sign-up bonus from this card alone (30,000 MR points) is enough for a pair of tickets to the SPG Luxury Suite at the O2 to see the likes of Celine Dion and Ed Sheeran perform.
Alternatively, they convert at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton points – making your sign-up bonus worth 60,000 Hilton points.
My full review of this card from last week can be found here. The card application page is here
- The Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card – This is probably the best all-round option in the sense that this is a free card! You will earn 20,000 MR points when you sign-up and spend £2,000 in the first 3 months of holding the card. Those convert to 10,000 SPG points or 40,000 Hilton points.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card– You can earn 10,000 SPG points when you sign up and spend £1,000 in the first 3 months of holding the card.
I would still maintain that you will likely extract the best value by redeeming your airline miles for flights and hotel points for free stays. That said, given the awful value that alternate options of cashing out loyalty points usually offer, both of these schemes open up some interesting possibilities.
The available events and packages on both of these sites change regularly and so it is worth setting yourself a reminder to check back every so often to see when new events have been loaded.