I generally advise readers to try to use their airline miles for flights and hotel points for hotel stays.
That’s because although many loyalty programs do have alternative ways of ‘cashing out’ your points, these options generally offer a poorer value for your points.
There are some notable exceptions though and I’m going to look at some of those today.
Long-term readers will know by now that I attach great value to my Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points and don’t part with them easily.
Yet, the following method of utilising SPG points can sometimes be enough to tempt even a sworn hoarder of SPG points like me.
SPG Moments is a scheme that allows members to use their points for a variety of concerts, cultural experiences and sporting events. Given how expensive cash tickets to some of these events can sometimes be, this can offer you great value for your points.
How does it work?
There are 4 categories of events:
There are then two types of packages available on the SPG Moments site.
Some are 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. At the time of writing, I can see tickets available for upcoming concerts with Iron Maiden and Britney Spears among others.
These are generally priced at 15,000-20,000 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 readers who have purchased tickets through the Xexec Tickets Concierge before will be familiar with this sort of setup.
What other events are available?
Formula 1 is a great example. Many of the Grand Prix’s on the Formula 1 calendar offer packages via SPG Moments. These will include hospitality days for practice sessions, qualifying and race day itself.
Tickets for the US Open tennis are also a regular feature.
Given that SPG has Luxury Suites at Madison Square Garden, the STAPLES Center in L.A and the Mercedes-Benz Shanghai Arena as well as the O2 in London, there are regular opportunities to use your points for otherwise sold-out or highly priced events.
With the Marriott/SPG merger picking up speed and a new combined loyalty program launching in August, it’s unlikely that we’ll have separate SPG/Marriott Moments sites for too much longer.
Indeed, it’s been announced that the new platform will feature some 8,000 experiences to redeem points for + a further 110,000 new Moments experiences that will be available for cash purchases.
But while we do, we should take advantage of the various arbitrage opportunities.
For one, they don’t both offer the exact same experiences and also seem to have different availability. Prices can also vary, with identical experiences sometimes being cheaper on one of the sites.
For example, you can still purchase tickets to see Katy Perry at the O2 this summer – this is currently sold out on the SPG Moments site.
Or tickets to Wimbledon:
There’s also a whole range of other culinary and lifestyle experiences.
The best thing to do is head over to the Marriott Moments website and have a look around to see if anything catches your eye.
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.
Generally speaking, the concerts, in particular, seem especially expensive.
The above Justin Timberlake concert, for example, is priced at 150,000 points for two tickets. That’s super expensive. Bear in mind those same points are worth 1.5 nights at a top-tier Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad hotel!
The value of packages
One 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 Queenstown, New Zealand:
This package for two (2) includes:
-60-minute KJet Boat experience
-Skyline Gondola and Luge experience
-Twilight Wine & Craft Beer Tour
-Intimate Five-Course dining experience
-60-minute couple’s massage at eforea spa
-Three night stay in a Deluxe Lakeview Plus Room at Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, including daily breakfast buffet at Wakatipu Grill
The above package is currently at auction with the highest bid at 175,000 HHonors points.
Considering that a base level room at this hotel would cost 76,000 Hilton points per night. A Deluxe Lakeview room appears to cost about 90,000 points a night. With a 3-night stay included in the package – you’re already coming out ahead. And that’s before you consider the value of the rest of the package.
I still maintain that you will generally get the best value 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 normally offer, there is some decent value to be had by using sites such as Marriott & SPG Moments and Hilton@Play.
Availability on all of these sites changes regularly and so it’s worth setting yourself a reminder to check back every so often to see when new events have been loaded.