Starwood Preferred Guest Explained

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide was acquired by Marriott in 2016, becoming part of the largest hotel chain in the world. Both loyalty programs, Starwood and Marriott, are being run separately for now, but customers can transfer points back and forth and those with status get it matched with the other program.

Starwood, which includes popular brands like Westin, Sheraton, W, and others, has great hotels near Disneyland and Disney World like the Swan & Dolphin and Sheraton Park Anaheim. The Starwood Preferred Guest program, the rewards program for Starwood, is popular because of its simplicity and value for both hotel patrons and credit card holders alike.

This post is going to focus on the Starwood program, but those with Marriott points can transfer them into Starwood at a rate of 3:1, three Marriott points being worth one Starpoint. Here, we’re going to explore the primary ways to 1) earn Starpoints, 2) explore what those points are worth, and 3) talk about how to spend points for stays at Starwood properties.

Earning Points

Hotel Stays

Earning points through hotel stays with Starwood is probably the most straightforward and simple system out there. For the occasional hotel guest (Preferred Guest), you earn two points per dollar spent on hotel stays including money spent at the restaurants in the hotels. Gold Preferred Guest, which can be achieved with 10 paid stays or 25 nights, earns three points per dollar spent. Gold status can also be achieved through credit card spending, which we’ll cover later. Finally, Platinum Preferred Guest, which can be earned with 25 paid stays or 50 nights, also earns three points per dollar spent on hotel stays.

Gold Preferred Guests can also earn between 125 and 250 additional points at each paid stay depending on the hotel brand. Platinum Preferred Guests earn between 250 and 500. With Gold and Platinum status, you can also earn an extra Starpoint per dollar spent on Delta flights with a program called Crossover Rewards.

Starwood, like most hotels, offers seasonal promotions, giving you a chance to earn more points through paid stays. If you have some paid stays in your future, it’s worth your while to do some Googling and see what Starwood promotions may be out there.

Points per Dollar
Base Points 2
Gold Status Bonus Point 1
Platinum Status Bonus Point 1
Additional Welcome Points (w/ Status) Varies from 125 to 500

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred GuestStarwood, unlike other programs, has just one personal credit card. It also has a business credit card, which is almost identical. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express wins for its ultra simplicity and value. You earn two points per dollar spent at Starwood hotels and one point per dollar on everything else. Pretty simple.

Earn Gold Status

Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and you’ll earn automatic Gold status for that year and all of the following calendar year. In addition to the extra points you can get on paid stays as a Gold Preferred Guest, you get an upgrade to an “enhanced” room at check-in (corner room, higher floor, or better view). This can be a nice little perk if you’re staying at Sheraton Park Anaheim and want to see fireworks from your room at night.

Amex Offers

This card also gets you access to Amex Offers, a valuable program we use regularly. The way Amex Offers works is that American Express offers you a rebate for spending a certain amount of money with a retailer. For instance, last year American Express was offering a $30 rebate on purchases of $150 or more at Undercover Tourist, a discount theme park ticket broker. We used it to purchase tickets to Universal Studios in Orlando. From the website or your mobile app, you simply “Add to Card” the Amex Offer you want then purchase items of that amount or more through the retailer. A few weeks later, your rebate will be applied as a statement credit. We save a few hundred dollars a year using Amex Offers.

Amex Offers

Amex Offers helps you save hundreds throughout the year.

Extra Benefits

The SPG Amex comes with complimentary access to the Boingo wifi network, which has over 1,000,000 hotspots. It also incurs no foreign transaction fees if you decide to use this card when traveling abroad.

SPG Amex
Sign Up Bonus ($3,000 in first three months) 25,000
Points per $ spent on paid Starwood hotel stays 2
Points per $ on all other spending 1
Annual Fee (waived in first year) $95

Point Value

It’s important to know how you can earn points, but it’s also important to know what kind of value you can expect to receive when you go to redeem those points for hotel stays. For travel at Starwood hotels near Disney World or Disneyland, we’ve calculated an average value of 2.4 cents per Starpoint (4 times the value of a Hilton HHonors point).

Spending Points

Where Starwood makes earning points so simple and easy to understand, they complicate things a little on the redemption side. It’s not as complicated as Hilton, they just don’t make it as simple as they make earning points.

At your lowest level tiers, one and two, they have different rewards rates for weekdays and weekends (see chart below). But, they don’t stick to that system. For categories three and four, they go to a flat rate. Yay!

Then, for categories five, six, and seven, they switch to a completely different concept by varying the rate based on the season.The peak season is the high end of the range below, and the rest is the low end. They do give dates for peak seasons for all the hotels, which vary by hotel. Here is a link to the Category 5 List.  From there, you can change the drop down to search categories six and seven.

Hotel Category Starpoints per Night
1 2,000 (Fri-Sun); 3,000 (Mon-Thur)
2 3,000 (Fri-Sun); 4,000 (Mon-Thur)
3 7,000
4 10,000
5 12,000-16,000 (varies by season)
6 20,000-25,000 (varies by season)
7 30,000-35,000 (varies by season)

5th Night Free

One of the best perks with Starwood is the 5th night free on points for categories three and higher. This can make a huge difference because many families are looking to stay at Disneyland or Disney World for around five days. Getting that last night for free at the Dolphin, for instance, will save you 10,000 points. That’s pretty significant.

Transfer to Airlines

In addition, SPG lets you transfer 20,000 points at a time to more than 30 airline programs. And, when you do, they give you a 5,000 point bonus. So, if you transfer 20k of your SPG points to United for instance, they’ll give you an extra 5k (25k total) when they transfer to your United Mileage Plus account.


This program has solid value for anyone hoping to subsidize vacations with credit card rewards. Since Starpoints are worth 2.4 cents each, you’re essentially getting 2.4% back on all your purchases, which is pretty strong. Whether you travel to Hawaii, Europe, across the U.S., you’ll find vacation-worthy Starwood hotels. Factor in that Starwood has such well-positioned properties around Disneyland and Disney World, and this program becomes one that every Disney vacationer should strongly consider.

Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express

Apply Now

  • What kind of points: Hotel and Airline
  • Sign Up Bonus: 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months
  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived first year)
  • How to Earn Points: 2x at Starwood, 1x on everything else
  • Value of a Point: 2.4 cents
  • How to Spend Points: Redeem for hotels and transfer to airlines for flights
  • Our favorite Use: Stay at the Walt Disney World Dolphin