Yesterday, I received an email from the American Airlines AAdvantage program with an offer of 1,000 bonus AAdvantage miles for weekend stays at a Starwood property. Having obtained an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card earlier this year, I have been focusing more of my stays with Starwood brands, so this offer naturally got my attention. However, when I looked at rates for later this fall, I quickly found this may not be a good promotion if you are eligible for discounted rates.
I searched for rates at the W Fort Lauderdale for a weekend in November. Clicking through the link in the email, the search included the promo rate "AIRPRO.". As I have mentioned before, I am a AAA member so I always check for AAA rates which are usually significantly discounted even when permitting free cancellation. On the SPG search page, you can do this by simply ticking the "Automobile Association" box. You can, of course, add other rate options to a search.
If you are going to stay at a beachfront property in Fort Lauderdale, FL, you may as well have an oceanfront view, so I looked at the rates for the W's "Fabulous" room. You have to love the quirkiness of how W names their rooms - "Wonderful," "Spectacular," "Fabulous," etc.!
Looking at the search results, I quickly saw that there was a significant premium for the AAdvantage promotional rate compared to the AAA rate. The standard Automobile Association rate is $429 per night while the AAdvantage promotion rate is $477 per night. Both rates allow changes and cancellations without penalty until the same date. This means that you are effectively paying $48/night for 1,000 miles. The fine print states that a two-night weekend stay is required to receive the bonus points making for a total price of $98 for 1,000 miles. Since you can buy 1,000 miles from American Airlines for only $29.50, this is a terrible value if you are a AAA member! In fact, by the time you factor in the additional taxes on the higher rate, you could almost buy 4,000 AAdvantage miles for the extra cost of a two-night stay using the promo rate! Not a good deal! I checked some other properties and found varying premiums for "AIRPRO" rates over AAA, but in no case did I see an example where you would benefit from booking the higher promotional rate.
Of course, not everyone is a AAA member. If you normally book non-refundable rates, you would still be better off skipping the promotion as you would pay more than $30 extra to move to the promo rate. Only if you don't qualify for any discounts would it be wise to use the "AIRPRO" rate code as the promo and standard flexible prices are identical.
This example highlights why it's always best to read the terms of any promotion and compare what you get to other options. Only after verifying that you are getting additional value for the same or less cost should you take advantage of a promotion.