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Most people tend to spend loyalty points in the currency they are earned in for whatever the chain offers: so people will redeem Avios for flights on British Airways or IHG points for hotel nights at InterContinentals or Holiday Inns.
Typically this offers the best value, but there are some circumstances where this is not always the case!
SPG Moments offers members the chance to redeem hotel points for the SPG chain on experiences such as gigs, sports events and special events. They have a corporate box at the O2 in London which they release to members for certain events; one of which was Justin Bieber, and I was lucky enough to get hold of one of the 6 pairs of tickets available.
At the point of these SPG tickets being released, the gig was sold out!
The booking process is really easy – log on to the website, choose the event you want and pay the points. You of course have to have the points in your account, but they can (for example) be transferred at a rate of 2:1 from American Express Membership Rewards points into SPG Points.
This is exactly what I did about three weeks ago when I saw that there were new concerts available on the website. I’m not necessarily a Justin Bieber fan, but I wanted to try out the experience and he was the best of the choices on offer on dates that were convenient. I had to call up Amex to link my SPG account to enable a points transfer and then I transferred 50,000 MR points. I was told it could take up to 15 days for the two processes to complete but it only took 3 days.
Once confirmed, I got a few emails from SPG asking for the name of my guest, giving us more details and then sending the tickets. It was all very smooth. I decided to book into the InterContinental at the O2 instead of schlepping home in the crowd after (more on that later).
On arrival at the O2 we went round to the B entrance, reserved for VIP/Suites entry.
Despite the large numbers of people it was very quick and we were through in a few moments.
We went up the escalator and round to Suite 327 – the SPG box.
We were greeted by Dani, the hostess, and a barman, and told to make ourselves at home. There is the ‘inside’ lounge area and then the ‘outside’ arena area.
Dinner was served and there was a great choice for the 14 of us in the box; a vegetarian curry with couscous, a chicken dish, and then salmon with gnocchi, kale and peas – it was delicious.
On the side there was a very tasty beetroot salad:
Desert was an Oreo cheesecake.
There were two warm up acts before the main event and they were fine – but nothing compared to Justin. It was amazing how empty the arena was before 20:30 and suddenly it filled up with the “10 minutes to go” call!
Photos never do it justice, but it was a great view, with an incredible performance and a wonderful evening. The drinks were free-flowing throughout the night – a choice of beers, wine, soft drinks and water. The food was also available throughout, but I don’t think anyone was eating past 19:30.
The final benefit of being in the suite was that the queues for the toilets and the lifts to the exit were small. Despite the arena holding 15,000 people, we were able to go from box to hotel in less than 5 minutes!
2 tickets to the concert cost me 25,000 SPG points, which I got by transferring 50,000 Membership Rewards points. On the day I booked, I tried to find similar tickets, and the closest available in terms of hospitality were selling for £1,200 each on StubHub, making my 25,000 SPG points worth £2,400! Clearly this is not an accurate figure as it is sort of a “money-can’t-buy” experience. To put it another way to reflect the true value, those 50,000 MR points, turned into Avios, could have got me 5 return flights to Nice which would probably save me about £120 each trip. Alternatively, 24,000 SPG points would get me 7 nights in the Le Meridien Chiang Rai, the only 5* resort in the area which would cost about £500.
Ultimately, using your points for something like this is not the way to get a good ‘point per penny’ valuation, but it is a great way to experience something that you couldn’t or wouldn’t be willing to spend money on.