Do Starwood Friends and Family Rates always save you money on your hotel booking?
WhatareStarwoodFriends and Family Rates?
Starwood Hotels & Resorts offers employees' friendsand family members discounted rates for non-business leisure travel at properties around the world. Now that Starwood and Marriott are merging, we thought it was time to see what's changed sinceour last post aboutStarwood friends and family rates and we'll also try a dummy booking to see how much money you can save by using these rates.
The Explore program (formerly known as StarHOT when booking with Starwood) and theExplore Friends program (formerly known asStarFRND on Starwood) can be used as follows.
The Explore rate...
Explore rates canonly be used by Starwood or Marriott associates (employees)and their immediate family members. Whereas in the past, immediate family members included spouse, domestic partner, children,sibling, parents or parents-in-law, they now also include the parents of a domestic partner.
Explore rates are just$49, $69 or $89, depending on the property or dates. AnExplore reservationcan only be booked by the employee,by logging onto 'Bridge', so you'll need your employee username and password. By booking the hotel this way, an automatic signature is generated by the HR Service Center, so no more waiting in person for HR to complete a request.
You can still check the cost of a stay at this rate here on the Explore program page before logging onto Bridge, which is especially useful for family members to check themselves before the employee then books the stay.
The Explore Friends rate...
Explore Friends rates can only be used atparticipating hotels by associates' friends and extended family members, so relatives who are not already eligible for the usual Explorerates.
An Explore Friends reservation can be made on theprogram page which you can find here, so it doesn't have to be booked by the employee. Friends and family members using this ratemust present an approved 'Explore Reservation Authorization Form' when checking in.Thisforms needs to be completed in advance by the referring Starwood associate; without this, you may well be charged thebest available rate of the day instead.
How much can I save withStarwoodFriends and Family Rates?
To compare the Explore rates with the Best Flexible Rate for your hotel booking, youcan firstsearch your destination and dates on the Starwood site. You can also just use either the Explore or Explore Friends program page to search as both of these display the alternative rates too.
We selected the Westin St Louisfor our dummy booking, but it couldn't find any available dates at either Explore rate, so we tried theSheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel St. Louis and no luck there either. However, the SPG Category 2Four Points by Sheraton St. Louis Fairview Heights worked and cameout at $129for the non-member Flexible Rate and $126for the Starwood Preferred Guestmember Flexible Rate:
The same hotel booking usingthe Exploreratewas$74 plus taxes, so $84 total, which is $42 cheaper than the SPGmember Flexible Rate, saving you 33%. The same booking with the Explore Friends rate was$103plus taxes, so $117 total, which is $9 cheaper than the SPGmember Flexible Rate, saving you 7%.
As Explore rates are said to be$49, $69 or $89, it may seem odd that our rate was $74 pre-tax or $84 including tax, but the rateincludes a $5 donation to the Starwood Associate Relief Fund.
What else do I need to know about Starwood Friends and Family Rates?
While using either the Explore rate or the Explore Friends rate will always save you money on your Starwood hotel booking, the two rates are clearly stated as only to be usedby full or part-time Starwood or Marriott associates or friends or family of Starwood or Marriott associates.
If you are an SPG member, you may not earn points or stay credit or receive elite benefits by using these rates, so you should always weigh up the monetary saving with any potential lossbefore booking.