Do Starwood Starfriend rates always save you money on your hotel booking?
What are Starwood Starfriend rates?
Starwood Hotels & Resorts employees' friends can get discounted rates for personal leisure travel (though not for business travel) at participating properties all over the world. Starfriend rates can also be used by relatives who are not eligible for StarHOT rates. For years, the friend rates were named Starfriend (or StarFRND) but since Starwood and Marriott merged, they were renamed to Explore Friends.
Unlike Explore rates for immediate family members, the Explore Friends program doesn't have set discounted rates, so the cost depends on the property and your dates.
The Explore Friends program in more detail...
These rates can be booked by the Starwood or Marriott employees' friends themselves, usingthe Explore Friends program page. However,it states there that the rate is only to be used by friends of Starwood associates and that you'll needto obtain an Authorization Form from the associate to show at check-in. While it isn't always asked for at reception, it may well be enforced and you could end up paying full rack rate if you travel without the form.
How much can I save with the Starwood Starfriend rate?
To compare the Explore Friends rate with the usual rate for your hotel booking, enter your destination city or hotel hereand add your dates and number of guests.
We searched Starwood properties in or near Austin, Texas, and selected the well-rated SPG Category 4Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center for our dummy booking for later this year. It came out to just $127plus taxes and charges when using the Associate Explore Friends Rate, with the estimated grand total at$143.74.
While searching for your hotel booking using the Explore Friends program, it shows you the usual cost for the same stay as an SPG member booking the prepaid rate, and in this case it would be $156 before taxes and fees, or the grand total of an estimated $176.08.
So booking the Explore Friends rate for $143.74 total including taxes and charges means you save$32.34, or 18% offthis particular one-night stay. You can actually often find much bigger savings, depending on your property choice and dates, so don't assume that you'll always only get 18% off your stay. For instance, when we checked this rate for a stay in 2015, we got 62% off the lowest prepaid rate!
What else do I need to know about using Starwood Starfriend rates?
You can book using the Explore Friends rate to include a $3 per night donation to the TakeCare Relief Fund, so this one-night stay would total around $147 instead.
While using the Explore Friends rate is said to always save you money on your Starwood hotel booking, you may not earn points or stay credit or receive elite benefits by using it, so you should always weigh up the monetary saving with any potential loss before making your hotel booking.