A couple of weeks ago Starwood Preferred Guest opened up some Formula 1 packages for the Grand Prix that took place yesterday.
I managed to nab one of the ten SPG Moments packages that were for two people, with access to an evening event on Saturday, plus premium Grandstand tickets for race day on Sunday. All up the cash value of the tickets alone was at least $300 per person, so at 15,000 Starwood / 30,000 Amex points for two of us, it was an absolute steal.
Starwood is a sponsor / partner of the Mercedes Petronas F1 team, and the evening event was hosted on the Saturday evening at the soon-to-open Sheraton Melbourne Hotel – with Lewis Hamilton in a 1/2 hour long Q&A, with some drinks and food on-hand too.
This was my first SPG Moments event and I was interested to see the mechanics of how it would all work.
‘Purchasing’ the package
As soon as I saw the SPG Moments packages crop up I purchased the package outright, rather than going in for an auction. On talking to the very friendly SPG representative at the event, it seems there’s no set formula as to whether they offer auctions or outright purchases at different events – I prefer the certainty of the latter, especially if trying to make travel plans around an event not in your home city.
It seems like purchases are made available when greater numbers of people can be catered for, whereas auctions are potentially for more unique experiences – but no guarantees.
I already had the Starpoints in my account having moved some over from Amex recently, and this I think was pretty key in being able to get in on this – having to wait a day or two to transfer points would have killed any possibility of making the purchase in time, as the 10 packages sold out within around 24 hours.
I was then contacted the next day with a promise of more information within a week or so by an SPG moments, and a full event schedule arrived in my inbox around 10 days before the Grand Prix.
SPG Moments 2014 Melbourne F1 event schedule
The SPG Moments Event – Q&A with Lewis Hamilton
Everything about the event went very smoothly. The Saturday evening Q&A with Lewis was well catered and had a good atmosphere, although predictably he showed up fairly late.
The new Sheraton Hotel looked nice from the small amount we saw of it, but the ballroom we were in was very warm, and had limited seating which made things a little uncomfortable. Not a big drama though.
The next day, we were asked to meet at The Westin to collect our tickets and be escorted down to our Grandstand via Melbourne’s Trams. The event manager was a pro, everything was under control and he facilitated everyone’s needs very well.
We had access to premium seating in a regular grandstand (Schumacher at turns 15 and 16) – it wasn’t a pure VIP hospitality experience, but that was fairly clear on purchasing the package, so no surprises there.
I would have happily paid more points for a more unique experience, but I didn’t want to risk the auction system, and figured the package on offer was most definitely ‘good-enough’. The Grandstand seating turned out to be in a very good spot.
All up, I felt like this was a great, unique way to use points, with excellent value on offer. I can’t think of another loyalty program offering a program of events like this, so kudos to SPG for leveraging their partnerships and bringing unique opportunities to their members.
Key things worth remembering…
- Make sure you have points in your Starwood account in advance, if you think there’s an event coming up that they have Moments packages for – Amex transfers take 1 to 2 days to get to Starwood Preferred Guest
- The event planning and pre-event communication was tops. Just ask your dedicated rep via email if you have any questions
- SPG Moments don’t seem to have any dedicated communication channels to keep tabs on what they have on offer, e.g. email/social channels. You’ll have to keep an eye out on the Moments website for updates.
- Starwood points aren’t as hard to acquire as you might think – while the transfer rate from American Express Membership Rewards is 1 MR point to 0.5 Starpoints, and that’s the only way of acquiring Starpoints from credit card spend in Australia – it’s not hard to rack up some decent amounts of Membership Rewards points to transfer over. Have a read of the Membership Rewards guide for some ideas.