According to this post, Starwood will now offer Cash & Points options on select Category 7 hotels. The awards, which cost $275 + 15,000 points, can only be booked in the call center. Available hotels are
Cervo Hotel ,Costa Smeralda Resort
The Chatwal, New York City
The Gritti Palace, Venice
Hotel President Wilson Geneva
The St. Regis Aspen Resort
The St. Regis Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico
The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort
The St. Regis Bali Resort
The St. Regis Florence
The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort
The St. Regis New York
W South Beach
W Paris- Opera
On a point/value basis, it isn’t a great award in most cases (figuring SPG points are worth somewhere in the 2.5 – 3 cent per point range). But once you start getting hotels in the $700-800/night range, there’s some value there. That said, many people with a ton of SPG points would prefer to pay $275 and some points than $600 and no points. While optimizing point spend is certainly a good thing, don’t drive yourself crazy: if you want to just keep some cash in your pocket and use points, don’t let anyone tell you that’s not a good idea. It’s your cash.
As I often say – more options are better than fewer options.