|"The absolute best hotel rewards credit card, as well as one of the best travel cards around."|
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express rates as one of our top hotel credit cards and also one of the best rewards card offers. The card comes with outstanding rewards, with Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program having one of the highest average dollar values per point in any loyalty program we've researched. The card has has a business version that shares many of the same basic benefits but with some additional features specific to business clients.
|Bonus Offer*||25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.|
|*Existing American Express Account Holders May Not Be Eligible for This Bonus|
|Notable Features||Starpoints can be transferred to most major airline loyalty programs|
For travelers that are on the road often and frequently finding themselves staying at one of the Starwood properties we're positive that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the SPG loyalty program are must haves. The high value of Starpoints (often worth 3-5 cents each) also make these cards a great everyday option, with cardholders at least 2.4% in rewards on all their spending. Consider that the best cash back credit cards average around 1.5%, these cards are a significantly better value proposition.
Who This Card Is Great For
If you use a personal card for business expenses. For people that may be putting work expenses on a personal credit card and are later reimbursed by their company, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a great way to earn rewards on your company's dime. There's literally no other card that will give you as much value for every receipt you turn in.
Rewards value optimizers. If you're all about making every penny count and care less about where you stay than you do how much you're saving, this is also the card for you. With the highest rewards around, there are very few other credit card options that can get you more on every dollar you spend.
Loyalty program travelers. For members of airline loyalty programs, the Starpoints transfer program is a good way to get additional juice out of your spending. It's also a convenient way to top off awards bookings since most airlines will accept Starpoints at a 1 to 1 ratio.
How It Compares To Other Top Travel Cards
The question most prospective cardholders ask is whether the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is worth it? In that context it's important to compare it to other options and see how it performs against other great travel cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred. These two cards act as general travel cards with rewards that have more flexibility, so would it make sense to still choose the SPG American Express?
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express vs Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Let's first look at how the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express vs Barclaycard Arrival Plus. One of the major pluses of the Barclaycard offering is the category neutral rewards structure, 2 miles on everything equating to a flat 2.1% rewards rate. In most card comparisons this makes the Barclaycard come out favorably since it takes how you spend out of the equation. Because of the high value of Starpoints, the SPG American Express compares well even on the every spending rewards. The double points on hotel spending allows the card to come out ahead when used at SPG properties. Overall the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is pretty much the only hotel card where the rewards rate surpasses the Arrival Plus both in and outside of hotel spending.
The only obvious drawback is the flexibility in rewards redemption. While the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has a broad array of redemption options, the Arrival Plus lets you use the miles earned as statement credits on any travel expense. The company also has an expanded list of categories that fall under travel, making it one of the easiest rewards programs to use. As a primary card the Arrival Plus fares a little better if you value choice or may not be able to take advantage of redeeming the Starpoints at a Starwood Property or transferring them to an airline partner.
|Annual Fee||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.|
|Purchase APR||16.24%-20.24% Variable|
Using The Starwood Rewards
As we mentioned early, one of the unique characteristics of the SPG program is the flexibility that cardholders can enjoy when it comes to spending accrued rewards. Starwood boasts a broad selection of hotel and resort brands eligible for rewards redemption. In addition to booking award nights at related properties, Starpoints can also be transferred to a number of airline partner loyalty programs. This extra feature can enable you to shop around for the best use of your points, choosing between a hotel stay or using points to top off a mileage award flight.
Redeeming For Hotel Stays
On average, Starpoints redeemed for hotel stays are worth around 2.4 cents per point, one of the highest values when it comes to loyalty rewards available. These points can be used for bookings at any of the following SPG brands.
|Four Points By Sheraton||Le Meridien|
|Sheraton||The Luxury Collection|
|St. Regis Hotels & Resorts||Starwood Hotels|
Starwood properties are sorted into 7 categories generally based on the price of hotel stays. The amount of Starpoints necessary for a nights stay at one of these properties will depend on which category it falls under, with category 7 resorts having the highest price and rewards requirements.
|Category||# of Properties||Starpoints|
|5||241||12,000 - 16,000|
|6||86||20,000 - 25,000|
|7||36||30,000 - 35,000|
Transferring Starpoints To Airline Partner
For cardholders that may be interested in leveraging the points transfer program we've included the partners that the SPG points can be transferred to and the number of Starpoints needed to receive one corresponding point/mile.
|Program||Exchange Ratio||Program||Exchange Ratio|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1||Etihad Airways||1:1|
|Aeroplan / Air Canada||1:1||Flying Blue||1:1|
|Air Berlin||1:1||Gol Smiles||2:1|
|Air China||1:1||Hainan Airlines||1:1|
|Air New Zealand & Air Points||65:1||Hawaiian Airlines||1:1|
|Alaska Airlines||1:1||Japan Airlines||1:1|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||1:1||LAN Airlines||1:1.5|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||1:1||Miles and More (Lufthansa)||1:1|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||1:1||Qatar Airways||1:1|
|Asia Miles||1:1||Saidi Arabian Airlines||1:1|
|Asiana Airlines||1:1||Singapore Airlines||1:1|
|British Airways||1:1||Thai Airways International||1:1|
|China Eastern Airlines||1:1||US Airways||1:1|
|China Southern Airlines||1:1||United Mileage Plus||2:1|
|Delta Air Lines||1:1||Virgin Atlantic||1:1|
|Emirates Skywards||1:1||Virgin Australia||1:1|
Points Transfer Bonus
As described here, for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer in a single transaction, Starwood will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints to that transaction. Make sure if you are going to transfer to do it in 20,000 increments, as that maximizes the amount of bonus points you'll receive.
When Is It Worthwhile To Transfer Starpoints?
Given that Starpoints are worth on average 2.4 cents per point, you should transfer points to an airline loyalty program only if you're able to use the resulting rewards for better value. Incorporating the 5,000 Starpoint bonus means that transfers in 20,000 Starpoint increments will net you an additional 25% bump. This means that getting 1.8 cents per Starpoint on the airline partner will make you come out ahead overall.
Obviously if you're close to an award booking on an airline then it may make sense to use your points to top off your existing pool of rewards.
Comments and Questions
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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.