Credit Cards
Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: The Top Hotel Rewards Card

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers, including American Express, see our disclosure page.

Image of Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
98
"The absolute best hotel rewards credit card, as well as one of the best travel cards around."

Contents

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.

Highlights
Rewards Rate 2.4%+
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

Review: One Of Our Favorite Rewards Credit Cards

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.

Features and Benefits of The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Image of Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Annual Fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Purchase APR 16.24%-20.24% Variable
Card Details
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.

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.

Brands
Four Points By Sheraton Le Meridien
Sheraton The Luxury Collection
Aloft SM elementSM
W Hotels Westin
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
1 65 3,000
2 197 4,000
3 321 7,000
4 342 10,000
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

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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.