Links:
Starwood Personal American Express

Starwood Business American Express

For years the credit card of the savvy traveler has been the Starwood American Express. I’ve had it since I was 18, and I think it can only be described as the most reliable and consistent travel rewards credit card. Yes, new credit cards have come and gone, though the Starwood American Express is one of the few cards that accrues points that really haven’t been devalued in a long time.

The beauty of the Starwood American Express is that it accrues one of the most flexible points currencies out there, Starwood Preferred Guest points. Not only are they great for hotel redemptions, but they can also efficiently be converted to miles in over a dozen airline programs.

Sign-Up Bonus

Presently both the personal and business credit cards come with a 25,000 point sign-up bonus. Both cards offer 10,000 points after the first purchase, and an additional 15,000 points after spending $5,000 within six months.

How to Earn Points

The card accrues one point per dollar spent on all purchases, with the exception of spend at Starwood hotels, which accrues two points per dollar. On one hand it’s frustrating that they don’t have category bonuses like some other cards (the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers double points on dining and travel), though most would argue that Starwood points are the most valuable points currency out there.

How to Redeem Points

Transfer to Airline Miles with a 25% Bonus

Starwood points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to about two dozen airline partners, giving them one of the most comprehensive airline partnerships of any program. There’s no other points currency with as much flexibility as Starwood. But here’s the best part — when you transfer points in increments of 20,000, you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re actually earning 1.25 miles per dollar spent on the credit card.

Cash & Points

One of the most lucrative ways to redeem Starwood points is by making a cash and points hotel redemption. Instead of paying completely with points, you can get a great deal by mixing cash and points for a stay. The values are phenomenal, and I’ve used this many times to stay at $250+ per night hotels in Asia and Europe for between 2,800 points plus $45, and 4,800 points plus $90.

Fifth Night Free Awards

While cash and points redemptions are capacity controlled, standard room redemptions are not. Starwood’s award chart is pretty good for room redemptions, especially for category 1-5 hotels. Furthermore, when you stay for four nights on points at category 3-7 Starwood hotels, the fifth night is free.

For more tips on redeeming Starwood points, see this TravelSort post.

Other Cool Features

Earn Five Elite Qualifying Nights and Two Elite Stay Credits Annually

To earn elite status faster you get five nights and two stay credits towards elite status annually. Given that I would otherwise be mattress running in order to maintain my Starwood Platinum status, that more than pays for the annual fee.

The Annual Fee is Waived for the First Year

And it’s only $65 per year after that, which is among the lowest in the industry.

Starwood Preferred Plus Status

As long as you have the Starwood American Express you get Preferred Plus status, which gets you 4PM late check-out and room upgrades upon availability. It’s basically Gold status minus the 50% points bonus.

Starwood Gold Status When You Spend $30,000 Annually

While Starwood Gold status isn’t the best mid-tier elite status, it has gotten quite a bit more valuable after Starwood’s recent program overhaul.

Verdict

The Starwood American Express remains one of the “must have” credit cards for points junkies. If I could only have one credit card I’d probably go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card given the lack of foreign transaction fees, double points on dining and travel, and 7% annual points dividend. But the Starwood American Express is one of my top two cards, given the further diversification it affords me. Between the Starwood American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred card I can transfer points to virtually any major hotel chain or airline at a favorable ratio, and that’s flexibility that can’t be beat.

Links:
Starwood Personal American Express

Starwood Business American Express

Full disclosure: I receive a referral bonus for anyone that signs up through the above links. As always I will only provide a referral link if it offers the best available sign-up bonus.

  1. February 6th, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Dan said,

    “Between the Starwood American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred card I can transfer points to virtually any major hotel chain or airline at a favorable ratio”

    How do you convert SPG or UR points to Marriott, PC, or Hilton at a favorable ratio?

    TBH, SPG needs to step it up a bit. I’m getting too many spend bonuses on UR affiliated cards –
    5x cable, phone (Ink Classic)
    2x gas (Ink Classic)
    2x travel, dining (Sapphire Preferred)

    I’m thinking of getting the Freedom card, and loading up on grocery gift cards when groceries are getting the 5x bonus.

    It just so happens that I have a particular need for United miles and Hyatt points at the moment, so the collection of Chase cards is really working out for me.

    I always have a love for SPG points, but if/when Hyatt introduces C&P and they have a hotel in the market I’m staying, they’re likely to be the go-to option.

    SPG needs to step up the earning rates to be competitive with Chase.

  2. February 6th, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Vivek said,

    The offer for 25k points is not valid. once you click on the link you provided, you see that offer. however, after you apply, it says this offer is not available and reduces it to just 10k points.

  3. February 6th, 2012 at 11:09 am

    lucky said,

    @ Dan — Well you can convert Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott and Priority Club 1:1, though you’re right about Hilton, that’s the one exclusion.

    @ Vivek — Hmmm, that’s very strange. Can you try a different browser or clear your cookies, as that’s sometimes the issue?

  4. February 6th, 2012 at 11:12 am

    John-Paul said,

    Thanks for the rundown! Have you given any thought to doing a round-up of British mile/point earning cards for those of us in the UK? The Starwood UK card seems much worse than the US version (1 point per £ versus 1 point per $, higher annual fee, etc.), so it’d be interesting to know your take on which British cards offer the best deals.

  5. February 6th, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Stuart Falk said,

    I phoned SPG to confirm my Preferred Plus status on an upcoming reservation. I was told that I am a Corporate Preferred Guest, which is actually a higher status than Preferred Plus, but less than Gold. I was also told that both Preferred Plus and Corporate Preferred only qualify for 4 PM checkout and not an automatic room upgrade upon availability, the latter of which they will be happy to reques, but one must contact SPG and ask them to enter that request into the reservation.

  6. February 6th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    fosij said,

    I think the nights and flights offer for SPG redemptions are also very good.

  7. February 6th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Apu said,

    Unrelated, but this is what I got in my mailbox, I am still calculating but it looks like a 100% transfer bonus kinda deal -

    Bring your friends and family with you this winter. For a limited time, when you transfer miles to a friend or family member, you’ll earn a 50% mileage bonus for yourself.1

    That means for every 1,000 miles you transfer out of your SkyMiles account, we’ll give you 500 bonus miles back. What a great way to help yourself and that special someone get the miles need for the upcoming holidays.2

    Hurry! Offer ends February 29, 2012.

  8. February 6th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Apu said,

    Some more T&C:

    Eligibility: This offer is open only to the recipients of original email. Offer is not transferable and cannot be combined with any other offers. Transaction must be completed between February 1, 2012 and February 29, 2012 to receive the 50% mileage bonus. The 50% mileage bonus offer expires at 11:59 CST on February 29, 2012. The 50% mileage bonus will be awarded to the transfer donor’s account and will post to the account within 24 hours after the completed transaction. The donor’s mileage bonus will equal 50% of his or her mileage transfer. Offer does not apply to miles purchased under the SkyMiles Buy Miles or Gift Miles programs.

  9. February 6th, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Apu said,

    Interesting, this is a smart one … they are charging 2.2 cents / new mile this way instead of the 1.1 cents / new mile in the earlier 100% transfer bonus promo… bummer!

  10. February 6th, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Andy said,

    …”Earn Five Elite Qualifying Nights and Two Elite Stay Credits Annually”…

    Q1: If I hold both personal and business cards, do I earn boudle elite nights?

    Q2: Do you think it beneficial to hold both cards (while paying tewo annual fees)?

  11. February 6th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Andy said,

    one supplement:
    a referal bonus of 10,000 points is offered until feb 13, 2012. last year, 5,000 referal bonus was offered.

  12. February 8th, 2012 at 12:08 am

    beachfan said,

    I got an offer to upgrade to the Hilton Surpass Amex to get 50k points for $3k spend. However, with the new premium room incredibly high rates, I’ve held off.

    I had been hoping things would settle down (i.e., more rooms being offered at aspirational places) but that seems to have not happened.

    What’s your current take on Hilton Surpass?

  13. February 8th, 2012 at 6:02 am

    lucky said,

    @ beachfan — I’m tempted by the card solely based on the fact that they offer Diamond status after spending $40K on the card annually. Assuming you value Hilton points, the everyday spend earn ratio is pretty good too. I don’t value Hilton points all that much, though given that they offer 3/6/9 points per dollar on everday/gas-drugstores/Hilton spend, it’s a pretty good earn ratio. So it’s not a bad card, though I think we’ll see a better sign-up bonus sometime.

  14. February 8th, 2012 at 6:03 am

    lucky said,

    @ Andy — Unfortunately to the best of my knowledge you can only earn that bonus once.

  15. April 15th, 2012 at 8:25 am

    marie said,

    i’m extremely disappointed and frustrated with this card. Their website to book a flight is terrible. I’ve been trying for 1 week to book a flight, i even purchased some points to meet the points requirement for my ticket. Every time i try to complete the transaction , it shuts me off.I tried with both internet explorer and mozilla without any success. When i called their tech support i was told that they know about the problem and their IT support is working on it. Let’s be serious!!!!more than one week without a problem resolution!!!!And i cannot book my flight on the phone as they don’t do that. When i sent an e-mail to american express , i was told that it is not their fault but spg problem. I’m seriously considering to give up this card and go back to another card that will let me book the ticket i need and reimburse me after the purchase which i have been doing many times in the past. I will certainly NOT recommend this card to anyone who wants to use it for airlines tickets.

  16. April 19th, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    fosij said,

    Its called transfer your points? Lol

  17. May 22nd, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    md said,

    Is this starwood promotion still available? When I clicked on the link it appeared that the sign on bonus was only 10,000, not 25,000.

  18. September 12th, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    will_work_for_points said,

    Can you refresh me on the SPG offer epiry on 8/31/12? I got my shiny new card today and there was nothing included in the literature. Don’t want to miss my point haul when I travel to Asia for 4 weeks next month :)
    Thanks

  19. September 13th, 2012 at 8:57 am

    lucky said,

    @ will_work_for_points — Happy to help, though can you clarify what you mean with offer expiry on 8/31/2012?

  20. January 8th, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Chris said,

    Lucky – This offer is dead according to the AMEX site. Also, I recently received the card and was only credited the 10,000 bonus. Customer support claims no knowledge of the additional 15,000 after $5,000 spend. Amex support was going to “get back to me after their team reviewed my request” – that was several days ago. I’m planning on calling tonight to straighten it out. Any ideas?

  21. January 8th, 2013 at 11:29 am

    lucky said,

    @ Chris — The offer is definitely still alive for 25,000 points after spending $5,000. You just have to make sure your cookies are cleared and you’re not logged in and you should see the offer. But it’s the standard offer and I can’t imagine you’ll have any problem getting it honored if you completed the spend in the required timeframe.

  22. January 19th, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    justSaying said,

    I finally got this card……well my wife actually got it and with a different last name I am wondering if there will be problem depositing the 20k for 25k miles in my frequent flyer accounts?

  23. January 19th, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    lucky said,

    @ justSaying — She can’t transfer miles to your frequent flyer account, though she can transfer miles to your Starwood account and then you can transfer them from there. You can made a household points transfer here:
    https://www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/account/starpoints/transfer/pointstransferForm.html

  24. January 19th, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    JustSaying said,

    Thanks…..that takes a little pressure off thinking I needed a separate account to get to those Starpoints………when the AMEX Platinum is in my name and gives me the Starwood Gold gratis…….

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