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Starwood American Express: Our Favorite Hotel Credit Card

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Starwood American Express Review

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Editor's Rating: 4.4 / 5

For above-average rewards, a slew of airline transfer partners and plenty of rewards redemption options, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is hard to beat. It’s easily one of the Nerds’ top hotel cards and a great pick for the luxury-hotel enthusiast.

American Express Starwood Credit Card
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The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: Basics and benefits

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns up to 5 Starpoints per dollar spent at participating SPG hotels and 1 Starpoint on all other purchases. Check out this chart for the complete card details:

American Express Starwood Credit Card

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
  • Rewards only valuable if you stay at Starwood properties frequently

Sign-up Bonus

Limited Time Offer: Earn 30,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Annual Fee

$0 the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • Min APR: 15.24%, Variable
  • Max APR: 19.24%, Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.24%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 30,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • New: No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • New: Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • New: Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Earn free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates.
  • Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and limitations apply.

Beyond the basics, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has several great features:

Points value well above the industry standard

When compared side-by-side with other hotel travel cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express seems pretty mediocre. It earns points at a standard rate, and its sign-up bonus appears to be low. However, while many hotel cards have a points value of 1 cent or less, the Nerds estimate Starpoints to be worth 2.4 cents each when redeemed for free nights.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has several other rewards redemption options, most of which exceed the 1 cent per point industry standard. For more information, check out our review of the SPG Starpoints program.

A large selection of airline transfer partner programs

If you prefer airline rewards to free hotel stays, you can transfer your Starpoints to several frequent flier programs. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has more than 30 airline partners (assume a 1:1 rate unless specified otherwise):

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Aeroplan/Air Canada
  • Air Berlin
  • Air China Companion
  • Air New Zealand Air Points (65 points to 1 mile transfer rate)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  • Alitalia MileMiglia
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Asia Miles
  • Asiana Airlines
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club
  • Delta Airlines SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Airways
  • Flying Blue
  • Gol Smiles (2 Starpoints to 1 mile transfer rate)
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Japan Airline (JAL) Mileage Bank
  • Jet Airways
  • LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms (1 Starpoint to 1.5 miles transfer rate)
  • Miles and More
  • Qatar Airways
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus
  • United Mileage Plus (2 Starpoints to 1 mile transfer rate)
  • US Airways Dividend Miles
  • Velocity Frequent Flier
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

If you choose to transfer Starpoints to miles, you may want to wait until you’ve accumulated at least 20,000. For every 20,000 points you transfer to a frequent flier program, you’ll receive an additional 5,000 Starpoints.

Credit toward Elite status

The SPG Starpoints program has two Elite levels: Gold Preferred Guest and Platinum Preferred Guest. You can reach Gold status with 10 eligible stays or 25 eligible nights in a calendar year, and Platinum status with 25 eligible stays or 50 eligible nights in a calendar year. And with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, you’ll receive credit for 2 stays and 5 nights each year, plus automatic Gold status if you spend at least $30,000 per year.

Gold Preferred Guests get a 50% points bonus over Preferred Guests, late checkout, upgrades, welcome gifts and free Wi-Fi. Platinum Preferred Guests will enjoy the benefits of Gold status, plus free health club, Club level and Executive level access, as well as guaranteed room availability when you book at least 72 hours before check-in and better upgrades.

Free Wi-Fi

With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, you’ll enjoy free unlimited Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than a million Boingo hotspots around the world, after enrollment. Boingo memberships normally range from around $10-40 a month, so this perk can potentially save you $120-$480 per year.

You’ll also receive complimentary in-room premium Internet access while staying in participating SPG hotels. Because in-room Wi-Fi often costs around $15 per night at Starwood locations, this benefit can save frequent travelers a lot of money.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: Pitfalls and other possibilities

We’ve yet to find a card that’s perfect for everyone, and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is no exception. Keep this drawback in mind if you’re considering applying for this card:

Limited hotel properties

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card Credit Card
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If the more than 1,200 SPG locations aren’t enough for your traveling needs, you may want to check out the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card as an option. One of the largest hotel chains worldwide, IHG has over 4,900 locations, so you’ll likely find a hotel in whatever city you stay.

The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers 5 points per dollar spent in IHG hotels, 2 points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point on everything else. It has a large sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, though its points aren’t worth as much as Starpoints. However, it also offers one free night at an IHG property for each year of cardmembership.

Unlike the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card comes with automatic Platinum Elite status. With this perk, you’ll get a 50% bonus on base points, free Wi-Fi, priority check-in, upgrades and guaranteed availability as long as you book at least 72 hours in advance.

The card has a $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: Is it right for you?

Domestic travelers who frequent luxury hotels will get a great value out of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. It offers an industry-crushing points value, plenty of redemption options — including the option to transfer Starpoints to a multitude of frequent flier programs — and automatic credit toward Elite status. If all that appeals to you, consider applying today and make sure you hit the spending requirement for the generous sign-up bonus.

Erin El Issa is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @Erin_Lindsay17 and on Google+.


Image via iStock.


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  • Nothappy#2

    I had this card for about 3 years and the 25k was nice, but then what? You pay it right back in the form of yearly fee that gets you nothin.. They give you a few bucks to lure you in, then your turn. The benefits are just not worth it anymore. For example, in 2009 I was able to get into Sheraton hotels in tropical places for less than $100, but now those same places are more than double and cash+points not avail. One night in the same place use to be 4000 pts+$60/n, now only option is either $325/n or 16000 pts/n. This new terms/conditions make this card useless. I thought, I will never say that but apparently amex sucks! I have two amex cards and have been sucked $250/y for nothin. I would love to close them, but my credit report will tick down a bit. I am closing them anyways, but right after getting my new house. Hope this helped and if you find some cool card with reasonable/real benefits, don’t forget to share :-)

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  • Tom

    Hi! I am mostly interested in points for transferring to American Airlines. The 20,000 -> 25,000 transfer is excellent. Can I transfer lesser amounts? That is if I keep this card a year I can transfer 20,000 after 3,000 of spend (and getting the 30,000 bonus) which will give me 25,000 miles and leave me with a minimum of 8,000 points left. If I am unable to grow that to 20,000 before my year is up can I take whatever points I have and move them to miles (without the 1.25 bonus I assume) before cancelling the card??

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Tom! Someone from our team will follow up with you directly. You should hear from us soon. Thanks!