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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 the Nerds’ favorite hotel card and a great pick for the luxury-hotel enthusiast.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

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

Bonus Offer

Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 15.49% - 19.49% Variable APR
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, 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.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • 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 and Conditions apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

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, 2 Starpoints per dollar at Marriott Rewards properties, and 1 Starpoint per dollar on all other purchases. 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 rewards programs have a point value of 1 cent or less, the Nerds estimate Starpoints to be worth 2.3 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 Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
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Starwood Preferred Guest has more than 1,300 locations worldwide where you can use your rewards. Other chains have many more. Marriott’s network, for example, includes more than 4,000.

With the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you earn 5 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott locations; 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies and at restaurants; and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Marriott Rewards points aren’t worth as much as Starpoints — NerdWallet values them at about 1 cent apiece — but this card also comes with a big sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The annual fee is $85.

Marriott and Starwood are in the process of merging, which is why you can earn bonus Starpoints by using your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express at Marriott hotels. But you can’t redeem Starpoints for stays at Marriott hotels. Starpoints are only redeemable at SPG hotels. However, you can transfer Starpoints to Marriott Rewards at a a ratio of 1:3 — for each Starpoint you transfer, you get 3 Marriott points.

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.

Last updated Dec. 2, 2016. 

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


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