Even if you are not a Starwood Preferred Guest member, you can still take advantage of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express. This is not your run of the mill credit card, so you should make sure that the benefits will suit your lifestyle.
If you travel frequently, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a card that you should keep in mind. You can use Starpoints for hotel stays or airline miles with 30+ partner airlines and a nifty 25% point bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program.*
Before you apply for a Starwood Preferred Guest business card from American Express, you should learn as much as you can about the rewards, fees, benefits and much more. This card may not be right for everybody, but there is a good chance that it would fit nicely in your wallet.
Starwood Preferred Rewards Program Explained
Overall, the Starwood Preferred Guest ("SPG") credit card rewards program is geared towards consumers who are interested in travel and the rewards program reflects that.
Once you sign up for the SPG credit card from AmEx and link it to your SPG account number with Starwood, you will be ready to earn "Starpoints".
Earning SPG Points
You will always earn at least one point (yes, these are called a Starpoint) for every $1 you spend with your Starwood Preferred Guest card. You can also earn up to 5 Starpoints per $1 with spending in certain categories.
Here's how the points system breaks down:
5 Starpoints for spending at Starwood properties (2 for using your Starwood card and an extra 2-3 points depending on your Starwood Preferred Guest level).
1 Starpoint on all other spending.
Frequent business travelers should never have a problem finding a Starwood hotel to stay at - and to rack up their Starpoints. After all, Starwood is one of the largest hotel chains with over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries.
How long can you keep your Starpoints?
As you may know, some rewards programs force customers to use their points within a certain period of time. With the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, this is never the case. As long as your account stays active, you will have access to your points.
Perks of the Rewards Program
The Starwood reward program itself is very flexible, but you enjoy additional perks as an AmEx Starwood Preferred cardholder.
No blackout dates. Use Starpoints at any Starwood property (as long as there is a room available when you book.)
Redeem Starpoints for free nights. Hotels are placed into categories, with the amount of points necessary for a night stay depending on the hotel's category. Redemption starts at 2,000 points for a weekend night stay at a Category 1 hotel.
Cash & Points feature means you can get free night stays by using a combination of Starpoints and cash if you don't have enough points to cover the night.
Redeem points for 5 consecutive nights at a Category 3-7 property and get a 5th night free.Receive credit for 5 nights and 2 stays toward SPG elite status every year.
Earn SPG Gold status automatically when you spend at least $30,000 with your AmEx in a calendar year.
Transfer points to more than 30 airline programs. You get 5,000 bonus Starpoints when you transfer 20,000 points to a frequent flyer program. Most transfers are 1:1.
Complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to 4 devices around the world.
Free access to the Sheraton Club lounge.
Free in-room, premium Internet.
When compared to other programs, you will find that the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card has far fewer restrictions. Unlike many hotel programs, with this card, you never have to worry about blackout dates.
Redeeming for Hotel Stays
Most business travelers redeem their Starpoints for hotel and resort stays in future travel. So it's nice that there are never any blackout dates when redeeming your points. You just need to book in advance to make sure a room will be available for your visit.
How far your Starpoints go depends on the hotel you say at.
Starwood properties are placed into seven categories. And the number of points necessary for one night's stay depends on category. Redemption starts at 2,000 points for a weekend night stay at a Category 1 hotel.
Point Requirements for a One-Night Stay
Category 1: 2,000 - 3,000 points
Category 2: 3,000 - 4,000 points
Category 3: 7,000 points
Category 4: 10,000 points
Category 5: 12,000 - 16,000 points
Category 6: 20,000 - 25,000 points
Category 7: 30,000 - 35,000 points
And I need to point out some other features already mentioned above:
First, if you redeem points for five consecutive nights at any Category 3 to 7 property, you will get a 5th night free.
And, with the SPG card, you will receive credit for five nights and two stays toward SPG elite status every year.
And, in case you were not aware, Starwood hotels and resorts include these great properties:
Four Points ® by Sheraton
The Luxury Collection®
And you can check out this article for more tips on how to use your Starpoints for your benefit at Starwood hotel.
Added Bonus: Thanks to the merger with Marriott, you can add Marriott hotels to your list. Ffter you link your accounts, you will be able to use your Starpoints at Marriott hotels. Each Starpoint will be worth 3 Marriott reward points.
And, if you have an elevated guest status (such as gold or platinum), Marriott will honor that status as well!
The Starwood card gives you the flexibility of using your points for flights with a possible 25% bonus.
If you don’t want to use your points on hotel stays, you are also allowed to cash them in for airline tickets. Points are exchanged at a one to one ratio for airline miles. But you get 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer to a frequent flyer program!
Most airline credit cards give you just 1 mile per $1 on spending.
This has led to many people using the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card to simply earn frequent flyer miles.
Starwood has more than 30 airline partners, including United, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Alaska, Air France, Hawaiian, and more.
FYI, an economy class ticket on a roundtrip flight in the continental United States will usually set you back 25,000 points (or 20,000 Starpoints thanks to the 25% bonus).
Other Travel and Shopping Benefits
Of course, the SPG card comes with all the great perks and features you expect from American Express.
If your rental vehicle is damaged or stolen, this card will cover you.
American Express also offers financial, medical, legal and/or other emergency assistance around the clock for customers that are more than 100 miles from home.
You get up to $100,000 in travel accident insurance.
If a fraudulent purchase is made on this card, you won’t be held responsible.
You can extend any manufacturer’s warranties that are less than 5 years long for up to an additional year.
If you attempt to return an item within 90 days and the merchant refuses to take it back, American Express may cover the value of the item up to $300 ($1,000 annually).
The annual fee for this card is waived during the first year, after which it's $95. This new, higher annual fee went into effect in August 2015.
Along with the higher annual fee, the updated American Express Starwood card comes with some new perks:
No foreign transaction fees
Free Boingo Wi-Fi
Free in-room internet
Free access to the Sheraton Club lounge.
For a complete list of updated rates and fees check the card website before you apply.
Comparison to Other Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Starwood Preferred Guest vs Citi Hilton HHonors Card
The Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card is significantly different than the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Card is better for those who simply wish to use it for airline travel, as it has solid rewards in this regard.
However, the Hilton Card comes with more perks, making it a better deal for those who want a more flexible card. For instance, the Hilton Card offers 6 points per dollar spent within Hilton Worldwide hotels and offers 40,000 bonus points if at least $1,000 is spent within the first 4 months. It also offers 3 points per dollar spent at gas stations, supermarkets and drug stores and 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Reward points can be used to pay for stays at Hilton Worldwide hotels (7,500 to 80,000 points gets 1 night, depending on which hotel you stay at), experiences, airline miles with Hilton HHonors participating airlines and vehicle rentals.
The Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card also has no annual fee. However, It has a higher cash advance fee ($10 or 5 percent, whichever is higher) than the Starwood Preferred Guest Card. It also has a higher foreign transaction fee at 3 percent, whereas the Starwood card now has no foreign transaction fee.
Ultimately, both cards have significant limitations, making neither of them particularly attractive to those who do not wish to be bound by them. The card that is better for you depends on your needs, as there is no clear winner in this case.
Customers who sign up for the Chase Marriott Rewards Card will receive a complimentary night at a Marriott hotel. Additionally, they’ll receive 22,500 bonus points after their first purchase, which is enough to cover 3 nights at a Marriott hotel. That’s 4 nights at no charge right off the bat.
Similarly, customers who use the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card will be eligible for nights at no extra charge when redeeming their initial bonus points. While this may seem like the clear winner, keep in mind that $5,000 must be spent within the first 6 months to obtain the full amount of bonus points. If you plan on spending that much anyway, then this is a better bet as far as hotel stays are concerned.
In terms of points, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card wins – and this is where it begins to become a better deal. Customers may earn up to 5 bonus points per dollar spent and the bonus points go a bit further than with the Chase Marriott Rewards Card. For example, 25,000 bonus points will get you up to 6 nights in a hotel with the Starwood Card while 22,500 points will get you up to 3 nights with the Chase Card. As we can see, the points are worth almost double with Starwood in this case. Additionally, the maximum points per dollar that customers can get with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card are 3, so you’ll get less points (and they’re already worth less to begin with).
The fees are also in favor of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. The Chase Marriott Rewards Card has a lower annual fee of $30 (which is also waived in the first year), but does not have a low introductory APR in any category. It also has a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent (versus 0%). If you were to manage the Chase Card very tightly, then you could actually end up paying a little bit less with it. However, one late payment or a lot of spending abroad would probably negate the lower annual payment – and you’d already be getting less rewards.
Overall, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is the best bet between these two cards.
The Bottom Line
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is a great business rewards credit card. It combines our favorite hotel rewards program with top notch credit card benefits. And it has far fewer restrictions and more perks than it competitors.
If you travel a lot for business, and like the idea of using your hotel points for either future hotel stays or flights, we highly recommend this card.
And you will not need to worry until 2018 what impact the merger with Marriott will have on your Starpoints or Starwood Preferred Guest Card.
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