Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is one of the best cards in the travel rewards industry. SPG’s reward currency, called Starpoints, is widely regarded as one of the most valuable travel rewards currencies.
The main reason Starpoints are so valuable is their amazing flexibility. Starpoints can be transferred on a one to one basis to over 30 different frequent flyer programs. This is easily the highest number of airline partners of any transferable currency and compares favorably to other transferable points programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. In addition, you receive a 5,000 miles bonus for every increment of 20,000 points transferred, increasing the value of Starpoints even more.
There are a couple drawbacks to the card. There are no bonus categories outside of spending on SPG or Marriott hotels, so the ability to rack up points quickly is limited. There is also much uncertainty about the future of the SPG program and the credit card. SPG was acquired by Marriott and at some point the two reward programs will be merged, which may significantly reduce the value of Starpoints.
Bonuses and Benefits
Knowing what benefits come with a credit card can help you decide if it’s a good fit for you. Here we cover the bonuses and perks that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers and the value of the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest® Starpoints® you earn.
The Starwood Preferred Guest card comes with a standard sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after spending 3,000 in the first 3 months. While the number of points isn’t as high as many other travel rewards cards, Starpoints are among the most valuable so this is still a solid bonus. Also, if you transfer the points to an airline, you would get an additional 5,000 miles, effectively making the bonus 30,000 points.
You can redeem points for free nights at any Starwood hotel property. There are 11 distinct brands owned by Starwood, including St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Le Méridien, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Element Hotels, Four Points by Sheraton, Tribute Portfolio and Design Hotels. In addition, since SPG was purchased by Marriott, you can transfer SPG points to Marriott at a ratio of 1 Starpoint to 3 Marriott points, which can then be used to book free nights at Marriott’s extensive list of properties.
The card offers two shortcuts to elite status. As a card member, you receive credit for 5 nights and 2 stays each year toward SPG Elite status. Alternatively, you can earn Gold status automatically by spending 30,000 on the card in a year. Cardholders also receive free premium internet access while staying at participating SPG hotels.
What You Get
- Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- 5,000 Starpoint bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints®
- 5 nights and 2 stays toward elite status
- Gold status after spending 30,000 in a year
Starpoints expire after 12 consecutive months of inactivity. However, it is easy to extend your point’s life indefinitely with any form of activity, such as a stay, credit card earning, redeeming points or transferring points.
What is the value of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Starpoints®?
There are a wide variety of redemption options with Starpoints. They can be redeemed for free nights at SPG properties or transferred to Marriott at a ratio of 1:3 and redeemed for free nights at Marriott properties. They can also be transferred to over 30 airlines and redeemed for free flights.
SPG offers Nights and Flights packages that include discounted hotel redemptions plus airline miles, which can be used for free flights. These vacation packages are for 5 night stays at category 3 or 4 properties. You receive 50,000 airline miles and save roughly 8,000 to 10,000 Starpoints compared to booking separately.
What is CPM and How Is It Calculated?
Cents Per Mile (CPM) is a way to measure the value of miles. It tells you how many cents you get for each mile you redeem by dividing the cash price of the airline ticket (minus taxes and fees charged for an award ticket) by the number of miles the award flight costs. This is a somewhat subjective calculation because the price of the flight in both cash and miles fluctuates by season and availability.
How we calculate CPM:
The Best Ways to Redeem Starwood Starpoints®
With over 30 airline partners to choose from, there are many possibilities to get outsized value for your SPG points. First, make sure your transfers are in increments of 20,000 points in order to get the 5,000 miles bonus. Doing this automatically results in 25 percent higher value.
If you transfer Starpoints to an airline with a high value award chart, you’ll get a ton of value. For example, one transfer partner is Alaska Airlines which offers round-trip partner award redemptions to Asia in business class for only 100,000 miles. Since these tickets retail for around $6,000 and you only need 80,000 Starpoints to book them, you can get a value of 7.5 cents per point.
Austin–MiamiEconomy classMiles price25,000points+$11.2 feeDollars price$589
Orlando–WashingtonEconomy classMiles price15,000points+$11.2 feeDollars price$287
Oakland–PortlandEconomy classMiles price25,000points+$11.2 feeDollars price$451
Minneapolis–HonoluluEconomy classMiles price169,120points+$86.6 feeDollars price$2,114
Atlanta–Fort LauderdaleEconomy classMiles price45,000points+$86.6 feeDollars price$1,440
Daytona Beach–New YorkEconomy classMiles price55,000points+$11.2 feeDollars price$928
Washington–DublinBusiness classMiles price85,000points+$99.51 feeDollars price$1,601
Los Angeles–TorontoBusiness classMiles price40,000points+$72.5 feeDollars price$1,145
Boston–LondonBusiness classMiles price105,000points+$94 feeDollars price$1,713
San Francisco–Hong KongBusiness classMiles price315,000points+$122.06 feeDollars price$4,213
New York–IstanbulBusiness classMiles price455,000points+$86.6 feeDollars price$4,892
Las Vegas–OttawaBusiness classMiles price95,000points+$177.8 feeDollars price$1,473
Other ways you can redeem Starpoints®
SPG has 11 hotel brands and Marriott has 30 brands including Ritz-Carlton.
Redeem your points for tickets to Broadway shows, including the ability to combine cash and points.
You can redeem Starpoints for 1 cent per point for a variety of gift cards. SPG has 13 gift card partners, including Amazon, iTunes and the GAP.
Since the Amex SPG card has no bonus-earning categories outside of spending on SPG and Marriott hotels, everyday purchases earn just 1 point per dollar.
- Car Rental
- Brand earn
- All Other Purchases
Connect to the internet when you’re on the road with the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan. You’ll get complimentary access to any Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Feel free to pull this card out of your wallet when traveling overseas. It’ll never cost you extra.
Get access to advanced sales of event tickets exclusively for Amex cardholders.
Global Assists Hotline
A free service that can help with things like missing luggage or a misplaced passport.
Earn Elite Status Fast
SPG cardholders can earn Gold status automatically by spending $30,000 in a year on the card. This does not require any stays and bypasses the standard qualification criteria. The card also offers credit for 2 stays and 5 nights per year that count toward status. Qualifying for Gold status requires 10 stays or 25 nights, while Platinum status requires 25 stays or 50 nights. Status with SPG also earns reciprocal status in the Marriott Rewards loyalty program.
- Gold status after spending $30,000 in a year
- Get an annual credit for 2 stays and 5 nights toward elite status
Fees: the cost of Having the Card
The SPG card’s annual fee is $0 for the first year and $95 after that. If you make $4948 of purchases in a year, you’ll cover the cost of the card. That’s because you’ll earn at least 4,948 Starpoints, which equates to $95 at a value of 1.92 cents per point. If you spend about $2,000 a month, you’ll pay off the card in 3 months.
The sign-up bonus of 25,000 points is worth $480 and the annual fee is waived for the first year, making this card a no-brainer for the first year.
- Annual Fee
- $0 first year, $95 after that
- Balance Transfer Fee
- Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
- Foreign Transaction Fee
- Late Payment Fee
- Up to $38
See What It Takes to Cover an Annual Fee:
We strongly recommend to spend not less than $1,650 per months to cover the annual fee in three months.
We’ve broken out our estimates for the first- and second-year net earnings you’ll get with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Is the card worth getting, and should you keep it after you get the sign-up bonus? Let’s find out.
These estimates are based on an annual monthly spend of $2,000
Top 5 Benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
The best benefit of the SPG card is the ability to earn a very valuable and flexible rewards currency. It also has some nice travel benefits, especially when staying at SPG properties.
- Valuable and Flexible Reward Program: SPG offers a ton of great redemption options, including free nights at Starwood properties and the Nights and Flights program, as well as a lot of transfer partners, including Marriott and over 30 airlines.
- Good Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 25,000 Starpoints by spending 3,000 in the first 3 months. That’s worth 30,000 miles if you transfer to an airline partner.
- 5,000-Mile Bonus for Transfers: You’ll get an extra 5,000 miles for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline. That can add up fast.
- Shortcut to Gold Status: Spend $30,000 a year on the card and you’ll earn Gold elite status, which also results in reciprocal Gold status with Marriott.
- Free Boingo Wi-fi: Complimentary Wi-Fi at over one million hotspots worldwide.
Should You Get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express?
The Starwood Preferred Guest card offers one of the most flexible rewards programs in the industry, making it an excellent choice for many different types of travelers. Since the card doesn’t have an annual fee the first year, you can try it out without any out-of- pocket cost.
The SPG Amex is great for anyone looking to earn free nights with either Starwood or Marriott, because points can be transferred freely between the two programs. It’s an excellent alternative for those who want to earn Marriott points but can’t get any more Chase cards due to the 5/24 rule. The SPG card effectively earns 3 Marriott points per dollar since Starpoints can be transferred at a ratio of 1:3.
The card offers outsized value for those looking to book award flights through a wide variety of frequent flyer programs. With over 30 airline transfer partners to choose from, you can analyze award charts to find the best value and transfer Starpoints over to make the booking. You also receive a 5,000 miles bonus for each increment of 20,000 points transferred, so the card effectively earns 1.25 miles per dollar spent if you decide to use your points this way.
Need more info? Check out our frequently asked questions. If you have other questions, please click on “Ask Now” below.
- The current sign-up bonus for the SPG card is 25,000. However, the bonus does typically rise to 30,000 points at least once a year, and occasionally it goes up as a high as 35,000 points. Offers for increased bonuses typically expire in early April.
The Starwood Preferred Guest card is arguable the best card for earning Marriott points. Since Starpoints transfer to Marriott at a ratio of 1:3, you can effectively earn 3 points per dollar for non- Starwood purchases. This is a better rate than any of the co-branded Marriott cards offered by Chase.
Starpoints also have the added benefit of being a transferable currency. If you change your mind and decide you don’t want to redeem the points with Marriott, you have many other choices for how to redeem.
- The SPG card is issued by American Express. There are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to apply. You can only get the sign-up bonus if you have never had this card before. American Express also typically limits customers to having a maximum of four Amex credit cards. If you are already at the limit, you may need to cancel an existing card in order to get approved for a new one. Note that this limit is for credit cards and does not include charge cards such as the Gold or Platinum cards.
Compare Starwood Credit Cards
Compare Starwood Preferred Guest Cards to Other Travel Credit Cards
American Express offers both a business and a personal version of the Starwood Preferred Guest card. In general, the benefits and earning potential are identical for both cards.
There are, however, two important differences between the cards. The business card offers access to Sheraton Club lounges. Club lounges offer a free breakfast, snacks in the afternoon and a quiet place to get some work done. The sign-up bonus for the business card also has a higher spending requirement: $5,000 instead of $3,000 in the first 3 months.
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®||Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card|
|Sign-up bonus||50,000 points||25,000 Starpoints®||40,000 miles||25,000 Starpoints®|
|Annual Fee||$0 Intro fee for the first year. After that, $95||$0 first year, $95 after that||$0 first year, then $89||$0 first year,then $95|
|APR On Purchases||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±||16.24% to 20.24% Variable±||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±||16.24% to 20.24% Variable±|
|Second Year Value||$432||$461||$505||$461|
The SPG card and SPG business card are very similar, with the main difference being the Sheraton Club lounge access offered by the business card. If the higher spending requirement for the sign-up bonus is not something you would have trouble meeting, you may consider the business card over the personal version.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has a more lucrative sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. It also offers 2X earning on travel and dining. Chase does not have as an extensive list of transfer partners as SPG, but they do have some options not offered by Starwood, such as Hyatt. Keep in mind that Chase typically will not approve applicants who have opened 5 or more credit cards within the last 24 months.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus card is very different than the SPG cards and the Sapphire Preferred. Arrival miles are a fixed value currency that can be redeemed for travel at a value of 1 cent each (plus a 5 percent point rebate). While this card will never offer the outsized value possible with transferable currencies, it is useful for redemptions when the cents per point value of other cards would be relatively low. This card earns 2 Arrival miles per dollar on all spend.
Compare the Starwood Preferred Guest Card to Airline Credit Cards
The great thing about the Starwood Preferred Guest card is the flexibility of Starpoints. With the ability to transfer points to over 30 different airlines, you can replicate many of the benefits of multiple cards with just one card.
These airline cards earn miles that can only be redeemed for flights on that specific carrier, so they are notably less flexible than the SPG Amex. American airlines offers cards via both Citi and Barclaycard, while Delta cards are issued by Amex.
American Airlines and Delta are both transfer partners of SPG, which means you can earn Starpoints and transfer them to either airline. However, airline credit cards do offer other benefits when flying that are not offered by the SPG cards, such as free checked bags and priority boarding. If you often fly on a specific carrier, you may want that airline’s credit card just for those perks.
Whenever you apply for a credit card make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card and the rewards program to find out about minimum spend requirements and any restrictions to ensure you can successfully obtain the card and earn the rewards it offers.
Card Terms and Conditions
While it's easy to focus on the rewards offered by the Starwood Preferred Guest® card, it's worth taking a closer look at the card's terms and conditions. There's a lot to consider as you think about how you're going to use the card. Will you carry a balance, get a cash advance or maybe make a big purchase? Below is a rundown of the various interest rates, purchase protections, security features and mobile banking options that come with the Amex card.
- Intro APR:
- See Terms and Conditions
- Intro APR for balance transfers:
- See Terms and Conditions
- Ongoing APR:
- 16.24% to 20.24% Variable±
- Minimum Grace Period:
- 25 days
- Extended Warranty Protection:
- The length of your warranty can be matched for up to 1 additional year when you use your American Express card for eligible purchases. Coverage is limited to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year.
- Purchase Protection:
- When you use your card for eligible purchases, theft and accidental damage can be covered up to $1,000 per occurrence, with a cap of $50,000 total per calendar year.
- Return Protection:
- If you try to return an item within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won't take it back, Return Protection may provide a refund. Coverage is limited to $300 per item and $1,000 per calendar year.
Cash Advance Features
- Ongoing APR:
- 26.24% Variable ±
- Cash Advance Fee:
- Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater
Security and Protections
Amex cards come with a variety of security features including chip cards, fraud protection, and easily customizable fraud and activity alerts.
- Account alerts:
- Get email or text notifications about large purchases, irregular account activity, card not present transactions and more.
- Control accounts on the go:
- Get global acceptance and enhanced security at merchants that use chip enabled terminals.
- Paperless statements:
- Amex offers free FICO scores and can help you understand the factors affecting your score.
Amex offers mobile apps for both Android and Apple. These allow you to see recent activity, view past statements, make payments, contact customer service and more. The Amex Mobile App gives you complete access to your account while you’re on the go.
Additional Cardholder Benefits
The Starwood Preferred Guest card is issued by Amex, which offers some unique card benefits you won’t get with a Visa or MasterCard.
American Express Travel Benefits
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance:
- Coverage for theft and collision for most rentals in the U.S. and abroad. Coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.
- Roadside Assistance Hotline:
- Call for emergency services like towing, changing flat tires and jumping a dead battery.
- Travel Accident Insurance:
- Receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage for any air, bus, train or cruise ship transportation paid for with your card.
- Global Assist Hotline:
- Legal and medical referrals, and other travel and emergency assistance is available any time of day when you travel more than 100 miles from home. Service charges apply.
- Amex Offers:
- Amex offers are opportunities to get discounts or extra points for making purchases at various stores. These are always changing, so check for new opportunities often.