The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is consistently rated the #1 travel reward credit card because of its flexibility and high earning potential. The card offers one point for every dollar spent, plus up to five points for every dollar spent at a Starwood property.
The 1:1 ratio is a standard dollar to point ratio for travel credit cards. However, the real differentiator with this card is that the value of each point is worth more than other hotel program points and is worth more than the single frequent flyer mile you would earn with an airline card.
Plus, it has the flexibility to be used for hotels, airlines or other rewards.
Sign up Bonus, Rewards and Transfer Options
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has a sign up bonus of up to 25,000 points. This includes 10,000 points after your first purchase and 15,000 more points when you spend $5,000 in the first six months.
The 25,000 bonus points would be enough for five nights at any Category 2 hotel (including select Four Points, Sheraton, aloft, element and Westin Hotels) or up to two free nights at a higher end category 5 hotel (including great properties like the St. Regis Atlanta, W New York, Westin Los Cabos, Westin Beaver Creek, etc…). Since Starwood does not have blackout dates or availability restrictions, you can schedule your nights at any time!
The points earned with this card can either be used for free nights at over 1,000 hotels in over 100 countries, OR they can be used for free flights on over 350 airlines. There are two ways to book flights with Starpoints:
1. Redeem Starpoints directly for airline tickets through SPG Flights.
2. Transfer Starpoints to 30 different frequent flyer programs (most on a 1:1 basis). When you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to one of these airline programs, Starwood will give you an additional 5,000 Starpoint bonus in the transfer. The following table lists the airlines and the ratio of Starpoints to Frequent Flyer Miles:
Starwood also allows you to use a combination of cash + points for a hotel stay as well. The table below shows the number of points + cash needed for each category hotel. This can be a good option if you don’t have enough points for a free stay and sometimes offers the best overall value for your points.
Points earned in the first year with the Starwood American Express Card
Assume you spend $3,000 per month on the Credit Card in the first 12 months
+ 10,000 Starpoints – First Purchase bonus
+ 15,000 Starpoints – Bonus for spending $5,000 in the first 6 months
+ 36,000 Starpoints – 1:1 ratio of starpoints per dollar charged on the card
= 61,000 Starpoints earned in the first year.
When you consider that Starwood gives you a fifth night free when you book 4 nights using points, this will give you a 5 night vacation at any category 5 Starwood hotel
Additional Benefits of the Starwood SPG American Express Card
In additional to the ability to earn SPG Starpoints, The Starwood Preferred Guest Amex Card offers the following benefits:
- Use the card to book 2 nights at a participating Sheraton Hotel and get the 3rd night free
- Collision Coverage for Rental Cars
- Up to $100,000 in Travel Accident Insurance
- Extended Warranty: Extend the length of the warranty on your purchased up to one year
- Purchase Protection: If something is damaged within 90 days of purchase, the card can help you repair it, replace it, or reimburse you for up to the amount charged.
- Return Protection: If you try to return a purchased item within 90 days of the purchase date and the merchant won’t take it back, American Express may refund the full purchase price, up to $300 per item.
- Instant Access to cash at over 500,000 ATM’s worldwide
- Savings on Events with Ticketmaster through American Express Ticket Savings Center
- Online Account Management: View recent activity, Schedule Future Payments, Set up Alerts, etc…
Our Take on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card
Is it Right for you?
This is the best overall Travel Rewards Credit Card on the market and our #1 pick for the following reasons:
- Flexibility to use the card for hotel stays or transfer 1:1 for airline miles
- Value of points earned (from the credit card) for hotel stays is much higher than those offered by IHG, Hilton & Marriott
- 5,000 bonus points for transferring points to airline miles (20,000 point transfer)
- Flexibility to use for flights on over 300 airlines
- Great selection of high quality hotels (St Regis, Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Westin, Le Meridian, element, aloft, Sheraton, Four Points)
Apply here… with this secure link to the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Application Page.
Know your Credit Score
Before you apply for any credit card, you should make sure you have an understanding of your credit score and credit history. Most Travel Credit Card Companies require you to have a strong credit score, ideally they will prefer a FICO score of at least 700.
Once you apply for a credit card, the credit card company will perform a credit inquiry. Be aware that credit inquiries will affect your credit score. Each time you apply for a credit card (or any type of loan for that matter), the inquiry will reduce your score anywhere from 2-5 points.
By law, you are allowed to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus once a year. The free annual copies of your credit report will give you all of the data that provides the foundation for your credit score, but the Credit Reports don’t provide the Credit Score itself. You will need both your Credit Report and Credit Score to get the full view of your credit situation.
Here are four links to get your Free Credit Score: (Note: CreditReport.com and TransUnion will ask for credit card information to participate in a trial offer, but will not charge you until after the 7 day free trial period. After 6 days you can either continue with the service or cancel and keep your credit score for free. The third and Fourth options, CreditSesame and CreditKarma do not require a credit card and truly are Free.)
- CreditReport.com Free Credit Score
- TransUnion 3 Bureau Credit Report and Free Score
- CreditSesame (no card required – provides Experian Score)
- CreditKarma (no card required – provides TransUnion Score)
Here is the link to get your Free Credit Report:
Finally, please only apply for any travel credit card if you pay your bills in full each month. Carrying a balance on any travel credit card will eliminate the benefit of the travel rewards due to the higher interest rates associated with these cards.