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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (American Express is a CardRatings.com advertiser) was just awarded a 2016 CardRating's Editor's Choice award for being one of the best travel credit cards on the market.
As a frequent traveler, it’s nice to have a reliable home away from home. Pinpointing a hotel chain or airline that you love is a great way to find comfortable consistency, and helps eliminate hidden surprises that make travel unnecessarily stressful.
If your hotels of choice include properties like Four Points by Sheraton and the W, then consider getting rewarded for your loyalty with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Even more, you'll be rewarded to the tune of 25,000 Starpoints if you spend $3,000 on your card within the first three months of account opening.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Program is divided into three tiers: Preferred Guest, Gold Preferred and Platinum Preferred. Preferred members get 2 points for every dollar spent at participating Starwood hotels, while Gold and Platinum members earn 3 points. That’s on top of the 2 points for every dollar American Express® automatically gives cardmembers for eligible purchases.Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers more value than other hotel cards, making it easy for business travelers to amass rewards and free nights. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card’s best features:
With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn up to 5 points for every dollar you spend at one of Starwood’s 11 hotel brands. Get 2 points for eligible purchases as a cardmember and up to 3 points as a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest® program. Points don’t expire, which makes it easy to build up enough points for a fantastic splurge, or redeem them — sensibly— as they come.
According to our research, the minimum points required for a stay in one of Starwood®’s standard properties (Four Points® by Sheraton, for example) is 10,000 points or 40% of the points earned in the signup bonus. You’d have to spend an average of $208 a month at Starwood hotels to earn enough points for this stay — fairly easy to do if you’re a frequent business traveler and a Preferred Guest member.
One of the best benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is that you get more value for your points. If you’re a Preferred Guest member, you earn 4 points for every dollar you spend at participating hotels, providing a value of more than 2 cents per point when you redeem them for free nights — exceeding the one-cent-per-point industry average for other travel rewards credit cards.
You can redeem flights on more than 150 airlines with no blackout dates. Starwood® also has partnerships with nearly 30 frequent flier programs. As a cardmember, you receive 5,000 bonus points when you transfer 20,000 bonus points to one of these programs.
The two biggest drawbacks of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express are the $95 annual fee after the first year and that the sign-up bonus isn’t as generous as other hotel cards. The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, for example, offers 60,000 bonus points when you make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months. (IHG® also offers an anniversary free night on your account anniversary each year). The $95 annual fee is also a higher than other cards in this category, which can be as low as $49.
One last thing to consider: Starwood doesn’t have as broad a portfolio as its competitors, so you have to really love its hotels to commit to this card. If you’re looking for more hotel options in more cities, a bigger brand might be better: Hilton, for example, has over 4,200 hotels in 93 countries in its portfolio; Starwood only has 1,300 hotels and resorts in its portfolio.
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a better sign-up offer, at 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Every Marriott Rewards® Premier cardholder gets five points for every dollar spent at one of Marriott’s thousands of hotels, two points for every dollar for airline tickets, car rentals and dining, and 1 point for all other purchases. Both cards have no foreign transaction fee and a $0 introductory annual fee, but it’s only $85 for Marriott Rewards® Premier compared to $95 for Starwood Preferred Guest® after the intro period. Marriott Rewards® Premier also gives cardholders a free night stay on their anniversary, which may put it a notch above Starwood Preferred Guest® for both points and perks.
There’s no sign-up point incentive with Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card, but you do get two weekend night stays at a Hilton hotel after you make $2,500 purchases within the first four months. Unlike Starwood Preferred Guest®, Hilton® HHonors doesn’t have an introductory $0 annual fee, so you’ll have to pay a $95 annual fee when you get the card — and every year thereafter. But you get more points with Hilton® HHonors. The card gives you 10 bonus points for every dollar you spend at a Hilton hotel, 5 points on airline and rental car purchases and 3 bonus points on all other purchases. Every cardmember also gets automatic Gold status with Hilton® HHonors. If variety and choice are important to you, Hilton will be the better option because of its wider portfolio, but if want to avoid an annual fee — at least for a year — then choose Starwood Preferred Guest®.
The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card’s intro offer gets you 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months; that’s more points for less spending than the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card’s introductory offer.
While both cards are void of foreign transaction fees and waive annual fees in the first year, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card does have a slightly lower annual fee the following year of $49. But the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card allows cardholders to redeem Starpoints for free flights on more than 150 airlines, including Delta and other major carriers, plus offers 5,000 bonus points when you transfer 20,000 points to one of nearly 30 participating frequent flyer programs.
The key here likely comes down to where your loyalties lie, whether with Starwood or IHG properties.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is clearly attractive for business travelers, especially for business travelers who have the luxury of using a personal card for business expenses, then get reimbursed later. With its high value per point, even a one-night stay every month can net you enough points for a free night by the end of the year. Use this card for everyday purchases as well as business travel to maximize your rewards.