The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (American Express is a CardRatings.com advertiser) was awarded a 2018 CardRating's Editor's Choice award for Best Hotel Rewards credit card.
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.
Plus, earning 25,000 bonus Starpoint® after making $3,000 in purchases in the first three months is a nice welcome gift.
If your hotels of choice include Starwood properties like Four Points by Sheraton and the W or participating Marriott properties then consider getting rewarded for your loyalty with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Program is divided into three tiers: Preferred Guest, Gold Preferred and Platinum Preferred. Preferred members get two points for every $1 spent at participating Starwood hotels, while Gold and Platinum members earn three points. That’s on top of the two points for every $1 American Express® automatically gives cardmembers for eligible purchases. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers more value than other hotel cards, making it easy for travelers to amass rewards and free nights. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card by American Express' best features:
With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn up to five points for every $1 you spend at one of Starwood’s 11 hotel brands. Get two points for eligible purchases as a cardmember and up to three 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. 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 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 four points for every $1 you spend at participating hotels, providing a value of more than $.02 per point when you redeem them for free nights – exceeding the $.01-per-point industry average for other travel rewards credit cards.
Additionally, you can redeem points for 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 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 welcome offer 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. Still, if you’re looking for more hotel options in more cities, a bigger brand might be better: Hilton, for example, has more 4,200 hotels in 93 countries in its portfolio; Starwood only has 1,300 hotels and resorts in its portfolio, though many Marriott hotels are also now participating in the Starpoints® program.
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has an excellent signup offer at 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Beyond that, every Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card cardholder gets five points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels; two points for every $1 spent on airfare directly from the airline, car rentals and dining; and 1 point for all other purchases. Neither card charges foreign transaction fees and both come with a $0 introductory annual fee, but that fee jumps to only $85 for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card as compared to $95 for Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card after the intro period. Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card also gives cardholders a free night stay after their anniversary, which may put it a notch above Starwood Preferred Guest® for both points and perks.
The Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is not currently available on CardRatings)
The limited time welcome offer for the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is nice at 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months. Beyond that, you'll earn 12 points for every $1 spent at participating Hilton hotels or resorts; six points for every $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets; and U.S. gas stations; and three points every $1 spent elsewhere. While those earning rates look impressive (and they are!) keep in mind that your best value for redeeming Hilton points is directly with the hotels, whereas you get good value redeeming Starpoints® with one of more than 150 airlines or, better yet, transferring your points to one of 30 frequent flyer programs where you'll earn 5,000 bonus points when you transfer 20,000 points.
Unlike the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express doesn’t have an introductory $0 annual fee, so you'll have to pay a $75 annual fee right away and every year thereafter. Still, if variety and choice are important to you, Hilton will be the better option because of its wider portfolio.
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 from Americna Express' 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 lower annual fee the following year of $49. But the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express 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 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 regular travelers who appreciate consistency with their home away from home. 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.