ALERT: Read this review of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card to see how it competes against other hotel cards. Spoiler alert – this card is a strong contender for the space in your wallet. (American Express is a CreditCardForum advertising partner.)Since its launch more than a decade ago, the Starwood Preferred Guest card has garnered a lot of praise for its rewards program. Why all the hype? It combines good redemption value with flexibility.
Starpoints = frequent flier miles on 30+ airlines
A unique benefit of the Starwood Preferred Guest card is the ability to turn your points into real frequent flier miles with more than 30 airline loyalty programs without any fees, surcharges or penalties. Other cards also allow you to do the same thing, but their transfer programs aren’t nearly as robust. Even the Membership Rewards program offered on other American Express products doesn’t have as many airline transfer partners. With this card, the conversion is often on a 1-for-1 basis, which means Starpoints offer a flexible and undiluted means of redemption. Think of this card as the Swiss army knife of travel cards – you can use it for hotel benefits, and you can use it to top off your airline frequent flier balances to score free flights.
August 2016 Best Offer: Earn up to 25,000 Starpoints + no annual fee for first year ($95 after).
That’s enough for up to two nights in a Category 4 hotel.
Another benefit of transferring to airline partners… you automatically get a bonus of 5,000 points for each 20,000 you transfer. That’s a 25 percent boost, just for using your points.
As for where you can transfer those points, you can convert them to the frequent flier programs listed below. Some airlines on this list require more than 1 Starpoint per mile, but in most cases, your rewards will transfer undiluted.
- Aegean Airlines
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Aeroplan/Air Canada
- Air Berlin
- Air China Companion
- Air New Zealand & Air Points
- All Nippon
- American Airlines
- Asia Miles
- Avianca (New for Sept. 2016)
- British Airways
- China Eastern Airlines
- China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pear Club
- Flying Blue
- Gol Smiles
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Jet Airways
- Korean Air
- LATAM Airlines
- Saudi Arabian
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Airways
- Virgin America
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
Accumulating points is straightforward with the Starwood Preferred Guest card. On all non-Starwood spending you get 1 Starpoint per dollar. All spending at Starwood properties can earn you up to 5 Starpoints per dollar (2 points from the credit card and another 2 to 3 points depending on your Starwood Preferred Guest level). Starwood has more than 1,200 properties in almost 100 different countries. Its properties include:
- W Hotels and W aloft
- Sheraton & Four Points by Sheraton
- Westin and Element by Westin
- The Luxury Collection
- Le Meridian
- St. Regis
We’ve already discussed the unusual opportunity this card offers for airline miles, but you also enjoy flexibility when redeeming for hotel stays via the Starwood Preferred Guest rewards program…
- No blackout dates – You can use your points at any Starwood property, with no blackout dates, as long as a standard room is available. Keep in mind that some luxury properties may have very few “standard” rooms.
- Starpoints for free nights – Redemptions start at 2,000 points for a weekend night in a Category 1 hotel (3,000 points for a weekday). Even within the higher categories, you’ll get a good value for your points.
- Cash & Points – Don’t have quite enough points for a free night? This feature allows you to score rooms using a combination of points and cash. For example, a night at a Category 1 standard room requires 1,500 Starpoints + $30. For a Category 2 standard room, it’s 2,000 points + $35.
- 5 nights for the price of 4 – When you redeem your points for 5 consecutive nights at a category 3-7 property, the fifth night is completely free (however sometimes you may encounter a property that has additional service and resort fees and you might have to pay those out of pocket on the free nights).
The above benefits don’t require you to have the card – you get them as part of the SPG loyalty program. But this following perk is exclusive to the card:
- 5 nights and 2 stays credit towards SPG elite status – You get this every year as a cardmember, helping you reach elite status faster. Elite SPG status has a variety of perks, including late checkout, room upgrades (if available) and higher rewards earnings at Starwood properties.
The Starwood credit card also offers these benefits for no additional cost:
- Purchase Protection – If you break an eligible purchase within 90 days of buying it, American Express will pay to replace or repair the item, or reimburse you (up to coverage limits).
- Extended Warranty – For purchases you make with this card, you can double the length of an original manufacturer’s U.S. warranty of five years or less, up to one additional year.
- Return Protection – Store won’t take back your purchase? American Express may refund your eligible purchases in the allotted time span if they’re still in “like new” condition.
- Travel Benefits – There’s an array of services to protect you, including $100,000 in travel accident insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance, emergency cash and card replacement, and many others.
No foreign transaction fees
Using this card while traveling the world? You won’t be charged extra. The SPG card started waiving foreign transaction fees in September 2015.
Free Internet benefits
With this card, you get complimentary premium Internet access in your room and complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices. Enrollment is required for the Boingo benefit. You also get free in-room premium Internet access at participating hotels if you booked a Starpoint-eligible stay.
Whether you’re after hotel stays or airline miles, this card covers both bases. The 30+ partner airlines and the 25 percent bonus each time you transfer 20,000 points add to the flexibility for air travel redemption.
Why we gave it 4 out of 5 stars
The Starwood Preferred Guest card’s rating was based on our rating standards for hotel rewards cards. While it gets docked for not offering a free anniversary night (which several other hotel cards do), its transfer bonus, unique airline-transfer program and extraordinarily high point worth make it an excellent choice for those who frequently stay at Starwood properties.
|Bonus-earning opportunities: This card offers a generous redemption bonus when you redeem into Starwood’s partner airline programs.|
|Free night: Unlike other hotel cards, this card doesn’t give a free annual night.|
|Unique perks: The program allows for 1-1 point transfers to partner programs, and also gives complimentary Boingo membership.|
|Progress toward elite status: The card gives automatic progress toward elite status (5 nights and 2 stays each year), without requiring spend.|
|Point worth: To gain this star, card must have a point worth of 1 cent per point (according to the most current Points Guy valuation). Starpoints are worth 2.4 cents each, according to TPG’s valuation.|
Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.