May's Featured Offer: Earn up to 25,000 Starpoints AND get a $0 introductory annual fee after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases with the first 3 months. PLUS, get a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Note: This card's annual fee recently increased to $95. At the same time, new benefits have been added, including waived foreign transaction fees, complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi and complimentary premium in-room Internet.
Can a Hotel Reward Card Also Be a Frequent Flier Credit Card?
Although the Starwood Preferred Guest card is primarily a hotel rewards card, it's also a versatile instrument for accumulating airline frequent flier miles.
The biggest problem with co-branded airline and hotel reward cards is that your points are redeemable for travel only on the affiliated airline or hotel. Sometimes you can transfer to partner airlines, but you may get penalized for doing so with poor redemption value, or a limited number of transfer partners. However, with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, you can transfer points to more than 30 airlines. Better yet, a lot of these transfers can be done on a 1-for-1 basis – each point can be converted into 1 mile in the frequent flier program of your choice. Some of the card's partner airlines include Delta, American Airlines, Aeroplan/Air Canada, and about two dozen others. The list of partners is still growing, by the way, with Virgin America being the most recent addition.
The Starwood Preferred isn't the only card that allows you to transfer points into other loyalty programs, but it stands out, thanks to the sheer number of transfer partners it has. Even the Membership Rewards program offered on other American Express cards like Premier Rewards Gold doesn't have 30 partner airlines.
How the Points Work
Known as Starpoints, you earn them on virtually all purchases. For regular (non-Starwood) purchases, you earn 1 Starpoint per dollar. You get extra points for spending at Starwood properties. Starwood now has more than 1,200 hotels and resorts. Their major brands include W Hotels, Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridian, St. Regis, and The Luxury Collection (which consists of more than 90 unique properties). How many points you earn per dollar on Starwood stays depends on your SPG tier:
This is the base tier for those new to the Preferred Guest program. At their properties you will earn a total of 4 points per dollar – 2 as an SPG member plus 2 for using this card.
You reach this tier if you have 10 eligible stays (or 25 eligible nights) at Starwood hotels in a calendar year. Once you get Gold, you will earn 5 points per dollar (2 coming from the AmEx) spent at Starwood properties.
Eager to reach Gold status and earn more points at Starwood hotels?
The Starwood American Express will get you to this tier faster since it automatically gives you credit for 5 nights and 2 stays annually toward your status. If you spend $30,000 per year on your card, you will also get upgraded to Gold for 12 months.
You reach this level after 25 stays (or 50 nights) at Starwood hotels in a calendar year. This tier also gives you a total of 5 points per dollar spent at their properties (same structure as the Gold).
How Much Are Starpoints Worth?
Don't get tricked by other cards that offer more points per dollar spent. The reason they can offer so many is that their points aren't worth much.
Fortunately, Starwood's program offers a consistently good value for your points.
As of Q1 2016, here is the Starpoints redemption chart, which shows you how many points it will take for a free standard room. The number required is quite reasonable when you consider how much it would cost in cash if you were paying for an uber-luxury Category 6 or 7 out of pocket.
In addition to paying 100 percent with points, you can also pay with a combination of points and cash (a good way to get value out of your "leftover" points).
You might be wondering... what is a typical Category 1? Or Category 4? Here are three random examples for each tier to give you an idea of what to expect...
- Category 1: Aloft Bursa Hotel in Bursa, Turkey; Four Points by Sheraton Tucson Airport; Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa in Cairo, Egypt
- Category 2: Aloft in Winchester, Virginia, Four Points by Sheraton Chicago O'Hare Airport, Le Méridien Chongqing China
- Category 3: Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Westside, Aloft in downtown Tallahassee, Sheraton Heathrow Hotel
- Category 4: Aloft Chicago City Center, Le Méridien Stuttgart Germany, Sheraton Colonia Golf & Spa Resort in Uruguay, The Westin Sydney (Australia)
- Category 5: Aloft New York Brooklyn, Sheraton Kauai Resort
- Category 6: SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills, W New York - Times Square, The Westin Paris - Vendóme, The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa
- Category 7: The St. Regis New York, Hotel President Wilson Geneva Switzerland (a Luxury Collection Hotel), The St. Regis Aspen Resort
Whatever the case, when you look at the number of points it takes for these rooms and compare it to the amount of money you would have to pay for them, you'll find that your Starpoints can go a long way.
American Express benefits
In addition to its rewards, the credit card also comes with a variety of useful benefits from American Express:
- Extended Warranty: Ever had a computer or TV go bad right after the warranty expired? You might wish you'd bought the extended warranty the cashier tried to sell you. For eligible purchases on this card, however, American Express will double the original manufacturer warranty, up to one extra year.
- Purchase Protection: With this valuable benefit, AmEx will cover eligible purchases against accidental damage for 90 days from purchase (up to $1,000 per occurrence).
- Travel Protection: AmEx is known for exceptional travel services. On eligible purchases made with the card, you receive secondary car rental collision coverage, up to $100,000 travel accident insurance for eligible Common Carrier travel, as well as other benefits.
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.