Tuesday, January 17, 2012

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card

*Updated May 7, 2013*

Given that I do a little bit of travelling every now and then, I thought some readers here might be interested in the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.  There are a wide variety of credit cards out there (such as the Amex Hilton card) and picking and choosing between all those choices is sometimes a bit difficult.

Before I get into a huge analysis of points, fees, rewards and whatnot, I'd like to point at one of the stays I made recently with Starwood, at the Westin Chosun in Seoul as an example of the possibilities out there for redemption.  This was one of the top tier hotels in Seoul, very centrally located near Myeong Dong and definitely a superb place to stay when travelling..

At the time of my travels, one night would have cost almost $300 USD after taxes and fees.  At that rate, a 5 night stay would have cost a pretty penny (~$1500 USD)!  Using Starwood points however, this particular stay only cost me 40k SPG points (This category 4 hotel would have cost me 10k SPG points / night but by using the 'redeem 4 nights get the 5th free', only 40k points was required).  As to how I got those 40k points, I will detail that out below.

In terms of travel rewards credit cards, the SPG Amex card I think offers one of the best value out there, over most of the specific airline or hotel cards.  The SPG card offers 1 SPG point per dollar spent which often sounds like the 1 point per mile or 1 point per hotel loyalty program all cards have these days.  However, not all points are created equal. I would approximately value 1 SPG point @ 2.5 cents whereas 1 airline mile generally would be valued @ 1.3 cents depending on your redemption. In my case above, my SPG points were worth an astounding 3.75 cents per point (ie. 3.75% cashback)!

Beyond just redeeming SPG points for hotel redemptions with Starwood properties (eg. Sheraton, Westin, W, Le Meridien), SPG points can also be transferred to airline partners at a 1:1 transfer ratio which can definitely help you to top off any miles needed to get you to that next free flight!

To whet your appetite, this credit card offer comes with:
  • 2 SPG point per $1 spend at Starwood properties (in addition to the bonus you get from the program itself)
  • 1 SPG point per $1 spend elsewhere
  • Free 10k points after first purchase
  • Free 15k points after $5k spend in first 6 months
  • Free 5k points for adding an additional cardmember
  • 1:1 SPG point to mile transfer with ~30 airline partners (eg. Air Canada, Asiana, British Airways, US Airways etc.)
  • Additional 5k mile bonus for every 20k SPG point transferred to airline partners
  • Annual fee of $65 waived for first year
I won't go into too much details into other hotel programs here but generally, I feel this redemption program generally offers equal or better value than the programs offered by Hilton, Marriott and Priority Club in terms of the overall program and credit card value although Hyatt definitely gives Starwood a run for its money.

Generally, I would say that this card works great for both frequent and infrequent travelers. Frequent travelers would benefit from the quick SPG point accumulation offered by the card while infrequent travelers could save up a number of points for use on that once yearly vacation or long planned for getaway.

If this card sounds right for your needs, I would definitely urge you to check this card out here.

Disclaimer: This card is only available to US residents.  Also, I am not paid by American Express to endorse their products.

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