The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is a hotel rewards card and business credit card with a $95 annual fee. Its generous rewards program centers on the Starwood hotel family, whose brands include Sheraton, Westin, and W. Every Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card purchase earns Starpoints®, Starwood’s loyalty program currency. Once you accumulate enough Starpoints, you can redeem for free nights and room upgrades at around 1,300 Starwood properties worldwide, or transfer to more than 30 frequent flyer programs covering about 150 total airlines.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card directly competes with other popular business travel rewards cards, including CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard, Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, the Capital One Spark Miles family, American Express Business Platinum Card, and Blue for Business from American Express.
If you don’t own your own business, you’d likely be a better fit for the consumer credit card version of this card, known simply as the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.
- Sign-up Bonus: For a limited time, you can earn up to 35,000 Starpoints (offer expires April 5, 2017). When you spend at least $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you receive 25,000 bonus Starpoints. This is worth as much as $625 or more, depending on when and where you redeem. You can then earn another 10,000 Starpoints after spending an additional $3,000 in the first 6 months.
- Starpoint Rewards: The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card earns an unlimited 2 Starpoints for every $1 spent at Starwood or Marriott Rewards hotels. If you stay at Starwood hotels more than 25 nights per year, complete 10 separate stays overall per year, or spend $30,000 in a year, you qualify for Starwood Elite Gold status. That entitles you to earn 3 additional Starpoints for every $1 spent at Starwood hotels, bringing your total earnings to 5 points per $1 spent. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 Starpoint per $1 spent.
- Starpoint Redemptions: Starpoints are redeemable for free hotel nights and room upgrades at about 1,300 Starwood hotels worldwide. Free night redemption minimums start at 2,000 points for Category 1 hotels, which are budget-friendly and less luxurious, and rise to 35,000 points for super high-end Category 7 hotels. Note, however, that exact point requirements vary based on season and demand. Room upgrade redemption minimums start at 1,000 points for Category 1 properties and rise to 2,750 points for Category 7, though the same variables apply. If you don’t have enough points for a full night, you can use Starwood’s Cash & Points feature to combine cash and Starpoints and earn a free room. You need 1,500 points and $30 to earn a free Category 1 night, or up to 15,000 points and $275 for a free Category 7 night. Starpoint redemption values can vary based on season, demand, and the cash price of the room or upgrade. However, they regularly range as high as $0.025, and may go even higher in some cases.
- Frequent Flyer Point Transfers: The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card allows you to transfer (or convert) your accumulated Starpoints to more than 30 airline frequent flyer programs, covering around 150 airlines – including Delta, American, and other popular U.S.-based airlines. In most cases, 1 Starpoint equals 1 airline mile, though a handful of programs require 2 or more Starpoints for 1 mile. When you transfer at least 20,000 points to a participating frequent flyer program, you get a 25% bonus of 5,000 points.
- Starwood Elite Status Credit: Each year, you get credit for 2 complete stays and 5 nights toward Starwood Elite Gold status – about one-fifth of the way toward Gold status. Once you reach Gold status, you’re entitled to complimentary room upgrades (when available), flexible checkout times, and accelerated Starpoint earnings on all Starwood stays (3 points instead of 2), among other benefits.
- Sheraton Club Lounge Access: As long as your account remains open, you get complimentary access to about 350 Sheraton Club Lounge locations in Sheraton-branded hotels.
- Free WiFi: As long as your account remains open, you get free premium in-room WiFi at all Starwood hotel properties. You also get unlimited, free use of more than 1 million Boingo WiFi hotspots around the world, including at most major airports and transit hubs.
- Additional Travel Benefits: The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card has a host of travel benefits that apply regardless of whether the cardholder is staying at a Starwood property. These include 24/7 global assistance for any traveler more than 100 miles from home; roadside assistance for all travelers, no matter the location; accidental death and dismemberment insurance for traveling cardholders; and complimentary loss and damage insurance on rental cars paid for with the card.
- General Benefits: This card has a number of non-travel benefits for purchases made with the card, including purchase protection for items damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase; 12-month extended warranties on any items with original warranties of 5 years or less; and return protection (up to $300 per item) for returns rejected by the original merchant within 90 days of purchase.
- OPEN Savings Benefit: Starwood Preferred Guest Business cardholders are eligible to earn 5% discounts on purchases with partner merchants that participate in Amex’s OPEN Savings program, including 1800Flowers.com, FedEx, and Hertz. A complete list of participating merchants is available at opensavings.com. Each purchase’s 5% discount is automatically applied to your billing statement for the month in which it was made.
- Additional Business Benefits: The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card has some business-friendly benefits, including digital receipt storage; the option to designate an employee or associate as your account manager; expense tagging and tracking; and access to the American Express OPEN Forum, a hub of crowd-sourced business knowledge, expertise, and insight.
- Important Fees: This card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and it never carries any foreign transaction fees. Late and returned payments both cost up to $38, while balance transfers and cash advances both cost the greater of $5 or 3%. There are no fees for additional employee cards.
- Credit Required: This card requires good to excellent credit.
- Points Can Be Valuable at Redemption. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card’s loyalty currency, Starpoints, can be quite valuable at redemption – often as much as $0.025 apiece, depending on where and when they’re redeemed, and sometimes even more. By contrast, Capital One’s Spark business travel cards’ rewards points top out at $0.01 apiece.
- Very Good Sign-up Bonus. This credit card’s sign-up bonus is worth $625 or more at redemption, which is a great deal more than popular Amex business cards such as Business Green Rewards ($50), Business Gold Rewards ($250), and Business Platinum ($400).
- Generous Frequent Flyer Miles Swap. As a Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card holder, you can use your accumulated Starpoints to purchase flights with more than 150 airlines, including American, Delta, and other popular brands. Most transfers are made on a 1:1 basis, meaning you don’t have to keep track of variable conversion tables – and you preserve the value of your Starpoints in the process. Plus, transfers of 20,000 Starpoints or more earn bonuses of 5,000 Starpoints. Few other business travel rewards cards have such generous, straightforward hotel-to-frequent-flyer conversion schemes.
- OPEN Savings Benefit Encourages Spending with Popular Merchants. This card’s OPEN Savings Benefit offers a very nice incentive – a 5% discount on all purchases – to spend with such popular merchants as FedEx, 1800Flowers.com, and Hertz. Depending on what your business does, it’s entirely possible that you already spend regularly with one or more of these merchants – a nice benefit that doesn’t require you to stay at a Starwood hotel.
- Nice Fringe Benefits. This card has a host of great benefits for travelers and non-travelers, including extended warranty protection, Sheraton Club Lounge access, and free WiFi at more than a million locations around the world. Many business credit cards, including U.S. Bank Business Edge Platinum and Capital One Spark Miles Select, don’t invest in such luxuries.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, which is great news for business travelers who frequently venture outside U.S. borders and prefer Starwood-family hotels. Other popular business rewards cards, such as Blue for Business from American Express and Ink Cash from Chase, charge foreign transaction fees of 2% to 3%.
- Charges an Annual Fee. From the second year of card membership on, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card carries a $95 annual fee. Chase Ink Business Cash and similar general-purpose business rewards cards without annual fees are better choices for business owners who don’t travel often or don’t prefer Starwood properties when they do.
- Can’t Redeem for Non-Travel Items. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card doesn’t allow you to redeem accumulated rewards for cash back or general merchandise, which is disappointing if you prefer such things to airfare or hotel nights. If you prefer more versatile rewards, opt for American Express’s Blue for Business or SimplyCash Plus Business instead.
- Limited Number of Participating Properties. About 1,300 properties participate in the Starpoints program. That’s a lot less than competing hotel loyalty programs, some of which have more than 4,000 properties in their arsenals. Unfortunately, this limitation raises the likelihood that you’ll be unable to redeem your accumulated Starpoints in any given destination – and, potentially, reduces this card’s value to your business.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is a very solid business travel rewards card. Its points offer high value at redemption, it offers a competitive sign-up bonus, and it matches up nicely with more than 100 frequent flyer programs.
However, it’s not for everyone – even those who travel often. If you don’t routinely visit vacation destinations or business hubs with Starwood-branded hotels – whether Westin, Sheraton, W, or some other marque – you simply won’t rack up the points fast enough to make this card worth it. Before you apply for a hotel- or airline-specific travel rewards card of any sort, make sure you can get good use out of it without literally going out of your way.