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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express – Review

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At a Glance
american express starwood preferred guest credit card
4.3 / 5
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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

  • Welcome Offer: 25,000 Starpoints after $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 2 points per dollar spent at Starwood and Marriott Rewards hotels; 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases; Redeem for free nights at participating hotels & resorts in over 100 countries with no blackout dates; 25% bonus when transferring Starpoints to frequent flyer programs (20,000 points transfer minimum)
  • Benefits: Free in-room, premium internet access; Complimentary Boingo WiFi at more than 1 million Boingo hotspots worldwide
  • Fees: No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual Fee: $95 ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year)
  • Credit Needed: Excellent

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a hotel rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee and a rewards program that revolves around the Starwood hotel family, which includes such brands as Sheraton, Westin, and W. Every purchase you make earns Starpoints, Starwood’s loyalty program currency. Starpoints can be redeemed for free nights and room upgrades at about 1,300 Starwood properties worldwide, or converted to frequent flyer miles from more than 30 airline groups.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card directly competes with other hotel and travel rewards credit cards, including the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card, Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card, Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card, United MileagePlus Explorer Card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, and many others. If you own your own business, consider applying for this card’s very similar business credit card alternative: Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express.

Key Features

Welcome Offer

When you spend at least $3,000 within the first 3 months, you get 25,000 Starpoints. That’s worth as many as 12 free nights at Category 1 Starwood properties, though precise point values vary based on when and where you redeem.

Earning Starpoints

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card earns 2 Starpoints for every $1 spent at Starwood and Marriott properties, with no caps or restrictions.

Once you qualify for Starwood Elite Gold status, which requires 10 separate hotel stays or 25 hotel nights, you earn an additional 3 Starpoints (for 5 total) for every $1 spent at Starwood hotels. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 Starpoint per $1 spent.

Redeeming Starpoints

You can redeem accumulated Starpoints for free hotel nights and room upgrades.

Free night redemption minimums start at 2,000 points for budget-friendly Category 1 hotels and rise to 35,000 points for high-end Category 7 hotels, though exact point requirements vary based on season and demand. Room upgrade minimums start at 1,000 points for Category 1 and rise to 2,750 points for Category 7.

You can also use SPG’s Cash & Points feature to put cash and points toward the same free room. 1,500 points and $30 get you a free Category 1 night, while 15,000 and $275 are required for a free Category 7 night. Redemption values vary based on the cash price of the room or upgrade, as well as factors like season and demand, but can range as high as $0.025 (and even higher in rare cases).

Frequent Flyer Program Transfers

If you don’t want to redeem them at Starwood properties, you can convert your accumulated Starpoints to airline frequent flyer miles. More than 30 frequent flyer programs – including Delta SkyMiles and American Airlines AAdvantage – have agreements with Starwood.

In most cases, transfers are one-to-one: 1 Starpoint for 1 mile. In rare cases, 2 or more Starpoints may be required to earn a single mile. When you transfer at least 20,000 points to a participating frequent flyer program, you get a 5,000 point bonus (25%).

Starwood Elite Status Credit

At the beginning of each year, you get credit for 5 nights and 2 stays toward Starwood Elite Gold status. Gold status entitles you to flexible checkout times, complimentary room upgrades, accelerated Starpoint earnings on all Starwood stays, and more.

Free WiFi

The Starwood Preferred Guest card entitles you to free premium in-room WiFi at all Starwood properties. You also get complimentary, unlimited access to more than 1 million Boingo WiFi hotspots worldwide, including at airports and train stations.

Additional Travel Benefits

The Starwood Preferred Guest card has a number of other useful travel benefits not limited to Starwood properties:

  • Complimentary loss and damage coverage on rental cars paid for in full with the card
  • 24/7 roadside assistance
  • 24/7 global assistance for travelers more than 100 miles from home
  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance for traveling cardholders (a form of basic travel insurance)

General Benefits

This card’s non-travel benefits include:

  • 12-month extended warranties on all items purchased with original warranties of 5 years or less
  • Purchase protection for items stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchase
  • Return protection (up to $300 per item) for returns rejected by the original merchant within 90 days of purchase

Important Fees

The $95 annual fee is waived in the first year, and there are never any foreign transaction fees. Late and returned payments cost up to $38, while balance transfers and cash advances both cost the greater of $5 or 3%.

Credit Required

This card requires excellent credit

Advantages

  1. Points Can Be Quite Valuable at Redemption. Starpoints are worth up to $0.025 at redemption, and sometimes even more, depending on when and where you redeem. By contrast, Marriott Rewards Premier and IHG Rewards Club Select both have average point redemption values closer to the $0.01 mark, and sometimes lower.
  2. Very Good Welcome Offer. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card’s welcome offer is worth up to 12 free nights when redeemed at Category 1 Starwood properties.
  3. Generous Frequent Flyer Transfer Deal. As a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card holder, you’re entitled to 1:1 Starpoint-to-frequent-flyer-point transfers with some of the world’s most popular airlines, including Delta and American. Plus, you get a 5,000 Starpoint bonus whenever you transfer at least 20,000 Starpoints to frequent flyer miles. Most other hotel rewards cards have complicated point transfer systems, if they exist at all. Many require more than 1 hotel point to earn a single frequent flyer point, and many don’t offer point transfer bonuses.
  4. No Foreign Transaction Fee. This card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. That’s good news for international travelers who prefer the Starwood brand. The Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature and Expedia+ cards both have 3% annual fees.
  5. Nice Fringe Benefits. This card has a nice lineup of fringe benefits, including free WiFi in every Starwood hotel room and at every Boingo hotspot worldwide. More bare-bones travel rewards cards don’t have these sweet perks.

Disadvantages

  1. Has an Annual Fee. After the first year, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card comes with a $95 annual fee. If you don’t stay at Starwood properties often enough to offset this recurring levy, this card probably isn’t for you.
  2. Mediocre Elite Status Benefit. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card earns 2 stays and 5 nights toward Gold status. While that’s better than cards with no elite status benefits at all, it’s worse than many direct competitors. For instance, IHG Rewards Club Select ($49 annual fee) automatically qualifies you for Platinum Elite status, IHG’s second-highest loyalty tier.

Final Word

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers generous point values, a nice welcome offer, 1:1 points transfer to many frequent flyer programs, and some other attractive perks. As hotel rewards credit cards go, it’s pretty good.

At the same time, it can’t singlehandedly create Starwood or Marriott properties in your preferred destinations. If you routinely visit cities or vacation destinations without any participating properties, a different hotel rewards card may be in order. However, if your travel patterns shift into Starwood’s or Marriott’s orbits at some point in the future, this popular card will be waiting for you there.

Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

Verdict
american express starwood preferred guest credit card
4.3 / 5
Rating

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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is ideal for people who stay at Starwood properties often enough – and accumulate rewards fast enough – to offset the $95 annual fee, and who enjoy flexible hotel rewards programs with favorable frequent flyer transfer arrangements. It is not a great option for people who don’t travel often, or who prefer general merchandise or cash back rewards programs from their credit cards.

Benefits of this card include a strong welcome offer, high point values, a generous frequent flyer transfer program, and free WiFi. However, the annual fee and mediocre status deal are definitely drawbacks. Overall, it’s a great card for frequent Starwood visitors.

Editorial Note: 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 the 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.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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