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American Express Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card Review
When you’re shopping around for a new credit card, finding one that has a reasonable balance of rewards and fees/interest rates can seem a bit difficult. Today I’ll be reviewing the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, a fantastic card to hold if you’re a travel junkie like me. First and foremost, let me say that depending on the amount you plan on spending and travelling, the SPG card may or may not be the right card for you…you’ll have to get out a pencil and paper and do the math for yourself (I’ll take you through the process below). Here’s how to Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express stacks up.
When You Sign Up…
1) With the current Starpoints sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase. Then, if you spend $5,000+ with your card within the first six months of using the card, you’re eligible for another 15,000 Starpoints. Altogether, that’s 25,000 Starpoints, just for using your card while you’re paying bills or out shopping (that’s enough for a weekend away to a Category 4 hotel). Not bad. 2) The first year is free with their $0 introductory annual fee. After the first year, it’ll cost you $65 per year.
Earning Points In The Starpoints® Program
With a SPG card, you can earn up to 5 Starpoints on every dollar of eligible charges from hotels and resorts participating in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. For all other eligible purchases, you can earn one Starpoint per dollar spent with the card.
Basic Benefits Of Starpoints® Membership
The most obvious advantage to becoming a Starwood Preferred Guest cardholder is the access you get to the Starpoints program. With your SPG card, you can redeem your accumulation of Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels and resorts in almost 100 countries. You can also redeem Starpoints for flights with over 350 airlines through SPG Flights and transfer Starpoints to other frequent flyer programs for even greater travel rewards. Best of all: there are no blackout dates on hotels or air travel. Very nice feature.
Membership Tiers – How They Work
When you’re just starting out, you’re considered a “Preferred Guest”. After 10 stays or 25 nights, you are upgraded to “Gold Preferred Guest”. This entitles you to three Starpoints for every dollar spent on eligible purchases (this is 50% more Starpoints than Preferred Guests earn). You can also enjoy added benefits, such as late checkouts, room upgrades, welcome gifts, and more. After 25 stays or 50 nights, you are upgraded to “Platinum Preferred Guest“. This entitles you to upgrades to the best available room at your hotel or resort, guaranteed room availability when you book 72 or more hours in advance, complimentary, in-room internet access, Platinum Concierge service, and more.
SPG Free Night Awards
Once you’ve accumulated 2,000 Starpoints, you can start redeeming these points for a free weekend night. You also have the option to stretch your Starpoints by redeeming 1,200 points plus $25 for a hotel stay. As an added bonus, these free nights are counted toward elite status qualification (see Membership Tiers, above). For even more information on the rewards you could receive through the Starpoints program, visit www.spg.com.
Fees and APR
Fees In general, rewards cards aren’t known for their jaw-dropping low interest rates or annual fees, and while the benefits of the Starwoods card are aplenty, you will be paying $65 per year after the first year of zero annual fees. This is where you’ll need to do some math to determine whether your savings will outweigh the annual cost of the card. An easy way to do this is to look at how much you’ve spent on your credit card over the last year, and you’ll get a good idea of how many StarPoints you would have earned (1 dollar=1 point). If you spend any money at Starpoint partners, find out how much and tack on an extra 3-5 points for every dollar spent. Once you have this number, head over to see how many free nights you can redeem for how many points you have. If the value of what you can redeem is greater than $65, it’s a good choice to get the card and start earning. Note: If you don’t pay your balance on time, use cash advances, spend money in foreign currencies, you’ll need to account for other fees, such as balance transfer and cash advance fees ($5 or 3% of the transactional amount, whichever is greater), foreign transaction fees (a comparatively high 2.7%, after the conversion to American dollars is made), and late payment fees (up to $35). APR The Starwoods Preferred Guest interest rates range from 15.24% to 19.24%, based on your credit score. This is a fairly reasonable rate—considering the rewards aspect of the card—but it’s not the lowest you’ll find on the credit card market. If you tend to carry a sizeable balance, then the SPG card may not suit your spending habits.
In terms of benefits alone, the Starwoods Preferred Guest card is a truly top-notch credit card, possibly one of the best available to you if you prefer to travel with Starwoods partners. The annual fee is $65 after the first year’s introductory rate, but for someone who pays off their monthly balance and is a frequent traveler (especially one who is a member of many frequent flyer programs, which link up with the Starpoints program to earn even more miles), this card is a solid very option.