While we’ve been used to 50k+ sign-up bonuses this year, you may want to consider the new offer from American Express for their Starwood card. You get 30,000 Starwood points after spending $4,500 within three months. Their normal offer is 10,000 points with 15,000 after $15,000 in spend within 6 months, so this offer is more lucrative and more attainable for those with lower spends, plus the $65 annual fee is waived for the first year on both personal and business cards. Limited-time.
Why are Starpoints valuable? In general, because there is a ton of flexibility in the redemption options.
1) Free hotel nights. Starwood has great award availability. 10k will get you a free night at a nice hotel (12k even nicer, 20/30k at a top hotel). If you redeem for 4 nights, you get the 5th free. So 40,000 points will get you 5 nights at a category 4 hotel.
2) Cash & Points! This is primarily the way I use my Starwood points. This can save you huge money, especially when traveling to Europe, where the Euro/Pound is killer. This option allows you to use a small amount of points with a cash (in USD) outlay. For example, I always use 4,800 Starpoints and $90 USD for my stays at the Westin Palace Madrid, when the room rates were all over 250 euros a night ($361). $361-90, means my 4,800 Starpoints saved me $271 or 5.6 points a piece – and this isn’t even an extreme example! I have gotten close to 12 cents per Starpoint on some redemptions. While Cash & Points space is limited, if you are flexible you can almost always make it work (or ask the hotel to release space).
3) Airline transfers. While I primarily use my Starpoints for Starwood hotel stays (since I have boatloads of airline miles), it has come in handy to be able to transfer points to airlines whenever I need to top off accounts. And the kicker is that Starwood throws in a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. Transfers sometimes take up to a week (or more), which is a drag, but there’s no way around that. The extensive list of transfer partners (note: American Airlines, which is not a part of the American Express or Chase programs – many AA flyers looking to bump up their lifetime miles will transfer Starpoints to AA because they count towards qualification):
|Frequent Flyer Program||Exchange Ratio (Starpoints : Miles)|
|Air China Companion||1:1|
|Air New Zealand & Air Points||65:1|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||1:1|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club||1:1|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||1:1|
|British Airways Executive Club||1:1|
|Continental Airlines(R) OnePass||2:1|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||1:1|
|El Al Israel Airlines||No Transfer Option|
|Iberia Plus||No Transfer Option|
|Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||1:1|
|King Club Miles||1:1|
|Miles and More||1:1|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan||1:1|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:1|
|Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus||1:1|
|US Airways Dividend Miles||1:1|
|United Mileage Plus||2:1|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1|
4) Earning on Starwood spend. Regular Starwood Preferred Guest members get 2 points per dollar spent. If you have the Starwood card, that increases to 4 points and if you have elite status it’s 5 points per dollar spent.
5) Elite status. Having the card knocks off 2 stays or 5 nights towards elite qualification. That means you only need 23 stays or 45 nights to get coveted Platinum status, which I’ve had for years and generally love. Starwood Platinums get space available suite upgrades (international properties are generally great with this benefit – US is hit or miss), 500 point amenity per stay, 50% bonus on Starpoints earned and special customer service/gifts throughout the year. Gold status is earned at $30,000 in spend on the card or 8 stays/20 nights. FYI: if you have an American Express Platinum Card, you get complimentary Gold status.
Gold - An extra point per dollar spent on Starwood stays, 4pm late check-out, room upgrades and enhanced customer service.
Platinum – Gold benefits, plus select standard suite upgrades if available at check-in, free internet, 500 point or local gift amenity, gym/lounge access, concierge and guaranteed room availability (at rack rate).
6) Business card. Amex offers a business card option, which is a nice tag team to a personal card. Plus, you can combine the elite qualification benefits – slicing 4 stays or 10 nights off elite qualification, thus making it only 21 stays or 40 nights to Platinum.
7) Starwood Moments. Throughout the year Starwood offers unique experiences for sale only via using your Starpoints. I have seen a lot of good values and recently they’ve been “selling” premium concert tickets at huge discounts. I haven’t personally gotten in on them, but friends recently snagged tickets that were near front row orchestra with face value of $300 per ticket – for 5,000 Starpoints for both tickets.
8 ) SPG Flights. Generally not the best redemption, but Starwood lets you use points for 1 cent each towards booking revenue airline tickets (meaning you get the miles and elite status for the flights).
Overall, it’s a solid every day spending card that allows you to accrue valuable, flexible points. Note: it does have foreign transaction fees, so I don’t recommend it for international travel/spend.
What are your thoughts/experiences with the Starwood Amex card?
Personal card details: