January 8th, 2012

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I talk about a lot of credit cards because frankly signup bonuses are the single most lucrative source of points and miles out there. After all, last year alone I took in over 600,000 credit card points and my credit score actually increased! But TPG reader Amy had a question about one in particular that I haven’t talked about in a while:

“Why do you never (well hardly ever) mention the Starwood Am Ex card for traveling points/miles? I always thought it was a top card to use on multiple airlines? What’s wrong with it? Thanks for the insight.”

Don’t get the wrong idea, Amy! I think the SPG Amex is one of the best points-earning cards on the market, and has been since its introduction. However, in the past couple of years the card hasn’t changed much and there has been a lot of new competition, that I personally prefer. However, the SPG Amex is still a rock solid card good for most people. Here are the things I like and dislike about it:

The Pros

-The Starwood Preferred Guest program itself has great redemption options including Cash & Points at the over 1,000 Starwood properties all over the world. I find the Cash & Points SPG redemption to be one of the most lucrative in the industry, especially when redeeming for expensive properties and in Europe where the currency works against you.

-You can also transfer your points into miles on over 30 different airlines at 1:1 ratio, including Aeroplan, American, Alaska, ANA, American, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, Emirates, Hawaiian, Singapore, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic. You also get a 25% bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer, essentially a 25% bonus if you plan your transfers correctly.

-2 stays/ 5 nights credit towards elite status.

The Cons

– Transfers to airline partners can take days, and even up to weeks to go through as opposed to the instant transfer of other cards like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card, and my favorite, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. When I want to book an award, I can’t wait weeks for it to happen or I might lose that open seat.

-The transfer ratio to United MileagePlus, which is one of the most valuable frequent flyer programs, is a terrible 2:1, which makes it completely not worth it for that particular program. United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

– There are no spending category bonuses (apart from dollars spent at Starwood properties) to be earned on the card, so if I had several cards to choose from, I’d pick another one that offered me bonuses on my big spending areas like travel, dining or gas, over this one.

-Finally, I hate the 2.7% foreign transaction fee. The fee essentially cancels out the value of any points I earn by using the card in another country.

My Wallet

Again, though I do like the benefits of the SPG Amex, I’d rather use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card since I spend a lot on travel and dining, and get 2x points on both those categories. The Sapphire Preferred also has Hyatt as a transfer partner, so I have the option of transferring my Ultimate Rewards points to my Gold Passport account, and the transfer is instant.

In the end, I think that overall, the SPG Amex is a good card, and I’m planning on getting it at some point this year when the sign-up bonus is back up to 30,000 Starpoints (probably in August), but in my opinion it’s not better than my Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.