Sunday Reader Question: Why No Love For the Starwood Amex?

by on January 8, 2012 · 16 comments

in American Express, Credit Cards, Starwood

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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.

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.

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  • Silvia

    Another reason that most people do not talk much about Starwood Amex is that you can only get the sign-up bonus once. With so many other credit cards offering bonuses, why pay the annual fee?

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully somebody can confirm this….Another huge Pro to the card is the 1:2 transfer to LAN. With the 25% bonus, that turns it into a 2:5 ratio. Plus you can use LAN miles for OneWorld flights. Not bad!

  • PJ

    when you have nothing more than 1 % rebate on purchases and the store takes AMEX credit card this is the ONE i pull >> think about the SHeraton at LAX costs only 3K on weekend stays i spend 3000 dollars to get a free night stay coool card

  • PJ

    if youcan get all GET THEM ALL if you have to be selective yes stay away however ou know getting UNITED 60K is ompletely independent from gttting a SPG card


    Who cares about UA? Ana offers a distance-based award chart, which is less for Europe from the east coast of the US on United than United charges! For those routes where Ana costs more, then customers should just transfer to Aeroplan, which has prices in miles highly similar to UA. The only thing you give up really are the double miles awards on UA. The savings of Ana is probably much better for many.

  • PJ

    Can you hear me: you give me SPG points for CHase UR one to one ? if this is all doable :)

  • jax

    One good “PRO” on the SPG Card, which we do carry here in my household. If you like Starwood and want to stay at SW properties, Amex MMR transfer rate is a high ratio at 3 MMR: 1 SW point! Thus, if you are earning one SPG point dollar for dollar, there actually is a heavier weight in the SW points value… We decided to sign up after one of my Lawyer clients commented that “The Starwood Card was the best Deal Going…” And this was from a top tier Amex cardholder… OF course we all have our own perspective on cards/points/preferences – but if you are after Lodging you can’t deny the value of the 3:1 ratio on point value! And I agree, Cash & Points is good – and with Starwood every 5th night is always free! Thanks TPG as always and WELCOME TO FLORIDA RESIDENCY!! :)

  • jax

    * Dollar for Dollar spent…

  • Brent

    @ Brian

    You should also mention some of the less talked about features of the card. The return protection, which is where you can purchase something and return it directly to American Express if you do not like the product. It’s good for 90 days and you are covered up to $300 per item. There is also the product protection, where if you damage something you buy or it gets stolen you are protected up to $1,000 per item for 90 days.

  • PJ

    good not know:) you do mean it is better to use UA miles on ANA to fly out or NYC to Europe correct ?

  • [email protected]

    You’ve got it backwards. It is often fewer points to use ANA (IATA: NH) points for travel on UA than if you use UA points.

  • Anonymous

    Also worthy to note ANA and Aeroplan do not allow one way awards and they both levy huge fuel surcharges on many awards.

  • Federico

    The return and damage protection come with any Amex card, even my old Blue have the same benefits (and blue is free). Most of CC with a annual fee have similar benefits.

  • Federico

    I’m still waiting for a 50k bonus ;-)

  • nycjm

    First off, you’re doing a great job TPG. As a current wall streeter living in NYC, I admire what you’ve done.
    2 questions regarding the SPG AMEX:
    1) When the sign-on bonus becomes 30k, does the 5k referral still apply?
    2) I currently have the SPG AMEX, and I have an additional card for my wife. Can we cancel her card and have her get her own new card with the sign-on bonus? If so, can we link her card with my SPG #?


  • Sam

    the whole point to the spg card is that its by far the best lodging card, plus if you dont spend that much on dining/travel, and still want airline miles, for MOST programs, you get a 1.25 miles/dollar value on EVERYTHING spent, better than most cards. For lodging, its quite common for me to get 4-5 cents of value/point when using fifth night free, and with some european hotels, quite more than that through cash and points.

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