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

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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.

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