(Video) Sunday Reader Question: Do SPG Amex Perks Outweigh Foreign Transaction Fees?

by on February 26, 2012 · 11 comments

in Credit Cards, Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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For my weekly video response to a Sunday reader question, I take on TPG reader Karan‘s query about the Starwood American Express (I figured it made sense since I am staying at an international Starwood property, so I filmed the video response in the Atrium lounge at the Westin Dublin):

“I like the SPG card because when I pay for my stay, I get the base points, the Better by the Nights promotion, and SPG Platinum status bonus, and the bonus for using the SPG Amex. I have 18 nights in Europe coming up, all at Starwood properties. Do you feel the bonuses I get by using the SPG Amex  card sufficiently offset the 2.7% foreign transaction fee? I personally don’t but perhaps you had some insight.”

In case you can’t view the video, my short answer is:

No - don’t pay foreign transaction fees if you don’t have to. For my Westin Dublin stay, I’m using my Sapphire Preferred card because I still get two points per dollar spent (since a hotel stay qualifies for the 2x travel and dining bonus) and I still rack up a ton of Starpoints because I’m a Platinum member (3x base) plus I am staying for 3 nights so I get the 3x Better By the Night. I always recommend diversifying your point balances and not putting all of your points in one basket, so I like accruing Chase Ultimate Rewards points in addition to Starpoints.

However, if you don’t have a card with no foreign transaction fees, paying the 1.35 cents in fees per Starpoint earned isn’t horrible. I generally get at least 2-3 cents in value when I redeem Starpoints, so I’d personally outright buy them at 1.35 cents a piece. Additionally, you get Gold status after $30,000 in spend on the card, so if you need your international spend to hit that threshold, it might make even more sense to bite the bullet and use this card abroad.

I hope American Express decides to waive the foreign transaction fee on this card to make it more competitive. Until then I’ll be using my Sapphire Preferred card for all international travel spend!

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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  • hobo13

    So you get Preferred Plus just for having the SPG Amex, but Gold with $30k annual spend? Isn’t the only difference between these status levels the 50% point bonus?

  • PJ

    no way I would pay 2.7 % there are so many CC cards out there without charging fees.. When i was in Cabo last Xmas season Sapphire Preferred is THE CARD. SPG is my go to card when there is only 1% rebate to be collected on non foreign currency purchases. 1 % and tiny purchases are covered by my all mighty Chase Freedom cards wich gives me 10 points on each swipe due to to likn with chase checking account which I maintain 1500 minimum balance .. cost of $1500 a year is close to nothing these days; i am getting ezily 600 UR points monthly>> another good thing in life ..

  • Carl

    I use my SPG Amex at domestic Starwoods, but Chase Sapphire at their foreign locations. I have an aversion to bogus f/x fees.

    I also do not recommend putting foreign spend on the card to achieve $30k in spend for the Gold benefit. That can be achieved automatically with the Amex Platinum, which also provides other benefits that in my view justify its annual fee.

  • Jen

    OTOH, if you know (as in some Chinese properties including Hotel Astor in Tianjin) that the hotel will charge the Dynamic Currency Conversion fee and cannot (or will not) make the charge in locval currency, then maybe you might as well use the SPG AmEx.

  • Anonymous

    Yea and I think Golds have a better chance of upgrades. I actually snagged a couple suite upgrades when I was a Gold.

  • Jamison

    me too… i received a decent amount of suite upgrades/club floor upgrades when I was a gold…. back in the days ;) it never hurts to ask for a room upgrade!

  • bradsteven

    As someone who has never redeemed a hotel stay under the Cash & Points option, I’m not 100% sure how the process works. Will the hotel I stay at directly charge me, or does Starwood? I have some stays coming up this summer at European properties and want to know if the Cash & Points spend will be incurred as foreign or domestic.

  • Diamond Vargas

    How about the same question for the SPG Business card. 4x points per dollar, so 0.67 cents in fees per Starpoint?

  • thepointsguy

    You get the base 2x starpoints whether you use a Starwood Amex or not. Its only 2 extra starpoints for using the Starwood Amex. So if you use sapphire preferred you’d get 2x starwood plus 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards. It’s still 1.35 cents per starpoint

  • thepointsguy

    Usually they just deduct points and you pay the hotel portion at checkout. Some may charge a deposit, but thats generally not the case

  • Pingback: Hotel Review: The Westin Dublin | The Points Guy()

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