Sunday Reader Question: Deciding Between Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Starwood American Express

by on January 27, 2013 · 25 comments

in Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Starwood, Ultimate Rewards

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TPG reader Mark is in a situation where he needs to decide which card is best for his upcoming increase in travel:

“I am trying to decide between getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Starwood Amex.  I am going to start traveling and entertaining a lot for work so the idea of the 2x travel and dining on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is great (I would book through Ultimate Rewards).  I will be going to Detroit and trying to stay at an SPG property when I am there, though, and  I fly American.  I can’t decide if the bonus categories outweighs the exchange of the SPG points. Can you help a junior points guy out?”

Both are great cards and points programs and I personally carry them in my wallets to boost my Ultimate Rewards and Starwood accounts.

However, if I had to only choose one, I’d choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for the following reasons:

1. Better point earning: You get the 7% dividend on top of the bonus miles, so it’s essentially 2.14 base on all travel (which beyond airfare, hotel and car rentals includes mass transportation like subways and trains, taxis and even parking so it’s a base 2.14x. Plus, the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal allows you to book travel through sites like Hotwire for an additional 2 points per dollar – 4.28 Ultimate Rewards points for booking airfare far outweighs 1 Starwood point plus any portal bonuses (you need to have a Chase card to get the Ultimate Rewards points and should use a Chase card for the purchases, but some people have had luck using other cards).

2. Another key consideration is that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, so if you plan to travel abroad at all, you won’t want to use the Starwood American Express, which charges a crazy 2.7% fee on every dollar charged in a foreign currency vs. 0% on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Even when I stay at Starwood hotels abroad, I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to avoid that fee, though I do use the Starwood Amex to pay for Starwood hotels in the US.

3. The final kicker is that Chase points transfer instantly to the transfer partners 1:1 to partners United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak. They also transfer to Priority Club, but it takes about 2 days and I wouldn’t recommend transferring to them because you’ll get more value leveraging partners like United and Hyatt.

4. Starwood transfers can take  up to a month (though usually a week or less), which can be a dealbreaker when trying to book airfare. Starwood does have more airline parters, but they only transfer to United at a 2:1 ratio and I personally find United miles to be the most valuable currency.

I carry both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Amex.

I carry both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Amex.

Don’t get me wrong, the Starwood Amex is great – I actually have both the personal and business versions, which each give me 5 nights/2 stays towards elite status every year. It is nice having 10 stays on January 1 – only 40 more to retain Platinum and 90 more for Ambassador! Starwood points are also extremely valuable because Starwood has great redemptions like Cash & Points (though they are jacking up the cost of those awards in March) and for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline partner, you get a 5,000 mile bonus – a nice built-in 25% transfer bonus.

However, I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a better all-around card for travelers, though that might change if the Starwood Amex drops the foreign transaction fee, speeds up partner transfers and adds in some more category spending bonuses!

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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  • Drdrew450

    better sign up bonus on the sapphire as well

  • AI

    I have both and was considering dropping Starwood, would i lose the points in my account?

  • Grant

    It seems pretty simple:
    1- get both cards
    2- use CSP on “travel and dining” and all UR purchases
    3- use SPG for SPG hotels in the US only
    4- use SPG for all other US transactions

  • Jordan Whitehead


  • Paul

    When Mark wrote you his question, did he have the affiliate links in them?

  • Pricesquire


  • HikerT

    Of course they did. Mark seems to be writing to all the bloggers. Different variation of the letter every time. Mark probably works for FlexOffers. :)

  • StevenS

    It also has to do with where you live and which airline is your most convenient carrier. Where I am in NJ, United is the best and the SPG AMEX has a poor conversion rate.

  • Ryan

    I don’t understand any discussion of the sapphire preferred that doesn’t include the freedom card. The freedom + sapphire + chase checking combo is pretty killer.

  • Miles To The Wild

    Does the SPG Amex ever have category bonuses? I just got the card and trying to figure out when to use it vs my CSP.

  • Deb

    I have the Sapphire Preferred card, but don’t use it enough to keep it at $99/year. Do I need to transfer the points before I cancel the card or will the points stay in an account without a valid card?

  • 976

    Thought I was the only one. Still, I’m looking for a better substitute for the SPG for “all other US purchases”. I already get Gold benefits from my Amex Platinum. Any suggestions?

  • Cat

    I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and my first free year expires in April. Is it possible to still get the 7% dividend and then cancel the card, or do they make that difficult with timing? Also, is the bonus based on the previous year (Jan to Dec 2012) or what I’ve spent so far in 2013?

    Once I cancel the card, will I lose the opportunity to transfer my ultimate reward points to United or get the 20% discount if I book using Ultimate Rewards? i.e. is there anything specific I’d need to consider before canceling? I don’t travel often enough or spend enough to rationalize spending $95/year.


  • The Miles Professor

    I have had the card for 10 years and, other than spending at the hotel, there has never been a category bonus.

  • Miles To The Wild

    Thanks. It would be nice if they introduced one!

  • Romsdeals

    You should be getting 4 to 5X on all purchases. Buy visa gift cards at Office Depot. Get these cards for sign up bonus but don’t keep them.

  • Grant

    It really depends which other cards you have. If it was me, I would spend money on my AA card to get more miles.

  • Greg

    Chase checking deal is no more, but I agree freedom (for the category bonuses) and sapphire (so the freedom points can be transferred/combined) is the way to go. Especially since Freedom has no annual fee.

  • EveryOtherUsernameIsTaken

    I’m in the same boat and would also be interested in the answer to this question. My annual fee is coming up in February. Thoughts, anyone?

  • Ellvizzle

    I didn’t think I’d want to keep the card either as I wasn’t too keen on the annual fee (I’ve had it nearly 2 years now), but the benefit of being able to transfer points from my Freedom and Sapphire spend to United is motive enough (aside from sometimes getting a good deal booking on UR). Without this card you can’t transfer UR points to United, which I think really limits the value of UR. If you have a significant other another strategy to employ is for both of you to have the Freedom so you can better accrue points and then you would simply transfer points from both cards to the CSP, which may help rationalize things.

  • Darrmiller

    How do you utilize the Hotwire portal in Ultimate Rewards – is this different than just booking travel through Ultimate Rewards travel?

  • Chris

    Is the Sapphire churnable at all? I used to have it long time ago (maybe 4 years or so) when they were offering $200 bonus.

  • Linda

    I totally agree, but I’m really getting sick of United and it’s low quality of service. I am seriously considering switching airlines.

    I really miss Continental. Sigh.

  • Burt

    TPG -I’m pretty sure that booking thru UR site only gives you 1 extra point, not 2. Total points for booking thru them would be 3.14 (you get 2x for travel booked there, Plus the bonus point).

  • ShaiTravel

    I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and do love it, however I am looking to get a second card that is distance based versus cash based redemption to get more for my money (I live in Texas and we are pretty central, even to the Caribbean and Mexico isn’t too far for us) and am really confused with which airline card I should apply for – American and US Airways might be merging so how would that affect applying for that card? British Airways seems like a great option…can I use my British points for American flights since they are partners? How does that work as well…what are the draw backs of each ir would you recommend something completely different?

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