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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.
Update: Offers for the Starwood Amex cards have changed. Visit these links to see the current offers for the Starwood business and personal cards.
It’s that time of year again – the 30,000-point sign-up bonus offers on both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express cards are back for a limited time through September 3, 2013! The normal bonus on these cards is just 25,000 points for the same minimum spending requirement of $5,000 in 6 months, so this is a 20% bonus.
For the past couple of years, this historically high offer on these cards has come around just once a year and everything I’ve seen says they should be available until September 3, 2013. Today is also the last day for the 50,000-point Southwest credit cards, so if you were thinking of doing a round of applications, today might be the day to apply. Just remember, most cards have spending requirements, so don’t bite off more than you can chew.
And details on both offers:
- 30,000 points – 10,000 after your first purchase, and an additional 20,000 when you spend $5,000 within 6 months.
- Receive up to 5 Starpoints for every dollar of eligible spend charged directly with Starwood hotels & resorts – that’s 2 Starpoints per dollar spent on the Card in addition to the Starpoints you get as a Starwood Preferred Guest member.
- Get 1 Starpoint for every dollar of eligible purchases.
- $65 annual fee, waived for the first year.
- Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this card within the last 12 months.
- Full review here.
I know a lot of you have been waiting for this bonus to come back to get the card since it is widely considered (by myself included) to be one of the best travel credit cards on the market and has been for some time – that’s why I applied for and got both the business and personal cards the same day last year for a total haul of 60,000 points.
While a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points might seem small in terms of raw numbers, I think Starwood points are among the most valuable points currencies out there and value them at 2.5 cents apiece (a value I regularly exceed with my redemptions), so each sign-up bonus is worth at least $750 in my estimation.
In terms of qualification, Amex specifies that the welcome bonus is not available to applicants who have had this product in the last 12 months, so if you’ve had the personal card within the last 12 months (not just applied for it, but actually had it open), you can’t apply for the personal version now, and same with the business version, though if you have one or the other version, you can apply for the one you didn’t have now.
Why Starpoints are Valuable
Starpoints can be very valuable thanks to great redemption options including transferring to airline partners (with bonuses), high-value redemption options like Cash & Points awards, elite status credit and more.
Part of the fact that you can transfer them to 31 different airline partners, including those without other transfer partners like Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Key partners: American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, Emirates
Others: Aeromexico, Aeroplan (Air Canada), Air Berlin, Air China, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific), Asiana, British Airways, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Etihad, Flying Blue (Air France, KLM, Air Europa), GOL, Hawaiian Airlines, LAN, Lufthansa, JAL, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic.
Not only that, but when you transfer 20,000 points at a time, you get a 5,000-point bonus – equivalent to a 25% bonus – so if you transferred 20,000 miles to American, for instance, you’d end up with 25,000 miles.
Cash & Points Awards
Starwood’s Cash & Points redemptions have historically been some of the best hotel point redemption values around, often yielding at least 3 cents per point in value, but often much more than that.
Although SPG raised both the points and cash co-pays on these awards earlier this year, it also included some new enhancements to them such as being able to make cash & points redemptions at all Category 1 and 2 hotels worldwide, not just in the US, Canada and Asia-Pacific, as is the case now; and including new upgrade and suite redemption options. Although these awards are about 20% more expensive now, I still regularly get north of 3 cents per point in value on them, which is still one of the best deals out there.
Elite Credit and Earning
Just having either of these cards gets you automatic credit for 2 stays/5 nights towards elite status, so if you got both cards, you’d be almost halfway to Gold status without even doing anything. (Remember, though, that if you have the personal Platinum Card, the Business Platinum or Mercedes-Benz Platinum cards from Amex, you get automatic SPG Gold status as well.)
You also earn at least 2 points per dollar on spend at Starwood just with the card in addition to your earning as an SPG member. Regular Starwood Preferred Guest members get 2 points per dollar spent at Starwood hotels. If you have the Starwood card, that increases to 4 points per dollar. If you have Gold elite status it’s 5 points per dollar spent, and if you’re a Platinum member who hits 75+ nights, you’d be earning a 6 points per dollar. Plus, Starwood Platinums get space-available suite upgrades (international properties are generally great with this benefit – US is hit-or-miss), free internet, a 500 bonus point amenity per stay, guaranteed room availability at the rack rate, a 50% bonus on Starpoints earned and special customer service/gifts throughout the year.
Also keep in mind that even if you don’t rack up enough stays, with either of these cards, you can earn Gold status simply by spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Consider the Business Card
Although a lot of people might automatically consider the personal card first, don’t shortchange the business version, which is a nice way to tag team with the personal card, especially if you already have the personal Amex but are looking to boost your SPG balance. You can even apply for both at the same time- read about my experience getting both cards here.
I immediately got approved for the personal card, though my business application (which I had submitted second) was automatically flagged as a duplicate application and put into a 4-day holding queue. I was told there was nothing they could do to expedite and to call after about a week if I hadn’t heard anything further. Well the good news is that 6 days later I got an approval email from American Express letting me know that the card was on its way. This is great because I don’t really like calling credit card companies, which is what I have to do more and more these days since I have an impressive lineup of current cards and sometimes they need a little nudging to approve me for new cards (some of which I’ll be canceling soon, so stay tuned!).
The only downside is that Amex will pull your credit twice when you make two applications, so just keep that in mind – that’s not a huge deal considering each only dings your credit score 2-5 points (out of a total of 850), but is something to consider.
Unfortunately, this card comes with a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so I do not recommend using it for purchases abroad- even if you’re staying at a Starwood hotel. It would be more lucrative to pay for an international hotel stay with the Chase Sapphire Preferred to avoid the 2.7% fee and also earn double points on the travel expense.
I’ll be posting more about this deal in they days to come, as well as strategies for maximizing the value of your Starpoints, but for more information, check out my posts on the 30,000 offer from last summer and…