Best Card For Starwood Stays: SPG Amex or Amex Platinum?

by on June 22, 2014 · 11 comments

in American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express have expired. View the current offers here –personalbusiness.

This past week, TPG reader JG tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy I’m going on a two-week trip and staying at Starwood hotels. Is it more worthwhile to use my SPG Amex or the Amex Platinum, which  just offered me 50,000 points for a $5,000 spend?”

I would recommend putting the actual hotel spend on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (which, for the month of June 2014, is offering a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles for new cardholders) – unless any of those hotels are outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, the SPG Amex charges foreign transaction fees, so I don’t recommend using it while abroad. The fees you would accrue from an overseas spend could easily negate most, if not all, of the value of your Starpoints.

While in other countries, use a card like the American Express Platinum, which charges no foreign transaction fees (and recently added some great new benefits for travelers). Personally, I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for all my international hotel stays, because not only does it have no foreign transaction fees, but I also earn 2.14 valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express is the right choice for Starwood hotels stays - unless the properties are overseas

The SPG American Express is the right choice for Starwood stays in the U.S., but foreign transaction fees make it a poor choice when staying in Starwood properties abroad

One of my wishes for 2014 is that SPG Amex will dump their dopey foreign transaction fees, just like the Delta Amex cards did in May. SPG is a global hotel brand, and I think it would behoove them greatly to make it more practical for loyal SPG customers to use the company’s co-branded credit card at their own properties – no matter where they happen to be located.

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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  • A. S.

    It would behoove me to start using the word behoove more. It’s such a cool word. Behoove… But, yeah, tsk-tsk on the foreign transaction fees, SPG Amex! :)

  • eyes

    I wish SPG would add United Airlines to American and Delta. I recently got a Chase Sapphire Credit Card, with its 40000 point signup bonus, so now need to use both that card and the SPG card to build up points for use on AA and United, which are the two airlines we use. I see that the Sapphire card is affiliated with British Air, which partners with American. I wonder if there is a way to transfer Sapphire points to British Air and then from BA to AA to boost the number of points I already have in that program.

  • john

    UA is a transfer partner in the SPG program, just at an unfavorable ratio,(you get less than 1to 1 in a transfer) even with the 5K transfer bonus, it’s a bad deal. I don’t see them changing to a 1to 1 ratio anytime soon, as Chase,UA’s main miles partner won’t allow that.
    I do think SPG may get rid of the FTF for the SPG Amex, it clearly is at a disadvantage when compared to the CSP card, which is it’s main competition.

  • pito

    Well I think all depends on the charge sometimes worth it but if not you could always go with the igh card which you don’t have to worry about foreign charges.

  • Mitty

    So I have noticed while abroad that many top tier chain hotels (including Starwood) will now allow you to choose to charge your card in either the local currency or else in USD. I have always wondered if I use a U.S. credit card with foreign transaction fees abroad in one of these countries (let’s say Australia), and the hotel offers to charge my bill in USD instead of AUD, will I still be charged a foreign transaction fee even though the currency is USD? Anyone with experience on that?

  • Glaire

    AMEX Plat gives you SPG Gold status. Would be nice if it gave you the option to earn SPG points at Starwood stays vice MR. Then the foreign transaction fee doesn’t become a decision point and you could reduce your card count by one unless SPG AMEX is what you use for most everyday spend.

  • jp

    Mitty – The offer to pay in USD is invariably at a poor exchange rate, don’t fall for this trick!

  • justthebest

    Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like the 2.7% ftf rate is worth it for the 5 Starpoints per dollar. No? I guess the 2+ UR I could get with the CSP is a little better. Input? I have to decide before my trip to Vancouver on Sun.! Another dilemma: My Gold Amex will charge ftf, but will give my 5% off at the Hyatt I stay in a few days later (after the W stay). Thoughts on that one? It seems worth the fees, vs. the Hyatt card. All advice appreciated!

  • thepointsguy

    How are you getting 5 Starpoints per dollar?

  • justthebest

    That’s what I get with the card, but I think I’m confusing (as I often do) those that I get just for staying and those for which I have to use the card–I can never keep them all straight.

  • Kardo

    usually the USD conversion is converted at bank rate plus a “convenience fee” of 3%. So it’s pretty much the same as a foreign transaction fee. On a business trip 2 weeks ago, I got slyly duped by the FO guy in Singapore (+2.7%) and had to explain to the corporate finance guy why I decided to pay the extra “convenience fee”….

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