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TPG reader Thomas messaged me to ask for my help choosing between two travel rewards cards:
“I currently have the Amex Platinum card for access to Delta and Centurion lounges, but am not getting the most value from my spending. I was thinking of getting either the SPG Amex or Chase Sapphire Preferred; which would you recommend?”
First of all, the Platinum Card from American Express is great for perks like lounge access, but you’ll only earn one Membership Rewards point per dollar spent. Thomas is right that it’s not a great option for your everyday spending when you can earn so much more with other cards. For example, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card allows you to earn as much as 4 points per dollar spent on travel booked through Membership Rewards, and 2 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries and at restaurants. Plus, this card has a lower annual fee of $195 (compared to $450 for Amex Platinum), and now offers a $100 airline fee credit. If you want to earn Membership Rewards points, this card is hard to beat.
If you’re not set on Membership Rewards, then both the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card are good options. Which one is best really depends on how you spend your money; if you spend a lot on travel and dining like I do, the 2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the Sapphire Preferred card is hard to beat. Here are some more details about each card:
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
Sign-up Bonus: 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in purchases in your first three months.
Current Benefits: Earn 2 Starpoints for each dollar of eligible purchases at SPG hotels, and earn 1 Starpoint per dollar on all other purchases. Earn SPG Gold Status after spending $30,000 within a calendar year, and get 2 stays/5 nights elite credit each year just for having the card. Transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners.
Upcoming Benefits: Several new benefits will be added to this card in August, including complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: Currently $65, but will increase to $95 in August. The annual fee is waived the first year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in purchases in your first three months. Also earn 5,000 points for adding an authorized user and making a purchase in the first three months.
Benefits: Earn 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants. Get primary auto rental insurance and pay no foreign transaction fees. Redeem points for 1.25 cents apiece through Ultimate Rewards Travel, or transfer to 11 travel partners.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
One of the things I love about the Sapphire Preferred card is that you also get 3 points per dollar spent on dining the first Friday of every month. You can even buy restaurant gift cards from your favorite dining establishment to stock up and get the bonus.
The SPG Amex will soon be waiving foreign transaction fees, and although the annual fee is increasing, the added perks like free Boingo Wi-Fi and Sheraton Club access (if you have the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express) will make the extra cost worthwhile.
In general, I think the Sapphire Preferred is a better earning card; however, Starpoints are the most valuable in my opinion. My suggestion is to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card now, and hope that the sign-up bonus for the SPG Amex increases to 30,000 points (as it has every summer for the last several years).
I currently have all of these cards: I leverage the Amex Platinum for perks and large purchases to take advantage of Amex purchase protection, the SPG Amex for non-category bonus spending, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for all my travel and dining expenses. It’s a strategy that works out well, so if you have room in your wallet, I suggest getting all three cards.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.