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I Finally Used My SPG Amex for an International Hotel Stay

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

One of my biggest gripes with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express has been the foreign transaction fees, which meant that it didn’t make sense to use my card internationally even when staying at a Starwood property. However, amidst the recent addition of several new benefits, Amex has finally done away with the foreign transaction fees on this card, opening up a new world of possibilities.

I was excited to use my card abroad for the first time at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, an absolutely incredible SPG Luxury Collection hotel in Athens. I was able to earn four Starpoints per dollar for being a 75-night Platinum elite, plus two additional Starpoints per dollar for using my SPG Amex, for a total of six Starpoints per dollar spent. Since I value Starpoints at 2.4 cents/point, I’m essentially getting a 14.4% return on my spending.

There are other cards that would offer a strong return: For example, I could have used my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which earns two points per dollar on travel expenses, or my Citi ThankYou Premier Card, which earns three points per dollar on travel (including gas). Both of those cards also waive foreign transaction fees, but I value Starpoints more, so I’d rather get two Starpoints than two Ultimate Rewards points or three ThankYou points.

I had an incredible stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne — and earned an extra two Starpoints for booking with my SPG Amex too.
I had an incredible stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne — and earned an extra two Starpoints per dollar for booking with my SPG Amex.

I’m glad to finally be able to use my SPG Amex internationally, though I’ll still only use it for stays at Starwood hotels, or on non-bonus spending. For other travel expenses, I’ll pay with my Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn double points.

As a reminder, here are the benefits Amex launched recently for the Starwood personal card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express:

  1. No Foreign Transaction Fees — You can now enjoy international travel without foreign transaction fees from American Express when using the card for purchases abroad.
  2. Complimentary, Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi — You’ll get complimentary, unlimited Wi-Fi access when you enroll in the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan. Receive Wi-Fi access on up to four devices in more than a million hotspots worldwide, and pay no Wi-Fi roaming fees.
  3. Complimentary Premium In-Room Internet Access — Get complimentary premium in-room internet access at participating Starwood hotels.
  4. Sheraton Club Access (business card only) — You’ll get free access to Sheraton Clubs when you book rates that are eligible to earn Starpoints.

Unfortunately, the annual fee also went up from $65 to $95. Thankfully, the first year’s fee is waived, so you can try the card out for a year and see how it suits you without any expense up front. Both versions of the Starwood Amex are currently offering an increased sign-up bonus of 30,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 for the consumer version, and $5,000 for the business version, within the first three months.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit