(Video) Sunday Reader Question: Do SPG Amex Perks Outweigh Foreign Transaction Fees?

Feb 26, 2012

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For my weekly video response to a Sunday reader question, I take on TPG reader Karan‘s query about the Starwood American Express (I figured it made sense since I am staying at an international Starwood property, so I filmed the video response in the Atrium lounge at the Westin Dublin):

“I like the SPG card because when I pay for my stay, I get the base points, the Better by the Nights promotion, and SPG Platinum status bonus, and the bonus for using the SPG Amex. I have 18 nights in Europe coming up, all at Starwood properties. Do you feel the bonuses I get by using the SPG Amex  card sufficiently offset the 2.7% foreign transaction fee? I personally don’t but perhaps you had some insight.”

In case you can’t view the video, my short answer is:

No – don’t pay foreign transaction fees if you don’t have to. For my Westin Dublin stay, I’m using my Sapphire Preferred card because I still get two points per dollar spent (since a hotel stay qualifies for the 2x travel and dining bonus) and I still rack up a ton of Starpoints because I’m a Platinum member (3x base) plus I am staying for 3 nights so I get the 3x Better By the Night. I always recommend diversifying your point balances and not putting all of your points in one basket, so I like accruing Chase Ultimate Rewards points in addition to Starpoints.

However, if you don’t have a card with no foreign transaction fees, paying the 1.35 cents in fees per Starpoint earned isn’t horrible. I generally get at least 2-3 cents in value when I redeem Starpoints, so I’d personally outright buy them at 1.35 cents a piece. Additionally, you get Gold status after $30,000 in spend on the card, so if you need your international spend to hit that threshold, it might make even more sense to bite the bullet and use this card abroad.

I hope American Express decides to waive the foreign transaction fee on this card to make it more competitive. Until then I’ll be using my Sapphire Preferred card for all international travel spend!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No delivery fees for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DashPass subscription from DoorDash -over a $100 value. Activate with your Chase Sapphire card by December 31, 2021.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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