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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest just launched a new co-branded credit card with a hefty sign-up bonus for citizens of the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates NBD Starwood Preferred Guest World Mastercard offers cardholders the opportunity to earn 50,000 bonus Starpoints: 25,000 upon card activation, and another 25,000 after spending $20,000 in the first three billing cycles.
The card offers several other Starwood benefits, such as automatic SPG Gold status and elite credits toward Platinum status; renewal bonuses that include free nights at select Starwood properties; and discounts of up to 30% at restaurants and spas within Starwood hotels across the globe. You’ll also get benefits from the card issuer (Emirates National Bank of Dubai), including access to over 500 Lounge Key airport lounges worldwide, up to four complimentary airport transfers in the UAE and select cities in India, and more.
While some of these benefits sound intriguing, the card comes with a pretty steep joining fee of 2,500 AED (about $680) for the first year, and a subsequent annual fee of 1,500 AED (about $408) for the second year and beyond. That’s roughly on par with the top premium travel rewards cards here in the US, though I think the American counterparts offer much better value overall.
This card isn’t available to US applicants, but I found it interesting to compare the sign-up bonus and benefits with those of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. The US card offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, and benefits like elite credits, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi and complimentary premium internet at Starwood properties. That’s a relatively modest array of perks, but the US card also has a much lower annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year.
Starwood has 43 properties in the UAE, including the category 6 St. Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and the category 7 Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa. That’s a pretty strong presence for a country that’s roughly the size of South Carolina. Launching this new co-branded card makes sense, as the UAE is SPG’s third fastest growing market globally. Starwood’s recent partnership with Emirates (the airline, not the bank) also demonstrates how invested the company is in the region.
Starwood offers co-branded cards in several other regions, all of which are issued by Amex:
- Canada — sign-up bonus of 20,000 points after you spend 500 CAD ($385) in the first three months. Benefits include Gold status when you spend 30,000 CAD annually, and a free weekend night at a category 1-4 property when you spend 40,000 CAD annually. Annual fee of 120 CAD ($92)
- Japan — sign-up bonus of 10,000 points after you spend ¥100,000 ($830) in three months. Benefits include automatic Gold status and a free night at category 1-6 properties each year upon account renewal. Annual fee of ¥31,000 ($260).
- United Kingdom — sign-up bonus of 10,000 Starpoints when you spend £1,000 ($1,548) in your first three months. Benefits include Gold status when you spend £15,000 annually and a free weekend night when you spend £25,000 annually. Annual fee of £75 ($116).
There’s a pretty wide range of benefits and price points among these cards. While I think the new UAE option is overpriced, I love the idea of a premium Starwood card, and I’d be excited to see such a product released in the states. For now, US cardholders can get automatic SPG Gold status (as well as lounge access and some other similar perks) with The Platinum Card® from American Express (and the business version). So even if the card from Emirates NBD were available to Americans, I wouldn’t be clamoring to sign up for the benefits.
That said, I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents apiece, so the 70,000 points you’d earn after completing the spending requirements would be worth $1,750 in travel. Those points could go a long way if you know how to maximize them. As with the US card, you’ll earn 2 Starpoints per $1 spent at SPG properties and 1 point per dollar on other purchases, but since you get Gold status right off the bat you’ll be able to rack up an extra 3 points per dollar for expenses charged to your room at Starwood hotels.
What do you think of this new card from SPG? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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