Platinum Card From American Express vs. the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex
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Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express here before it closes applications forever on Feb. 12!
American Express fields one of the best stables of travel rewards credit cards. The institution is the main credit card issuing partner of major brands like Delta and Hilton. Today, though, we’re going to take a look at two other Amex cards: the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
Why these two? Because historically the two credit cards have been among the most popular issued by the banking giant, plus now’s literally your last chance to sign up for the Starwood Amex and earn its 75,000-point welcome bonus before it closes to new applicants forever on Feb. 12. After that date, the card will become the Marriott Bonvoy Amex.
The Platinum Card offers a comprehensive slate of top-shelf benefits including perks like a $200 annual airline fee rebate, $200 in annual Uber credits, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement and airport lounge access through a variety of partners, not to mention participating in Amex’s own massive points program, Membership Rewards, which partners with over a dozen airline and hotel loyalty programs.
For its part, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card offers the chance to earn Marriott points, which are good not only for awards at properties in the Marriott program soon to be known as Marriott Bonvoy, but also transfer to more than 40 airline partners, all for an annual fee that’s a fraction of the Platinum Card’s.
Both products have long had an outsized presence in the world of points and miles thanks to their perks as well as the strength of the transferable points programs in which they participate. The SPG Amex used to be a favorite option for everyday, non-bonus spending before the switch to earning Marriott points instead of Starpoints effectively caused a 33% devaluation to its non-bonus earning rate. But, it’s still an option to consider if you want a card in the Marriott portfolio.
Here’s how the two cards and their benefits compare.
|Amex Platinum||Starwood Preferred Guest Amex|
|Bonus and Spending Requirements||60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months||75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first three months|
|Annual Fee||$550 (See Rates & Fees)||$95, waived the first year|
|Charge or Credit Card?||Charge||Credit|
|Earning Rates||5x points on airfare booked with airline or through Amex Travel and on prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel; 1x on everything else||6x points at Marriott hotels; 2x everywhere else|
|Hotel Elite Status||Automatic Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold Elite status||Automatic Marriott Silver status, earn Gold status after spending $35,000 in a calendar year|
|Transfer Partners||18 airline programs, 3 hotel programs||45 airline programs, Marriott Bonvoy|
|Annual Travel Credits||$200 airline fee credit for incidentals like baggage fees, $200 in annual Uber credits||N/A|
|Lounge Access||Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Club access (when flying Delta), Airspace lounges||N/A|
|Other Perks||Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, International Airline Program||Free night award for properties up to 35,000 points each year after your account anniversary|
Bonus and Spending Requirements
Here are the current bonuses for each card.
The Platinum Card from American Express: This card is currently offering 60,000 Membership Rewards points when you make $5,000 purchases in your first three months, though we’ve recently seen targeted 100k offers through CardMatch.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express: The personal version is offering 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months.
The spending requirement on the Platinum Card is nearly twice that of the Starwood Amex. According to the latest TPG’s latest valuations, Amex points are worth about 2 cents apiece, making the Platinum Card’s welcome bonus equivalent to roughly $1,200 in value. He rates Marriott points at 0.9 cents apiece, so that bonus is worth about $675.
Here’s the first major difference between the two cards. The Platinum Card carries an annual fee of $550 that is not waived the first year. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card’s annual fee is just $95, and it is waived the first year. But it’s not quite as simple as that, since the Platinum Card also offers a much larger suite of travel benefits than the SPG card. But we’ll get to that below.
Charge Card vs. Credit Card
Another main difference is that the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is, well, a credit card. You can carry a balance on it, though this is not a great idea both in terms of how much you’ll pay in interest rates as well as the effect it will have on your credit score.
The Platinum Card, on the other hand, is a charge card. That means you have to pay it off in full each month or face expensive penalty fees (or even have your line of credit suspended altogether). On the positive side, charge cards generally don’t come with set credit limits, which gives you extra spending flexibility if you have to make some large purchases unexpectedly.
The Platinum Card earns 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel and 5x points on hotels when you book prepaid rates through amextravel.com. It earns 1 point per dollar on everything else. Meanwhile, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card earns 6x points on eligible purchases at Marriott hotels, and 2x points on everything else.
The Platinum Card’s 5x airfare is hard to beat, but for hotel earning the SPG card is the one to use at Marriott properties, especially because you don’t have to book through Amex travel and stick to prepaid rates to earn the bonus. Just keep TPG’s valuations in mind: These two points currencies aren’t created equal. 5x points on airfare with the Amex Platinum equals a 10% return based on TPG’s valuations, while the 6x at Marriott properties on the SPG Amex equals a 5.4% return.
Hotel Elite Status
Though it doesn’t offer automatic elite status, the Starwood Preferred Guest Card does confer 15 nights of elite credit per calendar year — which is enough for Marriott Silver Elite status. Card holders who spend $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year — or physically stay 10 nights at Marriott properties — can earn Marriott Gold Elite status outright.
The Platinum Card comes with complimentary Marriott Gold Elite status, plus automatic Hilton Honors Gold status.
In addition to hotel elite status, Platinum Card members can enroll for status with several car rental programs including Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive for perks like guaranteed availability and return grace periods.
The Platinum Card pulls ahead here since it offers automatic low- or mid-tier status with three of the largest hotel chains, meaning cardholders can enjoy benefits like room upgrades, free breakfast and more at properties all over the world just for carrying the card.
This is one of the other major points of comparison between the two cards and their respective points programs.
The Platinum Card participates in Membership Rewards, which currently partners with 18 airline and three hotel programs. Amex frequently offers transfer bonuses to certain partners as well. Here is a list of the program’s transfer partners and the ratios at which points convert. Those not marked are simply 1:1.
- Aeromexico (1,000:1,600)
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- Alitalia Millemiglia
- All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
- Avianca LifeMiles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Delta SkyMiles
- El Al Matmid (1,000:20)
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue (250:200)
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Choice Privileges (1:1)
- Hilton Honors (1:2)
One high-value redemption option when using Membership Rewards points is to transfer to Etihad Guest to book partner awards. For example, booking Etihad awards for American Airlines-operated flights can get you a seat in A321T transcontinental business class for just 25,000 Etihad miles or a one-way flight from North America to Japan or Korea in business for just 50,000 Etihad miles. Another high-value redemption option is to transfer your Membership rewards points to Choice Hotels, which can provide excellent value in Europe, Japan and even New York City.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card earns Marriott points that can be redeemed for award nights at properties in the combined Marriott/SPG portfolio, but also converted into airline miles with 45 airline frequent-flyer programs. This means that you can now use Marriott points to top off your mileage account on many different airlines, including multiple Oneworld airlines. In fact, if you need more American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles for a redemption, Marriott is the only transferable currency that transfers into these programs. For this reason, Marriott points can be very valuable.
You can also take advantage of Marriott Hotel + Air packages, which combine hotel stays and airline mile conversions, but after the SPG and Marriott programs combined, this is no longer a high-value option.
Other Shared Benefits
|Amex Platinum||Starwood Preferred Guest Amex|
|Car Rental Insurance||Secondary||Secondary|
|Purchase Protection||Up to $10,000 per incident and up to $50,000 per year||Up to $1,000 per incident and up to $50,000 per year|
|Return Protection||Up to $300 per item and up to $1,000 per year||Up to $300 per item and up to $1,000 per year|
|Travel Accident Insurance||Up to $500,000||Up to $100,000|
However, the Platinum Card’s coverage levels are mostly higher than the SPG card’s. For instance, the Platinum Card will provide purchase protection up to $10,000 per incident and up to $50,000 per year, while the SPG card will only cover up to $1,000 per incident up to $50,000 per year. Likewise, the Platinum Card’s travel accident insurance provides up to $500,000 in compensation while the SPG card’s protection only goes up to $100,000.
Platinum Card Benefits
Now we get to it. The reason the Platinum Card has such a high annual fee is because it’s one of the most premium travel cards on the market, and it offers perks and benefits that the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card does not.
We have a series of posts on the Platinum Card and its standout perks, including a full review of the card here, 10 things you should do when you get the card and tips on maximizing its benefits, so I won’t go into tons of detail here. Rather, I’ll list them with a sentence or two of explanation each, and some relevant links to check out if you’re interested.
$200 Annual Airline Fee Credit: The card’s calendar-year annual $200 airline fee credit can be used to offset a wide variety of airline fees, including checked bag fees, change fees, pet fees, inflight food and beverage purchases and even airline gift cards in some circumstances on an airline the card holder designates.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit: When you pay for the $100 Global Entry application fee or the $85 TSA PreCheck fee using your card, it will be refunded to you as a statement credit. Card holders are eligible for this statement credit every four years.
Lounge access: The Platinum Card’s lounge access benefit is one of the most comprehensive out there due to its partnerships with Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, Airspace and its own network of Centurion Lounges.
International Airline Program: This perk is basically a discount on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets on participating airlines including Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates and LATAM among others.
Fine Hotels & Resorts: Platinum card holders can book stays through the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Benefits include early check-in and late checkout, free breakfast and Wi-Fi, on-property credits worth at least $100, room upgrades and a third or fourth night free at some hotels.
Authorized users: Amex Platinum card holders can add up to three authorized users to their account for a total of $175 per year, and those users are eligible for some of the same benefits as the main account holder including lounge access, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement, the hotel elite status, Boingo Wi-Fi and Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits.
These two cards are among the most popular in Amex’s portfolio. As with any credit card choice, though, which one is right for you depends on your travel habits, the benefits you’re looking for and whether you can maximize them.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is a fantastic choice both for consumers looking to get into the points game as well as those who have been around for a while. The card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year, so you can try it for a year without worrying that you are not getting any value. Now’s your last chance to sign up for this card and earn it’s 75,000-point welcome bonus, so if you’re interested, act now.
Though it offers benefits like elite credit and Wi-Fi when you’re traveling, the card’s true strength lies in its ability to earn Marriott points. Those points can be transferred not only to the program’s 40+ airline partners at excellent rates, but they can also be used for redemptions at thousands of properties around the world. Plus, each year after your card anniversary you get a free night at properties that cost up to 35,000 points — and there are some great options.
That said, the Platinum Card has a lot going for it as well. Its 5x earning rate on airfare purchases is impressive. Though its annual fee is high, you get $400 in value each year right off the bat thanks to its airline fee rebate and the Uber credits, plus a $100 Global Entry fee refund. Frequent travelers should appreciate the automatic elite status with Marriott and Hilton, access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, premium airfare rebates and all the value-added perks of the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Its current 60,000-point bonus is also quite decent, especially considering how many airline and hotel transfer partners the Membership Rewards program has.
High-end travelers who can maximize the Platinum Card’s many perks should not be put off by the card’s annual fee. However, if you’re looking to rack up points on a budget and like the flexibility of being able to use them at thousands of properties around the world, but also with dozens of airlines, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card might be the right choice for you.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy
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