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We see lots of promotions from airlines and hotels about buying miles and points. With up to 100% bonus points or up to 57% off the standard cost, these promotions can sound lucrative. But few promotions are worth taking advantage of — unless you have a particularly high-value redemption opportunity.
One of the few exceptions to “don’t buy points” mantra has been Starpoint promotions. And that’s particularly true right now. Now though May 31, there’s a promotion for buying Starpoints for just 2.28 cents apiece — which is a steal compared to TPG’s valuation of Starpoints at 2.7 cents each.
Not interested in Starwood or Marriott hotel stays? Thanks to Starwood’s 33 airline transfer partners and the standard 5,000 bonus miles for transferring 20,000 Starpoints, you can use this promotion to mint airline miles as low as 1.82 cents each. If it’s American Airlines AAdvantage miles you’re after, you can combine this buy miles promotion with this transfer bonus to effectively buy AA miles at 1.46 cents each.
Since we’re nearing the end of the Starwood Preferred Guest program and we know for sure that Starpoints will transfer to Marriott’s new point program at 1:3 ratio, this is an excellent opportunity to stock up on some cheap points during potentially the last buy Starpoints promotion ever.
But which credit card should you use to buy Starpoints? We set out to determine once and for all which card is best for buying Starpoints. Here’s what we found:
Cards Earning a Bonus
This was the card that prompted the testing. We heard from readers that they were able to earn 2 Starpoints per dollar spent on point purchases — even though the purchase is processed by Points. com instead of Starwood. Sure enough, our testing confirmed that Starpoints purchases earned 2x points. Our test $18 purchase was the only bonus spending done in this statement, so the earnings summary made it clear:
This is another card we received a tip about. Chase’s Ink Business Preferred card earns 3x points on “Travel; Shipping purchases; Internet, cable and phone services; Advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines.” Although we aren’t sure which one, this purchase triggered one of these categories to earn 3x points:
Cards not earning a bonus:
This was another card that we heard from multiple readers that the purchases earn a bonus. However, in our purchase, the purchase coded as “Merchandise & Supplies — Internet Purchase” and only earned 1x Starpoints.
The CSR has one of the most generous definitions of travel and earns 3x, so we figured it was worth a shot. No dice. The purchase only earned 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar.
Similarly, the CSP casts a wide net in its definition of travel, earning 2x on travel purchases. However, this purchase also earned just 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
- Citi Prestige: 1x
The Citi Prestige is a TPG favorite for its solid travel insurance and 4th Night Free hotel benefit. But what’s sometimes lost in the mix is that the card earns 3x on travel. So, we figured we would give this one a shot. Oh well, it classified as “business services, not elsewhere classed” and earned 1x Citi ThankYou Points.
In addition to those we tested, we also have some data points from readers about what does and doesn’t work:
- Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express: 2x, 2x, 2x
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: 2x, 2x
- Ink Business Preferred: 3x
- Citi AT&T Access More (3x on online purchases): 1x
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (5 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points per dollar spent at any Ritz-Carlton, Marriott or Starwood hotel): 1x
The only surprise here is the discrepancy between readers reporting 2x earnings on the personal SPG card and our test showing only 1x earnings. So, proceed with caution.
Which Card to Use
Combining our test results with TPG valuations, let’s show the definitive winners:
- Ink Business Preferred: 6.3% (3x Ultimate Rewards points @ 2.1 cents per point)
- Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express: 5.4% (2x Starpoints per dollar spent @ 2.7 cents per point)
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: 5.4% or 2.7% (**2x or 1x Starpoints per dollar spent @ 2.7 cents per point)
** 2x earnings are reported by multiple readers, but not confirmed in our testing.
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express: 3.8% (2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases @ 1.9 cents per point)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 3.15% (1.5x Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases @ 2.1 cents per point)
The definitive winner here is Chase’s Ink Business Preferred card. In addition to getting 3x points, the card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, scoring a 6.3% return on your purchase.
Interestingly, three of the top five cards are business cards. So, you might be happy to read that the bar for getting a business card isn’t as high as you might think. And, if you apply now, you should be able to get approved for a new card, receive the card in the mail and make a points purchase by May 31. Not only will you be getting bonus points from the purchase, but a points purchase will also help you toward meeting the minimum spending requirement.
This card earns a respectable 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined spending on travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. That’s a potentially huge earner for small-business owners, making this card a nice option if you're looking for a business credit card.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
- Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
- No foreign transaction fees
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- $95 Annual Fee