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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Review

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by Lauren Perez Updated
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

A Strict Loyalty Card With Luxury Benefits

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express is a loyalty card for Starwood Hotels. It serves to turn your spending into Starpoints®, which in turn can be redeemed for Starwood stays and benefits.

You can earn up to five Starpoints® per dollar spent at participating Starwood hotels. Normally you would earn two points as a card member, but being an SPG® member earns you the two or three extra points. Next, you earn two Starpoints® per dollar spent on purchases at participating Marriott Rewards® hotels. Lastly, all other eligible purchases earn one point per dollar. Eligible purchases includes those for goods and services that are not returns or other credits.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints® if you spend $3,000 within the first three months. 

Once you’ve earned your Starpoints®, you can redeem them for a number of rewards. This includes stays at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries. Points can also be redeemed for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG® Flights. Or you can earn free nights at any of Starwoods 11 brands like St. Regis, W Hotels, Sheraton, Design Hotels and more. Amazingly, these rewards aren’t limited by blackout dates.

Rewards don’t only come in the shape of hotel stays and flights. Just having the card provides you with incredible benefits. American Express has the Roadside Assistance Hotline to provide emergency services for you and your car in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you’re renting a car, you can get insurance in the case of car loss or damage. When you’re more than 100 miles from home, you can also use the Global Assist® Hotline which provides emergency assistance including medical and legal help. American Express even provides Travel Accident Insurance for you and your family when you’re traveling on a Common Carrier (bus, plane, ship, etc.) and your whole fare was charged to the card.

For the first year of using this card, you won’t be charged an annual fee. After that, you will pay $95 per year. Luckily, the card does not carry a foreign transaction fee, allowing you to freely travel and use the card abroad. Purchases come with a variable APR of 16.74% - 20.74%, as do balance transfers. Cash advances’ APR is a 26.99% Variable and comes with a fee of either $5 or 3% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater. The same fee applies to balance transfers. 

Smart Features

No foreign transaction fees - Not only can you enjoy traveling abroad with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card, but you won’t have to worry about being charged extra for international purchases.

Transferrable Starpoints® - You can transfer your earned Starpoints® to over 30 airline frequent flyer programs, most of which provide a 1:1 transfer ratio. You can even receive a 5,000 Starpoint® bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints® to a partner frequent flyer program.

Extensive redemption options - You can redeem your Starpoints® for free flights on over 150 airlines with SPG® Flights or for free nights at any of Starwood’s 11 brands like St. Regis, W Hotels and more. You can also redeem Starpoints® for stays at over 1,300 hotels and resorts in over 100 countries. The rates of transfer also tend to bend in your favor.

Free in-room Internet - While staying with SPG® Participating Hotels, your card membership can get you free in-room, premium Internet access.

Excellent traveling benefits - While you’re traveling, American Express will provide you with the Roadside Assistance Hotline, the Global Assist® Hotline, car rental loss and damage insurance, as well as Travel Accident Insurance for you and your family.

Purchase protections - If you buy something that’s not quite working out, American Express has got you covered. It’ll add an additional year to a merchandise warranty for a purchase made with the card, provide a refund in case of rejected returns or even help when a purchase is lost, damaged or stolen.

Fraud protection - If you see any charges on your card that you think are fraudulent, contact American Express, and you won’t be held responsible for any fraudulent charges. You don’t even have to worry about a deductible.

Who it Benefits

As a loyalty card, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card From American Express would best benefit those who frequent Starwood and Marriott properties. Out of three point-earning categories, two require you to use the card for hotel or resort stays with Starwood or Marriott. All other purchases only gain one point per dollar. So only people who will be staying at those properties stand to gain much from the card.

With properties in over 100 countries and no foreign transaction fee, frequent travelers don’t have to stick to domestic travel. As long as you use Starwood enough to benefit from the SPG® membership, this card can get you far, especially with easy access to higher SPG® status levels.

How it Works

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express is a loyalty card for Starwood Hotels. This means that all the points you earn on this Preferred card are bonus Starpoints®. There are three ways to earn these extra points. You earn up to five Starpoints® per dollar spent at participating Starwood hotels.  As a card holder, you would only earn two points, but as an SPG® member, you can earn an additional two or three points. You earn two Starpoints® per dollar spent on purchases at participating Marriott Rewards® hotels. You earn one point per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. The card defines eligible purchases as those for goods and services that are not returns or other credits.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints® if you spend $3,000 within the first three months. 

These earned Starpoints® can only be redeemed for valid Starwood rewards. Your Starpoints® can get you bookings with over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries. Luckily when traveling abroad, you won’t have to worry about a foreign transaction fee. You can use your Starpoints® for free flights with more than 150 airlines through SPG® Flights or for free nights at any of Starwood’s 11 brands. You could also transfer your points to over 30 airline frequent flyer programs, mostly at a 1:1 ratio (one Starpoint® = one airline point). You can even receive a 5,000 Starpoint® bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints® to a partner frequent flyer program.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express carries an annual fee of $95, although it offers an introductory rate of $0 for the first year. You will pay interest on your purchases (and balance transfers) at a rate of 16.99%-20.99% Variable. Should you want to make a balance transfer or a cash advance, you’ll be subjected to a fee of either $5 or 3% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater.

What’s the Catch

Starpoints® you earn with the card can only really be used towards free nights at any of Starwood’s 11 distinct brands or you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline frequent flyer programs.  So you may be limited in your redemption choices to what Starwood provides. There also isn’t a “Starwood mall” of sorts where you can redeem points for various merchandise. 

Just the Math Please 

Rewards

You can earn up to five Starpoints® per dollar spent at participating Starwood hotels. As a card member, you would only earn two points, but as an SPG® member, you can earn an additional two or three points.  Next, you earn two Starpoints® per dollar spent on purchases at participating Marriott Rewards® hotels. Lastly, all other eligible purchases earn one point per dollar.

The SPG® Card from American Express offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints® if you spend $3,000 within the first three months. 

Balance Transfers

To make a balance transfer will cost you either $5 or 3% of the transaction amount, whichever amount is greater. Balance transfers also carry an APR of 16.99%-20.99% Variable, based on your credit-worthiness. 

Rates and Fees

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for Purchases 

16.99%-20.99% Variable, based on your credit-worthiness. There is no 0% introductory rate for purchases.

APR for Balance Transfers 

16.99%-20.99% Variable, based on your credit-worthiness. There is no 0% introductory rate for balance transfers.

APR for Cash Advances

26.99% Variable

Penalty APR and When It Applies

29.99% Variable. 

It will apply if you make one or more late payments or make a payment that is returned. The penalty APR will apply for at least six months.

How to Avoid Paying Interest on Purchases

Your due date is at least 25 days after the close of each billing cycle.

American Express will not charge you interest on purchases if you pay your entire balance by the due date each month. It will begin charging interest on cash advances and balance transfers on the transaction date.

Annual Fee 

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Transaction Fees

  • Balance Transfer $5 or 3% of the transfer, whichever is greater

  • Cash Advance $5 or 3% of each advance, whichever is greater

  • Foreign Purchase Transaction None

Penalty Fees

  • Late Payment- Up to $38

  • Returned Payment- Up to $38

See all Rates and Fees

How It Stacks Up

If you’re checking out this Starwood Preferred Guest® Card, chances are you’re already a frequent user of Starwood and/or Marriott. This is one of two SPG® cards - the other is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. It comes with many of the same characteristics as the non-business card. This includes the ways to earn Starpoints®, the annual fee and lack of a foreign transaction fee. The Business card, however, provides access to the Sheraton® Club Lounge, AmEx OPEN Savings® and ReceiptMatch.

Marriott has its own loyalty credit card called Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. The card comes with a hefty sign-up bonus, an anniversary reward and an annual fee of $85. You earn five points per dollar spent at participating Marriott Rewards and SPG® hotels. You earn two points per dollar on airline tickets bought directly from the airline, car rentals and restaurant purchases. You earn one point per dollar on other eligible purchases. You can redeem these points at one of 5,700+ Marriott locations in more than 110 countries or transfer them to several airline partner programs. With the Marriott card, you can often get the same perks at Ritz properties. With all these extensive benefits, the Marriott card might be more worthwhile than the SPG® card from Amex.

If you’re still shopping around for the best hotel brands and their loyalty cards, it’s easy to get caught up. The Hyatt Visa, with an annual fee of $75, limits both spending and earning to mostly travel expenses and rewards. The same goes for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, which carries some great airline and hotel benefits, but for an annual fee of $450.

Bottom Line

If you’re really dedicated to Starwood Hotels and want to up your game a bit, then this card could be for you. Its rewards are pretty solid if you want to stay within Starwood properties. It’s also not too difficult to earn those Starpoints® since you earn them mostly through Starwood and Marriott purchases. It also helps that you can earn a nice bonus of 25,000 Starpoints® after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of cardmembership.

The card does have a $95 annual fee, although there is an intro rate of $0 for the first year. However, all the perks of having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card, especially through American Express, may very well outweigh the annual fee. All in all, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express offers a solid rewards program, as long as you frequent SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels enough to justify it.

 

 

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