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The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express review

Published: October 25, 2018

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Published: October 25, 2018

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Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
3.7 rating
3.7 rating
3.7 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 0.8
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 2.0

In a Nutshell:

The perk-heavy American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card offers one of the most flexible hotel rewards programs on the market, making it a great card for year-round travelers.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per dollar at participating SPG and Marriott hotels
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$95, $0 in first year

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$401

APR
17.74-26.74% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No blackout dates
  • No expiration dates
  • No point limits
  • 1:1 point transfer to most frequent-flier partners
  • High redemption value for hotel and airline purchases
  • Earn bonus points when you convert 15,000 points into miles
  • Redeem points on gift cards, travel, entertainment packages, donations and more

Cons

  • Lower points value on less expensive hotels
  • A lot of points are needed to redeem for weekday travel

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, free 5th night when you redeem your points for 4 consecutive nights, free hotel Internet and Boingo Wi-Fi, car rental and travel accident insurance, travel and roadside assistance

As of Aug. 1, 2018, the Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott loyalty programs have fully merged, and, as a part of the merger, the Starwood Preferred Guest card has undergone significant updates. The good news: The new Marriott Rewards loyalty program has kept many of the features that made the Starwood Preferred Guest program great, including the ability to transfer points to a large number of airline loyalty programs.

The bad news: The Starwood Preferred Guest card itself has gotten a bit of a devaluation. While it’s still a good card for earning flexible, valuable hotel points, those points aren’t nearly as valuable as Starpoints, and the new earning rate on the card – though it seems larger – isn’t quite large enough to compensate for the lower point value.

A little less return on your spending

The updated Starwood Preferred Guest card offers six points per dollar on Starwood and Marriott hotel purchases and two points per dollar on the rest of your purchases. Though this is an improved rewards rate for hotel spending (the card previously offered two points per dollar on hotel purchases) the value on general purchases is worse.

While Marriott points are worth only a third of the value of the card’s previous points, the card has only doubled the rate on general purchases over its previous rate. Thus, while it’s a great card for hotel spending, it’s no longer among the best options in your wallet for everyday purchases.

Good introductory bonus

American Express is currently offering 75,000 points to new cardholders who make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Once you figure in the lower value of Marriott points, this bonus is equal to card’s previous bonus of 25,000 points.

Great for frequent flyers

One of the best bits of news from the updated Marriott rewards program is the fact that it’s adopting the transfer options from the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Marriott will let you transfer points to a range of frequent-flier programs at a ratio of 3:1 and will give you a 15,000-point bonus when you transfer points in increments of 60,000. This is equal to Starwood Preferred Guest’s transfer options — when you divide these numbers by three, they match the transfer ratios that Starwood offered.

The ability to transfer points makes Marriott points especially valuable – it gives you access to a wide range of travel options plus the possibility of getting a better value than 0.8 cent per point by searching for deals among Marriott’s frequent-flyer partners.

Flexible redemption options

On top of its transfer options, the Marriott rewards program a high amount of flexibility in how you redeem your points. Points don’t expire, there’s no limits to how many points you can collect and there are no blackout dates or restrictions on rewards inventory – if a standard room is available, you can book it with points. Furthermore, thanks to Starwood’s merger with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, your points give you access to the world’s largest hotel network, with hotel options practically everywhere you want to travel.

Premium perks for less

The Starwood card comes loaded with a range of premium perks that are often reserved for more expensive credit cards, including free internet access in select hotel rooms and Boingo hot spots, access to ticket pre-sales and VIP events. The Starwood card also helps minimize the risk of travel by offering travel accident and rental car insurance, roadside assistance and global emergency assistance.

Why get the Starwood Preferred Guest card?

  • You travel frequently and prefer to stay at Marriott- or Starwood-brand hotels.
  • You want more flexible airline transfer options.
  • You spend enough money each month to easily take advantage of the card’s introductory bonus.

How to use the Starwood Preferred Guest card:

  • Use your card for most purchases for at least the first three months that you have it so you can take advantage of the card’s bonus offer.
  • If you’re a frequent flyer, save your points so you can claim additional bonus points when you’re ready to redeem. If you convert 60,000 points into miles, you’ll get 15,000 bonus points for free.
  • Stay at Starwood and Marriott properties as much as you can when you travel so you can rack up more points and qualify for Starwood Elite Status. Your Starwood card will give you a head start by automatically qualifying you for Silver status and by giving you automatic Gold status if you spend $30,000 within a calendar year.

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