American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Review | The Best Credit Card for Travel Hacking

by RJ

in Top Credit Cards

The first time I reviewed the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, I looked at the card as a way to earn free hotel rooms. After learning a more about the rewards program, I found that the Starwood American Express Card wasn’t only a great card for earning free hotel rooms, but also the best card to earn free flights. Something I was more interested in.

Knowing that I needed a new credit card, I applied and was accepted into the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest program. The following are my thoughts on why I think this card is the best card for travel hacking my way to free flights.

First Things First

Before considering applying for a credit card to earn bonus miles, you need to consider these two questions:

  1. Do you pay your credit card in full every month? - If not, don’t bother trying hack your way to a few free flights. Getting your balance to zero is your # 1 priority.
  2. How much do you spend? - The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card has an annual fee. If you spend substantially less than $1,000 a month, this fee doesn’t make sense. More on this to come…

What is Starwood?

Starwood is a travel program for frequent travelers of 9 hotel brands; including Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin, Four Points, and other really nice hotels. All together, the hotels in the Starwood name include 1,000 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries. The card also won 2011 SmarterTravel® Award for “Best Travel Rewards Card”.

The Benefits for Owning the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

Regarding frequent flyer programs, the majority of the programs within the Starwood program offer 1 to 1 transfers. Therefore, you can earn points with your Starwood card, and transfer them to whatever airline program you want to.

This is the only card I saw that offered this flexibility. Most of the time, there is a fee or more transfer restrictions.

Free nights, free flights: Redeem Starpoints with over 350 airlines through SPG Flights and more than 1,000 hotels and resorts worldwide. No blackout dates

No Blackout Dates

When redeeming rewards, there are no blackout dates. In other words, if I want to go somewhere during popular weekends, I do so using my rewards.

Sign Up Bonus

By signing up; you receive an initial bonus of 10,000 points with your first purchase. Also, if you spend $5,000 within 6 months, you receive an additional 15,000 miles.  This is one of the best sign up bonuses I saw.

Car Rental Insurance

Whenever you rent a car with the Starwood American Express card, you’re covered for car rental loss and damage at no additional charge.

The Annual Fee

There is no annual fee for the first year, then $65 per year.

To decide if this fee is worth paying, look at your average spending. Say you spend on average $1,000 a month. Therefore, the Starwood American Express Card would earn you 12,000 miles per year.

In comparison, a travel rewards card without fees typically earns you one mile for every two dollars spent. Therefore, over the course of the year, you only earn 6,000 miles.

Is it worth to pay $65 a year to earn an additional 6,000 miles per year? In my opinion, no. My general rule of thumb is that in order to justify paying a fee, the ratio of extra miles to annual fee needs to be greater than 100:1.

Unfortunately, my spending is closer to $2,000 a month.  Therefore, the $65 dollar fee is worth paying because I earn 12,000 more miles.

Interest Rate

As for the interest rate, your APR is a variable rate, which is currently at 15.24% – 19.24%.

Summary – American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Review

Though Starwood is marketed as a “Preferred Guest” credit card; I still see it as the best card to earn airline miles.

I find it easier to find cheap rates for hotel rooms than I do flights. Therefore, I save the rewards for booking flights and use a other methods to find cheap hotel rooms.

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

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