At a Glance
The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card might be a mouthful to say, but its long name is indicative to its many benefits and overall versatility. The card is technically branded as a hotel card, but it can expand into airline rewards and act as a “catch-all” card as well. The card has a very high cash back rate which starts at 2.3% and gets as high as 11.5% depending on the type of purchase. If you don’t think hotel credit cards are for you, this one will try to prove you wrong.
|Card||American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card|
|Rewards||9.2% – 11.5% cash back on Starwood hotel purchases (4 – 5 SPG points, when redeemed for Starwood hotel stays)
2.3% cash back on all other purchases (1 SPG point, when redeemed for Starwood hotel stays)
|Annual Fee||$65 (first year waived)|
|Sign-up Bonus||$575 (25,000 SPG points, when redeemed for SPG stays) after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||2.7%|
|Interest Rate||15.24% -19.24%|
|Miscellaneous||Transfer SPG points to certain airlines at a 1:1 point ratio and earn 5,000 additional SPG points for every 20,000 SPG points transferred
Earn SPG Elite Gold Status after $30,000 in purchases each year
Roadside Assistance Hotline
Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance
Global Assist® Hotline
Travel Accident Insurance
|Credit Portfolio Role||Catch-All Card|
|Credit Score Needed||Medium/High – High|
The SPG Card offers some of the highest cash back potential and versatility any card out there can offer. With cash back rates that can go as high as 11.5% on certain purchases, this card can’t be beat. The rewards program is intertwined with the Starwood brand’s Preferred Guest program and therefore uses SPG points as its rewards. The value of each point is debatable because their value fluctuates and is determined by what property you redeem them at. Depending on what website or expert you ask, the value can soar as high as 5 cents apiece based on how you redeem them. However, I stick to the conservative estimate of about an average of 2.3 cents (which is still incredibly high as most credit card “points” are worth no more than 1 cent). SPG points are also very versatile. Aside from being redeemable for hotel stays, SPG points can also be transferred to almost 30 different frequent flyer programs for mostly a 1:1 rate (though keep in mind most airline miles are worth about 1 cent so your overall cash back rate will be reduced if you choose this route). There is also a nice incentive to transfer: you get 5,000 SPG points for every 20,000 you transfer. Suddenly it’s an airline card too.
The biggest caveat with this card is to make sure you are maximizing the SPG point value. Personally I recommend using the points only for Starwood hotel stays because that is where you are going to get the most out of your points and therefore get the highest cash back rate. For some, this might be easy to do while for others it might take some time and thought to commit to this hotel conglomerate. If you are a big customer at some of the other major hotel brands like Marriott or Hilton, then you might want to look at other options. However, if you are able to stay somewhat loyal to the Starwood umbrella (comprised of ten unique hotel brands) then you will get the most out of this card. As a regular Preferred Guest you will be getting 9.2% cash back (4 SPG points per dollar) on all your Starwood purchases which also includes any restaurants or other purchases within the property (spas, room service, other room charges, etc.). As a Gold Preferred Guest this cash back rate goes to an incredible 11.5% cash back (5 SPG points per dollar). There are three different ways that you can become a Gold Preferred Guest. The first of these is by staying at a Starwood brand hotel for a minimum of 25 nights per year. The second way is by accumulating at least 10 separate bookings per year at a Starwood brand hotel. The last way to reach Gold status is by spending a minimum of $30,000 per year at a Starwood Hotel. Keep in mind that you will need to do one of these each year to keep your Gold status.
Don’t feel like you are limited or pressured to use your SPG points purely for hotel stays though. While hotel stays do get you the highest return, you can also use your points for things like gift cards or the airline transfer program mentioned above. Points never expire so you can accumulate a lot and not worry about having to use them right away. Because Starwood has hotels all over the world, you can save up for that amazing vacation down the road. Or if you are in a pinch for airline miles you can always quickly transfer some of your points to get that flight you were looking at. No matter how you use your points, the SPG Card gives you some of the greatest flexibility compared to other credit card reward programs.
Like with most other American Express Cards, there are a bunch of great “hidden” benefits that come with the SPG Card. There are the usual slew of travel benefits like roadside assistance, car rental insurance, travel insurance, and access to the Global Assist® Hotline, but with a 2.7% foreign transaction fee it might be worth using a different card while traveling abroad. For everyday shopping the extended warranty, purchase protection, and return protection are great, therefore making it worth putting important purchases on this card to utilize all of these perks.
Although this card comes with a $65 annual fee, the first year is waived and it comes with one of the best sign-up bonuses you can get: $575 worth of SPG points (25,000) after you spend $3,000 or more in the first 90 days. When you apply for this card make sure you can reach that minimum spend criteria because this sign-up bonus is too good to pass up and it will help offset the annual fee for almost the next nine or ten years. As this is a fairly competitive card, I would recommend having a fairly decent credit score (high 600s and above) with a good reportable income when applying.
The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card is a great catch-all card with a little zing to it. Any everyday purchase will get you about 2.3% cash back (when points are redeemed for Starwood hotel stays) and then 9.2% to 11.5% cash back on all Starwood purchases. If you don’t mind making the Starwood hotel brands your choice while traveling, then this card will get you more free stays faster than the other hotel cards out there. This card is essentially like an everyday card and a hotel card all wrapped into one: it can cover most of your everyday purchases while at the same time cover your hotel ones. Normally you would need to have two separate cards in your credit portfolio to cover that. The flexibility in point redemption is a great option too when you need to get more frequent flyer miles quickly. Overall, this card has a little bit of everything that most people will be able to capitalize on.