Travel Hacking: Amex Starwood Preferred Guest
Currently #12 in Aaron’s Credit Card Power Rankings
Current Signup Bonus
25,000 points after spending $3,000 in 90 days
$95 (waived first year)
Minimum Credit Score
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- Up to 5x points at Starwood Properties
- 1x points everything else
- 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 points transferred to partners
- Transfer SPG points to over 1000 hotels with no blackout dates
- Transfer SPG points to over 30 airlines (and their partners) with no blackout dates
- No foreign transaction fees
- Free account with Boingo
A Quick Word
SPG. People really get excited about this card. Emphatic, some might say. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great card, but Travel Hacking with Amex Starwood Preferred Guest best suits a very specific kind of traveler.
What kind of traveler?
I’ll cover every corner of this card so you are fully aware of what exactly the Amex SPG is, and the best ways to use it.
1) 25,000 Starpoints
These points are very, very, very, very, very valuable to every traveler of every kind. In terms of getting ultimate value, the best way to redeem your points is by staying at swanky SPG properties. These luxury hotels are some of the finest in the world, (check out ThePointGuy’s value of SPG points). Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, Meridien… the list goes on. Redeeming your SPG points for these properties can be lucrative, and in terms of value, are great means of redemption. Or you can use the…
2) 5,000 Point Transfer Bonus
SPG has a ton of transfer partners – airlines, hotels, resorts, etc. For every 20,000 points one transfers from SPG to one of their partners, you are rewarded with an additional 5,000 point bonus. Badass! Let’s say your eyeing a flight on American Airlines that costs 25k. Transfer 20k over, and SPG hooks it up with the other 5k. This is an amazing perk.
3) No Blackout Dates
4) No Foreign Transaction Fees
Standard these days, but always appreciated.
5) $95 Annual Fee Waived
6) Wifi Perks
You will be given access to a free account with Boingo, an internet hotspot service with over 1 million wifi locations world wide. The hotspots are typically in airports, and it’s 100% free. A Boingo monthly subscription can run up to $40 a month, so there’s certainly value in it. Also – you’ll be provided complimentary wifi at SPG properties. They normally charge an additional $15 for internet access in your room. Ouch.
7) Up to 5x on SPG Properties
So, this is where the card’s best value really kicks in. If you prefer to travel in luxury, SPG will reward you, and reward you handsomely. People loyal to SPG properties are having a field-day, as it is very easy to keep accumulating points, and at a rapid pace. Hence why this card can be fantastic… for a very particular group of people. If you are trying to rack up points without staying on SPG properties, it can be daunting… which brings us to our next point.
1) 1x Points Everything Else
So yea. As stated, racking up points outside of SPG properties can be an uphill battle. There are no other incentivized categories – strange for a card of it’s caliber. But the 5x deal is so lucrative it seems Amex doesn’t need to offer any more incentive for their SPG-following.
2) Nothing to Neutralize the Annual Fee
First year annual fee is waived, but after that you’re going to get hit with $95 a year. If you are an SPG loyalist, this is but a drop in the bucket. Otherwise? It’s difficult to rationalize.
3) Points Expire
Very important. Use your SPG card once a calendar year, or those points are GONE. If you are using the card as an SPG enthusiast, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re burning the card, then I’d use the miles sooner than later, just in case.
4) Stellar Credit Score
American Express’ brand is one of sophistication and exclusivity. If you don’t have stellar credit, there are plenty of other Travel Hacking options.
5) The Name ‘Starpoints’
There are three types of rational strategies for this card.
- SPG Enthusiasts – As emphasized, if you frequent SPG properties, you will adore this card.
- Airline Loyalists – Let’s say you fly exclusively with American Airlines. Instead of earning 1x on purchases with AA’s branded credit card, earn 1x with the Amex SPG. Then when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to your AA account, you’ll get hooked up with the 5,000 point transfer bonus. This applies to any SPG partner.
- Burners – 25k signup bonus isn’t too challenging to hit, and if transferred to AA, you’ll get 30,000 miles to play with. Not bad for no annual fee.
Not everyone will agree with my placement of the Amex SPG – but my Power Rankings are the reflection of my niche.
For NomadsNation, Travel Hacking is about maximizing the quantity of travel. We want to maximize the quality of our travels too, but being able to travel longer is more important than being able to travel in style.
Flying first class and staying in 5 star hotels is f-ing awesome – we just prefer our points and miles to stretch a bit further.
Having said that. If luxury accommodation is what you prefer, Travel Hacking with Starwood Preferred Guest could be the card of your dreams…