Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

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This card can fast-track you to free nights or free flights.

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The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express was refreshed in anticipation of the unification of the Starwood and Marriott rewards systems. The card has long been beloved by points and miles maximizers for good reason and since the refresh it still offers cardholders a ton of value. The rewards structure is generous, and, crucially, the points are easily transferable to one of the dozens of airlines with which SPG has an alliance.

This ranks among the most well reviewed credit cards on Bankrate.

Review

The top reasons to get a hotel-branded credit card are because you:

  • Are a frequent guest at properties within that hotel’s portfolio.
  • Want to earn free stays.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express goes further than most hotel cards, though, because of its generous redemption options. Not only can you redeem points for free hotel stays, you can use points to book airline travel, as well.

What’s more, this card boasts one of the most generous rewards rates of any travel card. After the refresh, the card’s welcome bonus was significantly beefed up. You can now earn 75,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your card.

You’ll now earn 6 points per dollar spent using this card on eligible purchases at participating Starwood and Marriott Rewards hotels. This card also earns 2 points per dollar on every other purchase. Every year on the anniversary of opening your account you receive one Free Night Award good for a hotel stay with a redemption level at or under 35,000 points at participating hotels.

This card automatically qualifies you for Silver Elite status and when paired with a free membership to the Marriott Rewards loyalty program, it can fast-track you to free nights or free flights. Although SPG fans were nervous that their highly-prized points would be worth a lot less after the merger with Marriott, the impact was not as bad as expected. Points did lose a little value in the shake-up (around one third) but 75% of hotels in the Starwood-Marriott-Ritz-Carlton umbrella could be booked for the same or fewer points as they could before. It’s also worth mentioning that your options have vastly increased as a result of the merger with plenty of hotels from the budget to luxury ends of the spectrum.

Who should get this card

Frequent travelers who like to stay with Marriott or Starwood chain hotels stand to benefit the most from owning this card. Especially business travelers who like to use a personal card for business expenses.

The card is also good for those who want hotel perks like free WiFi, and if you have Gold and Platinum status, free upgrades, late check-in, and increased points earnings for your stays.

Points-maximizers seeking a co-branded card with high hotel rewards and the ability to transfer those points to airline purchases.

Advantages
  • Get a welcome bonus of 75,000 Starpoints, after you spend $3,000 within the first three months.
  • The points earned are flexible and can be transferred to the frequent flyer programs of more than 30 different airlines.
  • Annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.
  • You get automatic Silver Elite status.
  • Points can be redeemed at over 6,500 hotel worldwide.
  • Terms apply.
Disadvantages
  • No introductory APR for purchases or balance transfers. The standard APR is 17.49% to 26.49%.
  • $95 annual fee after the first year.

Fees and APR

  • There’s an annual fee of $95, waived the first year.
  • Variable APR on purchases of 17.49%-26.49%.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when making purchases outside the U.S.

Extras, perks and using points

With this card, you get free WiFi at over a million Boingo hotspots worldwide and free in-room WiFi at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards properties. You also get roadside assistance, travel accident insurance, access to a global assistance hotline, extended purchase warranty protection and mobile phone damage and theft insurance.

Points can be redeemed for free nights and upgrades at more than 2,600 resorts and hotels.

You can also redeem points for travel on more than 150 airlines with no blackout dates. The exchange rate is 1:1 on most airlines.

How this card compares

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at over 5,700 Marriott locations.
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at SPG properties.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants, car rental agencies and on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline.
  • Earn 1 point on all other purchases.

This card offer is currently unavailable on Bankrate. To see more cards in this category, please visit our excellent credit category page.

Credit Needed

Regular APR

17.49% to 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.

Annual Fee

$85

Balance Transfers Intro APR

Since the Marriott-Starwood merger, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card is the most likely one to consider against the Starwood Preferred Guest Card. Marriott’s card gives you a free night in a category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary. Unlike Starwood points, Marriott points never expire as long as you use your card at least once every 24 months. It mostly boils down to if you value the free night Marriott gives you more than the flexibility of the Starwood points. You may want to consider getting both of these cards for maximum benefit.

The Hyatt Credit Card
  • Earn 3 World of Hyatt points for every $1 you spend at all Hyatt properties with your Hyatt Credit Card.
  • Earn 2 World of Hyatt points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies.
  • Earn 1 World of Hyatt point for every $1 you spend on other purchases.

This card offer is currently unavailable on Bankrate. To see more cards in this category, please visit our excellent credit category page.

Credit Needed

Excellent

Regular APR

17.49% to 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.

Annual Fee

$75.

Balance Transfers Intro APR

Although it may seem like you’re earning less points with The Hyatt Credit Card than other hotel-branded cards, Hyatt hotels have a lower points requirement to earn free nights, starting at just 5,000 points. If you prefer the Hyatt brand, this card may be better for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Credit Needed

Excellent/Good

Regular APR

17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Annual Fee

$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfers Intro APR

N/A

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s hefty welcome bonus, boosted redemption value when using the Chase portal, and a generous rewards program make this card a stand-out among travel rewards cards offering big value for minimal cost. Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be used for everything from flights to lodging to cruises, this also makes it one of the most flexible redemption programs among travel cards.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.