Starwood Preferred Guest SPG Credit Card

spg-credit-cardAre you looking for a versatile travel credit card that can accumulate points towards hotels and flights as well as for redeeming gift cards from leading retailer stores?  If so, the Starwood Preferred Guest Card is a great choice for consumers.  The SPG card is issued by American Express and purchases made earn points towards the Starwood Hotel and Resorts Rewards Program.  Besides getting free hotel nights and booking flights, points are really flexible and can be used to book flights, converted into airline miles, or redeemed for gift cards.  There are 3 things that sets this card apart from other credit cards and that is the is the generous sign up bonus, awesome value that cardholders get from Starwood points, and lots of redemption options.

Starwood Credit Card Sign Up Bonus Offer

Sign up bonuses have been for either 25,000 or 30,000 points.  The latter offer only happens once per year.  In both cases, 10,000 StarPoints is awarded upon the first purchase.  However, in order to receive the remaining points, cardholders need to spend $5,000 within 6 months from the date of application.  This has been an improvement from the past since Amex previously required $15,000 in spend to get the entire bonus.

Starwood members will recognize that 30,000 to 35,000 points, assuming spending requirements have been met (bonus + 5,000 points from spend requirement) does not seem like a lot, but it has a lot of value.  Depending on the type hotel chosen, it can mean up to 6 free hotel nights or 2 nights at a really nice hotel.  In many cases, customers can use those points to redeem hotels that cost 4 to 6 cents per point.

Redeeming your Starwood Points for Hotel Nights:

Hotel nights can be redeemed in a couple ways.

  1. Free nights from points – Starwood members can book free hotel nights using only points and pay no out of pocket cost.  If 5 nights are booked, the 5th night is free and only 4 nights worth of points need to be used.
  2. Cash and points – With this option, a portion of the hotel is paid with cash, the remaining with StarPoints.  This is by far the best use of your StarPoints.  It allows for redemptions that equal 3.5 cents to 6 cents per StarPoint.  That’s an incredible value considering most credit cards give a cash back of only 1 cent per dollar spent.

Starwood Hotel and Resorts operates the following hotel brands:

  • St Regis
  • W Hotels
  • Westin
  • Sheraton
  • Aloft
  • Le Meridien
  • The Luxury Collection
  • Element
  • Four Points

Redeeming your StarPoints for Flights:

Two Options to Turn StarPoints into Flights

  1. Starpoints can be used to book flights on nearly 350 airlines without blackout dates.
  2. There is also the option to convert Starpoints to airline miles.  Most programs have a one to one conversion ratio.  For every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to a frequent flyer program, 5,000 bonus airline miles will be awarded.  Talk about getting the most bang for your buck!

StarPoints to Airline Miles Conversion

  • Aeroplan/Air Canada     1:1
  • Air Berlin     1:1
  • Air China Companion     1:1
  • Air New Zealand & Air Points     65:1
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan     1:1
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia     1:1
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club     1:1
  • American Airlines AAdvantage     1:1
  • Asia Miles     1:1
  • Asiana Airlines     1:1
  • British Airways Executive Club     1:1
  • China Eastern Airlines     1:1
  • China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club     1:1
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles     1:1
  • El Al Israel Airlines     No Transfer Option
  • Emirates Skywards     1:1
  • Etihad Airways     1:1
  • Flying Blue     1:1
  • Hawaiian Airlines     1:1
  • Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank     1:1
  • King Club Miles     1:1
  • LAN LANPASS     1:2
  • Mexicana Frecuenta     1:1
  • Miles and More     1:1
  • Qatar Airways     1:1
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan     1:1
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer     1:1
  • Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus     1:1
  • US Airways Dividend Miles     1:1
  • United Mileage Plus     2:1
  • VARIG Smiles     2:1
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club     1:1

Benefits from American Express

Carrying an American Express card has a lot of advantages including travel benefits such as car rental loss, accidental insurance, rental car insurance coverage for free and anytime access to the Global Assist Hotline sudden emergencies in cases where cardholders travel 100 miles or more away from home, protection on purchases including fraudulent purchases, extending manufacturer warranty, and return protection.  Lastly, if there is a credit card dispute, Amex always favors the consumers with appropriate supporting documents.

Annual Fees

The annual fee is waived for the first year as an introductory offer.  After that, it costs $65 per year.  No one likes paying this fee but based on the generous rewards and versatile redemption, it is well worth it.  For those that disagree, cancelling after the first year is another option.

Summary of Benefits

  • No annual fee during the first year
  • 25,000 Starwood Points Sign up bonus (10,000 after 1st purchase, 15,000 more after spending $5,000 in 6 months)
  • Earn 1 point for every dollar spent and 5 points at Starwood properties
  • Points can be converted to airline miles (if 20,00o points transferred, there’s a 5,000 point bonus)
  • Starwood points can be used for free nights, upgrades, cash and points for nights, and other hotel incidentals
  • Redeem points for gift cards (Amazon.com, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, Starbucks, Williams Sonoma and more)
  • No expiration date on Starwood Points
  • 2 stay or 5 nights towards gold or platinum status

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Review

chase-sapphire-preferred-credit-card-imageIf you love travel credit cards like I do, the Chase Sapphire Preferred should be at the top of your to get list.  The sign up bonus on this credit card is an awesome 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  That’s $400 cash or it can be redeemed for travel at values that are much higher.  There are a number of redemption options in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program so the points can get something to everyone’s liking.  Two other great thing about this card is that the annual fee in the first year is waived and there is no foreign exchange fees.  I spend a lot of time traveling and eating out, so for me this card gets most of my credit card spend because it gives 2 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Sign Up Bonus

This card has received a lot of media attention for its generous sign up bonus – 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points.  In order to get this bonus, card holders are required to spend $3,000 within 3 months from day they got approved for the card.  The Ultimate Rewards program is great for its incredible flexibility in redeeming points for things that you want.  Points can be exchanged for airline tickets, hotel nights, cash, and merchandise. They can also be used to bid on special event auctions set up by Chase.

Earning Chase Sapphire Points

Every dollar worth of spend on this card earns 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point.  However, like i said before, if you travel a lot than this is great because any travel and dining related expenses earns you 2 points per dollar.  By the time, you meet your spend requirement of $3,000 within 3 months, 43,000 UR points will be in your account.  If some of that $3,000 was spent on travel or dining, your final tally will be even more.  With UR points, there are no earnings limit nor do the points expire.  As an added bonus, Chase offers a 7% annual points dividend on the points you have earned for the year.  So if you spend $3,000, at the end of the year you get an additional 210 points.

An additional way to earn even more points is to shop through the Ultimate Rewards portal when users login to their Chase bank account.  There are always retailers that give additional point bonuses for buying goods through Chase’s website.  Point bonuses change all the time but if you are going to buy something at a store why not buy it through the UR portal and pick it at a store.  This way, you earn more points doing something you would have already done in the first place.

Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Airline Tickets:

Flights can be booked with UR points in two ways.  First, book directly through the UR portal.  Book flights just like you would on any other travel site.  40,000 UR points is worth $500 in tickets.  These revenue tickets have no black out dates.  The other option is to transfer points to airline partners that include British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, and United.

Hotel Nights:

Staying at hotels with free points is awesome.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card makes this possible with its Ultimate Rewards portal.  Users can book travel in a few ways.  One is through their trip planner.  It works just like any travel site.  Just input your travel dates and location and perform a search.  Another way is to redeem your points for gift cards from leading hotel brands such as Fairmont, Marriott, Hyatt, Best Western, and Ritz Carlton.  Lastly, points can be transferred to travel partners such as Hyatt, Intercontinental’s Priority Club, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton.

By far the best option in using your points is to transfer them to the Hyatt Gold points program.  Users will need to sign up for an account first, but it is quick and easy.  Using points at Hyatt is wise because the redemption value at some of the high end hotel properties is amazing.  For instance, with 22,000 points you can redeem 1 night at Park Hyatt Paris or Park Hyatt Sydney.  These two hotels cost an average of $1,000 per night.  After meeting your spend requirement, card holders have enough points for 2 nights at one of these properties.  These are just 2 examples.  There are many other hotels within the Hyatt brand that offer fantastic value for your points including:

  • Grand Hyatt Tokyo
  • Park Hyatt Moscow
  • Park Hyatt Maldives
  • Hyatt Carmel Highlands
  • Park Hyatt Zurich
  • Park Hyatt Miln

Cash:

Ultimate Rewards points can get card holders cash back.  The minimum redemption is $20 and the exchange rate is 2,000 points per $20.  Cash payment can be received in the form of a check or statement credit.  While this isn’t the best use of points, the option is there if you need the cash.

Merchandise:

Again, this is not the most efficient way to use your points, but redeeming for goods is yet another option for your UR points.  Users can redeem points for different merchandise including electronics, movies, kitchen items, computers, music, office products, software, and much more.  There are also gift cards from leading retailers available.   For this option, the conversion rate is around a penny for every point.

Special Hotel Deals

If you are a Chase Sapphire Preferred card holder, you can use their premium travel booking website called The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection to score some pretty impressive hotel deals.  This website features top hotels around the world.  Bookings made through this site will still earn hotel points and stay/night credits toward elite status if you belong to a particular hotel program.  Hotel prices can be about the same price or even less.  However, there are many benefits with LHR including:

  • breakfast for 2 daily
  • room upgrade if available at check in
  • early check in and late check out if available
  • special amenity gift

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Customer Service

If cardholders have any problems, reaching customer service is hassle free.  The wait times to speak with a customer representative is quick and pleasant.  Every time I have spoken to customer service, they have been helpful and I never experienced any problems.

Fees to Know About

Usually, foreign exchange fees will cost 3% of a transaction charge, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred does not have this fee.  The annual fee is waived during the first year.  After that, it is $95 a year, which is well worth it for all the benefits this card has along with being the most generous travel card.

Final Word

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great every day credit card that most people should carry in their wallet no matter where they go in the world.  It offers a great return on every dollar you spend.  The points earned can go towards a wide variety of things including travel, cash, and merchandise.  In addition to the perks, the great sign up bonus makes applying for this card a no brainer.