Why is everyone so excited about the Starwood American Express card right now?

NOTE: The offer mentioned in this post is no longer available. Check at American Express website for the current offers available.

I follow my fair share of websites that focus on miles and points and ever since last week, I can’t get through a couple of articles without seeing something mentioning the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. Why, all of a sudden, is there an increased interest in this card?

The most important reason for the flurry of attention is that the card has recently increased the sign up bonus from the usual 25,000 points to a bonus of 35,000 points. This bigger bonus does come with a higher spending requirement. To get the full bonus on the personal card, you need to spend $5000 in total over six months ($3,000 in three months for 25,000 points and then you get an additional 10,000 points after spending an additional $2,000 within 6 months.) The business card requires $8,000 in spending for the full bonus ($5,000 in 3 months for 25,000 points and $3,000 additional spending by 6 months for 10,000 more points) The increased bonuses will last until April 5, 2017. The usual annual fee for these cards are $95 but the annual fee is waived for the first year.If you want to apply for the either of these cards, you can message me and I can send you a referral link. This will be for the same public offer but they’ll also give me 5,000 Starpoints for the referral, which would be greatly appreciated.

Sharon and I both currently have the personal version of this card and I have previously had the business version of this card. So why is everyone going go crazy over a sign up bonus of 35,000 points? I mean, you can easily find cards offering 50,000, 75,000 or even 100,000 points or miles for a similar amount of spending without having to look very far. The reason is that Starpoints (the name of points in the Starwood Preferred Guest, or SPG program) are usually considered some of the most valuable currencies to have.

To redeem a room at a Starwood Property (Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, Aloft, Four Points, St. Regis, Le Meriden, Tribute, Design Hotels, Luxury Collection, Element) takes from 2,000 points for the lowest category 1 room on a weekend stay to a maximum of 35,000 for a peak category 7 room. To put that in perspective, Hilton’s lowest category starts at 5,000 points but then goes up to 70,000 to possibly 95,000 points a night (depending on season) for a room in one of their category 10 hotels.

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Your 35,000 point sign up bonus can get you 1 night at the Sr. Regis Princeville Resort on Kauai. That room can retail for over $800 a night. Photo from SPG website.
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We recently booked this upgraded room at the Great Northern Hotel in London for 17,550 Starpoints a night. Yes, that’s Sharon photobombing the picture.

So while Starpoints can give wonderful value when used to book a hotel room, there are even more reasons they are loved so much in the miles and points world.

  • They are very flexible – there are over 30 airline frequent flyer programs to which which you can transfer your Starpoints. When transferring points to airlines, you also get a 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 points transferred (so 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 Delta SkyMiles). This means it often makes more sense to earn Starpoints on your everyday spending and then transfer them to the airline program than it does to earn miles using the airlines own co-branded card.
  • If you book 4 nights using your Starpoints in a hotel, the 5th night is free. This essentially reduces the points needed per night by 20%. Unfortunately, Sharon and I have never used this perk as we rarely stay in the same place for five nights.
  • Unlike some other programs that will only let you use your points for the lowest level room type, Starpoints can be redeemed for upgraded rooms. I paid 1,750 extra points per night to upgrade to a larger Cubitt room at the Great Northern Hotel in London.
  • While there was much hand-wringing when Marriott merged with Starwood, the hotel points programs are still run separately. They did make it so you are now able to transfer your Starpoints to Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio. That opens up a whole bunch of hotels owned by Marriott (which also includes Ritz Carlton hotels) that are available to book. Since a top level category 9 Marriott hotel costs 45,000 Marriott Rewards points, you only have to transfer 15,000 Starpoints for enough to book a single night stay. Even the top of the top, a tier 5 Ritz-Carlton hotel, is 70,000 points (equivalent of 23,333 Starpoints).
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You can stay at the historic Algonquin Hotel Times Square after transferring 15,000 Starpoints to the Marriott Rewards program. Photo from Marriott Website.
  • It is possible to pool points with your family members as long as your accounts have the same registered address for 30 days or more. This means it could be possible for you to earn even more points with this increased bonus.
  • With the Starwood and Marriott merger complete, it is quite possible that the Starwood American Express cards will be going away in the future. Marriott currently has their own credit card and a Ritz Carlton card, which are both offered by Chase. This could be an instance of if you don’t sign up for this card during this offer, you may never see a bonus this high on this card again.

While I’ve written how valuable this 35,000 sign up bonus can be, I do need to mention some warnings about signing up for credit cards for the bonuses. You really need to have your financial matters in order before starting down this path and it does take discipline to keep things from getting out of control. Here are some quick guidelines.

  • Do NOT sign up for credit cards if you you are currently paying credit card debt that is charging interest. No sign up bonus will make up for the amount you are paying on that debt. Get your finances under control first, no matter how tempting all these points seem to be.
  • Do NOT spend more on a credit card for points than you would normally spend. There are many ways to reach spending thresholds without going out and getting that 70 inch 4K television (unless you were going to be getting it anyway).
  • Do NOT sign up for every offer you see. Some banks, like Chase, are limiting the number of cards you can be approved for. If you have signed up for more than 5 cards in the last 2 years from any bank, you can not get any more Chase cards. It’s really easy to get more than that many cards, overall, once you get started.
  • Keep in mind that even if you have signed up for the personal card before, you may still be eligible for the business version. Million Mile Secrets wrote a great article about what qualifies as a business. The SPG business card does have an additional perk of giving you hotel lounge access even if you’re not booked in a room which would normally allow it. Depending on the hotel, this could be a great perk. For our travels, I’d prefer not to spend a whole bunch of time in the hotel lounge but, as always, Your Mileage May Vary.
  • Do NOT sign up for a bunch of travel credit cards if you have a large purchase you will be financing in the near future, like a home mortgage or a car loan.
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We took a 8 month break from credit card sign up bonuses before buying Jeep Jeep (that’s her name) a few weeks ago! And yes, Jeep Jeep is purple. Xtreme Purple, to be exact. It’s Sharon’s car so she chose the color. She likes cars that are the colors of Skittles.

There also also some specific things to know about signing up for cards from American Express.

  • You can only get one sign up bonus per card, PER LIFETIME (this may actually only be once every seven years but the rule hasn’t been in place long enough for people to be able to test that).
  • There is a great article on the website One Mile at a Time  that explains some of the more complex rules of signing up for cards with American Express, which would be more important if you have been going at this game for a while.

So I’m on the fence about if I’m going to have Sharon sign up for the business card. A final crack at an additional 35,000 Starpoints is just too good of an offer to pass up. What do you think?

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Let me know…

2 thoughts on “Why is everyone so excited about the Starwood American Express card right now?”

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