The Starwood Preferred card: Perfect for Starwood hotel lovers
By Megg Mueller
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a pretty great travel rewards credit card for anyone looking to maximize their points for hotel stays and flights, particularly if you're a fan of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts collection of properties.
The Starwood Preferred Guest program allows members to redeem Starpoints for room nights, flights, events and experiences, plus merchandise through the Starwood network of partners.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts has over 1,100 properties in nearly 100 countries worldwide, with brands such as Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, The Luxury Collection, Le Meridien and St. Regis.
Earning rewards points
New Starwood Preferred Guest card members can earn up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints: Get 10,000 after the first purchase, and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 in the first six months of being a cardmember. Welcome bonus Starpoint offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months.
The card earns the standard one point per each dollar spent on eligible purchases, but you can also earn up to five points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts participating in the SPG program. Each dollar spent on Starwood booking earns two points from American Express, plus you'll get an additional two points as a Starwood Preferred Guest member, and members with Starwood Preferred Guest elite status receive one extra point.
Spend those points
The easiest way to spend your points, obviously, is at Starwood Properties hotels. There are seven categories of properties.
- A Category 1 property such as the Four Points by Sheraton Kansas City Airport runs 3,000 points for a weekday night or 2,000 points for a weekend night.
- A Category 4 hotel like The Westin Denver Downtown, the Walt Disney World Swan or the Walt Disney World Dolphin will require 10,000 points for one night.
- A Category 7 hotel such as The St. Regis Aspen Resort or the W South Beach will cost 30,000 to 35,000 points per night.
Some of Starwood's luxury international properties do not have standard rooms, so the points required for an overnight stay can be as much as 140,000. Other perks include the fifth night free when staying at a Category 3 or higher hotel, and suite upgrades for points at all hotel categories.
Flight can be booked using Starpoints on more than 350 airlines with SPG Flights. You have to book through a special Starwood website. There are no blackout dates.
Rates and fees
While the Starwood Preferred card is an American Express product, you don't have to pay your balance in full each month. That's the good news. The not so great news is if you don't, you'll find some fairly hefty interest rates:
- A variable APR of 15.24 - 19.24 percent for purchases depending on your creditworthiness.
- A variable APR of 25.24 percent for cash advances.
Fees are relatively low for a rewards card, and include:
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then annual fee will be $65
- Transaction fees for cash advances is $5 or 3 percent, whichever is greater.
- Foreign transaction fee is 2.7 percent of the transaction after converted to U.S. dollars.
Terms and Restrictions apply.
Megg Mueller is a journalist with almost two decades of experience. She has worked as a reporter and editor for the Reno Gazette-Journal and as an editor of health care and education manuals for Aspen Publishers, a subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer. She wrote a weekly column on the hotel industry during her tenure as assistant travel editor for USA TODAY.com. Mueller is the editor of a tourism-based website and also serves as a reporter for a weekly business newspaper.