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The "Official" Starwood AmEx Card Thread.... Points OR miles

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FFGuru
2/28/06 12:53 PM
Updated- 10/5/06

Why is this card so hot?! This card earns you free hotel nights, OR free flights.... and at a great rate too. You earn 1 hotel point for every dollar spent toward a free hotel room, or up to 1.25 real airline frequent flier miles. On top of its rewards, the card comes with premium card holder benefits. Starwood is the parent company of Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, St. Regis, Le Meridien, and The Luxury Collection.

The Basics-
Annual fee- $30, generally waived for the first year, and worth the money any year.
Rewards- Hotel points (1/$) or Real Airline Miles (up to 1.25/$)
APR's- 2.9% Intro, then 17.49%
Bonus- 10,000 bonus points
Apply- Thru This Link Link fixed.

Current Limited-Time Offers
Please let me know if you are aware of any additional current offers for the card.

    * [l=10,000 bonus points to sign up] https://www201.americanexpress.com/drivetoweb/DrivetoWebServlet?CardType=6&campaignId=610&request_type=verify[/s]
    * 4,000 bonus points for staying at Four Points by Sheraton Register now and stay 4 nights for 4,000 bonus points by booking online or call 888-625-4988 and mention registration code NBE. (Thanks g10ny)


Card Benefits
Sure, the rewards are great, but the card itself is excellent as well with a lot of premium credit card features for a low annual fee.

    * Buyers Assurance Extended Warranty
    * Purchase Protection
    * Return Protection
    * Best Value Guarantee (BVG)


Hotel Rewards-
What could be better.... no capacity restrictions, no blackouts! As AyresFan puts it, if you can get a Starwood room for cash, you can get it for points too. All point requirements are based on hotel category. The more basic hotels are category one, as you move up in quality or move to more sought after locations, you move up in category. Find Category Listings here.

Airline Rewards-
You can transfer Starwood points into 'real' frequent flier miles on a 1 to 1 ratio into twenty-six airline frequent flier programs. You can start transferring at just 2,500 miles. Then, the offer really gets great.... For every 20,000 SPG points you turn into miles, you will receive a 5,000 mile bonus. So you are essentially earning 1.25 miles per $ (thats more miles for general purchases than any airline card I know.) Read "Play the System" below in this OP before transferring.


    Good Redeptions- Here are the airlines you can transfer 1 Starpoint=1 mile with. Then if you transfer 20,000 points to one of these programs, you'll get 5,000 additional miles. New- Click the linked airlines to view their mileage award charts. That way you'll have a good idea of which program requires the fewest miles for your free trip. As long as they have availability, that would be the airline to transfer miles to.

    Poor Redemptions- And here's the programs which you should rule out transferring miles to.

      United (2 Starpoints=1 mile), Varig (2=1), Air New Zealand (65=1), Jet Blue (N/A), Southwest (N/A)


Play the System-
With a traditional Airline Credit Card- You are stuck with a steep annual fee ($30-$70 more than this card) and a lackluster choice in rewards. If you have ABC Airline's Credit Card, have all the miles you need, and then realize that XYZ is having a mileage reward sale offering free trips to your destination for fewer miles, or with better schedules.... too bad. You are stuck with ABC.

With the Starwood Card- You can hand pick your rewards. With a bit of research (or advice from fellow FW'ers) you can transfer your points into an airline mileage program requiring the fewest miles and/or offering the best seats, schedules, or bonus offers. Don't forget, it's free and instant to sign up for a frequent flier account. So don't limit yourself to transferring miles into frequent flier programs you are a member of now.

So maybe you've never flown on Singapore Airlines or any of its partners in your life. With SPG, you can still sign up for their mileage program, transfer your points to their program, and travel on this fine airline or one of its partners for free your very first time.

    A True Example: I had the American Airlines Master Card, spent $50,000 with the card and got a free coach ticket to Italy for 50,000 miles. If I had tthe Starwood AMEX card, for that same $50,000 in spending I would have earned 60,000 miles in Cathay Pacific (a partner with British Airways). That would have beeen enough for a free Business Class Ticket on BA.


Things to remember-
1) Signing up for a frequent flier program is free, instant, and easy. When you are ready to convert points into miles, don't just look into frequent flier programs you are already a member of. Find the best mileage offer, and if you aren't a member of that program, sign up!
2) Just because ABC airlines doesn't fly between your city and your 'goal destination,' it doesn't mean that they don't have an excellent reward on one of their partner airlines between those two cities. (ie, look at my example.... Cathay has the better offer to Europe, on BA, than BA has itself.

    In the "Airline Rewards" section above, you can click on the linked airlines, and I've set up the link to take you directly to the airlines frequent flier redemption chart so that you can see exactly how many miles they require for a free trip to various destinations. I'll continue to add more links.


Transfer Times-
From what I've heard it can take a long time to transfer your SPG points into miles. Several weeks I think. Please reply to this post and let us know your experience. If thats the only bad part about this card.... no problem. Just keep in mind that when you transfer points into a program, they may have reward seat space available today, but they may not have it by the time your miles make it into the airline account, those seats may no longer be available. The best way to combat this (and get the most value of your miles in any situation) is to plan out your free trip well in advance.

Best Reward-
Since you can transfer SPG points to so many airline frequent flier programs, I'd like to create a list of the SPG partner airlines offering the best awards to each destination. It's a work in progress, so the results may change over time (and I don't guarantee their accuracy.) Of course results may differ by your exact deparure city, departure time, routing etc. This list is primarily just 'saver' awards (those which require the fewest miles but often come with the greatest blackouts and capacity restrictions. For this list though, I'll just assume leaving from the Continental U.S. Hopefully this 'short list' will give you an idea of which airline to transfer your miles to in order stretch your points. Y=Coach, C=Business, F=First


    Dest.-..Class-..Airline-...Miles-..Additional Info-
    Alaska.....Y....Alaska.....20,000..Other airlines usually 40,000
    Hawaii.....Y....????......????
    Europe.....?....????.......????
    Europe.....C....Cathay.....50,000..Book on British using Cathay Miles (parners)
    Asia.......?....????.......????
    Australia..Y....Qantas.....48,000
    Africa.....?....????.......????
    Mexico.....Y....American...25,000..Most airlines 35,000
    Canada.....?....????.......????

Other Links-

    * cbass98's Thread Discusses the 6,000 points bonus for signing up. (The standard bonus is 4,000)
    * Travel Credit Cards An in depth discussion about which credit cards to use to get you on your next trip, and which ones to use once you're there. A good place to see how Starwood compares against other travel reward cards. Plus the OP has a formula to calculate the value of a mile.
    * FlyerTalk SPG Thread Also a good resource.


More coming.... reply with any additional information.[/L]
WikiPost
2/28/06 12:53 PM
Starwood Preferred Guest program discussion on FlyerTalk for reference.

AMEX also gives a 50% off rack rate coupon with your card. It is good for up to 5 nights but can not be combined with other offers. Note that half off RACK may be higher or lower than other best available rates.

Best Value Guarantee (BVG) no longer availible.

2/27/08 - deleted link to spgcard.com - link is dead.
Best signup offers are currently:

SPG Personal Amex - 10,000 SPG points with first use and 15,000 bonus points if you spend $15,000 in your first 6 months.

SPG Business Amex - 10,000 SPG points after first use.

10/21/08: for what it's worth: AMEX Credit Bureau tells me that it reports the prior months' activity to the three credit bureaus on the 16th of each month.
cryptopunk
2/28/06 1:09 PM
generally speaking, starwoods are pretty nice properties to stay at too. a big advantage of the SPG program is no blackout dates or quotas, if there is a 'standard' room available, you can book it with points.

a good combination with the SPG card for non-frequent starwood guests is the ameniti program (on a good deal like the last one), as this immediately gets you gold SPG status. the perks aren't great (upgrades for golds are almost non-existent), but you do get an extra starpoint per dollar spent during SPG stays, and you may also get access to targeted promos like the recent 50% off one reward redemption.

also AMEX will do their own targeted promos occasionally - i got selected for a 50% bonus on AMEX starpoints earned for a 2 or 3 month period earlier this year - got an extra 5k points or so out of that.
FFGuru
2/28/06 1:18 PM
cryptopunk said:


a good combination with the SPG card for non-frequent starwood guests is the ameniti program (on a good deal like the last one), as this immediately gets you gold SPG status. the perks aren't great (upgrades for golds are almost non-existent), but you do get an extra starpoint per dollar spent during SPG stays, and you may also get access to targeted promos like the recent 50% off one reward redemption.



Yes, and the ameniti program is good to sign up just for the bonus United miles too. I didn't realize that it paired up so well with SPG too. You could get a bundle of miles between the two programs. I'll have to work on adding more info about Ameniti in this post in the future.

There are several strategies in attaining gold with SPG. Hopefully people will reply with additional information.

I'll keep adding to the OP, so that it serves as a synopsis of this thread. Of course I'll try to give credit to whomever steers me toward new information.
StarHusker
2/28/06 1:31 PM
OP, I'm pretty sure that Starwood is not the parent company of Hilton.
Raf2
2/28/06 1:36 PM
StarHusker said:

OP, I'm pretty sure that Starwood is not the parent company of Hilton.


I'm 100% sure. I think that the OP meant to put "Sheraton" where the H word is.

Hilton has their own affinity AMEX product, but in my humble opinion it is not worth having, even with no fee!
FFGuru
2/28/06 1:41 PM
StarHusker said:

OP, I'm pretty sure that Starwood is not the parent company of Hilton.



Oooops. I was thinking one thing and typing another. Thanks. It's corrected
cryptopunk
2/28/06 2:07 PM
one other spg AMEX benefit not yet mentioned is the free 50% off rack rate cert (1 stay, up to 5 nights) you get each year. this isn't terribly useful, but i've always managed to find some use for them - usually save $20-50/night. they're more usuable overseas than in the states (frequently the internet rate is less than half the rack rate). but with a little diligence a useful benefit.

also, keep up with the spg.com website, where there are usually a few different promos running.
bozo007
2/28/06 2:13 PM
BVG
SoBeyondTheNorm
2/28/06 2:15 PM
Thanks to FFGuru for your effort on this thread. Also thanks to CBass for the application link, it's a great deal. I'm probably going to apply for this card later in the week. It's hard to resist with the extra bonus points and fee free for the first year. Even though I don't often stay at Starwoods when I travel the perks of the card make it worth the fee.

I'm wondering though, is it possible to earn the additional 6K points in the first year but just eating lunch at a Starwood hotel and that would count as a stay?
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