I’ve used, owned, and signed up for a lot of credit cards in my life. I’ve never had a late payment on a credit card, and I’ve never paid any financing fees. So why such a long history with credit cards? Quite simply, credit cards are the best way to bulk up any rewards account. For years and years, I’ve signed up for credit card bonuses (that’s where the real gold mine is), but within the last few years I’ve discovered a card that might actually be worth paying the annual fee – the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express Has one of the Best Rates of Return
In case you’re not familiar with how Starwood points work, I’ll give you a quick overview.
Starwood breaks their hotels into different categories. The lower the category, the fewer the points that are required.
So for example, you will use 4,000 points for a Category 2 (or 3,000 on the weekend). A category 3 uses 7,000 points (but gives you your 5th night free). Then a category 4 requires 10,000 points (5th night free).
What is the value or rate of return when you use a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express?
For every dollar you spend, you earn 1 Starwood point.
Let’s say you find yourself in LAX on a Friday for a 12 hour lay over and you want to get a hotel. For 3,000 points, you can get a room at the Four Points or the Westin by the airport.
Continental says they can get you a distressed passenger rate at the Marriot for $85. Instead of paying the $85, you use 3,000 points which means each point is valued at 2.8 cents per point. That is a 2.8% rate of return on your card.
We’ve also used our points to get 5 nights at a Category 3 hotel. Our family recently stayed at the Four Points Darling Harbour for five nights. Each room cost 28,000 points. We saved more than $1,500 per room for the stay. A $1,500 bonus value is not too shabby. That’s a 5.4% rate of return.
Here’s how I get free hotels with the Starwood AMEX.
I can compare that to the other cards in my wallet:
AAdvantage Citicard – 1 point per dollar spent. 25,000 points gets me a free roundtrip (but I still pay taxes and fees). I think the value of almost five nights free hotel (28,000 points) is better than a free roundtrip.
Citicards Premier Pass – 1 point per dollar spent with 1 point per mile flown. Essentially, I get 2 points per dollar because we fly with so many kids.
Formerly known as Schwab Visa – 2% cash back. This is my default card if I don’t use the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express.
Don’t want to use your points for hotel stays?
Your Starwood points can be converted to several airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Also, when you transfer 20,000 points at a time, you get a 5,000 point bonus (thus 20,000 Starwood can become 25,000 airline points). I don’t recommend doing that because I think the value of 20,000 Starwood points is better, but the option is there. You can also book directly with Starwood and buy flights using your points.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express Signup Bonus:
When you sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express, you can get 10,000 bonus points after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Those points allow you get up to 3 free nights (depending, of course, on the category).
There’s no better way to take care of accommodations on your next trip.
How to sign up?