It’s time for vacation again, and you’ve begun making your list: potential destinations, different modes of transportation, and finally lodging options. Once you’ve nailed down your location and transportation, it’s time for lodging.
But where to stay?
Starwood Hotels and Resorts has a ton of great properties (over 1,300 hotels & resorts worldwide) across 100 countries. Your destination just so happens to have a W Hotel, which you’ve heard is a great luxury brand.
Perhaps you could look into using this card to pay for your trip, which will earn you free nights and a ton of great bonus points to get you closer to an elite status!
Card Summary Table
- Card Bonus & Info (Partner Content)
- Card Provider
- Card Focus:
- Annual Fee
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Rewards CenterStarwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Loyalty Program
- Foreign Transaction FeesNone
- Typical UsersFrequent Travelers, Hobby Travelers, International Travelers
- Customer Service Number
1-800-954-0559 (Available 24/7)
- Login Link
- PartnersThe entire Starwood Hotels portfolio: The Luxury Collection, Element Hotels, Four Points, St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, and Sheraton. (Some additional partners too!)
- Interest Rates
- 16.74% - 20.74% Variable
- Late fees ?
- 29.99% Variable
- Balance Transfers
- 16.74% - 20.74% Variable
- Cash Advance APR
- 26.74% Variable
The Ideal Cardholder
Sign-Up Bonus Points, Earning Categories and More
The current sign-up bonus for the product can be found in our summary table at the top of the page. You’ll earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels.
In addition, you’ll earn 2 more points per $1 for just being an SPG member, plus 3 more points for being a Gold or Platinum member. This gives you the potential to earn up to 5x Starpoints for your stays!
Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases from the card.
This card is $0 for the first year, but after that it will cost you $95 per year. Read on to see if this could be worth it to you!
Elite Status Benefits: Reaching the Top
To help you reach elite status (Preferred, Gold, or Platinum), the SPG Amex gives you credit for 5 nights and 2 stays automatically each year.
You’ll automatically start out at Preferred just for signing up to the program. Then to reach Gold, you either need 25 nights or 10 stays total.
Getting to Platinum will take 50 nights or 25 stays. A stay is accrued after each check out, regardless of how many nights you were there.
Other Card Benefits: Making Travel a Bit Sweeter
There are quite a few other benefits with the SPG credit card, too. First, AMEX has now added free Boingo hotspot WiFi for all cardmembers.
This gives you access to Boingo hotspots all around the world; they have over a million! That’s a pretty awesome value, since a Global membership for Boingo typically runs about $60 per month.
Comparatively, a North America membership is only ~$5-10 per month. With this program, you get up to 4 WiFi devices to use internationally wherever you go.
International travel is better, because the card now has no foreign transaction fees. Though most cards have gone this direction, it makes this card much more useful so you can avoid additional fees.
At Starwood (as with most hotels), getting access to the in-room internet typically costs extra. Depending on your elite status level, you can get complimentary basic internet access, or sometimes premium access at higher levels.
For being a member of the Amex SPG card, you get complimentary premium internet no matter your status!
The caveat is you must book through the SPG website or mobile app, and there are more specific restrictions like not using a group rate code or third party booking.
A Different Points System Than Most
Compared to some of the other card sign-up bonuses, the sign-up bonus on this card may not seem like a high amount.
While most points programs these days have standardized their points system (so you can make fairly even comparisons across different programs), Starwood Preferred Guest rewards have a different system.
Each of their points is more valuable than the other programs, but you earn less of them overall. A free night starts at just 2,000 Starpoints, and you have options to transfer points to airline loyalty programs.
The card gives you plenty of options for earning, redeeming, and transferring points in SPG and Marriott Rewards, which are now combined and one of the best loyalty programs out there.
Enjoy complimentary WiFi plus free internet in your room while you greatly expand your ability to earn SPG points with the card.
It takes a little work to make sure you have the details down, but once you do you’ll have plenty of travel on the horizon. This is a very valuable American Express card!
Great Card If
- You’ve already got status on SPG and want to earn points more quickly
- You’re a Delta frequent flyer and have Delta status
- You’re often on the go and would make use of Boingo hotspots around the world
- You don’t have a particular airline, but like the flexibility of being able to transfer points to the different loyalty programs
- You have a ton of points you’d like to transfer into SPG or Marriott Rewards
Don't Get If
- You’re not a fan of the Starwood or Marriott hotel chains
- You don’t get much value out of the offered benefits, and another card has better point earning potential
- You want complete flexibility with points and would rather use a credit card points portal such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Rewards
U.P. Pro Tips
This SPG card can earn points that can be transferred to British Airways to get a fantastic value, whether it’s for an upgrade or a short haul flight!
How To Use Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: The Upgraded Way
Best Way To Maximize Points
There are quite a few tricks to maximize your points earning with this valuable rewards card.
We’ve detailed the best methods below, so take a look! Even just a few points here and there can add up.
Tip #1: Always book your rooms with the card, and book directly through the hotel in order to earn your points.
Tip #2: Earn Gold or Platinum status if possible (frequent traveler or status challenge), as you’ll earn 1x more point on your stays
Tip #3: Put all spending on the American Express SPG card if you don’t have other credit cards you use to maximize points. You’ll earn 1 more point for each dollar spent, which adds up in this program!
Tip #4: As we recommend with all hotel properties, put everything on your room bill so you have a good chance of it all counting toward your 2-3 bonus Starpoints*.
Tip #5: Make purchases or dine at SPG Cravings, even if you’re not staying at the hotel. You will earn SPG points as if you were staying, potentially up to 4x-5x depending on your status.
Tip #6: Fly Delta or Emirates and earn 1x Starpoint for each dollar spent on the flight.
Tip #7: Head to Vegas or anywhere with Caesars Entertainment Properties to earn equivalent points as if you were staying at an SPG hotel.
Tip #8: Transfer points from other American Express Membership Rewards cards or Diner’s Club programs into your SPG account.
Tip #9: Earn points for car rentals if you use their discount code. You can earn 50 points through AVIS, and 250 for SIXT.
Tip #10: Earn up to 500 Starpoints each day you decline housekeeping service, which is part of their Green Choice program. You have to stay more than 1 night, as it can’t be used on the night of checkout.**
Tip #11: Earn Starpoints for referring your friends to the card.
Tip #12: Host a meeting or event (like a wedding) at an SPG property. You can earn 1 Starpoint for every $3 if you’re a Preferred member, and 1 for every $2 if you’re Gold or Platinum.
*As an example, instead of a $200 bill for a weekend stay, you could charge the $200 plus $40 in breakfast and various spending, which overall earns you 200 additional Starpoints (if you’re earning 5x points by using your card with Gold or Platinum status).
**At participating hotels within the portfolio
Best Way To Redeem SPG Points
Redeeming points is always challenging if you want to get the maximum value. It involves checking around and comparing deals at any given time and knowing where the highest value for your points can be found.
Here are some of the ways we’ve found to get the highest value for redemptions with SPG.
Tip #1: Transfer points to airline partners to get a bonus. For instance, 20,000 points transferred to BA gets you 25,000 miles! British Airways has good value on certain flights that may be better than a free night’s stay.*
Tip #2: You can redeem your SPG Starpoints for hotel nights at a pretty good value of over $0.02 per point for most stays. The highest value is typically international stays and weekday nights.
Tip #3: 5th Night Free – Redeem nights in multiples of 5 to stretch them further: for every 5-night booking you’ll get a discount of one night, so it will only cost the equivalent of 4 nights.
Tip #4: Look into the option to use cash and points at a discount for both for redemptions. These will vary in value, but can go as high as $0.02 per point.
*Do this for up to 60,000 points to earn 15,000 bonus points in your airline loyalty program. The bonus only works for this much transferred at a time, but it resets each day…so you can transfer more the next day to get the bonus again!
**Since you can generally get above a $0.02 rate on other redemption options, it would be worth it if you can get an equivalent or better value.
Partners in the SPG Program include their hotel portfolio, airlines, and other shopping partners.
Hotel and Airline Partners
Starwood Hotels Portfolio: The Luxury Collection, Element Hotels, Four Points, Regis, W Hotels, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, Sheraton
Here is the list of airline partnerships and their transfer rates:
|FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM||EXCHANGE RATIO (STARPOINTS:MILES)|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1:1|
|Air China Companion||1:1|
|Air New Zealand & Air Points||65:1|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||1:1|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club||1:1|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||1:1|
|Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific and more)||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|
|Etihad Airways Guest Programme||1:1|
|Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)||1:1|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||1:1|
|Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||1:1|
|Korean Air SKYPASS||1:1|
|LATAM Airlines LATAMPASS (Kms)||1:1.5|
|Lufthansa Miles and More||1:1|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines||1:1|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:1|
|Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus||1:1|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1|
|Virgin Australia Velocity||1:1|
Additional Partners: Shopping, Entertainment and More
- Merchandise (iTunes, Amazon.com, Nordstrom, Banana Republic, and more)
- Audience Rewards and Live Nation
- Avis and Sixt
- Charity (Red Cross, UN Children’s Fund)
- Diners Club (transfer points from your Diners Club account to your SPG account, but not the other way)
- American Express Membership Rewards
Is this ard really worth the annual fee?
We’ve gone over the details in the card review above. Now, let’s do some calculations to see just how valuable this little purple card can be.
A Quick Card Recap
The annual fee on the SPG credit card is $95 per year (waived in year 1).
This is a bit more expensive than it used to be ($65), but the added benefits of no foreign transaction fees, free premium internet, and American Express Boingo access can more than make up for the extra $30.
Again, you’ll earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels, and 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
Finding the Value: Using Our Trio of Families
Overall, your value will be determined by how much you travel during a given year. For instance, if you’re only going to travel once per year and you just want to earn enough points to do that, then you may not get as much value out of the card.
To check out some options, let’s do the math.
Using our trusty families, we can do a quick calculation to see how many points you could earn in a year just from staying in hotels (and not taking into account other spending on the card).
These assume all the hotel stays are at SPG properties, although with the new merger you could also stay at Marriott. We’ll also assume that the Kennedys are Preferred members, the Jetsons Gold, and the Hartnells Platinum.
This will come into play for the total points calculation because they will earn additional points based on their elite status (2 for Preferred, 3 for Gold and Platinum).
|The Kennedys||$1,800||7,200 (@ 4 pt/$1)|
|The Jetsons||$6,000||30,000 (@ 5 pt/$1)|
|The Hartnells||$10,500||52,500 (@ 5 pt/$1)|
*Total hotel spend and points earned from our model families in 1 year
The families earn anywhere from 7,200 to 52,000+ Starpoints! Seems pretty good!
What the Points Are Worth in Free Nights
To compare, remember that a redeemed night starts at 2,000 points. Since 1 night is equal to more than $95, we will assume anything over this minimum amount makes the card worth it and allows you at least 1 free night a year.
At the spending level of our favorite families, the cost of the card is more than made up for. They can redeem between 3 and 26 free nights at the minimum rate!
If we assume that category of room to be $95 per night, this is anywhere from $285 to $2,470 in value!
The Value of Points Beyond Free Nights
However, minimums may not be worth it. It would be great to get the value of the card many times over to make the hassle of using and tracking the program well worth it.
SPG has benefits far beyond just free nights, as we’ve discussed. You can transfer to airlines (and get a 5,000-point bonus if you transfer enough) or use them for special events tickets.
Since it takes 20,000 points transferred to get the bonus, let’s just look at the Hartnells for a value calculation. At 40,000 points transferred, they can get 50,000 points when including the double 5k bonus.
If we value an airline mile at a minimum of $0.02 and a max of $0.08 for this example, that could be worth $1,000 to $4,000!
Adding in Total Yearly Spending: Using the Card For Everything
If we also assume our families spend everything else on the card, the points calculations come out to 50,700 for the Kennedys, 86,500 for the Jetsons, and 159,700 for the Hartnells.
This might be a little unrealistic, as there are sometimes things you can’t use your credit card to pay for, but it gives another point of reference for the card’s earning ability.
At these points levels, there are more than enough to earn some free stays or transfer to airlines for free flights (so that they can purchase rooms and build up more points!).
For the Kennedys, this is almost enough for an international round-trip flight on American Airlines (60,000 points), or some nice upgrades and perks.
Based on our previous section’s valuation, the families could redeem for a minimum value well over $1,000!
Card Conclusions and Final Thoughts
With the ability to earn 1-2x points and a high point valuation, using the card is bound to give you some benefits no matter your travel goals.
If fully utilizing the card and its benefits, the $95 annual fee doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.
The Gritty Details: Everything Else You Need To Know
With this card, we don’t have many details to bring up that haven’t already been covered. Hopefully we explained everything you need to know in the Amex SPG review above.
All the benefits are pretty clearly described below, and there isn’t a lot of fine print to explain. You’ll get your bonus miles deposited in your account 8-12 weeks after they are earned.
Other Amex cardholders have reported that if you are already an American Express cardmember (doesn’t matter which card) you may not be able to get another Amex sign-up bonus. That doesn’t appear to be the case with this card, but you should still confirm before signing up.
Other Unique Features
Here’s the complete list of benefits you will get by owning a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
Note that the card and SPG account linked to it must be under your name, and you will not receive additional bonuses like Elite Status if you already have them through another card.
Elite Status Boost – Each year on February 15, you will get credit for 5 nights and 2 stays to put you closer to your next Elite Status level. Status is reached for Gold at 25 nights/10 stays, and Platinum at 50 nights/25 stays.
Free premium internet – You must be staying under an eligible SPG rate and not have booked through a third party service. Each SPG room offers basic or high-speed premium internet, and this benefit refers to the latter.
If you have reserved multiple rooms, the internet access is only available to your room. For hotels that already give free internet, you don’t get a replacement benefit except at all-inclusive resorts.
Free Boingo American Express Wi-Fi – Cardmembers get unlimited complimentary access to every Boingo hotspot all over the world. This is a pretty excellent benefit if you’re a traveler, as there are over 1 million Boingo hotspots!
If you use this a lot, it could easily make up for the annual fee since you can pay well over $95 a year to get this access otherwise.
Note: if you already have a Boingo account, you will actually need to cancel your existing account to avoid being charged. Here are the hotspots. Your limit is up to 4 devices connected per month.
Airline loyalty transfer – For most airlines, you will be given a 1:1 transfer ratio on your miles. Then, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you’ll get a 5,000-point bonus. SPG claims that you can transfer up to 79,999 at once.
However, this means you can’t get that 5,000-point bonus on the last 20,000, because you’re only at 19,999! To get the highest value, only transfer 20k, 40k, or 60k miles at any time.
You must transfer these miles to an account that is also in your name.
Finally, the rules state that if you are a Platinum member, most airlines will accept unlimited points transfers; however, to get the highest value, always stick with multiples of 20,000.
Roadside assistance – This benefit gets you a personal assistant to help in case of a roadside emergency. You can call for tows, locksmithing, and more.
Note that you will be responsible for any charges incurred by these services as they are not complimentary.
Car rental loss and damage insurance – Get covered for up to $50,000 (and a host of other stipulations) for getting in an accident during your rental. To obtain this benefit, you must decline the rental agency’s insurance.
Global assist hotline – When you are 100+ miles from home, this benefit gives you access to an assistant who can help you out of a pickle. Lost cards, interrupted travel, or even in need of a lawyer…the hotline will help!
The actual person you talk to is on the house, but you have to pay for any of the services they enact for you.
Travel accident insurance – For the terrible scenario of a potential travel accident, you can get coverage for up to $100,000 in damages and costs. This is restricted to accidents on common carriers (air, water, and land vehicles for hire; not rental cars, etc.)
Entertainment access – With this benefit, you can purchase VIP or regular tickets to events. Amex actually pre-purchases these tickets and then makes them available to their cardmembers. There are some potentially good deals here, especially if you can’t find tickets elsewhere.
Extended warranty – Extend the warranties on items with a manufacturer warranty of 5 years or less. A maximum of 1 year, or double the warranty, is added to your current warranty. You’re allowed $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year.
Purchase protection – For up to $1,000 per item, you can get reimbursement (or repair/replacement) for any items that are damaged or stolen within the first 90 days after your purchase.
Be sure to keep track of your purchase information and check the rules. There is a $50,000 per year maximum.
Return protection – Similar to the above, for any items you aren’t able to return to the vendor, you can get coverage at $300 per item.
This has to be within 90 days of the purchase (which is good, because typical return periods are only 30 days), you may have to send the item back, and you’ll need to meet their criteria.
The yearly maximum is only $1,000 for this benefit.
Photo Credits/Credit/Copyright Attribution:
Couple Entering Hotel: Gergely Zsolnai/Shutterstock
Guy Boarding Plane: View Apart/Shutterstock
Hotel Conference Setup: Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock
International Travel: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock
"SPG Amex" has become the colloquial term for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
There is also a business version of the card, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
The card is very good for those who travel often or who like to transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest accounts to other partners.
You earn a good sign-up bonus and 1-2x points per dollar (the higher is earned when spending at Starwood or Marriott hotels). In addition to the points earned, you also get unlimited access to Boingo Hotspots all over the world.
This alone pays for the annual fee of the card (which is $95) if you will use it. In addition, the card offers automatic credit toward your Elite Status, free in-room internet, and more fringe benefits.
Because SPG Starpoints tend to have a high worth, this card is often seen as a very valuable card. It will be up to you to decide if it is worth it for your spending and travel patterns.
Starwood Preferred Guest is a transfer partner from American Express Membership Rewards. The transfer ratio is 3:1, meaning you'll get 1 Starpoint for every 3 Membership Rewards points (roughly).
It can take up to 8-12 weeks for your points to deposit into your account from spending. This is calculated from the end of the month.
No. The APR on the credit card is mentioned in the card summary table at the top of this review.
There are multiple airlines that your card gets you access to. These are all available through the SPG program, and the full list is here.
Some of most popular SPG airlines include Air Berlin, Air China, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines.
No, but it does give you credit for 5 nights and 2 stays toward your goal. To reach Gold, you will need a total of 25 nights or 10 stays. Including the sign-up bonus, you will need 20 nights or 8 more stays to reach Gold Status.
You earn 1x points per dollar on everything and 2x points during stays at Starwood and Marriott hotels. You'll also get complimentary global access to Boingo WiFi Hotspots, free in-room premium internet, and SPG Flights access.
Being an SPG member allows you access to all the different airline partners as well as merchandise and other partners. Finally, the card comes with a variety of travel insurances and services, as well as purchase, return and warranty protection.
Yes, the WiFi benefit includes access to all Boingo Hotspots worldwide.
To access them, you will get a membership when you sign up for the card, and you simply utilize this whenever you need the WiFi.
Amex Membership Rewards members can transfer points to SPG using this link. Scroll down to find the "Travel with Points" option and you'll find the transfer option in there.
The card fee is waived for the first year, and is $95 per year after.
Both cards earn points at 1-2x per dollar. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2x points on any hotel, restaurant, airline or other travel related expense (except gas).
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express only earns 2x points at Starwood and Marriott hotels.
Points on the SPG Amex accumulate in your SPG account, whereas the Chase Sapphire Preferred points accumulate in Chase Ultimate Rewards. They both offer a variety of redemption options for shopping, travel, and transferring to loyalty partners.
While SPG points tend to be a little higher value, the Chase points are easier to acquire.