Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card Review | finder.com

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card review – July 2018

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A competitive hotel credit card with robust airfare and hotel perks.

30-second take

  • Get this card if you’re a loyal Starwood customer.
  • Pick something else if you love sampling properties from different brands and want more flexible travel perks.
  • Apply with a good to excellent credit score of 720 or higher.
Product NameStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card
Card TypeAmerican Express
Annual Fee$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases16.99% to 20.99% variable
Cash Advance Rate26.99% variable
Cash Advance Fee$5 or 3% of the cash advance amount, whichever is greater
Foreign Transaction FeeNone
Interest Free PeriodUp to 25 days
Minimum Interest$0
Late Payment Fee$38
Returned Payment Fee$38
Additional Cardholder Fee$0
Minimum Age18 years of age
Reward Value per Dollar1 points
Rewards Points ExpiryNever

The basics

If you’re a regular with brands like Westin and Sheraton, you’ll find a lot to like in the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card. The card’s 2x points per dollar spent on Starwood means you’ll quickly accumulate Starpoints, which you can redeem for free hotel stays. Just a few thousand Starpoints can buy you a stay at Sheraton, Le Méridien, Four Points by Sheraton properties, Element Hotels and more.

Throw in 2x points per dollar spent at Marriott, and you have a solid hotel card already. But the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card won’t just bring you resort stays — it also lets you redeem Starpoints for free airfare through SPG Flights on more than 150 airlines. And if you’re part of a frequent flyer program, chances are you can transfer your Starpoints at a 1:1 ratio. These are valuable perks that elevate Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from general travel cards.

However, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card brings value beyond points. You’ll receive complimentary credits toward Starwood Preferred Guest Elite status, as well as free in-room Internet and access to Boingo Wi-Fi hot spots around the world. Adding to the perks, you’re extended a $0 annual fee for the first year, paying $95 every year after. You’ll also avoid foreign transaction fees on overseas spending.

Of course, you’ll get most value out of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card if you’re a loyal Starwood customer. If you love sampling properties from different brands, consider a general travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® or the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card.

Changes coming in August 2018

Marriott International bought Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in late 2016, and they’re finally merging membership rewards programs.

Starting August 1, 2018, your Starpoints will become general “points,” converted at a 1:3 ratio. So if you have 10,000 Starpoints in your account by August, you’ll have 30,000 points after the changes are in effect.

After that, every purchase you make with your card earns you 2x points. Every purchase at Starwood or Marriott properties and online stores earns you an addition 4x points for a total of 1 points per dollar spent.

New airline partners

Not only will you earn more points, but you’ll also have access to additional airline partners, including Qantas, JetBlue and Turkish Airlines. You can still transfer points, and you’ll get 3 points for every mile. And for every 60,000 points you convert to miles, you’ll get a 15,000 point bonus for a total of 25,000 miles in the airline program of your choice.

What if I have an SPG, Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards account?

You’ll likely want to combine these accounts to create a single account and profile, helping you to earn more points to reach Elite status faster. Update your email so that you’re sure to be notified when it’s time to take action.

The perks

  • Welcome offer.

    You earn $100 in statement credit after you user your card to pay for $1,000 in purchases within the first three months your account is open. You can then earn an additional $100 credit after your first purchase on the card at a participating SPG or Marriott Rewards hotel within your first six months of opening your account.

  • Earn double Starpoints at SPG and Marriot Rewards hotels.

    Until July 31, 2018, get up to 2x Starpoints at participating Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels and resorts. On all other purchases, you’ll earn 1x points.

    After July 31st, you’ll get 6x points per dollar spent at Marriott and SPG hotels and 2x points on all other purchases.

  • Annual free night award.

    Starting August 1, 2018, receive one free night every year on your card account anniversary.

  • Complimentary Silver Elite status.

    Get complimentary in-room Internet access, earn 10% more in bonus points, get priority late checkout and more with automatic Silver Elite status. Spend $30,000 in a year and upgrade to Gold Elite Status for yet more benefits. Starting January 1, 2019, this threshold increases to $35,000.

    After August 1, 2018, you can upgrade to Gold Elite status after 25 to 49 nights a year at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels.

  • 0% foreign transaction fees.

    Use your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card overseas without foreign transaction fees from American Express.

  • Redeem Starpoints for stays at Starwood properties.

    Redeem as few as 3,000 Starpoints for a free standard room — with no blackout dates.

Where can I redeem Starpoints?

Starpoints get you free standard rooms at Starwood’s 11 properties:

  • St. Regis
  • The Luxury Collection
  • W Hotels
  • Le Méridien
  • Westin
  • Sheraton
  • Aloft
  • Element Hotels
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • Tribute Portfolio
  • Design Hotels

You’ll also like …

  • Redeem Starpoints for airfare.

    Use your Starpoints toward airfare booked through SPG Flights, which includes more than 150 airlines. Or transfer your Starpoints — often at 1 point per mile — to more than 30 frequent flyer programs. And receive 5,000 bonus points when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a qualifying frequent flyer program.

  • Starwood Hotels perks.

    Get an automatic boost toward higher status in the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. You’ll also get free in-room Wi-Fi each time you stay at a Starwood resort.

  • Travel protection.

    Use Amex’s Roadside Assistance Hotline and Global Assist Hotline when you’re in a bind on vacation for 24/7 help with towings, locksmith services and more. You’ll also get free car rental insurance and travel accident insurance on reservations paid for with your card.

  • Complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi.

    As a cardholder, you’ll have free access to Boingo Wi-Fi that provides more than a million hot spots around the world.

  • Purchase benefits.

    Protect your purchases with extended warranties, insurance against damage and theft and more on eligible items purchased with your card

  • Cardmember-only entertainment.

    As a cardholder, you’ll have access to exclusive events and ticket presales for concerts, shows and sporting events.

  • Fraud protection.

    If you don’t recognize a charge, simply call the number on the back of your card for fast resolution.

What to watch out for

  • Annual fee after the first year.

    Amex waives your annual fee for the first year. After that, you’ll pay a $95 annual fee to use your card.

  • Not as widely accepted overseas.

    The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card is an American Express card, which means you might not have as many opportunities to use it overseas as you would with a Visa or Mastercard.

  • No intro APR.

    The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card doesn’t come with a 0% intro APR for purchases or balance transfers.

  • Penalty APR.

    Making late or returned payments could saddle you with a variable APR as high as 29.99%.

Consider other cards if …

  • You’re loyal to Hilton hotels.

    If you prefer staying at Hilton hotels and resorts, look into the Hilton Honors Ascend Card by American Express. It offers a generous welcome bonus, earns Hilton Honors points with spending, upgrades you to Hilton Honors Gold status and more.

  • You want a travel card.

    For a general travel card, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® or Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card.

  • You want cash back.

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year and 1% after that. You’ll also earn 3% at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% on all other purchases.

    You’ll save more with an 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months, reverting to 14.74% to 25.74% variable APR after. If you spend a lot on groceries and gas, it could be a good card for you.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome Bonus Reward Value per Dollar APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee
1 points
16.74% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
1 points
16.74% variable
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
Earn 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
1.5 points
16.74% to 24.74% variable
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
Earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
1.5 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$95
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$450
Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Earn 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 days
5 points
None (Charge Card)
$550
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
2 points
16.74% variable
$995
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2 miles
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles once after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2 miles
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.* Plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.

Compare up to 4 providers

New Elite tiers in August 2018

Starting August 1, 2018, SPG introduce new status tiers to its Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program.

Until the end of the year, SPG cardmembers can work toward status updates based on stays at SPG-branded properties only. But from January 1, 2019, you’ll earn status tiers based on nights per year:

  • Member — up to 9 nights a year.
  • Silver Elite — for 10 to 24 nights a year.
  • Gold Elite — for 25 to 49 nights a year.
  • Platinum Elite — for 50 to 74 nights a year.
  • Platinum Premier Elite — for 75 to 99 nights a year.
  • Platinum Premier Elite after 100 nights + $20,000 qualifying spending — for 100 or more nights a year.

With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card, you start off with Silver Elite status without having to meet any requirements.

What should I know before I apply?

Eligibility requirements
To apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card, you need to be:

  • At least 18 years old.
  • A resident of the US.

Required documents and information

  • Your name, residential status and contact information.
  • Your Social Security number and date of birth.
  • Your email address and phone number.
  • Financial information like your annual salary and wages.

What credit score do I need to apply?

You’ll likely want to apply with a good credit score of 720 or higher.

What’s my likelihood of being approved?

To increase your chances of approval, apply with a good to excellent credit score of 720 or higher. Note that American Express typically pulls your Experian credit score when deciding on approval.

What do customers say about the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card?

Some customers have left complaints online about how long it takes for American Express to transfer your points to miles. Others say they received a lower line of credit than they expected. Keep in mind that the credit line you’re extended depends on your credit score and other factors determined by American Express.

On the positive side, many customers praise the Amex’s support and say they love the rewards they earn with this card. They also like the value they get when transferring points to miles.

American Express is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, earning an A+ from BBB based on internal criteria that includes years in business and support.

How to apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card

  1. Go to the American Express website.
  2. Select the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card and click Apply now.
  3. Complete the application with details that include your name, email address, Social Security number and birth date.
  4. Review and submit your application.

How long will it take to be approved?

American Express automates conditional approval online, which means you could see a decision in minutes. If your application requires a manual review, you might need to wait a few weeks.

How long will it take to get my Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card?

After approval, you’ll receive your card by mail in three to five business days.

I got the card. Now what?

  • Make on-time payments. Register your account on the American Express website or download the Amex mobile app to pay your statement each month. You can also enroll in autopay.
  • Avoid interest payments. After the close of each billing cycle, you have a grace period of 25 days to pay your balance. If you do, you won’t pay interest on your purchases.
  • Avoid fees. Late and returned payments come with hefty fees of up to $38. Balance transfers and cash advances also come with fees.
  • Contact customer service. Call 1-800-528-4800 or visit the American Express website to chat live with a representative. American Express earns high marks in customer interaction from market research company J.D. Power.

Bottom line

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card offers impressive benefits that include valuable point multiples for frequent Starwood guests, point redemption for hotels and flights and perks like free in-room Internet.

You’ll get maximum value from this card if you frequent Starwood properties. Otherwise, a general travel card might be a better choice. To find a card that best matches your spending, learn more in our comprehensive guide to credit cards.

Frequently asked questions about Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card

Image: americanexpress.com

Megan Horner

As the assistant publisher of credit cards at finder.com, Megan is passionate about helping you compare and find the best credit cards for your situation, whether that is earning great rewards or improving your credit score. In her previous position, Megan worked as an assigning editor at Credit Karma, where she focused on editing and publishing educational articles on credit cards. Megan started her career as a writer at a comparison website, so she has a longstanding background in surfacing the best deals and helping people make decisions. In her spare time, Megan likes to hike, camp, surf, and read.

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