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The latest card I applied (and was approved) for was the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.

The last two credit cards I signed up for were the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard and the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express. I finished their minimum spending requirements and have since moved on to chipping away at the $5k minimum spending requirement on the personal SPG card.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

Why I Chose the Starwood Preferred Guest Card From American Express

For a span of a few months earlier this year, both SPG cards were running a limited time elevated sign up bonus promotions. For spending $3,000 during the first three months after opening the personal card, you could earn 25,000 SPG points. For spending another $2,000 on the card in the following three months, you could earn another 10,000 bonus points. The business card earned the same amount of points, except it had a $5k minimum spend the first three months, plus an additional $3k for the following three months.

The normal sign up bonus (and what it’s returned to now) is 25,000 points per card ($3k minimum spend on the personal card, $5k minimum spend on the business card). 35k is probably the best you’re gonna get–it’s the highest sign up bonus we’ve ever seen on the cards, tied with the same bonus that was offered last year at this time.

It’s important to nab public Amex card offers at a point in time when the sign up bonus is historically high, since American Express introduced a rule that you can only get the bonus once per lifetime on each of its cards. To be clear, eligibility is separate for each card. That means if you’ve only ever had the business card, you can still get the personal card or vice versa. But if you’ve had the personal card before, you can’t get this bonus on the personal card. If you’ve had the business card before, you can’t get this bonus on the business card.

My latest credit card.

When the 35k bonuses came out for the SPG cards, I was still meeting the minimum spending requirement on my Amex Business Gold Rewards card. But I planned to apply the day before the limited time offer ran out on April 5 so as to minimize the overlap of minimum spending periods of the cards.

Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 (personal) or $5,000 (business) on the card in the first three months
  • Category Bonuses: 2x on on SPG and Marriott stays
  • Boingo Wifi: Complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide
  • Elite Credit: 5 nights and 2 stays each year toward SPG Elite status
  • Value of Starpoints: We value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first 12 months, $95 per year afterwards
  • Eligibility: You can’t get the personal bonus if you’ve ever gotten the personal bonus before (note eligibility for the business version of the SPG card is separate)

Why do I want SPG points?

SPG Starpoints are the most valuable points in the world. We value them at 2.5 cents each. 

These are the main ways to get value from Starpoints, which you can read about in detail here:

  1. Free Night Awards
  2. Cash & Points Awards
  3. Transfer to Airlines with a Miles Bonus
  4. SPG Nights & Flights
  5. SPG to Marriott for Hotel + Air
  6. 18,667 SPG to Marriott to 25,000 United Miles

I will primarily use them to transfer to airlines miles with a miles bonus. They can be used for free hotel nights starting at 2,000 points per night or transferred to dozens of airline miles including American, Asiana, Alaska, ANA, Avianca, Delta, and Lufthansa at 1:1 rate with 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. Many SPG airline partners are not partners with any other transferrable point and are hard otherwise to earn.

The SPG > Marriott > United Angle

For those that weren’t aware, SPG and Marriott recently merged.

A problem many of us face (a show of hands please? I know I’m not the only one!) is our inability to earn United miles due to the Chase 5/24 rule. Sure, I can collect Singapore miles via tons of cards, but I have to stick to redeeming them solely on United flights if I want to avoid fuel surcharges. United miles give you fuel surcharge free access to Star Alliance award availability, so it’s a bummer being locked out of them.

SPG and Marriott’s new relationship lends a helping hand in this aspect, since one can now transfer SPG points to Marriott Rewards, which in turn can be transferred to United at a much more favorable rate than directly transferring SPG points to United.That unlocks Star Alliance award space without having to worry about fuel surcharges. United, Copa, and Avianca are the only miles I’m aware of that can book fuel surcharge free awards across Star Alliance.

Twenty thousand Starpoints transferred to United is a measly 12,500 miles. Instead of transferring directly, do the following:

  1. Transfer 19,000 SPG points to 57,000 Marriott points
  2. Transfer 1,000 Marriott back to 333 Starpoints (necessary step because the starting amount of transfers from each program has to be an even thousand)
  3. Transfer 56,000 Marriott (18,667 Starpoints) to 25,000 United miles

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.43.26 PM

Or you can turn 8,000 Starpoints into 10,000 United miles.

Another Angle Considering the SPG & Marriott Merger

Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards are merging, and we don’t know what the future of their separate credit cards (issued by separate banks) will be. Until at least 2018, we will see the Marriott and SPG credit cards stick around:

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-37-24-pmYou’ll probably want to get both SPG cards as well as the Chase issued Marriott cards before 2018 when one or more might be killed off.

The Marriott card offers 107,500 Marriott points after spending $5,000 in the first three months and adding an authorized user. Yes, the Chase 5/24 rule applies to this card. Although it doesn’t apply to the business version of this card.

Bottom Line

I recently opened the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. I chose it because it had a historically high sign up bonus and the future of the card is up in the air now that SPG and Marriott are merging. I normally recommend that people sign up for cards that earn a type of reward specifically useful for their travel goals–that’s what our Free Credit Consultations are for–but there are always cases that fall slightly outside the norm. I don’t have a plan for my SPG points, but they’re useful for travel pretty much everywhere as they transfer to TONS of airlines across all three alliances. Applying for this card is never really a bad idea.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards