There has been months of discussion on the virtues of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and very little about the age old favorite the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express card. Let’s take a minute and review and compare the two leaders of the pack.
To make a fair comparison I think it is important to put a minimum value per point earned on each card. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is easy to calculate a minimum value. A low category hotel room of $100 approximate value cost 3000 to 4000 SPG points. To me, that place a minimum value of 2.5 cents each. That redemption alone should overshadow the transfer of SPG points to airline miles in all but extreme need conditions. If you have the miles for an award, use them instead of transferring from SPG, even with the 5K bonus per 20K transferred.
I can calculate the minimum value for the Ultimate Rewards points at 1 cent each by looking at gift card redemptions and merchandise purchases. That increases to 1.07 cents with the annual 7% bonus.
On the top side of value the SPG card can generate redemptions in excess of 7 or 8 cents each when redeeming for “cash and points” hotel redemptions. The Sapphire card can’t generate that value for each point, but with bonus categories for dining and travel, and many opportunities in the Rewards Mall for big points earnings per dollar, I think they both have merits worth considering.
Customer service is a split decision. The ability to speak to a human being on the first or second ring with the Chase Sapphire card is a breath of fresh air. The reps are knowledgable and can make things happen. The secure email service for American Express from their online website has been the best in the business in my opinion for years. I have not had the opportunity to use the Chase secure online system for anything other than “bump the bonus” emails. The time frames have been comparable to American Express.
Redemption is where the difference shows to me. Sapphire has a huge number of options from buying tickets, to redeeming for merchandise to transferring to airlines, hotel, and Amtrak. I recall there being 7 transfer partners. SPG has their own redemption for flights that does not receive as much publicity as the Chase program and I don’t think offers as good a value. The transfer options are significantly more with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with over 30 airlines available for transfer and the 5K bonus per 20K transfer is valuable. If you are a United Airlines flyer, the SPG card has a lousy exchange rate with United.
For me, it is not the 5K bonus that tips me towards the SPG card but the ability to transfer to American Airlines. And the American Airlines transfer is not for domestic travel or simple point to point travel. The AAdvanage of the AA miles is the OneWorld mileage based around the world redemption. I’ve been on two and they are fantastic. Around the World in Business Class for up to 35,000 flight miles for 190,000 AA miles. There is nothing even close with Star Alliance or SkyTeam that I have found for a RTW redemption. And as a bonus, the 10K one-way redemption in Europe has been a money saver for me as well.
Which one do I carry? I have both in my wallet. I have the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express number memorized I’ve had it so long, and use it when on the computer or over the phone. My Chase Sapphire card gets used more in person. For travel I try to use the Sapphire card as it earns the extra point and I’m almost always on the computer booking my travel.
It may seem like a strange system but it works for me, and that is what really counts after all. In my mind, both cards are leaders of the pack. So what is your system. Both? One or the other? And why?
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day American Airlines AAdvantage® has provided 2500 AAdvantage® miles for the best deals, fares, promotions, anything related to American Airlines, their oneworld partners or AAdvantage® partners. Add it to the comments section of this post or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.