Rating:
Annual Fee:
$0 Introductory annual fee the first year, then $65
Rewards:
Starpoints
  • Starpoints® bonus: earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership
  • That's enough for a weekend getaway to a Category 4 Hotel like the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, or six free nights at a Category 2 Hotel
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG hotels and resorts - that's 2 Starpoints for using the Card in addition to the Starpoints you earn as an SPG member. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • Free Hotel Nights: redeem Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide - with no blackout dates
  • Free Flights: redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights - with no blackout dates
  • Get 5,000 bonus Starpoints after you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program with more than 30 airlines
  • No limits on the number of Starpoints you can earn
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
  • Terms and Restrictions apply.
OVERVIEW
Starwood is a premier collection of hotel and resort brands that includes Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton, the Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Aloft, Four Points, and Element. The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card provides you some great opportunities for free stay or discounted rates at these international brands. Plus it awards a generous sign-up bonus, there’s no first year fee, and its Cash & Points and Nights & Flights programs help make SPG points, or Starpoints, some of the most valuable in the market.

I’ve had this card for 11 years—ever since I started playing this game—and the only downside to it is not having one.

APPLY NOW!


EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Sign-Up Bonus
You get 10,000 Starpoints on your first purchase, regardless of the purchase—if you walk down to Java Joe’s and get a $2 cup of coffee you’ll earn 10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points.

An additional 15,000 points are awarded if you spend $5,000 within the first three months. A $5,000 minimum spend is high, but even without the additional 15,000 points, the initial bonus of 10,000 makes the card well worth it. 10,000 points could give you as much as five nights in a hotel.

Earning Points
When you use the card you get one point per dollar spent. If you can manage the minimum spend of $5,000 over three months, you’ll essentially be accruing another 5,000 points, giving you a total of 20,000 points. Plus, if you use it at a Starwood property, you can earn up to five points per dollar spent.

Redemption Schedule
Starwood has seven categories of hotels. Each category has a minimum amount of Starpoints needed to receive one free night:

    Category 1: 2,000 points
    Category 2: 3,000 points
    Category 3: 7,000 points
    Category 4: 10,000 points
    Category 5: 12,000 points
    Category 6: 20,000 points
    Category 7: 30,000 points

You can find a complete hotel by category list here.

Though higher end properties like the St. Regis in New York are 30,000 points, you can get a lower category hotel room—like the Aloft in Beijing, the Sheraton in Lima or the Four Points in Barcelona—for between 2,000 and 3,000 points. Typically, if you want to get a hotel room for one night, you’ll expect to spend about $100 per night. If you pay 3,000 points instead, you’re converting your points to a value of 3.3 cents. If you book a Category 1 hotel room, your points are worth five cents—making Starpoints extremely valuable!

Transfer Points
You can transfer Starpoints into 30 different airlines at a 1:1 ratio including Air Canada, Air Berlin, Alaska, American, Delta, Singapore, US Air, and Virgin Atlantic. (The complete list is here.) For every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, SPG will automatically add an additional 5,000 points. So if you transfer 20,000 points to American, you’ll get 25,000. You’re getting a 25% bonus on your miles!

Let me give you a comparison: if you get a Citi American Airlines credit card, you’ll receive one mile per dollar. If you wanted 25,000 miles you’ll need to spend $25,000. But, if you did it with SPG, it will only cost $20,000—you’re saving $5,000!

Cash & Points
Starwood offers the Cash & Points program which allows you to combine your Starpoints with money to get discounted rates on hotel rooms. For instance, if you want to stay at the Sheraton Fiji Resort, which is a Category 4 hotel, it would cost you either 10,000 points or the full normal rate of the room. If, however, you either don’t have 10,000 points or don’t want to spend 10,000 points, you can use Cash & Points and spend 4,000 Starpoints and pay $60.

Here’s the breakdown:

    Category 1: 1,200 points + $25
    Category 2: 1,600 points + $30
    Category 3: 2,800 points + $45
    Category 4: 4,000 points + $60
    Category 5: 4,800 points + $90
    Category 6: 8,000 points + $150
    Category 7: 15,000 points + $275

Note that Cash & Points isn’t available at all hotels.

Flights & Nights
This is another great SPG redemption program: if you have 60,000 Starpoints, SPG will transfer 50,000 into an airline partner of your choice and use the remaining 10,000 to give you five free nights at a Category 3 property.

There is also a 70,000 points option where they’ll transfer 50,000 points to airfare and give you five free nights at a Category 4 hotel.

50,000 miles, by the way, can give you two domestic coach tickets.

Fifth Night Free
If you book four nights of rewards, SPG will give you the fifth night for free on Category 3 through 7 hotels.

Starwood Moments
SPG offers “unique experiences” that you can either use your points to buy or bid on. Last year I was invited to play in the Senior Tours Pro-Am in Savannah, Ga., and the entrance fee was paid in Starpoints. A couple of nights ago people went to see Coldplay and had a backstage experience and met the band members. Other experiences are cooking with a famous chef or playing sports with who knows what.

Foreign Transaction Fees
Unfortunately there is a 3% fee.

Fees
There’s no first year fee and the annual renewal is $65.

Business Version
SPG not only offers a personal card, but a business card too. They both accumulate points in the same SPG account and the sign-up bonuses are usually the same. The only reason to carry both of them is if you’re in a position to get a sign-up bonus for both of them.

You can apply for both at the same time. They will probably deny one of them but you can then just call them back and tell them, “Hey, I have a business and I also have personal needs. I want to be able to separate my spending between business and personal.” They will usually say, “Oh, thank you” and approve them. One of the things that people are so afraid of is getting a denial—the only thing that hurts your credit is the inquiry, which will ding it by two to five points. And that’s one of the great things about applying for both cards together: some companies will only do one inquiry for both applications.

Qualifying as a business varies between the different credit card companies. Typically when you fill out the application you apply as a sole proprietorship, you provide your Social Security Number instead of a Federal Tax ID. Usually, you don’t have to deal with any sort of tax filings or business tax filings or incorporations or anything like that. If, however, the credit card company asks you to providing incorporation documents or tax filing, then it’s your decision to incorporate and continue with them or not.

Some of them ask for a registration for a state. Some of them ask for a DBA, or “doing business as” form that you can get for $10 at your county court house. Some of them might ask for a bank statement. Some might ask for a utility bill in the name of the business. But that’s not always the case.

APPLY FOR THE BUSINESS CARD NOW!

WAYS YOU CAN USE POINTS

Though I’ve transferred Starpoints for miles, most of the time I use it for hotels. Last year I took a few friends to Hawaii and we stayed at a Starwood hotel and everyone stayed for five nights. The last time I used the card, I spent three nights in Barcelona, Spain at the Le Meridian Barcelona, a Category 5 hotel. The room rate was $729 per night, but I spent 12,000 points per night instead.

RICK’S FINAL WORD

I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for travel-related purchases because I’m getting two points per dollar. I use my Citi Forward card for restaurants because I get five points per dollar. And I use my Starwood Preferred Guest card for everything else.

I hate to go over this again, but I want to make it really clear that this is a go-to card.

CAN YOU GET IT?

As usual for this type of high-end card, you should have about a 700 FICO score.

If you’ve previously had the SPG card and it’s been closed for one whole year, you will be considered a new applicant and get a new sign up bonus.

APPLY NOW!

Review Comments:

Don’t have a rewards card?

Find a rewards card that is right for you!

Just answer a few short questions.

Newsletter

Credit Card Disclaimer: Your Credit is one of Your Most Important Assets

Some of the techniques mentioned on this blog involve applying for credit. The reader is solely responsible for the decisions he/she makes regarding their own credit.

This site makes every attempt to recommend the best available credit card offers. Should you find a better offer, email it to editor@frugaltravelguy.com.

“Credit Card Travel” for Free Airline Miles and Hotel Points

Maximize Your Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses with a Free Credit Card Review.

The founder of Frugal Travel Guy spent 16 years in mortgage banking and credit counseling, and has had years of personal experience with credit cards. We can help you achieve your travel goals, while you still protect your credit.

Start by dropping by the Rookie Tips and Frequently Asked Questions page and following the suggestions listed. Then drop us a note at: editor@frugaltravelguy.com.

tripbase awards badge