Update: Offer expired!
Originally posted on 08/11:
-Building Credit And Credit Card FAQs: Your Questions Answered
–The Ultimate Israel Mileage Award Chart
–Getting To Israel Using Starwood Starpoints
American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
This is a limited time offer scheduled to run until 09/14. It offers 20% more points than the standard offer and there has never been a better public offer for this card.
For the consumer card you will get 30,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 within 3 months. The consumer offer is for first time Starwood consumer cardholder’s only.
For the business card you will get 30,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 within 3 months. The business offer is available as long as you haven’t had a Starwood business card in the past 12 months.
The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year on both cards.
Spending on the Starwood card:
The Starwood card remains a very good card for general spending. Best of all, as of 08/11 there are no longer any foreign transaction fees on the Starwood card!
While other cards have better bonus categories, the Starwood card is strong for general spending as Starpoints continue to be the most valuable mileage currency thanks to valuable hotel usage and the 25% bonus for transfers into dozens of airlines.
They also generously allow members at the same address to transfer points between their accounts for free.
The Starwood card earns 2 Starpoints per dollar at Starwood hotels, or a 4.4% rebate at a value of roughly 2.2 cents per Starpoint. It earns 1 Starpoint per dollar everywhere else, or a 2.2% rebate. There are thousands of uses for Starpoints, some of which have been over 50 cents each for me, but I aim for a minimum value of about 2.2 cents per point and am happy when I’m able to exceed that level.
American Express Benefits:
The card also carries American Express’ awesome top-notch protections that are light-years better than any other banks. Most other banks always look for a way to get out, but that’s not the case with American Express.
-If you need to return an item up to $300 they will gladly refund you. Most of the time you’ll be able to keep the item, but if you do need to send it back the return shipping will be free.
-You get an additional year of warranty coverage and if you have any issue in the extended warranty year they’ll pay to have it fixed or refund your entire purchase price without a hassle.
-If you need to dispute a charge there’s nobody who makes it easier or as pain-free as American Express does. It’s the best in the industry by leaps and bounds and you can do it all online.
-If your item is stolen or broken within 90 days you’ll be covered.
See this post to see just how amazing AMEX benefits can be.
Annual fee: Making it pay for itself.
There’s no fee on the Starwood card for the first year and $95 thereafter though you can often get bonus points or account credits for keeping it open for additional years. If you cancel a card within 60 days of being charged the fee on your statement you will receive a full refund of the fee. If you cancel after 60 days you get a pro-rated refund based on how many months you had the card.
That small annual fee is nothing compared to what you can make from promotions like Small Business Saturday, AMEX Offers/Twitter offers, and other promotions that American Express runs all year long such as AMEX Express Checkout. Up to 99 additional cardholders are free on the Starwood card, and each one qualifies for their own promotion credits! 9 months later and we still haven’t spent through all of our prepaid credit at my local pizza shop or grocery stores thanks to SBS. And it will be quite a while before we finish our collection of free diapers and wipes.
You can also always downgrade the card to a card with no annual fee.
Spending $3K or $5K in 3 months:
With cards like Bluebird, Serve, and REDcard, it’s not hard to hit a spend threshold.
You can buy gift cards with your Starwood card and then cash out the gift cards with Bluebird, Serve, or REDcard.
Business cards and Open Savings:
With the Starwood business card you will get Starpoints AND automatic cash back on purchases from these select retailers with Open Savings. That means an additional 5% off at HP, Hertz, Hyatt, Barnes & Noble online, and Fedex.
In other words if you use your Starwood business card at a participating Hyatt hotel you’ll earn 1 Starpoint per dollar spend plus 5% cash back. That’s better than the triple points that the Hyatt card awards for Hyatt spending!
Getting a business card is simple. If Joe Smith sells items on Ebay or on Amazon, or has any other side business/hobby and wants a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures he can just open a business credit card for “Joe Smith Sole Proprietorship” as the business name.
Just be sure to select “Sole Proprietorship” as the business type and just use your social security number in the Tax Identification Number field as well as in the social security number field.
A perk of business card spending is that it doesn’t count against your credit utilization. On a personal card you should pay off your spending before the statement is even printed so that you don’t cost yourself points on your credit score. On a business card that’s not necessary and the spending isn’t reported as long as you pay your bills.
It’s also worth remembering that the credit line (and utilization) of business cards are not reported on your personal credit report, thus closing them also won’t effect your score.
Sheraton Club Lounge Access:
Effective 08/11, with the Starwood business card you will get free club lounge access when staying at Sheraton hotels.
There have been rave reviews of the Sheraton Club lounge in Tel Aviv for example. If you have a Starwood business card you’ll get free access to it and its free food, beverages, and sweeping view of the Mediterranean Sea. A free night at the Sheraton Tel Aviv is 12K points, 6K points+$110, or 9.6K points per night on a 5 night stay.
Premium Internet Access:
Effective 08/11 with either Starwood card you will get free premium in-room internet at Starwood hotels. All SPG guests get free internet, but cardholders will now get the faster version for free.
Unlimited worldwide Boingo WiFi:
Effective 08/11 with either Starwood card you will get free unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi worldwide, perfect for avoiding confiscatory rates at airports when traveling. Search from over 1 million hot-spots here.
Elite Status and Crossover benefits with Delta and Uber:
Just by having a Starwood card you earn Preferred Plus status. This status earns you the right to checkout at 4pm at Starwood hotels and get upgraded to preferred rooms.
If you spend $30,000 in a year on either Starwood card you earn Gold status. Gold status gets you more points per dollar spent at SPG hotels and a 250 point amenity on stays, even when redeeming points. You can also get gold status for free with no spending requirement by opening The Platinum Card® from American Express or the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN
When you have the Starwood card you also get 5 elite qualifying nights and 2 stays for each Starwood card that you have that count towards earning Gold or Platinum status!
Starwood Gold and Platinum elites can also register here to earn Starpoints on Delta flights on top of the regular Delta miles in addition to other benefits while Delta elites can get benefits at SPG hotels.
Points are deposited directly into your Starwood account, so you do not lose your points if you cancel your card like you would with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, or Citibank ThankYou points. You do need to maintain some activity in your Starwood account every 18 months to keep it active, though Starwood is very good about reactivating accounts that have been closed due to inactivity.
Award nights count towards elite status. Gold members receive 250 points back and Platinum members receive 500 points back per stay.
How can you use your points?
1. Hotel award nights with no blackouts or capacity controls. If a standard room is for sale you can use points to book it:
2. If you book 5 consecutive hotel award nights at category 3-7 hotels then the 5th night will be free:
-5 nights at the category 7 blinged out S. Regis Bal Harbour is 120,000 points, still that’s not a bad value when you consider that the cheapest rooms during peak season go for more than $1,000 per night.
-At the category 6 ultra-modern W Hong Kong with a 76th floor rooftop infinity pool or at the breathtaking Westin Venice would cost 80,000 points.
-5 nights at the category 5 Westin Maui, Sheraton Kauai, W Hollywood, or the highly rated Sheraton Tel Aviv will be 48,000 points.
-5 nights at the category 4 Sheraton Big Island of Hawaii or Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort will be 40,000 points.
-5 nights at the category 3 Sheraton Agoura Hills (great base for eating out at Tierra Sur, arguably the best kosher restaurant in the world) would set you back 28,000 points.
-The fantastic category 2 Le Meridien Chiang Mai Thailand would set you back just 3K points over an awesome Shabbos at the nearby Chabad House.
-A night at the category 1 Aloft S. Jose Costa Rica starts at just 2,000 points.
Click on the category links to explore other hotels that can be obtained for those rates.
3. Cash and points allows you stretch your points when reserving a standard room, upgraded room, or suite:
Starwood’s cash and points chart make expensive hotel stays cheap. Take the Sheraton at my hometown Cleveland airport for example. The rate there for tonight is $219+tax=$260. Using Starpoints you can either pay 4,000 points for a value of 6.5 cents per Starpoint. With cash and points a category 2 hotel would be 2,000 points and $35 cash for a value of 11.3 cents per Starpoint! A weekend night is just 3,000 points.
4. Nights and Flights allow you to combine a 5 night hotel stay and get 50,000 miles for less than the cost of booking a 5 night stay and transferring points separately:
In other words you can stay 5 nights at a category 4 hotel like the Sheraton Big Island of Hawaii or Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort and get 50,000 miles transferred into the airline of your choice for just 70,000 Starpoints.
When done separately that 5 night stay would cost 40,000 Starpoints and the airline transfer would cost 40,000 Starpoints.
Throw out the first pitch at a ballgame, watch the game from a suite, etc. Starwood will even cater their suite with kosher food upon request with no additional charge! People have done that at the US Open, Cubs, Knicks, Rangers, and more games.
6. Keep your eyes peeled for promotions like this 50% off promotion where I spent 5 nights in the S. Regis Bal Harbour for just 48,000 points.
7. Of course you can transfer your Starpoints into miles with dozens of airlines at great ratios. 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles on dozens of airlines thanks to the 25% bonus.
Airlines also often incentivize transfers, like American is doing now by offering a 50% bonus for transfers to them through 08/31. Air Canada and United are also currently offering promotions.
Curious about the 33 Starwood transfer options and ratios? Here they are!
With so may different airlines to transfer to it’s just a matter of figuring out which one has the lowest rates to where you want to go. I’ve separated them by alliance so you can know which airlines are partners and will therefore let you book award travel on partner airlines. Of course airlines also have lots of non-alliance partners, but by definition they are partners with all airlines in the same alliance.
In parenthesis you can see if American Express Membership Rewards (MR), Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), or Citibank Thank You (TY) points transfers to the airline as well.
Air Berlin: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
American: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
British Airways Avios: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR, UR)
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR, TY)
JAL: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
LAN: 20,000 Starpoints=37,500 kms (No other transfers)
Qatar: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (TY)
AeroMexico: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
Air France/KLM Flying Blue: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR, TY)
Alitalia: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
China Eastern: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
China Southern: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Delta: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
Korean: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (UR)
Saudia: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
ANA: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
Air Canada/Aeroplan: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
Air China: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Air New Zealand: 20,000 Starpoints=385 points (No other transfers)
Asiana: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Lufthansa Miles & More: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Singapore: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR, TY, UR)
Thai: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (TY)
United: 20,000 Starpoints=12,500 miles (UR)
Alaska (Partners with several airlines from different alliances): 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Emirates: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
Etihad: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (TY)
Gol/Varig Smiles: 20,000 Starpoints=12,500 miles (No other transfers)
Hainan: 20,000 Starpoints==25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Hawaiian: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR)
Jet Airways: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Virgin Atlantic: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (MR, TY, UR)
Virgin Australia: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 miles (No other transfers)
Points can also transfer to Amtrak at a 1:1 ratio. Amtrak rides on select routes are just 1,500 points in coach or 2,000 points in business. Within the Northeast corridor a ride is 4,000 points in coach, 6,500 points in business class, 8,000 points in Acela Express business class, or 12,000 points in Acela Express first class. A private bedroom and bathroom with kosher meals from NYC-Miami would be just 12,500 points per adult. More about these options in this post.
You can view the expiration policies for each transfer program here. Remember that points can only transfer from Starwood to an airline, they can never transfer from an airline to Starwood.
I don’t recommend using the SPG Flights or the SPG Merchandise/Gift Card programs as the value per point is way too low.
How do you normally redeem your Starpoints? Hit the comments!