|by Jason Steele|
I was logging into my Starwood Proffered Guest account this morning when I noticed a link to a great new promo from the American Express Starwood card. You get a sign up bonus of 30,000 Starpoints when you sign up for either their personal or business Starwood Amex card and spend a mere $1,000.
This is a killer deal. In the past, they would offer 10,000 miles sign up bonus plus perhaps 15,000 additional miles when you spend $15,000 in 6 months. That kind of spend requirement was a little steep for many, even though the net take at the end was 40,000 total Starpoints from spending and bonus. This deal is a lot simpler and easier.
Why Starwood Amex?
This is the most fantastic card out there, even if you never stay in a Starwood (Westin, Sheraton, etc) hotel. I cannot think of a single travel blogger who does not recommend this card as their “primary spend”, the first card they reach for every time they have to pay for anything. I myself am extremely disappointed every time a merchant refuses my Amex.
Let me break it down why this card rules:
1. Starpoints are incredibly flexible. They are even more flexible than American Express’s Membership Rewards program as they have dozens of airline partners that you can easily transfer points to. When you transfer 20,000 points, you get a 5,000 Starpoint bonus. This means that it is a 1:1.25 ratio when transferring to most airlines. Keep in mind that is a better ratio than most airline cards that only offer 1:1 on most purchases, so right there it beats most airline cards. Transfers are quick and convenient, so you can shop award availability between airlines and programs. Since the same flight is often “sold” for different mileage amounts among different carriers, you can really hunt for some great bargains. For example, LAN airlines offers a great redemption rate for Starpoints, something I discovered when trying to find award opportunities to Argentina.
2. There are no blackouts or capacity restrictions on hotel redemptions. I remember once in the late 90′s when I called Delta and told them which flight I would like to book my frequent flier award for travel later that day, and they said OK. I don’t even remember paying a fee. My my, have times changed! Starwood hotel redemptions are still just like the good old days, where you just tell them what hotel you want and the dates, and they happily confirm it with no fees or anything. If there is a room available for sale, you can redeem an award for it, even at the front desk.
3. Their customer service rocks! Time and time again they have exceeded my expectations whenever I have contacted them. Problems with rooms result in bonus points. Expired coupons are replaced with new ones. Web site glitches are resolved in my favor. No company is perfect, but Starwood Corporate has been perfect in how they have responded to any issues I have ever had.
4. If you stay in a Starwood hotel, and pay with your card, you make out like a bandit. If you spend $30,000 in a year on your Starwood Amex, you get Starwood Gold Status. Pay for your room with your Starwood Card, and you will ultimately receive 5 Starpoints per dollar. See this example of the Starwood Value Equation.
5. Starwood hotel redemptions are not too expensive. Sheratons are typically under 7,000 Starpoints per night, while Westins are usually 7-12,000 points. Your fifth night is always free, so you can cut down your price per night by 20% on a 5 night stay.
6. Starpoints are simply worth more than any other frequent flier currency earned through credit card spending. Over at One Mile At A Time, there is an excellent post about the value of each Starpoint. Lucky finds that it is 2.5 cents per point, far above other airline and hotel points. I have found values approaching 5 cents per point when strategically used for hotel redemptions or premium international airline awards, but certainly 2.5 cents is the minimum that you would expect in value from a Starpoints redemption.
How To Maximize This Offer
“Starwood allows points to be transferred between any two accounts at the same residential mailing address, so a husband and wife could each get the two cards and wind up with 120,000 Starpoints in the same Starwood Preferred Guest account (actually 124,000 once meeting the spending requirements on all four cards). And those could all be transferred to the same airline mileage program account.”
124,000 Starpoints would be an amazing haul. You could convert that into 174,000 miles in any one of many airline programs, potentially getting you two business class international awards on some of them. Not bad for a few minutes worth of work and $2,000 of credit card spending.