|by Jason Steele|
A reader asks:
So glad to have found your website. We place about $100,000 in transactions a year. We have Starwood Amex. We travel to Jerusalem, Israel, frequently, where there are now no Starwood hotels. (They sold the Plaza hotel this year.) So we have lost incentive to keep the spg card.
There are no Hilton hotels there either, so the Hilton club relationship with Amex ins not a factor. The only hotel with a relationship to Amex Platinum is a Priority club hotel – the Crown Plaza – at 35,000 points a night, it’s not worth using points.
So I am shopping for a new card. I have dropped my hope for hotel points. Now I want a card that will give me admittance to VIP lounges and good upgrades to business class. The credit card from Priority Pass doesn’t let you in to Continental’s VIP lounge at JFK, only NWA. Amex Platinum doesn’t give you admittance to USAir lounge in Philadelphia (even though Continental joined Star Alliance.)
We travel to Israel through both cities. What is the best card for us?
Hello Teri, and thank you for your question. It just so happens that I am in a similar situation as you. I have a Starwood Amex, and I also travel to Israel regularly, if not frequently. I have stayed in the former Sheraton Jerusalem with points earned on my Starwood credit card. I will admit that there were some hotels in Israel that did not live up to the Starwood brand, such as the Moriah in Eilat, but why they would kick out the Sheraton Jerusalem is beyond me. It is a first class hotel walking distance from the Old City and Ben Yehuda Street.
Enough reminiscing, what should people like you and I do now? Personally, I have kept my Starwood Amex, because I like all of the other benefits. There are still four other hotels in their chain in Israel, two in Tel Aviv, and one each in Eilat and the Dead Sea. In eliminating several Israeli hotels from their chain, Starwood did indicate that they would be seeking to replace them with other properties in the future. As for Hilton, there is a Hilton in Tel Aviv and one in Eilat as well.
Here is the thing, I seems like you are looking for one card that does both lounge access and hotel points. If you are truly visiting Israel several times a year, you should be flying on one single airline. It sounds like USAir or Continental are your main options, as perhaps you live somewhere between Newark and Philadelphia. I would choose one airline and stick with them. Israel is far enough away that just a few round trips will easily earn you elite status on either airline. I would leverage that Elite status for all of the business class upgrades and other perks, including reduced priced lounge passes. In addition, I would get the credit card associated with US or Continental, in order to maximize the rewards from your money spent with those airlines.
As for hotels, Starwood remains a great card for use in other places. The biggest benefit of the Starwood card is the ability to transfer points to multiple airlines. It’s flexibility is it’s value. If there is a particular hotel in Jerusalem that you like that is part of a worldwide alliance, you may consider getting their credit card to maximize your spending with their chain. For example, I have stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Mt. Scopus near Hebrew University and found it to be quite nice.
My point is that one card will not do it all. You need to focus on maximizing your relationship with the airline getting you to your destination, and the hotel chain that you will be staying at, even if it means having different cards for different purposes.