Improved: Starwood American Express 25k Bonus, Great Travel Reward Options

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American ExpressStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has upped their Starpoints bonus to 10,000 bonus Starpoints with your first purchase and another 15,000 points when you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Card membership. The required spending used to be $15,000, which was much less easy to reach. Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $65 a year after that.

Starwood is a collection of mid scale to very-upscale hotels, and these points tend to be most valuable if you can use them for free hotel stays. Starwood is unique in that there are no blackout dates, so if there is a room, you can have it for points. I’ve used them in a pinch, for example 3,000 points for a $120 a night room at the Vancouver Airport Four Points (Category 2). Along these lines, you could grab 10 free hotel nights at Category 1 hotels or Category 2 hotels on weekends (Fri/Sat night).

I’ve also planned ahead and used 10,000 points for a $450/night room at the majestic Westin Madrid in Spain (now Category 5). If you redeem for 4 nights in a row in a Category 3 or higher hotel, the 5th night is free. There are also several “cash and points” opportunities, for example you can get a $400 room at the Westin Rome in Italy or W Hotel New York Times Square for 8,000 points + $150 a night. Run the numbers, and no matter what hotel you pick, the value of 30,000 points can be easily greater than $500.

Diagram showing airline conversion options

Starpoints are also convertible to frequent flier miles at various airlines on a 1:1 basis, which is handy to top off a single account to reach an award. Also, if you convert 20k at a time, 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles. I’ve had this card for years now and actually paid the annual fee. This is because instead of an airline-specific card that earns 1 mile per dollar spent, I can use this and get 1.25 miles per dollar spent and have much more flexibility. (I do admit that the addition of “free checked bags” on some cards (ex. United, Delta) has changed the balance a bit.) Finally, as a baseline 9,500 Starpoints = $100 gift card at Amazon.com. For you freelancers, also check out the small business card version.

Compare with the other $500+ Bonus credit card promotions currently available.

Comments

  1. So happy to see this card get an easier spending goal. I value Starpoints at 3 cents per point so the value is amazing here. I love the Cash & Points option as well.

  2. Where is the last 5000 points coming from? Adding an authorized user?

  3. Ugh. I signed up when it was $15k in 3 months for the extra bonus. Spent like crazy since we just had purchased a new house and only ended up with $9k. No bonus.

  4. @Matthew – You have to spend 5,000 dollars on the card to reach the goal, so 1 Starpoint per dollar spent (like a miles earning rewards card) at the end of the period that in itself would get you 5,000 Starpoints. Basically I wanted to illustrate that after spending $5k on the card, your balance would be 30,000 Starpoints.

    @Naveen – No guarantees, but if this was recent, I would log into your AmEx account and send a secure online message saying that you tried your best to reach the $15k, but didn’t, and you saw this new $5k offer and if there was anything they could offer as recognition of your efforts. It has worked for others.

  5. @infamousdx – I agree the value is great, I definitely try to get 3 cents per dollar out of them if at all possible. I don’t think I’d know what the inside of a Westin looks like without this card. At 3 cents per dollar, a 25k bonus is worth $750 and 30,000 points is worth $900.

  6. I just used 72,000 starpoints that I received from last year’s similar promotion at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas in Kauai (Category 5). Stayed in a studio room and the equivalent booking rate for a weeklong stay is $2,800 at $399 per night. That is 3.9% back, beats any other rewards card that I have. This is my default go to credit card.

  7. I used to have this card but closed 2 years ago. If I apply the card again, can I still get the bonus ? Thanks in advance.

  8. @infamousdx – Completely agree that the Cash & Points option is nothing short of great. We use it all of the time when on vacation.

  9. Jonathan, might need to check but I’m pretty sure you get SPG Gold status for a year when you sign up for this card (then it’s $30k spend per year to maintain Gold status – if you’re not paying to stay much). We use the late checkout and free upgrade options from our Gold status all the time.

  10. Jonathan–do you know when these points expire? I’m thinking about taking a large trip in about 2 years and this might be worth using.

    Is there some fine print somewhere?

  11. @Scott – I think you are right. I recently signed up for the Small Business version for more points, and I logged in and am Gold again. No wonder I got upgraded to a jacuzzi room last time. Even after the Gold year, you get a “Plus” level that has a few select perks.

    @John Q- Starwood points expire after one year of inactivity. Hotel stays, and so on. Any credit card point earnings also counts as activity. If your goal is to avoid the annual fee, you could keep the card until the end of the year, charge something one it to earn a few points, and then cancel the card. Otherwise just keep the card and use it once a year.

  12. Hi There, can anyone help answer my question? Thanks in advance!!

  13. Alex–give it a shot and call them. If you are approved then yes, otherwise–no

  14. @Alex – Sorry, I overlooked your comment. In my experience, if you have closed it over a year ago, you have a chance at getting it again. However, it is not guaranteed at all. If you are married try having your spouse go for it, or even apply for the small business version as an alternative.

  15. @Naveen – Definitely do what Jonathan said and send them a secure message. I was in the EXACT same boat as you and sent them a message and they granted me the good will Starpoints! http://infamousdx.com/2011/07/28/amex-chase-in-terms-of-generosity/

  16. This doesn’t seem like that great of a deal to me, at least in comparison to some of the other card promotions out there right now. For example, as Jonathan mentions in the article: 10K + 15K + 5K = 30,000 points after spending $5,000. Then when converting to Amazon.com credit 9,500 points = $100. So you can get $300 in Amazon.com credit for spending $5,000 on the card in 6 months. That is only a “cashback” rate of 6%, which in comparison to some other cards is a lot less. For example, with the Citi ThankYou card I spent $2,000 in 3 months to get $500 in Walmart gift cards to earn an effective 18.75% cashback rate after the $125 annual fee on the card.

  17. @Stephen – It’s may not be the best upfront bonus offer ever, but the card itself it a keeper for me as Starwood points are very flexible and can be worth 2-4 cents a points for hotel stays and whenever I need to top off an airline miles award.

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