Starwood 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.
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.