I want to dedicate this beautiful Monday morning to talking about a very valuable credit card promotion that is ending soon, and has been the chatter of travel blogs since its announcement.
Earlier this month, American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) announced an increase in their American Express credit card sign-up promotional offer from the 25,000 Starpoints they were running for several months to a temporary 30,000 Starpoints offer. (Starpoints is the name of SPG’s loyalty points.)
The sign-up promotion is for up to 30,000 bonus Starpoints: 10,000 bonus Starpoints after first purchase, then 20,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of Cardmembership. Also, for having a SPG AMEX you automatically receive 2 stays and 5 nights that count towards your yearly elite status. You also earn 1 Starpoint for every $1 you spend and 5 Starpoints for every $1 you spend at SPG Hotels. The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year.
I’m going to emphasis here that AMEX & SPG have set a date on the promotion where you have to apply by September 4, 2012 in order to be eligible for the 30,000 Starpoints. Rumor is that after September 4th, the offer may return back to 25k or it may go down even more.
But why should that matter? Is a 5,000 Starpoints difference (or is 30k Starpoints) even worth the trouble?
Just what can you do with 30,000 Starpoints?
That’s a great question that I hope this entry will shed some light on.
1:1 Transfer Ratio to Airline Programs with BONUS 5k miles per 20k transfer!
SPG points are coveted by some as one of the most valuable hotel loyalty points program out there. Part of the fanfare is because SPG allows you to transfer your Starpoints to over two dozen major airlines including United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, US Airways, Alaskan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, British Airways, Delta Airline, American Airline, and about two dozen more on top of that!
But the ability to use and put your points to where you need them is not the best part or even second to best. Those two come with two very important details of the transfer program: all transfers are transferred at a 1:1 ratio and that for every 20,000 Starpoints points you transfer, you receive an ADDITIONAL 5,000 Starpoints points added to the transfer!
That’s a great deal since many hotel loyalty programs (or even credit card loyalty points programs) do not have a 1:1 transfer ratio to a variety of partners; instead they usually lock you into only one program. This makes the Starpoints much more “flexible” to meet your various travel goals. That also means that as long as you transfer to airline programs in 20k intervals, then every point you earn is essentially worth 1.25 points! Making it that much more valuable to use your SPG AMEX on daily spends that don’t fit other credit card bonus categories.
30k is more than enough for a Roundtrip Ticket!
If you transferred your 30,000 Starpoints to an airline like United Airlines, that would equate to 35,000 airline miles! (30k starpoints + 5k bonus for transferring 20k). That’s enough for an economy roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the continental United States via most airlines! United Airlines, for example, has SFO to JFK (New York) Saver Economy award tickets at 12,500 miles each way (25,000 miles roundtrip) and Saver Business/First starting at 25,000 miles each way. The same miles cost can be applied to MCO (Orlando, FL), as well as other cities/stops within the continental U.S.
Starpoints are EXCELLENT for SPG hotel stays via point only and cash & points redemption options!
For points only redemptions, 30,000 Starpoints is enough for 2 nights at a Category 5 hotel (12,000 starpoints/night) or 1 night at a category 7 hotel. If you’re not familiar with SPG, their hotels run on a category rating system based on luxury/price level. Category 7 is their highest/best hotel properties (i.e. the St. Regis properties). Points only redemptions start as low as 4,000 Starpoints/night and I have seen them go as high as 30,000 starpoints/night (all depending on the property and availability).
I had posted earlier last week about getting from SF to NYC for only $254.08. The sample date I used was the weekend starting November 2nd. Using those same dates, it looks like in New York City (for example purposes), you could stay at the Element New York Times Square West property for two nights at only 24,000 starpoints whereas the property itself is going for $368/night at its best cash rate. Or if you want to splurge, you could stay one night at The St. Regis New York for 30,000 starpoints whereas the best cash rate is $995/night! Based on those sample dates (Nov 2nd to Nov 4th) for NYC, 30,000 starpoints have the approximate cash value with SPG hotels of $995 USD or approximately 30 starpoints to $1 USD! So by signing up for the SPG AMEX card, you’ll be getting $995 to use!
But what if you want to stretch your points even further with cash & points redemption? Cash & points is a way where you can opt to pay a smaller amount of points for a property to get an incredibly discounted cash rate on the hotel. For example, the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel (Category 4) in New York has their best cash rate at $209/night. With your 30,000 starpoints, you could redeem three nights stay at 10,000 starpoints/night… or better yet you could use the cash & points option and pay 4,000 starpoints/night + $60/night!!! That’s an AMAZING offer that will let you stretch both your points and your money! (If you’ve ever visited New York City, you’ll know that all the hotel properties range from $200 to $900 nightly; $60/night is a bargain!) With your 30,000 starpoints you could potentially stay 7 nights and only pay $420 cash out of pocket using that combination!
So what do you do?
I personally like the cash & points option the best for redemptions for hotel stays, since I like stretching my points out a little more. But I personally leverage SPG to transfer to United Mileageplus (since I value United miles heavily due to the fact that United flies just about everywhere, and because their international flight redemption awards are usually a great value) at 20,000 increments when I need them. Before December, I expect to have over 60,000 starpoints (which mostly are coming from this promotion I’m blogging about) saved up to prepare for my big Europe trip next summer–which I will write more about in the near future. While I am keeping them on standby in case I need to transfer them, I expect to be using them for actual SPG property stays throughout Europe.
How to Sign Up for the SPG American Express Card (+brownie points from me)
There are two different versions: the SPG American Express Personal Credit Card and the SPG American Express Business Credit Card. For the vast majority of you, you’ll only be interested in the Personal card. However, keep in mind that you get the same sign-up bonus for each of the cards you get accepted for. If you apply for both the Personal and Business card, that’s potentially 60,000 starpoints which would EASILY be a free flight from San Francisco to Europe or to Asia (with roundtrip economy flights starting at 65k miles on United) since those starpoints will receive a bonus 10k (5k for every 20k) transfer!
Even if you don’t have a business, you can sign up your business card with just your name as the name of your business. State and federal laws allow you to run a business under your own name without having to register it or file for a Federal EIN. (Instead, you use your SSN as the EIN.)
So signing up for the business card AND the personal card might not be the route for every person. This will depend on your own credit score and your own comfort levels. I happened to do both earlier this month and was accepted for both, gaining me 60k starpoints.
Now, let’s chat about how you get to this offer. There are a three different ways:
- You can get this offer straight from spg.com. At the bottom right of their page, they have a link to the offer.
- If you have any friends who already have the SPG American Express card that you want (personal or business), they can actually send you a referral email via the American Express website and if you sign up via the link in the email they send, they will actually receive a 5,000 starpoints bonus! You still get the same amazing 30k offer, but at the same time you get to give a little something to a friend too (and at no cost to you).
- And for brownie points: Or if you like the information from this post, or if you just want to get extra brownie/karma points with me, post a comment on this blog entry (make sure to use a valid email address) or tweet me at @mittychang asking for a referral, and I’d be happy to send you a referral! (Yes, I would receive a bonus 5,000 starpoints if you sign up this way.)
In the end, this is definitely a great sign-up bonus. If you have been thinking about a new credit card or if you’re just itching to travel, I would highly recommend snagging this card before the promotional offer expires in less than two weeks.