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Is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Worth it?

The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card has a 20,000 sign up bonus points and $120 annual fee. The question I get fairly often is whether the 20,000 sign up bonus is worth the $120 annual fee. Let’s take a deeper look. But first, here are the highlights of the credit card:

  • $120 annual fee
  • $50 for supplemental cardholders
  • Earn 20,000 sign up bonus points after spend $500 in the first three months
  • Earn 1 points for every $1 spent on all purchases
  • Receive an upgrade to Starwood Gold Preferred Guest membership after spending $30,000 each anniversary year
  • Receive a Free Weekend Night Award after spending $40,000 each anniversary year

Whether the 20,000 sign up bonus points is worth the $120 annual fee that we pay depends highly on how we leverage these Starpoints.

Leverage your points with airlines

A quick way to calculate this is that 20,000 Starpoints is transferable to airlines partners and worth 25,000 points in the process, because it is a 1:1 transfer and 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 that you transfer. This is especially valuable if you can transfer those 20,000 during a bonus, where you can, for instance earn another 20% bonus during the transfer, which nets you another 4,000 bonus points. So the same 20,000 Starpoints gets you 29,000 airline points. This instantly makes the 20,000 Starpoints for $120 worth it.

Here is a recap on the airline transfer partners:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1
  • Aeroplan/Air Canada 1:1
  • Air Berlin 1:1
  • Air China Companion 1:1
  • Air New Zealand & Air Points 65:1
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1:1
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club 1:1
  • American Airlines AAdvantage 1:1
  • Asia Miles 1:1
  • Asiana Airlines 1:1
  • British Airways Executive Club 1:1
  • China Eastern Airlines 1:1
  • China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club 1:1
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1:1
  • Emirates Skywards 1:1
  • Etihad Airways 1:1
  • Flying Blue 1:1
  • Gol Smiles 2:1
  • Hainan Airlines 1:1
  • Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
  • Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank 1:1
  • LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms 1:1.5
  • Miles and More 1:1
  • Qatar Airways 1:1
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan 1:1
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1:1
  • Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus 1:1
  • US Airways Dividend Miles 1:1
  • United Mileage Plus 2:1
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1
  • Virgin Australia 1:1

Leverage your points with hotels

Here is a quick recap on the hotel categories:

  • Category 1 = 2,000 – 3,000
  • Category 2 = 3,000 – 4,000
  • Category 3 = 7,000
  • Category 4 = 10,000
  • Category 5 = 12,000 – 16,000
  • Category 6 = 20,000 – 25,000
  • Category 7 = 30,000 – 35,000

The 20,000 Starpoints can get you anywhere between 6 to 10 nights if you use them on Category 1 hotels. The American Express advertisements that we see everywhere seems to say that we can get up to 5 nights free, which is essentially the Category 2 hotel rooms. That is actually a lot of free nights of hotel room, easily making the $120 annual fee worth it.

The challenge is when you move up the category, you need more points for a free night, granted they are generally more expensive rooms. The question is, do you value the more expensive rooms. Let’s say you had a $100 budget for a night at a hotel. If you can get 5 free nights out of it with Category 2s, then the 20,000 points is essentially worth $500 to you. But if you wanted to splurge, and get a Category 6 hotel room, that same $100 budget cannot be calculated the same way. Maybe you’ll get a hotel room that is worth $350 dollars, but you only get 1 night.

It really depends on how you leverage your points. As usual, always do your personal calculations first.

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Pointshogger aims to provide analysis and updates on earning loyalty reward points and maximizing the value of your points. We hope to inspire our readers to experience the joy of travel and make the most out of what they've already got!

  • Ottawa | Vancouver
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