Question: When is a good deal really a great deal?
Answer: When it’s the best possible deal on a highly desirable product or service.
At a time when travel-rewards credit cards routinely come bundled with sign-up bonuses of 50,000 or more points, a 30,000-point bonus might seem like a non-starter. In the case of this particular card, however, it might be a great deal.
Through August 22, the ever-popular Starwood Preferred Guest credit card issued by American Express—SmarterTravel’s Editor’s Choice top pick for 2011—comes with a 30,000-point bonus: 10,000 points after the first purchase, another 20,000 points after charging at least $4,500 to the card in the first three months.
The $65 annual fee is waived the first year.
The Starwood card, which has been called the Swiss Army knife of travel-rewards credit cards, is more than just a hotel-points generator.
In addition to using Starwood points for free hotel nights, either alone or in combination with cash, they can be converted into miles in more than 30 airline programs, including those of Aeroplan, Alaska, American, British Airways, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian, United, and US Airways. Points generally transfer 1:1 for airline miles, although it’s a disappointing 1:2 conversion rate for Continental and United miles.
Adding value to that flexibility, there’s a 5,000-point bonus when transferring 20,000 points. So transferring 20,000 Starwood points to American, for example, nets 25,000 AAdvantage miles. With the bonus, then, one dollar charged to the Starwood card is worth 1.25 miles in many airline programs. That’s more than the one-mile-per-dollar earning rate for charges on the airlines’ own co-branded cards. And miles earned with those cards can’t be readily converted into other programs.
Deal or No Deal
The normal sign-up bonus for this card is 25,000 points, 10,000 up front and 15,000 after spending $15,000 in six months. So the new bonus is both more lucrative and easier to earn. That’s a winning combination for a card that many consider to be the best-in-class.
Reader Reality Check
Comments from current Starwood Preferred Guest credit cardholders?
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