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If you’re looking to earn the most points for free stays at Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton hotels, you’ll want to consider the limited time AMEX Starwood offer. It’s the biggest bonus I’ve seen for the personal and small business cards!
Remember, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood are now one company. But the hotel chains still have separate co-branded credit cards. And the current sign-up bonuses for each of the hotel cards are very different!
For example, the current AMEX Starwood card sign-up bonus is a total of 35,000 Starwood points after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements. This can get you 3 free nights at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Hawaii. But the sign-up bonus with the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card would only get you 2 free nights.
I’ll review the current AMEX and Marriott card offers and share 8 pros of the AMEX Starwood card.
AMEX Starwood Versus Chase Marriott
Here’s a review of the current offers for the AMEX Starwood and Chase Marriott personal and small business cards.
1. AMEX Starwood
With the personal AMEX Starwood card, you’ll earn 25,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. And 10,000 more Starwood points for spending another $2,000 on purchases within the first 6 months.
And with the AMEX Starwood small business card, you’ll earn 25,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. And 10,000 more Starwood points for spending another $3,000 on purchases within the first 6 months.
With either offer, you’ll earn a total of 35,000 Starwood points after meeting the tiered minimum spending requirements!
You’ll also get:
- 2X Starwood points per $1 you spend at Starwood hotels (includes Aloft, Design Hotels, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Westin and W brand hotels)
- 1X Starwood point per $1 you spend on everything else
- Unlimited use of Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots (excluding in-flight)
- For small business cardholders, access to Sheraton Club lounges (free breakfast and hors d’oeuvres) for cardholder and 1 guest staying in the same room (3rd-party bookings are excluded).
- 2 stay credits or 5 night credits toward Starwood Elite Status
- No foreign transaction fees
- Terms & limitations apply
The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year on both cards.
Note: You’re only eligible to earn AMEX sign-up bonuses once per card per lifetime.
2. Chase Marriott
When you sign-up for the Chase Marriott Premier Rewards card or Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account, you’ll earn 80,000 Marriott points.
Other perks of this card include:
- 1 free night in a Marriott Category 1 to 5 location on your card anniversary
- 5 Marriott points per $1 spent at Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood hotels
- 2 Marriott points per $1 at restaurants, on car rentals, and airline tickets purchased directly from the airline
- 2 Marriott points per $1 at office supply stores and for internet, cable and phone service purchases (only with the small business version)
- 1 Marriott point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- 15 nights credit towards elite status (so you get Marriott Silver status)
- Visa Signature discounts
And with the personal version, you’ll earn an additional 7,500 bonus Marriott points when you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within the first 3 months of opening your account.
The $85 annual fee for the personal card and $99 annual fee for the small business version are NOT waived for the first year.
Note: You are NOT eligible to receive a new Chase cardmember sign-up bonus if you’ve received a bonus on the same card in the past 24 months.
8 Pros of Getting the AMEX Starwood Card
1. Sign-Up Bonus and Minimum Spending Points Are Worth More
With the AMEX Starwood cards, you can earn a total of 35,000 Starwood points with the sign-up bonus plus at least 5,000 Starwood points from meeting the tiered minimum spending requirement.
In total, you’ll have at least 40,000 Starwood points, which you can instantly convert to 120,000 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points (at a 1:3 ratio).
That’s enough for 2 free nights at luxurious hotels like The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan.
This compares to 90,500 Marriott points you’ll earn with the sign-up bonus, points from minimum spending, and bonus from adding an authorized user with the Chase Marriott personal card. With the 3:1 transfer ratio, this converts to ~30,000 Starwood points.
So getting the AMEX Starwood card means you’ll have ~10,000 more Starwood points or 29,500 more Marriott points.
That’s a substantial difference! Because you can redeem the extra points for more free nights!
2. Annual Fee Is Waived the First Year
The AMEX Starwood cards have a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.
The annual fees are NOT waived on the Chase Marriott cards.
So you can try out the AMEX Starwood card for ~10 months to see if you like the perks. Then, decide if it’s worth keeping.
I think the AMEX Starwood card is worth keeping after the first year. Especially if you value the perks of the cards, like the 2 stay credits or 5 night credits toward Starwood elite status, or earning Starwood points to transfer to ~30 airline partners.
After you’ve had the card for awhile, you can call AMEX and ask for a retention offer. For example, team member Keith called and received 3,000 bonus Starwood points for keeping his AMEX Starwood card open for another year.
3. Earn More Points on Everyday Spending With the AMEX Starwood Card
You can earn more Starwood, Marriott, or Ritz-Carlton points by using the AMEX Starwood card for everyday purchases.
Because you’ll earn 1 Starwood point per $1 you spend. Then, you can convert 1 Starwood point you earn to 3 Marriott points.
With the Chase Marriott card, you only earn 1 or 2 Marriott points per $1 spent for most purchases.
With the 1:3 transfer ratio, you’ll essentially earn 6 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points per $1 spent on Marriott or Ritz-Carlton stays when you use your AMEX Starwood card.
This is better than the 5 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points you’ll earn using the Chase Marriott card!
And AMEX sometimes has promotions to earn bonus Starwood points after meeting spending requirements.
4. Transfer Starwood Points to Airlines
Starwood points are extremely valuable because you can redeem them for more than just free hotel nights.
For example, you can transfer points directly to airline partners like American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Emirates, and more. Plus, you get 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to airline partners.
Because Starwood points and Marriott points are interchangeable, it’s possible to convert Marriott points to Starwood points and then transfer to airline partners as well.
But it’s an extra step some folks might not want to deal with. So earning Starwood points directly with the AMEX Starwood card makes it easier.
5. AMEX Starwood Small Business Card Won’t Appear on Your Credit Report
If you get the AMEX Starwood small business card, it will NOT appear on your personal credit report.
This is good news for folks who are looking to avoid Chase card application limits. Because Chase won’t approve you for most cards if you’ve opened ~5 or more credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months (excluding certain business cards).
And keep in mind there are no strict income requirements for an AMEX small business card. This means the AMEX Starwood small business card can be relatively easy to get!
6. Save Money With AMEX Offers
With the AMEX Starwood card, you can use AMEX Offers to save money on purchases you may already be planning.
Recent AMEX offers have included:
- $5 back when you purchase a $75+ Hilton gift card through AMEX
- $35 back when you spend $175+ at Hampton or Hilton Garden Inn
- $50 back on a $200+ purchase online at Neiman Marcus
AMEX is always updating their offers. You just have to register your card before the purchase, so you can get the savings!
7. Relatively Easier to Get AMEX Starwood Card
Folks impacted by Chase’s stricter application rules might not get approved for the Chase Marriott card.
I’ve heard from some folks that Chase Marriott small business card is NOT impacted by the Chase rule. But I can’t say for certain.
With the tougher Chase rules, getting the AMEX Starwood card might be the only way for folks to quickly boost their Marriott or Starwood points balances.
Even if you don’t have a lot of recent credit cards, I probably wouldn’t recommend getting the Chase Marriott card first. Because Chase has several other fantastic travel credit cards with more valuable sign-up bonuses.
8. Last Time We’ll See 35,000 Starwood Points?
This is only the 2nd time I’ve seen the AMEX Starwood card have a 35,000 Starwood point sign-up bonus. And I have a hunch it might be the last time.
I said the AMEX Starwood card could possibly be discontinued in the future following the Starwood and Marriott merger. This might not happen until 2018 when Marriott and Starwood are expected to merge loyalty programs.
So given Starwood points are hard to earn and there’s potential for the card to go away, it’s another reason to choose the AMEX Starwood cards.
Because with the limited time offer, you can earn a total of 35,000 Starwood points after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements. With the points from the spending requirement, you’ll have at least 40,000 Starwood points.
And you can transfer Starwood points to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points at a 1:3 ratio. So 40,000 Starwood points gets you 120,000 Starwood or Ritz-Carlton points. That’s more than you can earn with the Chase Marriott sign-up bonus. This means more free nights with the AMEX Starwood card!
And unlike the Chase Marriott card, the annual fee on the AMEX Starwood card is waived the first year. Plus, you can earn more points on everyday purchases.
What’s your favorite AMEX Starwood card perk?