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UPDATE: The Starwood American Express credit card offers in this post are no longer available, but check Hot Deals for the latest offers!
Until September 14, 2015, there’s a limited-time sign-up bonus of 30,000 Starwood points on both the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express personal and small business cards after completing the minimum spending requirements.
The annual fee on both cards is $95, and it’s waived the 1st year. But you can get much more in return with the perks of the cards!
I’ll explain 4 ways the AMEX Starwood cards pay for themselves!
About the AMEX Starwood Cards
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Apply before September 14, 2015, to earn the increased bonus. You’ll get:
- 30,000 Starwood points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account (personal card), or
- 30,000 Starwood points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account (small business card)
- 2X Starwood points per $1 you spend at Starwood hotels (includes Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury Collection, 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
- $95 annual fee, waived for the 1st year
- No foreign transaction fees
- Terms & limitations apply
Note: American Express only allows folks to get the sign-up bonus ONCE per person, per lifetime on their personal cards. But you CAN get the bonus again (at least 12 months after cancelling the card) on AMEX small business cards.
4 Top Ways the AMEX Starwood Cards Save (and Make) You Money
1. Cash & Points
Link: Starwood Cash & Points
I’ve written about how you can get big savings at Starwood hotels with Cash & Points.
When you use your AMEX Starwood card for everyday spending, you’ll earn 1 Starwood point per $1 spent (when you’re not meeting minimum spending requirements on other cards, of course!)
So when you’ve spent $5,000, you’ll have 5,000 Starwood points. With Cash & Points, you can add $75 and stay at beautiful Starwood Category 4 hotels, like the Sheraton New Orleans, and save $200+ per night!
2. AMEX Offers & Discounts
Both AMEX Starwood cards are eligible for AMEX Offers. You’ll save on everything from airfare to hotels, restaurants, and department stores.
Each AMEX card increases your chances of being targeted for more AMEX Offers. That includes authorized users!
When you add authorized users to your account, you will be responsible for anything they charge to the card. Even if they don’t pay you back. So be sure you only add people that you trust, like your spouse, partner, or children.
You can add up to 99 authorized users to an AMEX card, but that limit is intended for large businesses with employee credit cards. If AMEX sees you add more than a few authorized users to your account, they might investigate. So with AMEX personal cards, don’t overdo it.
Each card is also eligible for Small Business Saturday when it returns this year.
Last year, Emily & I each got $30 back PER CARD. So 1 Starwood card with 3 authorized users (say, a partner and 2 family members) would have gotten you $120 back.
The savings amount this year hasn’t been announced yet, but I’m looking forward to it!
3. AMEX Benefits
AMEX cards come with lots of built-in benefits like:
- Return protection up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year
- Extended warranty up to 1 year on certain items
- Purchase protection against theft and breakage for 90 days
Any 1 of these benefits can more than cover the annual fee on your AMEX Starwood card. But beyond that, AMEX has a reputation for simple and quick claims processing.
It’s easy to dispute unfair charges on your card, too.
These customer-friendly benefits can help you when you really need it! And save you a lot of money!
With your AMEX Starwood card, you’ll also get a subscription to unlimited internet at Boingo hotspots. Unfortunately, in-flight Wi-fi is NOT included.
This can come in handy if you need internet at the airport, or out and about during your travels. This perk would cost you $59 a month if you paid out-of-pocket! I wouldn’t pay that price for it, but it’s helpful to have.
You’ll also get premium in-room internet when you stay at Starwood hotels. That means reliable, fast internet during your Starwood stays. Most hotel internet is OK, but with the AMEX Starwood card, you’ll get faster internet service when it’s available.
Other Perks of Starwood Points
Link: SPG Moments
In addition to all the perks of the AMEX Starwood card, you can save a LOT of money when you redeem Starwood points.
You’ll get the 5th night free on award stays at Starwood Category 3 through 7 hotels.
And if you can’t decide between award stays with Starwood or flights, you can choose both with Nights & Flights!
You’ll also have access to SPG Moments, where you’ll find experiences like sports events, live theater, and concerts, and pay with your Starwood points, or bid via an online auction. Some of them are unique and can’t be bought anywhere else!
What If You Really Want to Cancel?
If you don’t want to pay the annual fee after the 1st year, you can easily cancel. Simply call the number on the back of your card. There won’t be any pressure to keep the card open, and at best you’ll get a retention offer to keep the card, or even a fee waiver for another year.
I suggest waiting for ~10 months before you cancel. Because banks don’t like when you earn the sign-up bonus and then cancel. Plus, it gives you more time to evaluate all the perks of the card.
I recommend keeping the AMEX Starwood cards because they’re the best way to earn Starwood points aside from stays at Starwood hotels.
And with personal AMEX cards, you can only earn the sign-up bonus once per lifetime!
The AMEX Starwood cards (personal and small business) have 4 perks that more than cover the $95 annual fee, which is waived the 1st year:
- Cash & Points
- AMEX Offers
- American Express benefits (return protection, extended warranty, and purchase protection)
- Boingo internet subscription
You’ll also get other great perks with the Starwood program, like:
All of these benefits can add up to many times the cost of the annual fee. And don’t forget Small Business Saturday is coming back this year, too!
I recommend you keep the AMEX Starwood cards! But if you really want to cancel, wait ~10 months to completely assess the card’s benefits.