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Until September 14, 2015, you’ll earn 30,000 Starwood points on both the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express personal and small business cards after completing the minimum spending requirements.
The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year, but kicks in after the 12th billing cycle. So folks are wondering whether or not this is a good card to keep past the 1st year.
I’ll help you decide what’s best. And give you options and tips for what to do!
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 (typically after at least 12 months) on AMEX small business cards.
Is It a Keeper?
I wrote about the pros and cons of keeping AMEX cards beyond the 1st year.
I recommended keeping the AMEX Starwood (personal or small business) card. That’s because Starwood points are hard to earn. And Starwood points are valuable because they can be transferred to airlines, or used for hotel stays, special events, or gift cards.
And the cards do NOT have foreign transaction fees, so they are handy to travel with worldwide!
Some of their hotels are terrific choices for award stays on special occasions, like the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa.
My favorite ways to use Starwood points:
- Award stays at amazing hotels all over the world (My lists of top Starwood hotels)
- Inexpensive hotel stays using the Cash + Points benefit
- Awesome airline partners like American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, and more (see table below)
- Get 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to airline partners
- The 5th night free perk at Starwood Category 3 through 7 hotels
- 5 nights and 2 airline tickets to Disney World (I haven’t done this, but lots of folks love this option!)
|Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partners|
|Air China||Air New Zealand||Alaska Airlines|
|Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)||Asiana Airlines||British Airways|
|Etihad||Flying Blue||Gol Smiles|
|Hainan Airlines||Hawaiian Airlines||Iberia|
|Japan Airlines||Jet Airways||Korean Airlines|
|LifeMiles (Avianca)||Miles & More (Lufthansa)||Qatar Airways|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines||Singapore Airlines||Thai Airways|
|United Airlines||Virgin Atlantic||Virgin Australia|
You’ll also receive access to SPG Moments, which has events and experiences you can’t get anywhere else!
Do What’s Best for You!
The AMEX Starwood cards are 1 of the best ways to build your Starwood balance, apart from stays at Starwood hotels.
Whether or not you keep the card is a decision based on your personal travel patterns. It’s definitely worth keeping if you’re a business traveler who gets reimbursed for Starwood stays. Or if you value the 2 stay credits or 5 night credits toward Starwood elite status.
Keep in mind you can get the bonus on the AMEX Starwood business card again. So check to see how many points you’re earning from the card, how much you use the Boingo perk, and how often you visit Sheraton Club Lounges.
If you have both cards, I recommend keeping the personal AMEX Starwood card. That’s because you can NOT earn the bonus more than 1 time on AMEX personal cards. So if you’re using the perks of the card, keep it!
Other AMEX small business cards have AMEX OPEN savings, plus you can get the AMEX Starwood small business card again in the future.
So if you don’t feel it’s worth keeping, you can cancel before the annual fee is due the 2nd year.
Don’t Want to Pay the Annual Fee? Two Interesting Options!
1. Ask for a Retention Offer
Some of these offers are $50 or even up to $100, which would cover the cost of the annual fee.
It seems like the retention bonus you’re offered depends on how much you spent on the card within the past year. It’s worth calling AMEX to see what they’ll offer you!
I recommend waiting until you’ve had the card ~9 or ~10 months before you ask for a retention offer.
2. Ask to Change to a NO Annual Fee AMEX Card
The other option is change the AMEX Starwood card to a no annual fee AMEX card.
Do NOT change to a card with a sign-up bonus you might want to earn in the future. Because when you change “card products,” you do NOT get the sign-up bonus! So choose a no annual fee card that doesn’t have one.
Or switch to a card that you’ve earned the sign-up bonus on before. For example, if you’ve earned the sign-up bonus on the no annual fee Hilton Card from American Express before, you could ask to change to that card. Because you can’t earn the sign-up bonus a 2nd time on personal AMEX cards.
With that in mind, the AMEX representative I spoke to said you must have an AMEX card for at least 12 months before you can convert it to another card. To change your card, call the number on the back of your card.
Downgrading to a no annual fee card might be a good idea, because it would help to increase the overall age of your credit accounts (which boosts your credit score!). And it extends your history with AMEX for the next time you apply for a new card.
Because the AMEX Starwood card is a credit card (NOT a charge card), you’ll have to switch to another credit card offered by AMEX.
Also note that you can NOT switch from a personal card to a business card, and vice versa.
A good NO annual fee personal AMEX card to consider is Blue from American Express. It doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus (so you’re not missing out on anything), and you’ll still be able to enjoy the perks of having an AMEX card.
Remember you can only get the sign-up bonus on AMEX personal cards once per lifetime. And you must wait at least 12 months after closing your card before you can earn the sign-up bonus for AMEX small business cards again.
What If You Cancel?
Another option is to cancel the card completely.
Banks don’t like when you cancel a card right after earning the sign-up bonus, and canceling a card immediately after opening it could hurt your chances of getting new cards in the future.
Because the annual fee is waived on both AMEX Starwood cards the 1st year, I recommend keeping them for at least 9 or 10 months to evaluate all the features and perks, especially AMEX Offers and Small Business Saturday.
Will You Lose Your Starwood Points If You Downgrade or Cancel?
The good news is you’ll keep all the points you’ve earned from your AMEX Starwood card.
Even if you change or cancel the card, the points you’ve earned are yours to keep! That’s because these are hotel points that are immediately and permanently deposited into your Starwood hotel loyalty account.
Are the AMEX Starwood cards (personal and small business) worth keeping after the 1st year?
If you decide you don’t like it, I recommend downgrading your Starwood Preferred Guest American Express personal and small business cards instead of canceling them. But evaluate them for ~10 months before you consider those options, because you might be able to get a retention offer from AMEX.
If you downgrade, you have no annual fee options for downgrading both cards, like Blue from American Express for the personal AMEX Starwood card.
Starwood points are versatile and can be can be used for hotel stays, transferred to airlines, used for special events, or for gift cards. And because Starwood points are hard to earn, the AMEX Starwood cards are 1 of the best ways to build your Starwood balance.
I think they’re both keepers!