Are AMEX Starwood Cards Worth Keeping After the 1st Year?

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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.

Are AMEX Starwood Cards Worth Keeping After The 1st Year
To Keep or Not to Keep? I’ll Let You Know Your Options!

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: 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!

Are AMEX Starwood Cards Worth Keeping After The 1st Year
Stay at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa for 12,000 Starwood Points per Night in October 2015

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:

 Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partners 
AegeanAeroMexicoAir Canada
Air ChinaAir New ZealandAlaska Airlines
AlitaliaANAAmerican Airlines
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)Asiana AirlinesBritish Airways
China EasternDeltaEmirates
EtihadFlying BlueGol Smiles
Hainan AirlinesHawaiian AirlinesIberia
Japan AirlinesJet AirwaysKorean Airlines
LifeMiles (Avianca)Miles & More (Lufthansa)Qatar Airways
Saudi Arabian AirlinesSingapore AirlinesThai Airways
United AirlinesVirgin AtlanticVirgin 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.

Are AMEX Starwood Cards Worth Keeping After The 1st Year
Evaluate Whether or Not You’re Using the Perks of the Cards, Like the Night Credits Toward Elite Status, Boingo Internet Access, and Sheraton Club Lounge Access

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

Folks on FlyerTalk report being offered retention bonuses when they call AMEX to cancel their cards.

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.

Are AMEX Starwood Cards Worth Keeping After The 1st Year
AMEX Cards Aren’t Apples to Apples! You Can’t Switch Between Credit and Charge Cards. And You Can’t Convert a Personal Card to a Small Business 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.

Are AMEX Starwood Cards Worth Keeping After The 1st Year
You Can Get the Personal Starwood AMEX Card Again, But You Won’t Earn the Sign-Up Bonus

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.

Bottom Line

Are the AMEX Starwood cards (personal and small business) worth keeping after the 1st year?

Yes!  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.

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!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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