Which Is a Better Deal? Chase Sapphire Preferred or Starwood AMEX?

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Million Mile Secrets reader, GC, commented:

Do you recommend signing up for American Express Starwood Preferred Guest over the Chase Sapphire Preferred?  I will become eligible for Chase cards next month (I’ll no longer have 5 cards opened in the last 24 months) and was contemplating getting the Sapphire Preferred and Freedom.

But I’m intrigued by getting the Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX with the highest bonus ever that might not ever be offered again.  Plus, I already have the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator card and have been using it to earn American Airlines miles.  I could transfer the points I earn with the AMEX Starwood card to American Airlines miles to top off that balance.

If I get this card, I’d have to wait longer to become eligible for the Chase cards.  Does anyone have a recommendation?  Thanks.

Great question, GC!

I’ve written about why I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and why Chase Ultimate Rewards points are my favorite kind of pointsIt’s also the top card I recommend if you’re new to miles and points.

But there’s a limited time 35,000 Starwood points bonus with the personal and small business AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest cards.  I’ve never seen the cards’ bonuses this high.  And it’s likely the last time it will ever be this much.  You must apply before March 30, 2016 for this offer.

Which Is A Better Deal Chase Sapphire Preferred Or Starwood AMEX
Which Rewards Card Should You Choose?

With great offers like these, it can be hard to figure out which credit card is best.  But I can help you compare them, and decide what makes sense for YOU!

What’s Different About These 2 Cards?

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest cards earn transferable points.  But the airlines and hotels you can transfer points to are very different!

Ultimate Rewards & The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Link:   My Full Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  And Ultimate Rewards are my favorite points because they’re flexible, have great travel transfer partners, and are relatively easy to earn.

That’s why Chase Ultimate Rewards are the best if you’re new to miles & points, too!

If GC opens the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, GC will earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening the account.

Which Is A Better Deal Chase Sapphire Preferred Or Starwood AMEX
Higher Sign-Up Bonuses Make Me Want to Jump for Joy!

GC will also get: 

  • 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel and dining
  • 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards point per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Primary car rental insurance – Covers damage or theft to rental cars, when the rental is paid for with the card
  • Trip delay reimbursement – Get up to $500 back per ticket when a trip is delayed more than 12 hours
  • NO foreign transaction fees

The $95 annual fee is waived the 1st year.  This makes it easy to evaluate the card for ~10 months without a fee to see if the benefits are worth it.

Note:   If you’ve opened ~5 or more credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months, you’re unlikely to get approved (although some folks report exceptions). Starwood Points & the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Cards

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Link:   How to Fill Out an American Express Business Card Application

There aren’t many ways to earn Starwood points which is 1 of the reasons they’re so valuable.  This means that the best ways to earn Starwood points are with credit cards and spending at Starwood hotels. Read my explanation of earning and using Starwood points here.

Because Starwood points are so hard to earn, the current limited time bonus with the personal and small business AMEX Starwood Preferred cards is very enticing!

Which Is A Better Deal Chase Sapphire Preferred Or Starwood AMEX
The Most Appealing Card May Not Give You Points You Need. So Make Sure You Know Your Goals When Choosing Between Cards!

I can understand why GC is having a hard time making a decision!

If GC applies before March 30, 2016, GC can earn the increased bonus on both cards.  GC will get:

  • 35,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of account opening (personal card), OR
  • 35,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of account opening (small business card)
  • 2 points per $1 spent at Starwood hotels (includes AloftDesign Hotels, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury CollectionTribute Portfolio, Westin and W brand hotels)
  • 1 Starwood point per $1 spent 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 ALL their cards.

Which Card Should GC Choose?

GC is smart to note that Chase is now making it harder for folks to apply for their credit cards.  If GC applies for the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card now, GC will have to wait longer to apply for any Chase cards.

That’s because you likely won’t be approved with Chase if you’ve opened ~5 or more cards (from any bank) in the last 24 months.

GC should think about future personal travel goals.  Is there a specific trip where GC wants to use American Airlines miles?

GC mentioned already having the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator, so GC might be looking for a way to get more American Airlines miles for a specific ticket.

If You Want American Airlines Miles, Get the Limited-Time Offer on the Starwood Cards

Getting the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card would be a great option!  Especially because this best-ever bonus will expire March 30, 2016.  And because American Airlines is a direct transfer partner with Starwood Preferred Guest, but NOT Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Which Is A Better Deal Chase Sapphire Preferred Or Starwood AMEX
American Airlines Miles Can Take You All The Way to Cape Town, South Africa!

And if GC transfers 35,000 Starwood points bonus to American Airlines, GC will get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

That makes the Starwood small business card worth 50,000 American Airlines miles! 

Because with the Starwood small business card, when you meet the minimum spending requirement of $5,000, you’ll earn at least 5,000 Starwood points.  That’s in addition to the 35,000 Starwood point sign-up bonus.  Then you can turn your 40,000 Starwood points into 50,000 airline miles! (20,000 Starwood points yields 25,000 airline miles X 2)

Of course, you can do this with the personal Starwood card too!  Spend $5,000 on the card and the math is the same.

You can transfer Starwood points to a lot of airline transfer partners, so Starwood points could be good if GC is planning on air travel.  But 1 drawback of Starwood points is that they’re only good at Starwood hotels for stays.

It’s also important to note that we don’t know yet what will happen to Starwood points after the Starwood – Marriott merger.

We DO know that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card will still be there in the future, so I’d suggest GC grab the Starwood Preferred Guest card (personal or small business) while it’s still available.

Don’t Have a Specific Travel Plan Yet?

If GC doesn’t have a specific redemption in mind, GC might be better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so flexible.

Which Is A Better Deal Chase Sapphire Preferred Or Starwood AMEX
Considering a Trip to Mexico? Stay for Free at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun With Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points!

GC will earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points when using the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and can transfer them directly to great partner airlines and hotels like Hyatt, Southwest, and Marriott.

United Airlines is an especially good transfer partner because they don’t charge fuel surcharges!  And you can fly on all of their Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa and TAP Portugal.

Rumor 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Point Sign Up Bonus With New Card Coming Soon
Having the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Allows You to Transfer All Your Ultimate Rewards Points These Partners for Award Flights and Hotel Stays
British Airways is another fantastic Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, because you can use British Airways Avios for short flights all over the world and fly to Europe on partners Air Berlin and Aer Lingus.

If you fly Southwest, Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer there too.  And you’ll get 2 free checked bags and no blackout dates!

Having the ability to transfer the points earned to a number of different airlines and hotels might be better if GC doesn’t have any specific travel plans.  And in that case, I’d suggest getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom cards.

But ultimately, GC has to decide which rewards program is the best for any future travel goals!

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred now has the highest publicly available offer I’ve seen of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you complete the minimum spending.

The AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card’s sign-up bonus has increased to 35,000 Starwood points for a limited time when you complete the minimum spending.

The AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card is a terrific choice if you have a specific trip planned that requires Starwood points and you want to apply for a card soon.  Because this best-ever bonus will expire March 30, 2016.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card might be a better choice if you’re looking for more flexibility.  Or if you’re planning on traveling with 1 of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards’ travel partners.

If you MUST choose between the 2 cards, read this post to see which benefits sound most appealing:  Starwood stays and their airline partners or Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer partners.

When deciding between cards, take a look at your spending habits and travel plans, and do what’s right for YOU!

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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