Which Sign-Up Bonus Is Better: 35,000 Hotel Points or 60,000 Airline Miles?

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Yvette, commented:

I’m trying to decide between the limited time 35,000-point offer with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and a targeted offer for 60,000 American Airlines miles with the Citi® / Advantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®.  I can only meet the minimum spending requirements for one card at this time. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Great question, Yvette.

The best sign-up bonus depends on how you plan to redeem the miles or points to meet your travel goals.

If you’re unsure of your travel plans, I’d recommend the AMEX Starwood card.  Because you’ll earn flexible Starwood points, which you can use later for free stays at Starwood AND Marriott hotels or transfer to airline partners.

But the targeted 60,000-mile sign-up bonus with the Citi American Airlines card can potentially be more valuable.  Because you can redeem the miles for a one-way Business Class flight from the US to Europe, which might save you thousands of dollars.

Apply For An Airline Or Hotel Credit Card
Is Paris in Your Travel Plans? You Can Get the Citi American Airlines Sign-Up Bonus for Award Flights or Choose the AMEX Starwood Sign-Up Bonus for Free Hotel Stays

I’ll explain what else to consider when deciding between the airline and hotel credit card.

AMEX Starwood Vs. Citi American Airlines

1.   AMEX Starwood

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express 

Link:   My Review of the AMEX Starwood Card

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.  This offer is only available until April 5, 2017.

Apply For An Airline Or Hotel Credit Card
You Can Quickly Earn Flexible Starwood Points With the AMEX Starwood Card Sign-Up Bonus

You’ll also get:

The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year.

Note:   You’re only eligible to earn AMEX sign-up bonuses once per card per lifetime.

2.   Citi American Airlines

Link:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Link:   My Review of the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select Card

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® card public sign-up bonus is 30,000 American Airlines miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.

But Million Mile Secrets reader Yvette received a targeted offer for a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus!

Apply For An Airline Or Hotel Credit Card
Check Your Mail to See If You Received a Targeted Offer Like Reader Yvette for 60,000 American Airlines Miles With the Citi American Airlines Card

With this card, you’ll also get:

  • 2X American Airlines miles per $1 on purchases with the airline
  • Free 1st checked bag for you and up to 4 traveling companions
  • Earn 10% back on redeemed miles (up to 10,000 miles per year)
  • 25% discount on food, beverages, and headsets purchased in-flight
  • No foreign transaction fees

The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year.

Note:   Citi restricts sign-up bonuses to once per brand every 24 months.  Some folks report exceptions for targeted offers.

4 Tips for Deciding Between Both Card Offers

1.   More Flexibility With AMEX Starwood Points

Link:   The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points

Without firm travel plans, you’ll be better off earning flexible Starwood points.

Because you can redeem Starwood points for award nights at Starwood AND Marriott hotels.  Remember, you can stretch your points by redeeming them for Cash & Points stays.

Or transfer points to many airline partners at a 1:1 ratio.  And you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.  For example, if you transfer 40,000 Starwood points, you’ll get 50,000 airline miles!

Here are more ways to use Starwood points:


2.   Potentially More Value With 60,000 American Airlines Miles

Link:   New American Airlines Award Chart

Link:   New American Airlines Partner Award Chart

There are many ways to use 60,000 American Airlines miles.  For example, you can book:

  • 8 one-way coach flights less than 500 miles within the mainland US or Canada
  • 3 one-way off-peak coach flights from the mainland US to Hawaii
  • A round-trip coach flight from the US to Europe
  • A round-trip Business Class flight from the US to Costa Rica
  • A one-way Business Class flight from the US to Europe

I found a round-trip coach award flight from Chicago to London in May 2017 for 60,000 American Airlines miles.  This same flight costs ~$1,100 if you pay cash.

Apply For An Airline Or Hotel Credit Card
Using 60,000 American Airlines Miles for a Round-Trip Coach Award Flight to London Could Save You $1,100+

So earning the targeted 60,000-mile sign-up bonus with the Citi American Airlines card has the potential to save reader Yvette lots of money!

And keep in mind, you can use American Airlines miles to fly to Europe on American Airlines or on their oneworld alliance partners, like British Airways, Finnair, or Iberia.  Just watch out for fuel surcharges on certain partner award flights.

3.   The AMEX Starwood Card Might Not Be Around Forever

Following the Starwood and Marriott merger announcement, I said the AMEX Starwood cards could possibly go away in the future.

I don’t know if this will happen any time soon.  But given there’s potential for the card to go away, this might be a reason to get this card now.

4.   Minimum Spending Suggestions to Get Multiple Cards at the Same Time

Link:   40+ Ways to Meet the Chase Sapphire Reserve Minimum Spending Requirement

I’ve written about ways to meet minimum spending requirements, which might make it possible for reader Yvette to earn both sign-up bonuses.

For example, with some monthly bills, you might be able to pay more than the monthly amount due.

Apply For An Airline Or Hotel Credit Card
You Might Be Able to Pay More Than the Monthly Amount Due on Your Cell Phone, Which Can Help Meet Spending Requirements

By paying more than the monthly bill, you’ll earn credit towards the minimum spending requirement and you might not have to pay that bill again for a month or two.  Team member Keith did this on his cell phone bill to meet a card’s minimum spending requirement.

I would NOT recommend this though if you can’t pay off your credit card bill when it comes due.

Or for a small fee, you can charge other items to your credit card, like tuition, mortgage payments, or rent using services like Plastiq.  Sometimes it’s worth paying a fee to meet spending to unlock sign-up bonuses that can get you Big Travel!

Bottom Line

If you’re deciding between 2 credit card offers, the best one depends on how you plan to redeem the miles or points to meet your travel goals.

For example, if you’re considering the AMEX Starwood card, you’ll get more travel flexibility with the points you earn compared to the miles you earn with the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select card.

Because you can redeem Starwood points for free stays at Starwood AND Marriott hotels or transfer to airline partners.

Consider the many ways you can meet minimum spending requirements, which might make it possible to earn 2 sign-up bonuses!  Collecting multiple sign-up bonuses is the quickest way to get Big Travel with Small Money!

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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