American Express is having a promotion for its Starwood Preferred Guest credit card (update: promotion expired). If you apply for this card and charge $1,000 during the first three months, you will get 30,000 bonus points in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program. Starwood operates hotels under Four Points, Sheraton, Westin, W, and few other brands. SPG points can be redeemed for free nights at those hotels. At a value of at least $0.02 for each SPG point, the 30,000 bonus points are worth $600 or more. I applied and received an instant approval.
I knew about this card for some time. I didn’t apply until now because of its $45 annual fee (waived in the first year). Now the signup bonus will cover the annual fee for the next 10-15 years.
Purchases on the SPG AmEx card earn one SPG point per dollar spent. Again, at a value of $0.02 per SPG point, it’s at least as good as a 2% cash back card.
Given that you can get a Fidelity AmEx card any day with 2% cashback and no annual fee, the SPG points you earn have to be worth more than $0.02 per point to make the SPG AmEx card worthwhile. At the price point I usually spend on a hotel room, Starwood’s Category 2 hotels are a very good value for 3,000-4,000 points a night. If I were to pay for a room in cash, I’d have to pay about $100 a night including all taxes. That makes a SPG point worth 2.5 to 3.5 cents. Instead of getting a 2% reward in cash, I’ll get a 2.5%-3.5% reward in hotel points.
Hotel points are much easier to use than airline miles – it seems airlines never let me use miles on the dates I want. However, I never had any problem with finding a room when I wanted to redeem hotel points. SPG specifically advertises no blackout dates.
Unlike booking through Priceline or Hotwire, you can cancel a hotel room booked with SPG points, usually up to the date of arrival or the previous day. You also know for sure which hotel you will be staying at, versus taking a chance with having a bad one assigned to you by Priceline or Hotwire.