Highest 35k SPG Bonus Ends Next Week!

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The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express come with 35,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 and $8,000 respectively in the first six months of card membership. These offers end this coming Wednesday, April 5, 2017.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

The normal sign up bonus is 25,000 points per card. This is the highest sign up bonus we’ve ever seen on the cards, tied with the same bonus that was offered last year at this time.

American Express recently introduced a rule that you can only get the bonus once per lifetime on each of its cards. Eligibility is separate for each card. That means if you’ve only ever had the business card, you can still get the personal card or vice versa. But if you’ve had the personal card before, you can’t get this bonus on the personal card. If you’ve had the business card before, you can’t get this bonus on the business card.

If you get both cards, you’ll have to spend $13,000 total in the first six months of cardmembership. In return, you’ll get one Starpoint per dollar spent plus a 35,000 point bonus on each card for a total of 83,000 Starpoints. I get at least 2.5 cents of value per Starpoint in the following ways, meaning a total value of at least $2,075 to me.

Since you can transfer SPG and Marriott points freely between your linked accounts at a 1:3 ratio, you could also turn the 83,000 Starpoints into 249,000 Marriott points.

Here are the main ways to get value from Starpoints:

1. Free Night Awards

Starpoints can be used for free nights at any Sheraton, W, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, Four Points, St. Regis, Element, or Luxury Collection Hotel. Free nights start at 2,000 points per night. And the best part is: If a standard room is for sale, you can book it with Starpoints. Free night awards are not capacity controlled like award flights are.

Here is the Free Night Awards chart:

Book a four night award at Category 3-7 hotels and get a 5th night free. Here are the total prices for five nights:

There can be tremendous value in the free night awards. For instance:

The following are old examples. The prices have surely changed. Just pay attention to the ideas embedded in them.

Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort, Thailand is a stunning category 2 hotel that goes for only 3,000 points on the weekends. One weekend night in January goes for $123, so that redemption would be worth 4.1 cents per point.

3k Starpoints or $123

And more importantly, 83,000 Starpoints would be enough for up to 41 weekend nights at some properties.

Starwood Cards = 23 Nights Here

As another example of Free Night Awards, the cheapest SPG property in Hawaii is the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, a category 4 property that costs 10k points per night or 40k for five nights, using the 5th Night Free pricing.

The property goes for $302 per night after taxes for a five-day stay in March: $1,510 total. Instead you could pay 40,000 Starpoints and get 3.76 cents per point in value. And more importantly, you’d be here:

Get the 5th Night Free on the Big Island
2. Cash & Points Awards

Cash & Points awards are a way to stretch your cash and your Starpoints. You’ll generally get even more value from your Starpoints through these awards though they are capacity controlled. Here is the Cash & Points chart:

As you’ll notice, a Cash & Points night requires half the Starpoints of a free night plus a cash co-pay.

Unless I were taking advantage of the 5th Night Free with Free Night Awards, a discounted weekend night, or I was cash poor at the moment, I would look to choose a Cash & Points award over a Free Night.

To see why, let’s look at the Sheraton Frankfurt Congress Hotel, a Category 3 property. For a Tuesday this month, the hotel wants 149 euros for the refundable rate. Or you could spend 7,000 Starpoints for a Free Night, or you could spend 3,500 Starpoints + $55.

Comparing them:

  • 149 euros is $159
  • 7,000 Starpoints for a free night is a respectable 2.27 cents per point
  • 3,500 Starpoints + $55 is an incredible 2.97 cents per point

And I chose this hotel because I’ll be in Frankfurt soon, not because it has an abnormally valuable Cash & Points option. I’d frankly consider 3 cents per point about average for a Cash & Points redemption.

3. Transfer to Airlines with a Miles Bonus

For people who eschew chain hotels, Starpoints are incredibly valuable to transfer to airline miles because their are so many partner airlines, and in most cases, transferring 20k Starpoints nets you 25k miles in the account of your choice, a 25% bonus!

Starpoints transfer to more than 30 airlines in total, mostly at favorable rates.

The best three options are Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines, and Asiana. Starpoints transfer in a 20k points to 25k miles ratio (1:1.25) to all three airline airlines, and none is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards or ThankYou Points. Click here for the reasons to transfer to those three airlines.

Other partners where I would consider transferring Starpoints include:

(Note that many of the airlines on this bulleted list are Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards partners, and I would rather transfer those points to these airlines, since I value Starpoints more.)

The one glaring weakness in the airline transfer partners is that United is not a 1:1 transfer partner, 20k Starpoints transfers to only 12,500 United miles. Avoid that transfer, and earn Ultimate Rewards instead to transfer to United, or transfer to Marriott before transferring to United for a better rate (more on that below).

But apart from that, the transfer partner list is astoundingly excellent. You can get on most commercial flights worldwide through one of these transfer partners.

4. SPG Nights & Flights

I probably should give Nights & Flights more billing because it might be a better deal than Free Night Awards, Cash & Points awards, and airline transfers. With Nights & Flights, you get five hotel nights and 50,000 airline miles for only 60-70k Starpoints.

Unfortunately the award is limited to Category 3 and 4 hotels. But the price is unbeatable. Going back to the Sheraton in Kona discussed above, for 70k Starpoints, you could get five free nights at the property plus 50k American Airlines miles to get there (you only need 35k).

5. SPG to Marriott for Hotel + Air (including Southwest Companion Pass)

The best value redemption of Marriott points is Hotel + Air packages. You redeem a certain number of Marriott points for seven free nights at a Marriott or Ritz Carlton hotel plus a certain number of miles in the airline program of your choosing. Here is the chart to convert Marriott points to Southwest Rapid Rewards.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-58-32-pm

Along the left, you see the Category of the Marriott hotel or Tier of the Ritz Carlton hotel where you’d get your seven free nights. Along the top, you see the number of Southwest points you’d get.

For 270,000 Marriott points, transferred from 90,000 Starpoints, you can get a week in a Category 5 Marriott and 120,000 Rapid Rewards and a Southwest Companion Pass valid until December 31, 2018.

The Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents each ($1,680), and the Companion Pass gets a designated person onto Southwest flights for free (plus taxes of $5.60 one way on domestic flights and a little more internationally) every time you fly Southwest, whether you book your ticket with cash or your 120,000 new Southwest points.

Read more about the Southwest Companion Pass (and other ways to get it) here. For those with a regular companion who like to go where Southwest flies, the Companion Pass is the best deal in travel.

This way of getting the Southwest Companion Pass ends March 31, 2017 when transferred hotel points will no longer count toward Companion Pass qualifying.

If you don’t want a Southwest Companion Pass, you can redeem a Hotel + Air package for dozens of airlines’ miles.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-9-07-25-pm

You get 10% more miles if you choose United miles because of the special Marriott-United relationship.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.43.13 PM

6. 18,667 SPG to Marriott to 25,000 United Miles

While SPG points have a great transfer rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles with a few dozen airlines–my favorites being Asiana, American, and Alaska–United is not on that list. Twenty thousand Starpoints is a measly 12,500 United miles.

Now, with an intermediate step, you can turn SPG points into United miles at a better rate.

  1. Transfer 19,000 SPG points to 57,000 Marriott points
  2. Transfer 1,000 Marriott back to 333 Starpoints (necessary step because the starting amount of transfers from each program has to be an even thousand)
  3. Transfer 56,000 Marriott (18,667 Starpoints) to 25,000 United miles

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.43.26 PM

Or you can turn 8,000 Starpoints into 10,000 United miles.

Other Important Things to Know about the Starwood Preferred Guest Program

Status

Both the Starwood personal and business cards confer 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status, and they are cumulative, so if you get approved for both cards, you’ll have 4 stays and 10 nights credited to your account, leaving you just 6 stays or 15 nights short of Gold Status.

Gold Status entitles you to free internet and a 4 PM checkout. You also get an extra Starpoint per dollar on Starwood purchases, so cardholders with Gold Status get 5 Starpoints per dollar.

Other than stays, you can also get Gold Status by having an American Express Platinum card or spending $30k per year on a Starwood credit card.

4x or 5x

Cardholders can earn 4 points per dollar on Starwood purchases, 5 points per dollar if they have Gold Status. This breaks down to 2 points per dollar for the spending normally plus another 2 points per dollar if the spending is on a Starwood card.

Combine Points

You can combine points between Starwood accounts if both parties have had the same address on file for 30 days.

This is hugely important, since certain blocks of Starpoints are critical. For instance, if you and your wife each have 10k Starpoints, you could each transfer them to your respective American Airlines accounts and have 10k miles in two accounts. Or you could combine the Starpoints and send the points to one person’s American Airlines accounts, leaving you with 25k American Airlines miles in one account after the transfer bonus.

Your Parents’ Card

Your parents like to travel, they’re jealous of your trips, and they want a rewards card. But they don’t want to keep track of category bonuses, ten programs, and tons of promotions. (OK, maybe I’m just describing my parents.)

Tell each of your parents to get the Starwood American Express. Of course you can do better than putting all of your spending on this card by taking advantage of other card’s bonuses, but you can do pretty well by putting all your spending year after year on this card and building a balance of valuable hotel points that can also transfer to 30 airlines. When people come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of Starpoints, I know the job will be easy.

Big Spenders

I’ve argued before that Big Spenders Should Be Using One of These Three Cards (And They Probably Aren’t). One of those cards is the Starwood card. Because of its transfer partners and transfer bonus, using the card is like earning 1.25 miles per dollar in almost any airline program.

Moments

A lot of airlines and hotels, want you to blow your points on overpriced experiences and merchandise, but Starwood Moments have some good values. I spent 5,500 Starpoints for two tickets to a Captial Cities concert, plus the chance to meet the band beforehand, and free food and drinks at a reception.

All in One Place

Starwood has an awesome chart that compares many of the redemption options discussed here and some worse options not discussed here.

Recap

Currently, both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card have a 35,000 Starpoint sign up bonus until April 5, 2017, their largest ever. That leaves you less than a week to apply.

The personal card offers 25,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and another 10,000 bonus for spending $5,000 total in the first six months. The business card offers 25,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months and another 10,000 bonus for spending $53,000 total in the first six months.

So that’s $8,000 total spending requirement in the first three months as part of $13,000 in the first six months.

Getting both cards gives you 83,000 total Starpoints after meeting their minimum spending requirements. Through Free Nights, Cash & Points, airline transfers, Nights & Flights, and transfers to Marriott points, you can plan to get at least 2.5 cents of value per Starpoint.

These are the set-it-and-forget-it cards. For people who don’t have that attention span, these are go-to, everyday cards to keep in your wallet for a long time to build up balances towards incredible vacations.

Links:

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I had a Starwood AMEX card before, but it was years ago before I got serious about record keeping, and I can’t recall if it was personal or business. I’m looking at my TransUnion report and do not see that card listed at all. Is it thus safe to assume I had the business card before, and can now apply for the personal? I’d like to do that, but wouldn’t want to see the card approved, make the significant spend, but then have the bonus denied on the once per lifetime rule.

  2. Also interested in DPs related to business card and separate business IDs (EIN).
    Is the bonus once per CARD, or once per card per business?

  3. Call them and ask . I got a AA 60k card coming which I will make it hot then in same phone call MAKE SURE I CAN GET THE POINTS and if i can’t cancel .Then LOWER to $5K to line up for my next card . This takes like 5 mins saves a lot of BS down the road . They know who did what ever IF u forget like me . 35 cards like 5 years think I got 6 now . Another thing I do I put the cards I DON”T use on auto pay so I don’t get hit will a $50 late charge .

    CHEERs

  4. Scott,

    Do you think it’s possible to get both cards, get the minimum spend done, get the cards paid off so the points credit to one’s account, and get the points transferred to Marriott in time to meet the March 31 deadline for getting a Southwest Companion Pass via a Marriott Hotel + Air Package (yes, I know one would need another 21K Marriott points to swing the deal)?

    • It would be very hard. Your first statement would need to close by March 31. I am not sure when your first statement would close if you applied today. You might be able to call in and ask that your statement close on, say, the 25th of each month, so that your statement closes March 25 and it would all work.

  5. If my application is being reviewed and I call recon, what should I say? I had the AAdvantage Red Aviator before when my US Airways card auto-changed to that.

  6. Scott if I haven’t had either business or personal before any logic behind getting one before the other if I am not doing both right now?

    • Maybe the business card if you’re trying to stay under Chase 5/24 since Amex business cards don’t count. If that’s not a concern I’d say it doesn’t matter.

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