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American Express is great for travelers. With great rewards systems and fantastic industry partners, Amex has consistently proven itself as a welcome addition to any travel plan. In this article, we’ll compare two rewards credit card offerings from Amex, both geared to the savvy traveler: the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card and the Platinum card.
Point Earning with the Starwood Preferred Guest & Amex Platinum
When you spend a dollar on your credit card, it shouldn’t just be a helpful way to pay, but a helpful way to earn points for future rewards. Both the Amex Platinum and Starwood Preferred Guest cards provide great ways to earn points. You can earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
The American Express Platinum card earns you 2 Membership Rewards points when you book travel through the Amex Travel website, and one point on anything else. But Amex recently announced a new benefit of earning 5x points on airline purchases (booked directly through airline or Amex Travel).
The points earning for hotel spending might seem like that the SPG rewards card is the straight-away winner. Overall, the points earning is definitely higher for hotel spending, especially as SPG Rewards points are generally valued higher than the Member Rewards points. However, the Platinum card comes with the valuable point-earner of an automatic SPG Program Gold Level Membership regardless of travel days, which earns you 3 points per dollar spent on SPG bookings. So, although you’ll never earn 5 points per dollar spent, your earning potential across the different hotel and travel conglomerates increases with Amex Platinum.
But earning 5x points per $1 on airfare with the Platinum card give it the advantage over the SPG card.
The Winner: The Platinum Card® from American Express
There is a glorious moment when you begin to plan your next trip and review your accumulated points to determine what you’ll be enjoying for ‘free’. The SPG card allows you to use your points on both hotel bookings within the Starwood chain, as well as within 30 frequent flyer programs with a 1:1 point transfer. You will receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 SPG points you transfer out to an airline transfer partner.
The Platinum card Membership Rewards Points can be used on booking not only hotels and flights, but also cruises and vacation packages book through American Express Travel.
The Winner: The card-world consensus is that a Starpoint has a higher purchasing power than a Membership Rewards point. Therefore, for each point spent on travel, you’ll get more value. In addition, though the Platinum card allows you to book more than just hotels and flights, the SPG booking provides a lot of flexibility within the huge array of frequent flyer partner programs. This flexibility allows you to shop around and ensure your valuable points stay valuable. Here, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express comes out on top.
Welcome Bonus on the SPG & Platinum
The current welcome bonus is the ability to earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. With the Amex Platinum card, you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points with the same $5,000 in the first three months.
The Winner: Even with a higher valuation with SPG points, the Platinum sign-up bonus is a serious amount of points that will be a great kick-off towards your first points-paid vacation.
Both the Starwood & Platinum cards are peppered with useful and fun travel perks.
The SPG card offers free in-room premium internet when staying at Starwood Hotels, and hotel-stay credit towards the SPG Rewards program Elite status. It also includes roadside assistance, car rental loss, and damage insurance, travel accident insurance and Global Assist hotline access for any questions or emergency advice aboard.
The American Express Platinum card provides a wide range of benefits. At the airport, the Platinum card provides access to over 900 airport lounges for free, Boingo wifi access, and $200 towards any incidental charges while flying on qualifying airlines (once per year on the airline of your choice), including your in-flight meal or a checked bag. The card will also credit you the fee for the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓applications, speeding up your screening time. When booking your travels, the Platinum card comes with Platinum Travel Service, a travel advisor service, and Gold Status with SPG Membership, as previously noted, and with Hilton HHonors, increasing your hotel booking range. The Amex Platinum card comes with card rental loss and damage insurance and the Global Assist Hotline.
A big and equal benefit with both the SPG and Platinum cards is no foreign transaction fees. However, an equal issue is that Amex is not widely accepted outside of the United States, and should not be the only card you’re carrying for international purchases.
The Winner: The Platinum card has all the bells and whistles when it comes to traveling. Your trip will be made smoother and quicker with the benefits provided before, during and after your trip.
The SPG card has no annual fee for the first year, and then a $95 fee for each following year.
The Platinum card has a $550 annual fee and no APR because the balance must be paid in full each month.
The Winner: SPG pulls to the front here with the much less expensive annual fee. With the first year waived, it would take more than four years to match the price of the Platinum first-year fee. The Platinum card may provide some security in its requirement to be paid off each month, restricting any skyrocketing interest charge, but it also allows less flexibility with payment.
Overall, the Starwood Preferred Guest is a high-earning, high-value, inexpensive credit card that will be a useful travel companion. Although hotel choice is limited to the Starwood and Marriott chains, flights can be purchased with points from a huge array of partner frequent flyer programs.
The Platinum card has its strengths in its travel perks. For the more luxury-focused traveler, the Platinum card could very quickly pay off its high annual fee. However, for the average traveler, the SPG card is your best bet.
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