Tuesday, August 28, 2012

American Express SPG credit card now with 30,000 point sign-up bonus

American Express is offering a sign-up bonus of up to 30,000 points for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card through September 4th.  10k points are awarded after the first purchase and an additional 20k after spending $5,000 within the first 6 months of cardmembership.  You earn 2 points per dollar spent at SPG hotel properties and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.  Annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year.  Although this may not seem like much of an offer with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card handing out 40k points after only $3k in purchases, Starpoints (SPG points) are easily the most valuable point currency in the market.

Starpoints to miles conversion
Starpoints can be converted to miles at a 1:1 conversion rate with 31 airline partners.  A 5k bonus is awarded to any conversion of 20k points to miles, so 20k Starpoints equates to 25k miles with most partners.  It should be noted that there is a 2:1 conversion rate with United miles, so this card isn't the best if you intend on earning UA miles with it.  However, the conversion rate to LAN Airlines is a generous 1:2, so you're looking at 45k LAN miles for 20k Starpoints, which is almost good enough for a roundtrip flight to South America and Brazil.  A good 1:1 conversion value is ANA miles, which are valued at 2 cents each.
Free hotel nights
The best bang for the buck for your points is with free nights at SPG hotels, which include St. Regis, Le Meridien, W, Westin, Sheraton, Four Points and more.  Hotels are ranked in terms of categories 1-7.  Generally, cheaper hotels like Four Points will be category 1-3, and luxury hotels like St. Regis will be within the 5-7 range.  A hidden point redemption gem is their "Cash & Points" redemption option.  At category 5 hotels, which regularly go for $350+ per night, your points can yield a value of over 5 cents each.  The 5th consecutive night is also free for hotel redemptions, enabling your points to take you even farther.
Amex unparalleled purchase protection benefits
This is what I love about Amex.  With complimentary accidental damage and theft protection within the first 90 days of most purchases, the hardest full on concrete, the dirtiest oil spill, the cruelest trip to the washing machine, and the sneakiest pocket-picking thief are all covered.  Amex usually requires no more than an online claim form and a picture reflecting the damage to your Macbook Air or Prada purse, and the full purchase price will be refunded back to your account, usually within days.  Add that to extended warranty, which effectively doubles your purchase's manufacturer warranty, and you're looking at easily the best purchase protection benefits of all credit cards.  Visa and MasterCard, on the other hand, require an array of claim forms, receipts, police reports, and repair estimates, spanning the process for months and negating the purpose of it.

Bottom line
Due to their flexible redemption options and high yields with free hotel nights, I value Starpoints at 3 cents each.  This puts them well ahead of the 1.7 cent valuation of Chase Sapphire points, though double point earnings make the Sapphire card a better option for restaurant and travel purchases.  30k Starpoints = $900 and 40k Sapphire points = $680, giving the SPG card a much better sign-up bonus than the Sapphire card.

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