The Starwood Business card from American Express appears to be a good hotel card. In fact, it is much more.
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When you’re trying to earn a free trip with reward credit cards, roadblocks can get in the way of your travels. Too many reward credit card users have spent years earning points or miles in a single program, only to find out that the award they need is not available. The solution to this problem is to earn rewards in a flexible points system – which lets you transfer points into other programs.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business card from American Express lets business users earn points with the Starwood Hotel chain. But in addition, these points can be redeemed for miles with more than 30 different carriers.
- Earn a sign-up bonus. You get 10,000 points after your first purchase and another 15,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first six months of opening an account. These points alone are good for several free nights. For example, when I visit Money Talks News headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I stay at the Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek. I can spend three nights there for a mere 10,000 points.
- Earn points for spending. Cardholders earn 1 point per dollar spent, and up to 5 points per dollar spent at Starwood hotels, which include Westin and Sheraton hotels.
- Use points for hotel rooms. Starwood points can be redeemed for any available standard room with no blackout dates or capacity restrictions. And when you redeem four award nights, the fifth night is free.
- Transfer points to airline miles. Starwood’s points are extremely valuable as you can transfer them to miles in the frequent flier programs of more than 30 different airlines. And when you transfer 20,000 points at once, you get a 5,000-point bonus.
- Earn elite status. Those who use their card to spend $30,000 dollars in a calendar year get Gold status in Starwood’s program. This gives you free Internet, room upgrades, and late checkouts.
- Participate in the OPEN Savings program. This program allows businesses to save up to 10 percent on purchases from vendors like FedEx, OfficeMax, and Hertz. You can see a list of participating vendors, along with discounts, here.
- No bonus categories of spending. Many reward cards now offer 2x-6x rewards for spending in certain merchant categories. This card only offers bonuses when you spend money at a Starwood property.
- Annual fee. There is a $65 annual fee after the first year.
- Foreign transaction fees. American Express continues to charge a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside the United States. It is not cool to charge such a pointless fee, especially for a card being marketed toward travelers.
Get it if: You want to earn points in the most flexible travel rewards program there is.
Forget it if: You do a lot of international travel and need a card with no foreign transaction fees.
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