Two to Travel (And Tango)

Travel Tips and Inspiration From Millennials, For Millennials

Starwood American Express Changes- Is It Still One of Our Favorite Cards?

American Express is making some big changes. Fresh off losing Jet Blue and Costco as co-branding partners, it looks like they’re trying to make their cards more attractive to more consumers. And with the changes recently announced, it sure looks like they’re at the very least turning heads. But we’ll leave it to you decide of the changes are good or bad. So should you get the Starwood Amex? We have a few thoughts on that.

But first, a big congrats to the two winners for our contest where we gave away two subscriptions to AFAR Magazine, our favorite travel magazine. So congrats to:

Ravi S and Connie H. Ravi and Connie were two of thirty who signed up to receive email updates from our blog. I will be emailing you both to arrange your subscription!

Recently, the Starwood Amex gave us a bit of good news: They’d lowered the minimum spend required to get the sign up bonus of 25,000 Starwood points. In the past you earned 10,000 points after your first purchase, and 25,000 points after you spent $5,000 in three months. Now, you earn 25,000 points after spending just $3,000 in 3 months.

This is good news not only because it became easier to gain points, but to gain VERY valuable points. If you look at points and miles as a type of currency, you could see it like this: Where Delta Skymiles would be like the Argentine Peso (sorry Argentina), Starwood points would be like the US Dollar. They’re sought after. Reliable. Valuable. And able to be used in a variety of ways.

Starwood points can be redeemed for valuable hotel stays. They can be used for cool “SPG Moments” like tickets in a luxury suite at Wrigley Field or seeing a top concert in Vegas. Or, you can transfer Starpoints to a number of airlines and earn a bonus when doing so. For example, transferring 20,000 Starpoints to say American Airlines earns you a bonus 5,000 points so you actually get 25,000 American AAdvantage Miles. Pretty cool, right?

But the folks with the Starwood Amex mixed it up even more, with a big announcement about some changes coming to their cards starting August 11, 2015. So first, let’s get the bad news of the announcement out of the way:

Annual Fee Increase

Starwood is bumping up the annual fee from $65 to $95. A big reason I was going to keep my Starwood Amex when it came time to renew was because the annual fee was dirt cheap and aside from travel and restaurant purchases on my Sapphire, I use my Starwood card for most other purchases.

But with the increase, comes benefits. Cool benefits in my opinion. What did they add? And does it make this card worth the new $95 annual fee?

Say bye-bye to Foreign Transaction Fees

Traveling abroad? Use that Starwood Amex. They’ve at last waived foreign transaction fees, a welcome change. Of course I still struggle to use Amex abroad (they aren’t as readily accepted as Visa or MasterCard) but it’s still a welcome development.

Boingo Wifi Plan

Giving up my Amex Platinum was hard. We couldn’t justify the hefty $450 fee since we barely passed through airports with a famous and luxurious Centurion Lounge. But what was harder still was the Boingo wifi we gave up. We got free Boingo worldwide. This proved valuable in certain airports, in much of our travel abroad, but also in the most random of places: A park, a shopping center, etc…

Well now anyone with a Starwood Amex gets free Boingo on four devices.

Wifi on Your Next Starwood Stay

They’re also making sure you never stay in a Starwood property without access to premium internet. If you book your stay directly through a Starwood website, you get free wifi anyway. But with this card, it’s not just about any free wifi, it’s about access to their premium (read faster speed) wifi networks in hotels. A small perk, but a valuable one to be sure for some users!

Sheraton Club Lounge Access for the Business Card

Important to note here this only applies to the Starwood Business American Express  and not the personal card.which it is worth noting still requires you to spend $5,000 in 3 months to earn the 25,000 point sign up bonus. Remember the personal Amex only requires you to spend $3,000 in 3 months now! But if you have the business card you get access to the Sheraton Club Lounges. These aren’t the most fancy lounges in the world, but they’re still good for free breakfast, free snacks and drinks as well so not a bad perk.

Is this worth the $30 increase?

So is it worth it? I think so, but I also think it certainly is debatable. If you apply, the first year fee is still waived which is great. I’d love to see a free annual night benefit similar to the various options offered by the Chase IHG, Chase Hyatt, and Citi HHonors cards. But I value Starwood points more than any other currency in the miles and points game. And I valuable wifi access free around the world. So I am excited about these changes and will be keeping my Amex.

At the end of the day, the Chase Sapphire is still my preferred card, the Citi Prestige my new fling,  but these changes made sure the Starwood Amex will stay in my wallet and as a top three card of mine for at least another year!

Note: Laura and I do receive a commission if you end up getting the Starwood American Express or Chase Sapphire through our links. They’re both two cards we love and use regularly and support. If you decide to get a card, you don’t have to use one of our links, but we’re of course grateful when you do!

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  1. Hey Patrick,

    You said that the “Citi Prestige my new fling”. I’d be curious how it’s value is worth the $450 annual fee. 🙂

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