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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) from American Express are both solid rewards cards for travel and the two credit cards that readers email me about the most. So let’s compare them, shall we?
Best Offer: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Starwood Preferred Guest
The Starwood Preferred Guest card has a sign-up bonus of 25,000 SPG points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. Usually, American Express will raise the offer to 30,000 points once a year, so obviously it would be best to wait to apply until there’s a limited time offer.
You won’t be able to receive the sign-up bonus on the personal or business SPG cards if you have received it once before.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in 3 months. And you can get an additional 5,000 points if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same time period. Note for authorized users: Being an authorized user won’t make you ineligible for your own account if you decide to apply.
You’re eligible for the offer on the Sapphire Preferred as long as it’s been 24 months from the last time you received a bonus offer on the card.
I like the Sapphire Preferred’s bonus because you receive more points, and I value Ultimate Rewards points more than SPG points. Both annual fees are waived for the first year.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Tip: See why you should apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred first before any other cards.
Best Daily Use: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Starwood Credit Card
Unfortunately, the Starwood Preferred Guest card doesn’t have any category spending bonuses (besides up to 5x on Starwood purchases). Ouch.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 2x UR points per $1 on travel and dining purchases. I enjoy earning multiple points per $1 on dates with my wife.
The biggest area needing improvement on the SPG Starwood credit card is the lack of incentives to use the card for daily spending. I love earning SPG points and find them very valuable, but earning 1 point per $1 is…kind of depressing.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Best Perks: Starwood Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has no foreign transaction fees, chip & signature technology, primary CDW on car rentals, and $10,000 trip cancellation insurance.
The Sapphire Preferred also comes with Visa Signatures benefits, like free movies, hotel discounts, and wine tastings.
The Starwood Preferred Guest comes with the benefit of earning 5 nights and 2 stays worth of elite qualifying credits annually. It takes 50 nights or 25 stays to achieve their Platinum status. If you hold both the personal and business SPG cards, you would get 10 nights and 4 stays of qualifying credits each year. Not bad, especially since award nights count towards elite qualifications as well.
If you’re trying to achieve SPG elite status, then the credits on the SPG cards are sweet. But you still have to pay foreign transaction fees on the SPG card, so for that fact alone, I can’t let the SPG credit card win this category.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Best Points System: SPG Points vs Ultimate Rewards Points
Ah, my favorite portion is the points systems. The Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program has a wide footprint of properties worldwide, so finding an SPG hotel is pretty darn easy.
I love being able to redeem my SPG points for cash & points stays. That’s a great way to stretch out your points. And Starwood really thrives on great customer service. I had a great time at the W in Barcelona a couple of years ago when, for some reason I’m unaware of, they upgraded us to a suite!
Another way to stretch out your SPG points is to book “night and flights.” For example, you will receive a discount of 20,000 points when you book your flight and 5 nights at a category 4 property.
Also, your 5th night is free when you book 4 straight award nights. Smokin.
In addition to hotel bookings, you can transfer your SPG points out to many airlines. I love the flexibility. You will also receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 SPG points that you transfer out. Nice, especially since American Airlines is a transfer partner! You can see the full list of airlines and their transfer rates here. Just a warning, sometimes transfers can take 2-4 weeks, so you better have a plan.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns uber flexible Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred out to many top travel partners:
All transfers are at a 1:1 ratio, so there’s sadly no bonuses for transferring your points out. If you want to fly domestically, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points out to Southwest, United, or British Airways. I prefer to use British Airways Avios when flying short haul flights domestically because they start at 7,500 Avis one-way!
But if international travel is your desire, you can transfer your points out to Singapore Air, Korean Air, or United. Round-trip economy flights to Europe on United are only 60,000 miles. The sign-up bonus alone from the Sapphire Preferred almost gets you a flight to Europe and back. That’s easily $2,000 in value!
Personally, I prefer to use my points for premium travel, so last year I transferred some of my UR points to Singapore Airlines so I could fly their Suites Class. Nothing like popping Dom Perignon and having a twin bed in the air.
In addition to the many airline options you have, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points out to Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, and Ritz-Carlton. I’m a Hyatt fan and have used our UR points many times to book Hyatt properties.
You can also use your UR points for a statement credit (50,000 Ultimate Rewards points as $500 in cash back) or you can even book travel through the Ultimate Rewards website and receive a 20% discount (50k points is $625 in value).
It’s hard to lose with either SPG or UR points, so it’s a toss up for me.
Conclusion on Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Starwood Preferred Guest
I believe in diversifying award accounts. Ultimate Reward points are a little easier to earn and very flexible, but it’s important to accumulate SPG points as well. I just wish the SPG had category spending bonuses. But if I have to earn 1 point per $1 on a card, I would want it to be an SPG point.
All that to say, I think it’s beneficial to have both cards in your wallet, but if I had to choose one, it would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.