Credit Card Showdown Round 2: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Starwood American Express

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Welcome to Round 2 of the credit card showdown. This series is due to a session that was presented at the Frequent Traveler University conference this past weekend (which you can read more about here).

I posted the first debate a few days back, which was between the United Explorer card and the British Airways Visa. Currently, the United card is winning based on the voting poll on the post – there is still time to cast your vote!

The second debate at the conference was between the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (represented by yours truly) and the Starwood American Express (represented by Million Mile Secrets). At the end of the debate, the Starwood American Express card won, but only by a whopping 4 hands in the air – I think I should have called a re-count. Regardless, both are great cards and have their pros and cons, which I will portray for you since many of you were not able to attend this conference session. I’ll give you the benefits of each cards and then at the end of the post give you the opportunity to vote for the one you like best based on the arguments at hand. So here we go…

Chase Sapphire Preferred


  • 40,000 points for new applicants after $3,000 spend within the first 3 months – no annual fee for the first year
  • Points earned from the card are flexible and can be transferred to the following loyalty programs at a 1:1 rate: United, Korean Air, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, Amtrak (read more about the value of transferring to hotels and airlines)
  • You get 7% annual bonus on all points earned, including the initial sign up bonus, thus making your 40k bonus points actually 42,800 points
  • Earn double points on all travel and dining purchases
  • The ability to use the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal – you must have a Chase card with Ultimate Rewards to access this portal (although reports have shown you can use any card to make your purchase)
    • This shopping portal allows you to get bonus points, typically between 3x-10x points when making most of your online purchases. For example, during Black Friday you could get 10x points at Apple giving you an extra 10,000 bonus points for purchasing a mac book air (which is something I would have purchased anyways)
  • Flexibility to use the pay for travel option where you can use your points just like cash to pay for travel – with this card the 40,000 points is worth exactly $500 towards free travel
  • As mentioned above you can purchase you can transfer points to United (which is one of the best values, along with Hyatt) at a 1:1 rate, where with the SPG program points are transferred to United at a 2:1 rate meaning you are only getting half the value
  • This card is part of the infamous trifecta program where if you get this card with the Chase Freedom and Chase Checking you can ultimately enhance your earning opportunity significantly (read more about this here)
  • The card design is awesome! Merchants think you are a high roller – if you have no idea what it looks like google it, but essentially it is thick and heavy and your account number and name is on the back of the card
  • No foreign transaction fees! The Starwood Amex card for overseas purchases!


  • Can only transfer to 4 partnering airlines, where with the SPG program you can transfer to almost every airline
  • Chase has been getting stingy on the amount of applications you can have in a small time period
  • The card is not churnable

American Express Starwood


  • The card has a decently low annual fee of $65/year – this is $30 lower than the Chase Sapphire Preferred (waived for the first year)
  • You get 2 stays and 5 nights towards your status yearly – you need 10 stays or 25 nights to earn Gold (if you have the personal and business version of this card you get the status bonus twice)
  • While this is not a benefit of the card, but the program itself, you can transfer your points to a slew of airline programs at a 1:1 rate (for most of them, see more about this here)
  • Also, when transferring SPG points to a partner airline you can get a 5,000 mile bonus for every increment of 20,000 points being transferred
  • Again, while this is not a benefit of the card, but the program itself – the Cash & Points options (which are definitely in our favor) are amazing!
  • Double points on SPG spend
  • Extra purchase protection when using the card for eligible purchases (must make the purchase entirely with the card) – this can be a huge plus of the card (along with other Amex cards) that is many times forgotten about:
    • Return Protection – If you try to return an eligible item purchases in the US within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, American Express will refund the purchase price (up to $300 per eligible item, excluding shipping and handling, up to $1,000 annual per card account)
    • Extended Warranty – For purchases with a valid US manufacturer’s warranty of 5 years or less, the warranty will be extended for an additional year
    • Purchase Protection – Eligible purchases are protected against accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days from the date of purchase (includes purchases made worldwide including gifts purchased for others)


  • The sign up bonus is only 30,000 points, which is lower than most sign up offers
  • To receive the full bonus amount you must spend $5,000 on your card in 6 months (receive 10,000 points after your first purchase and 20,000 points after $5k spend)
  • Foreign transaction fees so not a card to use for overseas purchases
  • No bonus points on purchases except SPG hotels, which you get with the Sapphire Preferred card anyways due to double points for anything travel related (all hotels, car rentals, airfare, etc.)
  • If you like the flexibility to transfer your points to airlines, the option to transfer to United is extremely devalued as you only get half the points – with Sapphire Preferred you get 1:1

You can learn about the various credit cards that earn you points and miles towards free travel here.

So which card do you think is better?

Cast Your Vote

View Results

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  1. I’ve got the Sapphire and have been toying with the idea of getting the SPG Amex. I’ve got about $18k worth of spending coming up during June/July/August, and already have Hilton Dia and Marriott Gold – would it be worth it to pick up the SPG Amex, or stick with the Sapphire?

    • @Aarash – What is your 18k spend on, if you don’t mind me asking. This could help determine the card to put it on. Since the Chase Ink Bold and SPG Amex both have high spend requirements, it might be a good opportunity to get either of those two cards to earn the bonus points easily. Let me know and happy to help!

  2. No one ever mentions the 5k referral bonus available on the SPG. Since there is no bonus spend categories, this can be a nice bonus to go for.

    Also SPG points are usually considered to be worth more than most (read: all) other points programs out there. This is why their CC comes out winner winner chicken dinner in these surveys, but it isn’t mentioned here.

  3. @Dealswelike – The 18k is going to be spent in Hawaii this summer $15k at the doubletree (hilton :-P) and $3k (ish) on food. I figured since I’ll already be earning a bunch of hilton points, it would benefit me to get the SPG amex and get the 18k points. Or I can get those points (plus the 7% bonus) with the Sapphire and delegate them how I see fit at a later time.

  4. @Aarash The Sapphire Preferred gives double miles for travel and dining, so you’d get double points for your 15 grand hotel stay and however much of your 3 grand is on dining.

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