American Express is one of the leaders of the travel rewards card market. It features several cards that earn points in its own Membership Rewards program, but it also joins with partners to offer other forms of travel rewards. Two of these cards are the Delta Gold SkyMiles card and the Starwood hotels Preferred Guest card.
So which card is right for you?
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
This card offers a 30,000 point sign bonus after new cardholders make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening an account. Cardholders also receive a $50 statement credit after making their first Delta purchase within three months. Cardholders earn one Delta SkyMile for each dollar spent on all purchases, and double miles for Delta purchases. Other perks include a free checked bag on Delta flights, priority boarding, and discounts on in-flight food and entertainment.
The problem with this card is not the card itself, but the Delta SkyMiles program. This program offers so few awards at the lowest mileage levels, that they are unattainable in most cases. This is especially true when looking for two or more international business class awards, which are the most valuable use of SkyMiles. In addition, it recently increased the number of miles necessary for many international business class flights, well beyond its competitors. Finally, it has an especially poor award search engine and telephone agents who are poorly trained in booking flights on its partners. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year. Learn more about the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
This card offers 25,000 bonus points in the Starwood program after spending $5,000 within six months of becoming a card member. Starpoints can be redeemed for hotel stays at Westins, Sheratons, and other brands. Or, they can be transferred to airline miles with over 30 different carriers, including Delta. In fact, when 20,000 miles are redeemed at once, cardholders earn a 5,000 point bonus. So in effect, this card earns 1.25 points per mile, more than the Delta SkyMiles card.
But the real advantage is in the flexibility of of Starwood points. They can be used for hotels or transferred to many carriers, so cardholders aren’t stuck hunting for reasonably priced SkyMiles awards, which are nearly impossible to find. There is a $65 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
Learn more about the The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
In conclusion, the Delta SkyMiles card makes sense for die hard Delta loyalists who spend a lot of time and money on that airline, but the Starwood card is the best best bet for the rest of us.