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Old Jun 13, 12, 9:04 pm   #1
 
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USA Credit Card Benefit Summary - Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, SPG

A frequent question in this forum is "Which credit card should I get?" That is obviously an extremly broad question. However, there are three cards that get a lot of attention because they accumulate points that can be transferred to other loyalty programs. I'm going to give a comparison of these cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, and Starwood Preferred Gold American Express. (The first two cards have closely-related cards that I will also discuss.) This information is correct as of when it is written, but always subject to change.

1. Annual fee: PRG $175, SP $95, SPG $65, all waived first year.
2. Signup bonus: PRG 25000 points with $2K spend in 3 months, SP 40000 with $3K spend in 3 month, SPG 10000 plus 15000 more with $5K spend in 6 months.
3. Threshold bonuses: PRG 15K points with $30K spend in a calendar year (do not need to keep card past annual fee date), SP 7% at end of year (must pay fee), SPG Starwood Hotels gold elite status with $30K spend.
4. Bonus Categories: PRG 3X airfare, 2x gas & groceries; SP 2x travel and restaurants, SPG 2x Starwood hotels.
5. Transfer partners: Not possible to list them all, but the main ones are: PRG Delta, Air Canada, and a number of foreign airlines; SP United, Korean Air, and Hyatt; SPG almost all airlines but poor transfer ratio for United. SPG also gives 25K miles for 20K points.
6. Other redemptions: Amex merchandise and gift cards at mediocre values (max 1 cent per point) and travel at 1 cent, Chase merchandise etc. but also cash at 1 cent per point and air tickets at 1.25 cents, SPG merchandise and 1 cent per point for Starwood hotels.
7. Business versions: Amex and Chase have business versions of their cards with better signup bonuses but larger spend requirements, and different bonus categories and rules.
8. Enhanced card: Amex has a Platinum card with a much higher annual fee ($450, not waived first year), usually better signup bonus (but not currently), no category or theshold bonuses, and a number of other benefits like airport lounge access and airline fee reimbursement. Point rules are slightly more generous, including 1.25 cents per point for travel and cash at 1 cent.
9. Foreign transaction fees: 2.7% for Amex and SPG, waived for SP

Which one is best?

That depends on your situation. One big advantage of SPG is that it is the only of the three that transfers to American Airlines. It also is the only to transfer to USAir, but the other cards have Star Alliance transfer partners (PRG has Air Canada and others, SP has United). Chase has limited transfer partners, but they do have a partner in each of the main alliances (United in Star Alliance, British Airways in OneWorld, and Korean Air in SkyTeam).

There's no one card that's clearly best. If you spend exactly $30,000 a year, that's a plus for PRG. If you must have American Airlines points, SPG is the way to go. If you spend a lot abroad, SP is the best of the three (although there are Capital One no-fee cards that have worse rewards, but no forex fee). An Amex promotion for 50K signup (or occasionally 75K for the business card) could be enough to tip the balance.

Last edited by redtop43; Jun 14, 12 at 9:43 am.. Reason: correction
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Old Jun 13, 12, 9:38 pm   #2
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redtop43 View Post
Chase does not have either a Skyteam or Oneworld partner, but it does have Hyatt, who has realtively good transfer values.
I like your post! It's definitely informative and helpful. Also, it goes along well with the transfer diagram in this thread. I did want to make a quick comment to the above though!

Chase transfers to Korean Air which is part of Skyteam. And Chase also transfers to BA, which is a part of OneWorld. Of course, the optimal usage patterns for Korean Air and for BA would differ markedly from using DL or AA miles
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Old Jun 13, 12, 9:40 pm   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redtop43
Chase does not have either a Skyteam or Oneworld partner, but it does have Hyatt, who has realtively good transfer values..
Chase does have a Skyteam and OneWorld partner. It's British Airways for OW, & Korean Air for ST.

Last edited by chff; Jun 29, 12 at 3:15 pm..
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Old Jun 14, 12, 7:16 am   #4
mia
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5. Transfer partners:

All three programs transfer to at least one partner in each of the three airline alliances, but there are important differences:
  • Membership Rewards transfers to 16 airlines and 6 hotel chains. Transfers to many partners are instantaneous. No transfers to other MR accounts, but liberal transfers to others' airline or hotel accounts. Points do not expire if any linked Membership Rewards card is open.
  • Ultimate Rewards transfers to 4 airlines and 4 hotel chains (if we treat Ritz/Marriott as one program, but assume Fairmont will be added) and to Amtrak. I believe all transfers are instantaneous. Transfers permitted to other UR accounts, and to others' airline or hotel accounts. Points expire when card account is closed.
  • Starwood transfers to 28 airlines plus Amtrak. No external hotel partners, but Starpoints can be transferred (for example) to Hilton via Virgin Atlantic 20:25:50. Airline transfers can take a week or longer. Transfers only to another SPG account at the same address. Name on airline account must match. Points are forfeited after twelve months inactivity.

Instantaneous transfers are an important advantage of MR and UR because it allows us to hold points in the credit card program until in process of booking an award flight. With SPG there is some risk that award inventory will not be available.

7. Business versions: Amex and Chase have business versions of their cards

There is also a Business SPG card.
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Old Jun 14, 12, 7:49 am   #5
 
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SPG Spend is 5K

I believe the offers for SPG require 5K spend, not 10K. From the application website:

"Receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and an additional 15,000 Starpoints when you spend $5,000 in 6 months 3,4- enough for two free nights at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, the W Boston or any other category 5 hotel."
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Old Jun 14, 12, 8:04 am   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mia View Post
Instantaneous transfers are an important advantage of MR and UR because it allows us to hold points in the credit card program until in process of booking an award flight. With SPG there is some risk that award inventory will not be available.
I believe that transferring Chase URs to most programs is instantaneous, but there may be a few hours delay with Priority Club, and a few-day delay with Korean Air. Can't find the reference right now.
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Old Jun 14, 12, 8:12 am   #7
 
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Another data point

Quote:
Originally Posted by centrifuge41 View Post
I believe that transferring Chase URs to most programs is instantaneous, but there may be a few hours delay with Priority Club, and a few-day delay with Korean Air. Can't find the reference right now.
I have recently transferred to KE from Chase UR and it was instant, they do limit the number of transfers a day. If I remember correctly it was once a day. Others may have experienced a delay but transferring 3 times on 3 different days the miles posted immediately.
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Old Jun 14, 12, 8:20 am   #8
mia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by centrifuge41 View Post
... few hours delay with Priority Club...
My recollection of a discussion in the Membership Rewards forum is that this is probably die to a temporary IT problem at IHG, not a design limitation. There can be delays in "instantaneous" transfers to any program if either system is undergoing maintenance.
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Old Jun 16, 12, 9:59 am   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by centrifuge41 View Post
I believe that transferring Chase URs to most programs is instantaneous, but there may be a few hours delay with Priority Club
Quote:
Originally Posted by mia View Post
My recollection of a discussion in the Membership Rewards forum is that this is probably die to a temporary IT problem at IHG, not a design limitation. There can be delays in "instantaneous" transfers to any program if either system is undergoing maintenance.
I think therefore that "instantaneous" should always be put in quotes or else have a disclaimer footnote when mentioning in threads this way.

I just saw another thread over in MilesBuzz! where someone is planning to use UR for when they are stuck in some city because a cancelled flight and need a hotel on points instantly (that night). I'm not sure with all of these caveats (and depending on where in world this is*) that "instantaneous" is instantaneous-enough for that kind of situation (where getting the points delayed by even just a few hours might make them useles).

*It might be late efternoon where you are but "middle of the night" site maintenance time wherever the website is based, depending where in the world you're stuck with a cancelled flight and suddenly in need of a hotel room on points.
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Old Jun 18, 12, 9:46 am   #10
mia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
I think therefore that "instantaneous" should always be put in quotes or else have a disclaimer footnote when mentioning in threads this way
I daresay anyone who uses a computer, such as to access FlyerTalk, will know that IT systems are not 100% reliable .
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