It’s been a humbling time for American Express, with the recent loss of its exclusive credit-card relationships with JetBlue and Costco.
In what might reasonably be interpreted as a measure to shore up another of its key business relationships, American Express will be adding a handful of new perks to one of the most popular travel-rewards cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card.
Effective on August 11, the card will feature the following new benefits:
- No foreign transactions fees
- Complimentary unlimited access to Boingo Wi-Fi
- Complimentary premium Wi-Fi access at Starwood hotels
- Access to Sheraton Club lounges (business card only)
There’s a price to be paid for the new perks: The annual fee will rise from $65 to $95, still waived for the first year.
The Starwood card, which has been called the Swiss Army knife of travel-rewards credit cards, isn’t just a hotel-points generator.
In addition to being redeemable for free hotel nights, either alone or in combination with cash, Starwood points can be converted into miles in 27 airline programs, including those of Aeroplan, Alaska, American, British Airways, Delta, Hawaiian, and United. Points generally transfer 1:1 for airline miles, although it’s a disappointing 2:1 conversion rate for United miles.
Adding value to that flexibility, there’s a 5,000-point bonus when transferring 20,000 points. So transferring 20,000 Starwood points to American, for example, nets 25,000 AAdvantage miles. With the bonus, then, one dollar charged to the Starwood card is worth 1.25 miles in many airline programs. That’s more than the one-mile-per-dollar earning rate for charges on the airlines’ own co-branded cards. And miles earned with those cards can’t be readily converted into other programs.
Until further notice (there’s no published end date), new applicants for the card can earn 25,000 bonus points after charging at least $3,000 within the first three months.
And until August 11, the annual fee is $65, waived the first year.
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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