Chase Hyatt Visa vs. Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express

March 20, 2013

Reward card users are typically concerned with earning airline tickets. And while the prospect of a free flight is very alluring, travelers to major cities might find that their hotel bill actually approaches or exceeds their transportation costs. Therefore, using a hotel rewards card can be a great way to reduce the cost of your vacation. Chase offers its Hyatt Visa that earns points in their Gold Passport program while American Express offers its Starwood Preferred Guest card.

Lets see how these two cards match up!

Chase Hyatt Visa

Chase Hyatt Visa Credit CardChase is one of the largest issuers of reward cards, and it has several that are co-branded with hotel chains such as Marriott and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG).

Yet their Hyatt card stands out for several reasons. First, it offers two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account. Considering that some Hyatt properties at resorts and in major cities can cost over $1,000 a night, this can be an extremely generous sign up bonus.

Next, it offers three points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties, two points per dollar spent on dining, airline, and car rental purchases, and a single point per dollar spent on all other purchases. It also features an EMV smart chip that comes in extremely handy when visiting unattended kiosks in Europe and other parts of the world since many Americans find their credit cards unusable at locations where this feature is required.

But the Hyatt card is also a great product due to the strength of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. Free rooms start at 5,000 points per night and top out at 22,000 points per night at their most expensive hotels. That means that a $1,000 hotel room at the Park Hyatt in Paris or Milan is only 22,000 points per night, a value of over 4.5 cents per point. In contrast, many other hotel chains offer award nights at premium properties for two or three times the number of points.

Finally, the holders of the Hyatt card are immediately upgraded to Platinum status in the Gold Passport program so long as they hold the card. This entitles them to enjoy preferred room types, late checkouts, and complimentary in-room Internet access.

There is a $75 annual fee for this card, which is just a small fraction of what two free hotel nights can be worth. Upon renewal, cardholders also receive a free night at a mid-priced property, which is still worth more than the annual fee. Finally, there are no foreign transaction fees for this card.

Insider tip: If you are already a Diamond member of Hyatt’s program when you apply for the card, you will receive your two free nights in a suite, regardless of whether you retain your Diamond status.

Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit CardThe Starwood Hotel’s Preferred Guest credit card holds a special place in the hearts of reward travel enthusiasts due to its unmatched value and flexibility. Cardholders earn 10,000 bonus points after their first purchase, and an additional 15,000 points when they spend $5,000 on their card within six months of becoming a cardmember. Cardholders earn one point per dollar spent on most charges, and up to five points per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Unfortunately, there are no other bonus categories of spending.

What stands out with this card is the incredible value of the points earned. Starwood’s points, or Starpoints, can be redeemed for award nights at Starwood properties such as Westins, Sheratons, and other brands. Awards start at 3,000 points per night , and the fifth night in a row is always free. On the high end, luxury properties can require as much as 35,000 points, far more than the Hyatt program.

But the real strength of this program is actually in the points to mileage transfer option. Starpoints can be transferred to miles with the programs of over 30 different airlines. Additionally, those programs allow members to redeem awards on their partners, creating hundreds of possible awards on nearly every airline in the world. Better yet, transferring 20,000 points results in a bonus of 5,000 additional Starpoints.

There is a $65 annual fee for this card that is typically waived the first year. Sadly, American Express continues to impose its 2.7% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside of the United States. This unnecessary charge results in a net loss when you use your card outside of the country anywhere but at a Starwood hotel.

Insider tip: Travel rewards experts love to keep a stash of Starpoints in their account for times when they need to quickly “top off” another account. If you are short 10,000 or 20,000 miles for an award flight in another frequent flier program, the likelihood is that you can transfer your Starpoints to that program and get the award you need.

The Verdict

By featuring double points on most travel expenses, an EMV smart chip, and no foreign transaction fees, the Hyatt credit card is clearly aimed at people who travel often. I also love that I can get a free night any Hyatt in the world for a mere 22,000 points. On the other hand, the Starwood card is the true jack of all trades with its ability to earn points that can be used for hotels or transferred to miles virtually anywhere. Technically, Hyatt points can be transferred to a few airlines, but the conversion rates are so poor they are hardly worth mentioning.

So the Hyatt card would be my choice for those who actually use their card all over the world, but the Starwood card remains the best way to earn free nights and airline miles simply from staying at home and using it for everyday purchases.

Which credit card is your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!


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Jason Steele has been dissecting credit card bonuses and loyalty travel programs for years. Digging into the details of credit card offers has enabled his family to vacation in cool places around the world. Pay attention to the details he digs up about which card is best for you.

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