I wrote an emotional eulogy a little more than a year ago when I had to say goodbye the the MBNA Starwood Preferred Guest credit card.  It was an amazing card (seriously, it was amazing.  So pretty to look at.  Since its demise, I’ve cut it up and even saved it because it’s so pretty).

Since then I succumbed to getting an American Express card, as the first year was free for previous MBNA Starwood Preferred Guest holders.  I ended up getting the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card and since then, have accumulated about 12,000 in points.  It was much much more difficult to accumulate points with the American Express card, well, because it’s not accepted everywhere.  I would ask each time I was about to make a transaction only to hear “nope, sorry only Visa or Mastercard”.  I did like the American Express card, it earned me some points (valued 1:1 with airline points programs like British Airways, Asia Miles, etc.).  The one year promotional rate ($0 annual fee for one year) was coming to an end, and I was experiencing some separation anxiety related to the possible loss of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card for good.

I had called to check if they could waive the yearly fee (I think it was to the hefty tune of $150 a year or something ridonkulous like that).  I tried my best negotiation tactics, I was as sweet as honey to the customer service reps, I told them that I pay off my credit card bill regularly and am never past due, but alas, to no avail.  Apparently American Express is really strict with their fees, and they did not waive it.  They suggested that I get another American Express credit card instead.

So I paid for my auto insurance ($1500) with my credit card, took the points, and bid one last goodbye before cutting up the card and canceling it.

Then I went ahead and applied for the American Express Gold Rewards Card.  Yeah, that’s right, I’m a fickle credit card whore.

Here’s what the American Express Gold Rewards Charge Card is like:

  • It’s a CHARGE card, not a credit card– which means you cannot carry a balance (but if you are late, a 30% annual interest charge will be dinged on you)
  • There is NO preset spending limit (uhhh this is kind of scary!  But they say it will be evaluated and approved based on spending patterns… so if you usually spend $300 on the card and suddenly you get a charge for $50,000 they’ll make sure its valid before approving it)
  • You need to make at least $30,000 annually to be eligible for this card (I guess that’s why its a gold card??)

Now, onto the important part-

Here are the points and perks:

  • DOUBLE points on travel related purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages)
  • DOUBLE points on grocery stores, stand-alone gas stations, drugstores
  • One point on charges everywhere else

Even though the double points SOUNDS good, if you look at the conversion ratio to the major airline programs, it’s good (actually even better than the Starwood Preferred Guest cards, but ONLY for these double points purchases).  If it’s NOT used for these double points purchases, then this card ISN’T as good as the Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards.

Now even more importantly, here’s what you can get with the points:

  • You can have the “flexibility” of paying for any type of travel with points, though you would need 1000 points to equal a 10% statement credit (um… that’s like spending $1000 to get $10 off, which is equal to a 1% rebate… not the best if you ask me)
  • It’s a 1:1 ratio of points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan points.  Aeroplan miles are difficult to gauge in terms of “worth” and aren’t like the rest of the Airline rewards points (those Canucks, always have to be different and quirky!).
  • It’s a 1000 AMEX points equals 750 Airline points for airlines like:  Alitalia (Italian airlines… weeee Tuscany!), British Airways, Delta, Cathay Pacific, Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Priority Club

So, if you spent $1000 in groceries over the course of a few months lets say, you would get 2000 points.  That would mean 2000 Aeroplan miles.  That would also mean about 1500 points with British Airways, Delta, Cathay Pacific etc.  (It would be about 1.3x the amount you would get from a 1:1 ratio with the regular Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards).  To give some perspective, one would need about 60,000 miles to head to Asia (friend’s wedding in Thailand next year, yippee!) from Vancouver.

My strategy with this card

  • My strategy would probably be use the points for British Airways, Cathay Pacific (going to a wedding in Thailand in February), and possibly transfer them to Starwood Preferred Guest (more flexibility in terms of airlines transfers and points)
  • I would try my best to only use the card for purchases related to groceries, travel etc.  and other DOUBLE points purchases.  Otherwise, I would feel like I am getting “gypped” 250 points for every $1000 spent (because the Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards were 1:1 with the above airlines).

Readers, any of you die-hard Starwood Preferred Guest rewards card fans as well? Do you usually pay an annual fee with your credit cards? Did anyone have any luck negotiating waiving of credit card fees with American Express, or was it just me that didn’t have any luck?