Last month I applied for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. This card recently, and for a limited time, increased its sign-up bonus from 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 (offer expires October 18, 2017). Thanks to the heads-up from Patrick at Rewards Canada, I learned about the limited time offer and also that you can convert Starpoints to Aeroplan miles and earn a juicy bonus for your efforts.
Indeed, you’ll get an extra 5,000 points when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints directly to miles with your frequent flyer program – in my case I converted Starpoints into Aeroplan miles. But here’s the kicker: Aeroplan is currently running a promotion until August 21 that offers a 35 percent bonus when you convert hotel points into Aeroplan miles. One of their hotel partners is SPG.
That means if I played my cards right I could take my 25,000 Starpoints credit card bonus and turn those points into 40,500 Aeroplan miles. Here’s how it worked out:
Applying for and using the SPG American Express Card
Applying for the SPG American Express card was straightforward and painless, but to get the 25,000 point bonus I’d have to spend $1,500 within the first three months. In fact, I’d have to reach the $1,500 threshold within the first billing cycle to trigger the 25,000 point bonus in time to take advantage of the Aeroplan hotel point conversion offer.
I thought this would be fairly easy, but American Express cards are not as widely accepted at grocery stores and restaurants, and certainly not in some of the small B.C. towns in which we were vacationing this summer. Lo-and-behold, when we got back home and checked the mail, I found the answer to my prayers: our house insurance was up for renewal. We pay it upfront – $1,300 for the year – and get a 3 percent discount. Problem solved.
A few days later my first credit card statement became available and just a few days after that the 25,000 sign-up bonus was posted to my SPG account. Winner-winner!
Converting Starpoints to Aeroplan Miles
Springing into action (points were posted on Wednesday Aug 16) I logged-in to my SPG account, clicked ‘Redeem Starpoints’, found the ‘Transfer to Air Miles’ banner, and located ‘Aeroplan’ from a long list of airline partners and frequent flyer programs.
I was able to transfer all of my points – 27,047 to be exact – and earned the 5,000 airline transfer bonus.
Altogether I sent 32,047 Starpoints over to my Aeroplan account. When Aeroplan applies the 35 percent bonus for converting hotel points into Aeroplan, I’ll see a total of 43,263 Aeroplan miles land in my account.
Now that’s some serious travel point hacking!
My latest travel point hacking expedition was a big success. Sure, the SPG American Express card comes with a $120 annual fee, but if you consider that 1 Aeroplan mile is worth approximately 2.5 cents then my newly found 43,000+ Aeroplan miles is worth more than $1,000 in flight rewards.
Heck, even if you conservatively value 1 Aeroplan mile at 1.5 cents then this was still a highly profitable venture worth nearly $650.
So that’s great for me, you say, but what about you, the reader? Well, you can still apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express until October 18, 2017 and earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $1,500 within the first three months. You can still convert those Starpoints to Aeroplan miles and earn an extra 5,000 points for a total of 30,000 points.
30,000 Aeroplan miles is worth $450 on the low-end and $750 on average in flight rewards. Still worth it!
Some rewards cards are more complicated than they need to be. The MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard quietly bucks that trend and is arguably the most straightforward and flexible rewards card to use for everyday spending.
Other top rewards credit cards have incentives such as higher earn rates for the first three to six months, or they pay back more in certain spending categories but not in others. With the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard, you earn 2 points for every dollar spent – anywhere – with no limits to how much you can earn.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes this card so attractive for everyday use.
MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard Review
Incredibly, I’ve never written a full review on this card before now, but a recent reader question prompted me to take a closer look.
This reader was looking for a cash back credit card and was torn between two Visa Infinite cards: Scotia’s Momentum Visa Infinite, and CIBC’s Dividend Visa Infinite. Both are solid cash back cards, but here’s why I suggested taking a look at the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard instead:
First, the details. We already mentioned getting 2% back on every purchase. You also get 10,000 points with your first purchase, putting an immediate $100 into your pocket. In addition, if you sign-up for the card through Great Canadian Rebates, you’ll get another $60 cash back from GCR.
Is it a travel card, or a cash back card?
Ok, now for one of the better features: Flexible rewards redemption. The MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard is often promoted as a travel credit card, but it actually works just as well, if not better, as a cash back credit card. Here’s why:
One annoying feature of the Scotia Momentum card is that you only get your cash back once a year, in November, as a statement credit. With the MBNA card you can redeem your points as often as you want, in whatever form you want – a statement credit, a deposit into your account, or even by cheque.
It also has a lower annual fee ($89 vs. $99), which gets wiped out in the first year by the 10,000 welcome points. Add in the $60 cash back from Great Canadian Rebates and you’ve essentially paid for the annual fee for two years.
Let’s talk about ‘Other’ Spending
Here’s another point in favour of the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard. ‘Other’ spending.
If your “other” spending – purchases that don’t fall into categories like groceries, gas, dining, travel, etc. – is significant then you’ll benefit more from a straight 2% cash back card with no caps on how much you can earn. The MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard fits the bill, as it doesn’t matter where you use your card, you’re getting 2% back on those purchases.
I used the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card for several years until our shopping patterns changed and I found myself spending more on ‘other’ categories and also we switched most of our grocery shopping to Costco, which does not accept Visa.
I’ve written here before about the Costco effect on earning rewards and how if you shop regularly at the warehouse giant then you need to use a MasterCard.
I’ll be clear: Right now I personally use the Capital One Aspire World Elite MasterCard for my everyday spending, but that’s only because it’s a grandfathered version of the old Cap One Aspire Travel that comes with a $120 annual fee (the new version of the card has a $150 annual fee) and it still pays me10,000 miles each year on my card anniversary, a generous $100 feature that the new card doesn’t offer.
For all of these reasons, if I was looking to get a new everyday rewards card today, I’d choose the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard.
You can sign-up here and get an additional $60 cash back through Great Canadian Rebates.