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By kerrirenzulli
September 22, 2014

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest

APR: 15% to 19%

Annual Fee: $0 first year, then $65

Sign-Up Bonus: 10,000 after your first purchase and an additional 15,000 after spending $5,000 in the first six months

Rewards: Up to five points on hotels in the SPG program, one point for everything else

Why It’s a Winner: Valuable ­rewards—and a sign-up bonus—from a chain with more than 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries. You start out getting four points per $1 on SPG hotels, but can boost your earn rate to five points per $1 by staying 25 nights in an SPG hotel in a year. The sign-up bonus itself is valuable: NerdWallet pegs its worth at $575 when redeemed for hotel stays; you can turn it into a free night at a category six hotel. (The chain’s tiers go up to seven, with higher numbers being more luxurious.)

Other redemption options include “nights and flights,” which lets you trade 60,000 points for 50,000 airline miles and five nights at a category three hotel. Or transfer points directly to miles: One Starwood point is worth one mile at most partner airlines.

Caveats: To really grow your rewards, you’ll need to frequently stay at Starwood Hotels. Also, while traveling, be aware that the card has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.