Dec 21 2016

My first card: AmEx Starwood for Washington, DC and how I’m doing it

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public-domain-national-monuments-in-washington-dc-pvI shared my general travel plans for 2017 and 2018, and here’s what points I think I’ll need to accomplish that. Some of our plans are a bit in flux, but we think we’re going to Washington, DC in late spring, and a fall road trip somewhere.

Spring 2017 trip to Washington D.C. I’m looking at hotels and trying to find a Marriott or Starwood property that will fit our family of 5, and be at a decent location. We will need 120-140k Marriott points for this. We already have enough Southwest points to fly everyone out, so I booked nonstop flights at a reasonable time of day for 5,994 points/person round-trip (about $59/one way per person). Southwest sometimes drops fares, so if it happens I will rebook and receive the point value as a refund. Note there $5ish tax one-way per fare, so I paid about $56 in tax out of pocket since this tax cannot be paid with points.

Card: American Express Starwood credit card. I found a 30,000 point bonus sign-up offer by accessing this link in an incognito tab. You might also try a different browser than you normally use. Otherwise, the offer is 25,000 points when you spend $3k in the first 3 months. Annual fee of $95 is waived in the first year. Points transfer to Marriott at triple the value, so that 30,000 is worth 90,000 points at Marriott.

I was instantly approved when I applied online. AmEx gave me my card number electronically so I was able to immediately put it to use for online or over-the-phone transactions before receiving my card in the mail.

If you’re wondering why I’m using SPG points at Marriott, it is just one way we could go. Of course we could use Starwood points at SPG properties, or transfer the Marriott points over to SPG. My end game here is getting the best hotel for our points that fits our needs. If it happens that staying at a Starwood hotel would be a better situation than Marriott, we’ll do that and still get a 5th night free when we book entirely on points.

This is my go-to card for the next three months or until I hit the $3k minimum spend. If for some reason I cannot use it, I will use my Visa cash-back card.

My husband will use my AmEx card number online for any purchases, and any in-person purchases he will use his PNC cash-back card until I can get him his own card. I’m delaying it a little bit so that hitting the minimum spend for both cards won’t be an issue.

Most likely, I will do a Chase card for him next to save up points for the fall trip. The Chase 5/24 rule is a slight factor, so we’ll want to do Chase sign-up bonuses first before moving on to other cards.

Current point balances as of mid-December:

  • $180 cash from PNC cash-back card
  • 30,490 Marriott points (from husband’s work stays)
  • 1438 points at Starwood (husband’s work stays. They gave him 500 points for declining housekeeping on a stay, and received 744 points for the stay. They must value skipping housekeeping at a very high dollar, my goodness!)
  • 0 points on AmEx Starwood card, as the monthly statement hasn’t yet closed. The sign-up bonus was 30,000 points and an additional 3,000 points will come from minimum spend.

By the way, did you see the recent news about American Express and their new parental leave policy? I’m hoping other companies follow their example!


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (8), Vivienne (6) and Amelia (3) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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