Credit Card Review: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

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One of the first cards I applied for when I started collecting miles and points seriously was the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express (let’s agree to call it the SPG AMEX from here on out, OK?). At the time, I read several websites saying how valuable Starpoints were and one of the only ways to earn them was by getting and using this card.

It’s now a different time and Marriott has acquired the Starwood brands and merged the SPG program into Marriott Rewards. Is the SPG AMEX card still worth getting?

Sign Up Bonus

The SPG AMEX card is currently offering 75,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months after opening your account. The annual fee for this card is $95 but is waived for the first year.

When spending on the card, you earn points in the merged Marriott/SPG program as follows:

  • Earn 6 points for every dollar of eligible purchases at participating Starwood and Marriott Hotels
  • Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases

Now, I’ll admit that is not a very exciting list of bonus categories. Even at Starwood and Marriott hotels you only earn 6X points but you can earn 3x points on all hotel spending by using either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige cards. While the SPG points you used to earn with this card were extremely valuable, changes to the program make the points you now earn less desirable to accumulate

Card Benefits

Let’s look at what benefits you get with Starwood for having the card:

  • Free in-room premium internet (when booking directly though Starwood)
  • Complimentary Silver Elite Status. Abiliity to earn Gold Elite status is you spend $30,000 or more in eligible purchases in a calendar year (increasing to $35,000 in 2019)
  • Starting in 2019, receive 15 Elite Night Credits to be used to reach the next level of status.
  • Unlimited Wi-Fi access at Boingo hotspots worldwide
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Ways to Use Starpoints

Points earned with the SPG AMEX card can be used to stay at Starwood and Marriott properties. In addition, you’re able to transfer points to many different Airline Frequent Flyer programs (possibly with a bonus, depending on how many point you transfer). That’s not counting the additional options of SPG Moments (which I explain later in this post).

Hotel Stays

Points can be used for award stays at any of the Starwood or Marriott hotels. Between the two brands, they cover over 30 chains worldwide where you can spend your points:

  1. The Ritz-Carlton
  2. St. Regis
  3. JW Marriott
  4. Ritz-Carlton Reserve
  5. The Luxury Collection
  6. BULGARI
  7. W Hotels
  8. EDITION
  9. Marriott Hotels
  10. Sheraton
  11. Marriott Vacation Club
  12. Delta Hotels
  13. Le Meriden
  14. Westin
  15. Autograph Collection
  16. Design Hotels
  17. Renaissance Hotels
  18. Tribute Portfolio
  19. Gaylord Hotels
  20. Courtyard Hotels
  21. Four Points
  22. SpringHill Suites
  23. Protea Hotels
  24. Fairfield Inn & Suites
  25. AC Hotels
  26. Aloft Hotels
  27. Moxy Hotels
  28. Marriott Executive Apartments
  29. Residence Inn
  30. TownPlace Suites
  31. element

Flights

You can transfer points to the frequent flyer programs of over 30 different airlines. The transfer ratio is 3 points to 1 mile for most airlines and you get a bonus of 15,000 extra miles when you transfer 60,000 points. That means it’s best to transfer only in 60,000 point increments when your 60,000 points will give you 25,000 miles. A change from the previous transfer ratio is with United Airlines. Where previously a transfer to United was a horrible deal, you’ll now get a 10% bonus when sending points to United.

FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMS POINTS : MILES
Aegean Airlines 3:1
Aeroflot Bonus 3:1
AeroMexico ClubPremier 3:1
Air Canada Aeroplan 3:1
Air China Phoenix Miles 3:1
Air France/KLM Flying Blue 3:1
Air New Zealand Airpoints™ 200:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan® 3:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 3:1
ANA Mileage Club 3:1
American Airlines 3:1
Asiana Airlines Asiana Club 3:1
Avianca LifeMiles 3:1
British Airways Executive Club 3:1
Asia Miles™ 3:1
China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles 3:1
China Southern Airlines 3:1
Copa Airlines ConnectMiles 3:1
Delta SkyMiles® 3:1
Emirates Skywards® 3:1
Etihad Guest 3:1
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns® 3:1
Hainan Airlines 3:1
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles® 3:1
Iberia Plus 3:1
Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank 3:1
Jet Airways JetPrivilege® 3:1
JetBlue TrueBlue™ 6:1
Korean Air SKYPASS 3:1
LATAM Airlines LATAMPASS 3:1
Lufthansa Miles & More 3:1
Multiplus 3:1
Qantas Frequent Flyer 3:1
Qatar Privilege Club 3:1
Saudia Airlines 3:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer® 3:1
South African Airways Voyager 3:1
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® 3:1
TAP Air Portugal 3:1
THAI Airways 3:1
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles 3:1
United MileagePlus® 3:1.1
Virgin Atlantic® Flying Club 3:1
Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer 3:1

Other uses for Starpoints

There are also other interesting ways for you to spend your points. One of those is the SPG Moments program. Some of the events they offer a set price are:

  • Access SPG Luxury Suite for the Billy Joel, Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney, Depeche Mode or Eric Clapton concerts at Madison Square Garden
  • Watch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field from the SPG Luxury Suite

Besides the fixed price tickets, they also have auctions for more “once in a lifetime” events.

  • Enjoy an exclusive dinner at The French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller
  • Play with a tennis pro at Arthur Ashe Stadium and SPG Luxury Suite tickets to the US Open.
  • Throw out a first pitch at Wrigley Field (Sold for 186,000 Starpoints)

For one of the most expensive uses of points, here’s an article by Dan, of the website Dan’s Deals, who won an auction to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 7 of the World Series at Wrigley Field for 1,060,500 Starpoints (the equivalent of over 3 million points in the current program).

Final Thoughts

I kept this card because I still found Starpoints to be really useful due to their value and flexibility. The ability to transfer points to airlines is a huge bonus but the earning on everyday spend on this card was cut 33% when the merger between SPG and Marriott’s rewards programs were completed. This is no longer a great card to use for everyday spending like it once was.

As far as how to use your points, for years I hoarded Starpoints I earned with this card. I always felt there would be some exotic destination I would want to travel to and I would transfer Starpoints to the airline for the fancy seats on the flights. With limited vacation time, I’ve realized I have enough points and it was time to start spending my Starpoints. Luckily, I’ve found that using  points for hotel stays can also be a great value. I wish we could stay somewhere for 5 nights more often, so I could take advantage of the fifth night free on reward stays like I did at the Sheraton New York.

One of the most common uses of this perk was to stay for five nights at the Swan or Dolphin hotels at Walt Disney World with points for the price of four nights. Apparently Marriott has caught on the value people gave these rooms and have now placed them into category 6 costing 40,000 to 60,000 points a night (previously they only cost the equivalent of 30,000 points).

Swolfin

I used to value my Starpoints at 2 cents each. Now that they are Marriott points, I’d value them at .667 cents per point. It’s still easy to find a way to redeem them for that but I no longer find the SPG card as a great way to earn points in the program for everyday spending like I used to .

Do you have the SPG AMEX card? What’s the most important benefit of the card for you?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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