The SPG Credit Card from American Express has long been one of my favorite travel credit cards, primarily because SPG points have traditionally been quite flexible and among the most valuable, when it comes to loyalty points. Coming August 11, 2015, in addition to a new card design, several new benefits will be added to the card, making it more attractive to frequent travelers, at the cost of an increased annual fee.
What changes are coming to the SPG Amex?
In addition to the existing benefits of the card, which will not change, beginning August 11, 2015, SPG cardmembers will enjoy:
SPG Credit Card Members can now enjoy international travel without foreign transaction fees from American Express when using their Card on purchases abroad.
For most people, this is the best of the changes that are coming, and is probably a change that was long overdue, as it’s a feature that has become standard on credit cards targeting the more upscale traveler.
SPG Credit Card Members will enjoy complimentary, unlimited Wi-Fi access when they enroll in the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan. They can receive Wi-Fi access on up to four devices to more than 1,000,000 hotspots worldwide and pay no Wi-Fi roaming fees.
The complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi benefit is the same as the benefit that was added last year to the American Express Platinum card. The Boingo plan provided by American Express provides access to land-based Wi-Fi services and does not include in-flight Wi-Fi. For a complete listing of Wi-Fi hotspots in Boingo’s network, visit http://wifi.boingo.com.
SPG members who book a stay through an official Starwood channel–including SPG.com, one of the SPG brand websites, the SPG App, or through a travel professional–already receive complimentary *standard internet access. Gold and Platinum SPG members also already receive premium in-room internet access when it is available, so this benefit puts SPG credit card holders on par with elite members.
*Standard internet access is defined as sufficient for web browsing and emailing, while premium internet access allows for streaming content and downloading large files. Not all hotels will have differentiated standard and premium internet access.
Card Members with a SPG Business Credit Card will earn access to Sheraton Club Lounges, which includes a complimentary daily breakfast, evening selection of premium beverages and hors d’oeuvres, and space for hosting a friend or colleague.
At the same time, the annual fee will rise from $65 to $95. The first year of Card Membership will remain free, and is $95 annually thereafter.
For a more detailed review of the Starwood Amex, see this post.
Increased Offer for 30K Points from SPG Credit Card
American Express typically offers just 25,000 points as a sign-up bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card. Fortunately Starpoints are pretty valuable — I’d peg them around 2.5 cents each — and can be converted to airline miles in most programs. But 25,000 isn’t much in comparison to the 50,000 miles or more offered by many competing cards.
That’s why I recommend readers wait for one of those times when Amex temporarily raises the bonus to 30,000 points. It usually does this twice a year, and if you have a small business you can get another 30,000 points by applying for the business card. The current promotion runs through September 14, 2015.
- 30,000 points after reaching minimum spend in the first three months ($3,000 for personal card or $5,000 for business card)
- No foreign transaction fees (new benefit)
- 5 nights and 2 stays toward SPG elite status each year
- 2 points per dollar at Starwood hotels and 1 point per dollar elsewhere
Starpoints are easy to amass if you have family members. If your SPG accounts indicate that you’ve lived at the same address for at least 30 days, you can initiate a free transfer to consolidate your points in one account. I have SPG elite status while my wife does not, so she transferred all of her points to me. This not only means we get better benefits when we redeem those points but it’s also easier to book more expensive awards such as the St. Regis Bali for our honeymoon.
If you’d like to apply, I have both the personal and business cards and receive a bonus 5,000 points for each person I refer; just send me an email. You can refer someone, too, if you already have the card. However, I’ve also included generic application links below that don’t earn me anything.
Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Credit Card From American Express Review
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express may look like any other travel card, but peel back a layer, dig a little deeper, and it really is one of the more valuable travel cards in the Canadian market – for hotels and flights.
We did the math and made a discovery: the SPG card has one of the highest earn rates in Canada. Moreover, while it’s certainly a hotel credit card, it’s vast airline partnership program, makes it one of the premier travel cards in Canada – offering more value and flexibility than most.
With Marriott’s recent acquisition of Starwood, you can transfer your SPG points to Marriott and vice versa free of charge offering more redemption opportunities than any other hotel credit card in the world.
And for those looking for a big-time sign-up bonus, the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express currently has a special promotion, offering a 25,000 point sign-up bonus. (offer ends on October 18, 2017). 25,000 points can get you up to 5 free nights, that’s a huge sign-up bonus.
But here’s the cool thing, your 25,000 SPG points are worth 75,000 Marriott points, which is twice the sign-up bonus of the Marriott card!
- Welcome Bonus: Earn 25,000 Welcome Bonus Starpoints after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. That’s enough for up to 5 free nights.
- Earnings: Earn 2 Starpoints for every $1 spent using the card directly at hotels participating in SPG and Marriott Rewards globally. Earn 1 Starpoint for every $1 in purchases charged to the Card.
- Free Night Incentive: Receive a Free Weekend Night Award when you reach $40,000 in purchases each year.
- Upgrades: Enjoy an automatic upgrade to Starwood Gold Preferred Guest membership when you reach $30,000 in purchases each year.
- Referral Bonus: As a Cardmember, you could earn more Starpoints by referring a friend. For each approved referral you could earn a referral bonus of 10,000 Starpoints.
- No Black Out Dates: Redeem Starpoints for Free Nights with no blackout dates at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries
- Redeem For Flights: Redeem Starpoints for flights with no blackout dates on more than 150 airlines
- Transfer Points to Miles: Transfer Starpoints to frequent flyer miles with nearly 30 airlines, usually on a 1:1 basis, including Aerplan!
- Transfer Bonus: Receive a 5,000 Starpoint bonus from the Starwood Preferred Guest program when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program, including Aeroplan!
Starwood Credit Card Earn Rate For Hotel Redemptions
On first glance, there’s nothing spectacular about the Starwood Preferred Guest card. You earn 1 point per dollar spent at SPG hotels and 1 point everywhere else. Ho-hum. Now take out your abacus and calculate the value of each Starpoint and you’ll see the wheat separating from the chaff.
To calculate the value of a point, when redeeming for a hotel night, we surveyed the cost and points required for over 53 hotel night stays, during the week and on the weekend. We determined that the average SPG point is worth around 2.21 cents when redeeming for hotel nights. In some cases, you can get even more value depending on the property, timing or promotion. We’ve seen values as high as 5%. The breakdown by category of hotel and day of the week is as follows:
Compare Starwood’s cash value per dollar spent of 2.21% to Aeroplan and you see why the Starwood card is so rich.
We put the Aeroplan credit cards under a similar test, comparing 15 flights, both domestic and international, high and low season, and we saw average point redemption value at 1.4% (we excluded taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges which are not covered by the Aeroplan redemption grid). One thing to note is that the Aeroplan cards offered by Amex, TD and CIBC tend to have higher accumulation rates than the Starwood Amex card, because they offer 1.5 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on gas, groceries and pharmacy spend.
But even if we assume that 25% of Aeroplan credit card purchases will be eligible to receive 1.5 points per dollar spent, we get to an earn rate of 1.575% per dollar spent on an Aeroplan credit card, significantly lower than that 2.2% earn rate on the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express.
Starwood Credit Card Earn Rate For Flight Redemptions
Aside from redeeming for hotel stays, cardholders can also redeem points for flights with over 30 airlines. In fact, one of the lesser know features of the program to most Canadians is that a Starpoint can be exchanged 1:1 for over 30 airline loyalty programs.
In Canada, cardholders can transfer Starpoints to Aeroplan at a rate of 1:1, and for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you’ll earn an additional 5,000 bonus points. Said another way, when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to Aeroplan, you actually get a 25% bonus, essentially earning 1.25 Aeroplan points for every dollar spent on your SPG Amex card.
That compares favorably to the current TD Aeroplan Infinite offer which earns 1 Aeroplan point per dollar spent on all purchases and 1.5 points on gas, grocery & drug store spend. The SPG card will allow you to earn 1.25 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on ALL credit card spend. Use our credit card optimizing engine to see how much either of the two cards will earn you in point equivalent cash based on your individual spend inputs.
Beyond Aeroplan, you can also exchange points 1:1 to fly on American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, Virgin and a host of other airlines – making this both a hotel card and a frequent flyer card. But more importantly, it makes it one of Canada’s most flexible cards – get great value staying at one of SPG’s many hotels (Sheraton, Westin, Aloft, Four Points, The W, and more) or transfer your points 1:1 or 1:1.25 on 30 of the worlds largest airlines.