American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest just upped the ante in the credit card game, introducing a limited-time offer for the SPG Amex, both personal and business. The cards offer 35,000 SPG points to sign up and spend $3,000 or $5,000, respectively in the first three months. This offer follows a recent LTO from Chase and Marriott which offers 80,000 points as a sign-up bonus (in addition to a 7,500 point bonus for adding an authorized user and spending within the first three months). And while Marriott’s bonus may be significantly higher than Starwood’s on an absolute basis, Starwood has much lower award levels, meaning that their points are worth roughly 3X that of a Marriott point.
The fee is $95 per year and is waived for the first year. The offer is good through September 30, so you’ll have some time to chew on it.
SPG Amex Benefits
On The Road
You’ll receive numerous benefits that will keep you going around the world. The base benefit is a point per dollar spent, or double points if you’re using the card at a Starwood property.
It also eliminates a number of annoying charges, including foreign transaction fees (The card has none.) and internet charges, since it offers free Boingo Wi-Fi access. The latter is nice to have, although I’ve found the service to be spotty at times.
In the Hotel
The benefits will either enhance your status or help you earn status:
- You’ll start the year on your way to elite status, with five nights and/or two stays credited toward your total. Yes, you can double up by getting both the business and premium cards.
- Free premium in-room internet access. No 0.25 Mbps for you!
- If you have the business card, you’ll be entitled to use the lounges at Sheraton Hotels and get gold status after spending $30,000 in a year.
Do I Want This Card?
Well, that depends, I guess.
If you stay at Starwood properties, the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned before, a point from SPG is pretty valuable (I value it at about 2.5c per point. YMMV.). It has a host of benefits that you may or may not need, depending on your elite status and stay frequency but, in terms of proprietary cards, it’s one of the better ones.
If you are not a frequent (or infrequent, for that matter) Starwood customer, there are probably better cards out there for you. Most of the benefits can only be used through SPG or at one of the hotels. True, you can convert points to airline miles (generally at the rate of 1:1, with a 5,000 mile bonus if you convert 20,000), but that’s about all you can do. They don’t necessarily have the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points or even Citibank ThankYou Rewards points. As I mentioned before, the Boingo access is definitely nice, but I’ve found it to be spotty.
As many of you know, Marriott has bought Starwood. There are no immediate plans to merge the programs and I don’t know what the exchange rate will be. My guess is that full integration will take about two years, but that is strictly a guess. In other words, if you are a current Starwood customer, it shouldn’t make a difference to you. In fact, you should probably get the card now, since we don’t know what the future will look like. If you are not a Starwood loyalist, however, think carefully about whether you want to turn into one right before the merger.