SPG AMEX CARD: WHAT AM I MISSING?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Credit Cards' started by NYCUA1K, Oct 24, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    A couple of days ago I applied for the SPG AMEX card to go along with my perpetual SPG Gold elite status that I got through the AMEX Platinum, and was approved instantly. The card just arrived by Fedex today and the CL is $18K, which is nice. I then decided to see what the card gurus out there think of this card so I Google-searched "SPG AMEX card review". The reviews I found were so out there in lauding this card that I stopped to examine mine to make sure that I had not been sent the wrong card. For instance:
    (emphasis mine). I even found a review that compared and then declared the SPG AMEX card superior to the HHonors Citi Reserve Visa card. Frankly this baffles me because the SPG AMEX has a number of shortfalls: it charges a foreign transaction fee, does not award elite status and, because it is an AMEX card, it is not as widely accepted as the visa card. IME, the Citi Reserve is the superior card. So, what am I missing?
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  2. iolaire
    Original Member

    iolaire Gold Member

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    Because the points can be transferred to main airlines with a 25% bonus for over 20k points? Also points and flights are good?
     
  3. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I get plenty of miles by just doing mostly long-haul intl trips as a UA 1K so that getting more miles is not a reason for me to get another card. On the other hand, because I do mostly intl trips, the foreign transaction fees can add up quickly if I choose to use this card overseas. IME, a card that charges a foreign transaction fee is an inferior product...
     
  4. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    I find it hard to believe that an experienced traveller would apply for a travel credit card before learning about the product. How did that happen? ;)
     
  5. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

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    I think most people like the stay/night credits (especially when combined with the business card) as well as the 25% transfer bonus and of course the number of transfer partners. There are the disadvantages but that will be the case with any card out there.
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Which partners can you transfer those HHonors points to?

    The main value in the card is the points transfers, both in the number of partners and the 5,000 bonus miles on 20,000 transferred. If that doesn't appeal to you then you probably won't get the same value from the card as others see in it. The number of partners is particularly strong and transfers there could be a good offset to your "regular" earning in UA which you accomplish via flying.

    ETA: And you won't want to be transferring them to UA; the rate on that sucks. Consider it good for diversification.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
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  7. Espan

    Espan Silver Member

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    I would love this card if it didn't have a foreign transaction fee....
     
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  8. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    You made too many assumptions, all of them wrong. I knew about the product before I decided to apply for it and the primary reason for why I wanted it was stated in the very first sentence of the very first post. You are presuming that I regret the decision to apply for this card; I do not. In short, you presumed to have the same tastes and decision-making process as this traveler/OP, which is clearly not the case. For you and the amen chorus: I am fine to have this card. I am happy with the 25K points sign up bonus..

    What I am challenging is the self-proclaimed card gurus gushing over this card. I maintain that my Citi Reserve visa is the better hotel card (no foreign transaction fee, automatic HH Gold status, 10HH/$ and much, much more), 'cause for my pattern of travel, the foreign transaction fee makes the SPG AMEX card, as it does the HHonors AMEX Surpass, an inferior product.
    I can transfer HHonors points to AMEX MR points. However, this presumes that I have the desire to transfer my HHonors points to another program. I do not. In fact, at the end of every year, I transfer AMEX MR points to HHonors points because that is where I usually need them.
    All of the above assumes that transferring points OUT of a hotel loyalty program is important to me. It is not. The SPG program, like Hyatt's or Marriott's, is a fallback program into which I do not actively try to earn points until I have requalified my HH Diamond status or I have to travel to or be at a location that does not have HHonors properties. On the other hand, I earn so many UA miles that I can transfer them to hotel points, as I did recently, transferring 20K miles to my new Marriott Rewards account, which, with the 70K sign up bonus I got from the Chase Marriott Rewards Visa (another card that is light-years ahead of the SPG AMEX), will allow me a few free nights later this year in Asia...
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  9. Wandering Aramean
    Original Member

    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    And given your desired earning patterns it may not be the best card. But it is for many other, precisely because of the reasons cited above. The no f/x thing on many other cards is only a year or two old. Prior to that - when the serious "gushing" started - the f/x thing was a wash with many others in the same space.

    Really??

    Then the value of the points will likely be less to you. I have no use for HHonors points so the HH cards you're gushing about in this thread would be no use to me. But I know what the value proposition is and when it makes sense for me to use the various options available. I don't pretend that my decisions or parameters should apply to everyone else.

    It turns out that there are a number of award chart sweet spots out there on various programs where earning natively is quite challenging. The SPG program offers transfers into many of them and that opens up award opportunities that the MileagePlus program doesn't have. If those are of no value to you then getting points into those programs will be of no value so earning the source points easily will be of less value. But if you're not 100% tied to only UA and HH the flexibility that SPG points offer vis a vis other airline programs is really quite impressive.
     
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  10. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    Of course you knew what you were getting. This card has been offerred unchanged for several years. That's why I was making a wink at how you framed the issues.
    On the subject of coverage by a couple of bloggers / experts in our community, I could actually join your rant. This year I'm detecting an "irrational exuberance". Just last year for example, I recall that the blog with circles and arrows gave this product a balanced to negative overview. This year it was over the top. I feel that the response of the "press" to AmEx marketing in such rare cases should've been more subdued and tasteful.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
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  11. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    I posted a similar discussion a few months back: http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/maximizing-spg-spend-for-starpoints.64683/#post-1979993

    I now have both the Biz and Personal, and while having the additional Amex cards are great for Small Biz Saturday <deval. sad face>, Earning power on these cards are extremely lacking at 1x for everything other than hotel stays. The OPEN benefit with the Biz card @ Officemax.com going away is pretty much the nail in the coffin for these cards to me.

    I'm in week 3 and still haven't received my BA xfer from the SPG program. Having xfer partners at decent xfer rates is a good idea when the transfer takes less time than I could swim from the W South Beach to London.

    If you are a hardcore frequent traveler and stay at SPG properties, I can see the cards working well for you if you can put up with the slow transfer time. Otherwise, if you're an infrequent traveler looking for cards that help you earn free nights fast, this really isn't the program/card for you, unless you are hardcore into one of the transfer partner programs and don't mind 2 inquiries for 60k pts at most (prior to xfer bonuses).
     
  12. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    That 5,000 bonus points per 20,000 points transferred makes SPG particularly valuable if you fly AA, as there aren't really any other credit cards for the AAdvantage program that offer more than1x miles per dollar spent (except for AA ticket purchases, if you have the AAdvantage VISA). This is in contrast to United, Delta, and British Airways, which can get amplified earning from multiple Chase and/or AmEx card products. If you're an AAdvantage flyer, SPG is your best card for bonused everyday spend.
     
  13. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    But it is the reason most other people get additional cards. Most people find flying enough to earn significant miles very difficult unless they fly frequently for work.

    As for the foreign transaction fee, it's only a problem if you don't already have another card in your wallet which doesn't charge such a fee.
     
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  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The card is just fine for me and that is why I got it. My domestic and intl business travel is almost always to attend conferences, which are generally held at international hotel chains. Last month I went to a meeting that was held at Sheraton Lisbon, and it was convenient for me to stay there. In such a case, I will benefit from having the SPG Gold elite status AND earning Starpoints (5X) by paying with the SPG card. The co-branded cards are the best weapon against the wave of "devaluation" that hit the hotel loyalty industry. If one is going to be part of a hotel loyalty program, one would be leaving a lot of points on the table if one does not have a co-branded card, especially at the elite level!
    Not really. I was mistaken and thought it was a two-way transfer, as I have never tried to go from HHonors to MR points, meaning, like I said, that it is not a transfer that has ever interested me.
    The above is generally true...this means that the "card gurus's reviews" should come with caveats because one size does not fit all in the mile/point/loyalty business.

    I came late to the game. Just decided to become more involved in SPG because I belatedly found out that one of the benefits of having the AMEX Business Platinum card is SPG Gold elite status for as long as one has the card [if interested to join SPG through your AMEX Plat, check out this post]. Once involved, I always get the associated co-branded card if there is one because such cards are the new loyalty point earners per excellence.
    "Irrational exuberance" perfectly expresses my beef with the review of this SPG AMEX card....
    Agreed.
    It is a problem because, on one hand, hotel stays, which can be costly, offer the best opportunity to accumulate loads of points by paying with a co-branded card; on the other, if the stays are overseas, then the foreign transaction fee can be substantial. One leaves a lot points on the table if one uses a non-co-branded card with no foreign transaction fee to pay for the stay. To get around this, I have the HHonors AMEX Surpass (12 points/$), which I use domestically, and the HHonors Citi Reserve Visa (10 points/$), which I use overseas because it does not have a foreign transaction fee.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
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  15. Stiga9

    Stiga9 Active Member

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    IMO, I think theres only 3 reasons to love the SPG card

    1. High valued SPG hotel points
    2. Transferability of points to airlines, and good/unique ones (AS, AA, All those Middle East airlines, etc.) that MR and UR doesn't have.
    3. 25% bonus on airline points (makes it a great main spending card at 1.25x)

    If one has no need for one of those 3 then there is no reason to have it.
     
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  16. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    I think you've summed up the card perfectly, Stiga9. I think for a lot of cardholders the card is more an airline miles card in disguise than a hotel card.

    As Chase aggressively markets to AmEx's traditional user base, it will be interesting to see how AmEx responds. Today it seems to me that it's the various Chase cards the bloggers are irrationally gushing over, more than SPG. Maybe AmEx will be forced to drop the pesky foreign transaction fee at some point in order to make their SPG card more competitive with CSP?
     
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  17. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    If you are going to carry only one card, obviously the one you'd carry depends on your spending and travel patterns. If you have a variety of cards, one may be ideal for a particular purchase while another may be the best for another purchase.

    Personally, I carry the SPG AMEX,Citi AA MC, Chase CO/UA MC, and Marriott Rewards VISA. I also have a Citi HHonors Reserve VISA, but only carry it when I'm planning to stay at a Hilton property. The last three cards have no foreign currency conversion fee; SPG charges (I believe) 2.8% and Citi AA charges 3%. I do quite a bit of travel internationally, stay in Marriott, Starwood, or Hilton hotels primarily as I'm elite with all three chains, and accrue miles on all three alliances.

    What card I use depends on what the purchase is and where it is:

    Hotel stays and airline tickets are charged on the appropriate co-branded card for the bonus points. Other than that,

    - If there's a special multi-point/mile bonus the purchase can qualify for, I usually use the card involved in the promotion, even when it incurs a conversion fee provided the bonus points/miles make up for the fee.

    - General purchases recorded in the U.S. go on the SPG AMEX as my primary [default] card (see below for rationale).

    - Stateside purchases at places that don't accept AMEX go on the UA MC or the AA MC (depending on the day of purchase -- float, you know) unless it's restaurant or car rental, in which case they go on the Marriott Rewards VISA.

    - Purchases recorded overseas or in foreign currency go on UA MC unless it's a restaurant or car rental, then again on the Marriott VISA because of the bonuses.

    Why SPG AMEX as the default? Because SPG points are (as I said once in another thread) the "stem cells" of the miles and points world for their flexibility of being converted into other programs, plus the 25% bonus on 20K point conversions. Also, I find them very useful for hotel awards. (And you're wrong in one particular -- the SPG AMEX can award elite status based on spend, although as a Lifetime Gold with SPG that doesn't do much for me.)

    Curiously, I consider the card you think to be best for you to be -- for me -- the worst of the five I regularly carry. The main reason is that it accrues HHonors points, which I value at less than one-third of a cent each in award redemption value.

    But -- the point I wanted to make is that one should carry a variety of cards and use the one that is best for the individual, the good or service being purchased, and the place of purchase.
     
  18. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    For me, the SPG AMEX card is for getting the biggest bang, in terms of Starpoints earned, out of every stay at SPG properties, which will become more frequent now that I have next-to-top elite status. My intention is to diversify a bit more. For example, once I booked all the stays I needed to requalify for HH Diamond, I felt "freed" to book stays at Hyatt properties to take advantage of promos that will put loads of points into my GP account. The next time I would do the same with SPG or Marriot, which will allow me to keep accumulating various loyalty points to achieve maximum flexibility for rainy days or when my travel will revert to being mostly on my own dime.;)
    I am never short of miles, which is why I do not rank the AMEX SPG card as high as the "card gurus" do.
    After aggressively promoting the Chase UA Explorer visa and probably not getting the response they expected, Chase suddenly dropped the foreign transaction fee about a year ago, which greatly increased the card's value for me. I do hope that AMEX will follow suit with their co-branded cards because that will make them that much more valuable for intl travelers...
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
  19. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    Absolutely. This was one of my first and is still one of my favorite cards. For folks who don't do a ton of flying the SPG AMEX and CSP make a great team of cards to have incredible diversity in airline redemptions.

    ETA: Hit send too soon. Between these two cards you get favorable transfer ratios to AA, DL, UA and US. That makes it easy for the non-business traveler to amass points for multiple options.
     
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  20. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    There has been a lot said about loyalty point "valuation", much of which I found to be quite subjective and erroneous, although it does not need to be. To establish the monetary value of a loyalty point, one needs to find out what each loyalty program thinks their point is worth. Go to SPG or HHonors website and buy X points for $Y. That will give you the absolute best monetary value of their point on the input side. Then, for the value on the output side, take the purchased points and try to book stays at properties of various categories and see how far the points take you. That is the "value" on the output side. The ratio of input to output values determines the true value of each point. I did do that exercise before the wave of "devaluation" and clearly showed that the HHonors point was worth more than the Starpoint. By devaluing their points, Hilton simply brought them on par with Starpoints -- really.;)
    As one with a card for every occasion, I agree wholeheartedly.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
  21. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    In your opinion. But, your analysis didn't compare many details that travelers with different needs than yours might take into account, such as the value of transferring those points to an airline.

    I'm perfectly fine with you having the opinion that HHonors points are more valuable for your travel patterns. That's certainly not the case for my travel patterns. I would argue there are many more folks with my travel needs/patterns/desires than yours.
     
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  22. adventuress

    adventuress Silver Member

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    Could it be that these "gushing" gurus are being paid to gush?
     
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  23. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    I certainly won't speak for all bloggers. I am a travel blogger. I do NOT receive a commission to pimp the SPG Amex card. I've always been a strong advocate of the card. There are plenty of cards I could earn a commission on by pimping them. But, since those cards aren't in my wallet, I don't discuss them.
     
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  24. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    ETA: I do talk about cards from time to time that aren't in my wallet, like cash back cards for those that don't see value in points specifically. But, I'd like to think I'm not the only blogger who talks about cards they actually believe are valuable. YMMV. :)
     
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  25. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    No, the whole point of the series of exercises (will look for the links to the posts, as it's been a while) was to arrive at the relative raw monetary "values" of loyalty points. There were no assumptions made or required about individual travel pattern. It was: given a fixed travel budget of $X, how many loyalty points can be purchased and what is the cost for redeeming those points at various properties and hotel category levels? No assumptions are needed to do that exercise. If assumptions are included then we would be talking about subjective "value", which can be anything, is not quantifiable and, thus, cannot be debated. For example, I transferred 20K UA miles to my Marriott Rewards account at a 1:1 ratio, meaning at a terrible monetary "value", but that transfer was subjectively quite "valuable" to me based on my personal circumstances (I have miles to burn but redeeming at a Marriott property was the most viable option in a city that I intend to visit in Asia)...
     

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