Credit & Charge Card Reviews (18): Starwood Preferred Guest / SPG American Express

This review was updated in September 2016 and all the information is correct as of that date

This is my review of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express credit card issued in the UK.

It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for.  These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page.  My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Equifax credit report and score.  Your first 30 days are free then it’s £14.95 per month.  You can cancel at anytime.

As with all rewards cards, this is not a suitable product for you if you do not clear your balance in full every month.  You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 6.4% variable on purchases and balance transfers.

Key link:  Starwood Preferred Guest American Express application form

Key facts:  £75 annual fee

The representative APR is 36.2% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  The interest rate on purchases is 19.9% variable.

About the card

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is issued directly by American Express. Starwood Preferred Guest is the loyalty scheme for Sheraton, Westin, W, aloft, Luxury Collection and other brands.

It is a credit card, like the British Airways Amex and not a charge card like the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold and Platinum cards. There are no restrictions on receiving the sign-up bonus on this card whatever other American Express cards you hold.

In general Amex restricts you to two credit cards and two charge cards, but I do know people who have managed to get 3 Amex-issued credit cards at the same time.

What is the sign-up bonus?

10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points, when you spend £1,000 within 3 months. This is worth 10,000 Avios or other airline miles if converted. The points are also good for a free night (or more than one night) in many Starwood hotels.

A higher bonus of 11,000 SPG points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] if you would like a referral.

Starwood Preferred Guest points convert 1:1 into 30 different airline schemes.  Aegean and LifeMiles were the latest partner to be added in 2016.

SPG Amex Starwood American Express credit card review

Any other benefits?

Yes, but I do not value them highly.

Spend £15,000 per year on the card and you will receive Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest. The benefits of this are modest, though, and you can get SPG Gold for free simply by taking out an American Express Platinum card.

Spend £25,000 per year and you receive a voucher for a free weekend night. However, this can only be used at Category 1-4 properties, which basically knocks out any expensive and / or aspirational hotels in the portfolio. Given the huge amount of spending required to trigger the free night, this restriction makes little sense.

(If the free night was valid anywhere, I might be prepared to go for it. A free night a year at the Gritti Palace in Venice is not a bad way to spend your time and is not a bad return on £25,000 of spend.  You won’t find anything too luxurious in the Category 1-4 lists however.)

Who can apply for the card?

American Express no longer has a minimum income requirement for any of its cards.

You will receive the bonus even if you already have a British Airways Amex, Amex Gold, Amex Platinum or any other American Express card.

The only people who will not receive the bonus are those who have already cancelled an SPG Amex in the last six months.

What is the annual fee?

There is a £75 annual fee. You receive a pro-rata refund if you cancel.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

The earnings rate on the card is 1 SPG point per £1. There is no bonus for using the card in Starwood hotels.

What is a Starwood Preferred Guest point worth?

Starwood points are harder to value than other hotel points, for 2 reasons:

At the top end, the points needed for a free room are ludicrous. Category 7 properties are 30-35,000 points per night, which is very high given how hard SPG points are to earn.

At the same time, the airline conversion rate is exceedingly generous – 1 mile per point, with a 5,000 bonus when you convert 20,000. A hotel room costing 35,000 points is clearly a poor deal when you could get 40,000 airline miles for those points instead!

I managed to book £370 of free hotel rooms when I first got a 20,000 point bonusBecause of the conversion to airline miles, SPG points are always worth at least 1p because you can justify that valuation for most airline schemes.

If you live in London, you should know that Starwood has a private suite at the O2 Arena and makes seats with full hospitality available for points redemption for many concerts.

How does this compare to a cashback credit card?

The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the ASDA card, which pays 0.5% in ASDA vouchers.

For an average spender, the Starwood card therefore offers decent value. If you manage to redeem for free hotel nights at 1.5p to 2p per SPG point of value, it offers a very good deal.

One positive part of the Starwood programme is ‘cash and points’ rewards, which I outlined here. This means that even if you only earn a few thousand points in the programme, all from the credit card, you can still get a good redemption with them.

Other points to note

It is worth remembering that Starwood offer transfers to 30 different airlines. For many of these airlines, this credit card is the only way for a UK resident to collect in that programme via card spend.

Marriott has recently taken over Starwood and will be merged into Marriott Rewards in 2018.  You can already convert Starwood points into Marriott Rewards at the generous rate of 1:3 so the sign-up bonus on this card is effectively worth 30,000 Marriott Rewards points.

How else can you earn SPG points from a credit card?

There are two interesting options, one of which is initially free:

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year.  These convert to 10,000 Starwood points.

The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up.  These convert to 15,000 Starwood points.  It has a £450 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.


The standard sign-up bonus is, on the face of it, middling – you get 10,000 points, which also converts to 10,000 airline miles, but the annual fee reduces its value.  If you are seeking airline miles with an airline which does not otherwise have a UK card partner, though, you may be more inclined to apply.

Remember that you will receive a higher bonus of 11,000 SPG points if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] if you would like a referral.

The on-going earning rate is decent.  If you are committed to transferring to a specific airline then you may be better off with a dedicated airline card.  However, if you transfer to airlines in batches of 20,000 then you are getting 1.25 miles per £1, and the SPG card also gives you flexibility to transfer to many different airlines or to redeem for hotel rooms.

For many airlines, eg Air Canada Aeroplan, the SPG Amex is the only way to earn miles via a credit card at a respectable rate.

The application form for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card can be found here.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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  1. Do you think there is any chance the 20k will become open to all after the targetted promotion ends? Undecided whether to jump now or risk waiting in hope of a further 6k referal bonus between my partner and I.

    Has the issue of missing ‘bonus spend target’ message on account home pages resolved itself yet?

    • My online account doesn’t say the spend target and bonus but I sent an online message to AMEX and they confirmed the 20k for £2000 is on my account

    • I phoned yesterday and was told the 20000 bonus code was allocated to my account even though it wasn’t showing on my account page. I triggered my target bonus amount a couple of days ago stocking up on Tesco gift cards. The 22000 points are in my account this morning!

      • Thanks Ladies, and how many cc points did you amass from that Liz? Missed out on that for two years now due to being out the country.

        • I went a bit mad with the gift cards during Dec – think I got well over 20000 club card points just with gift cards – mainly M&S but my mother in law and I shop there all the time so we will be able to work our way through them during 2016! My biggest haul of points yet. I took on all of Rob’s advise and took out loads of cards this year and worked them all to my advantage – won’t be able to do as many next year but it has really kick started this hobby for me letting me amass over 600k miles and 300k hotel points. Looking forward to putting them to good use next year and beyond! Have a great Hogmany and New Year!

          • Nice one :)

          • Great stuff Liz, just as well you play them to full advantage before the next round of devaluations. I hope you have bettef luck with your redemptions than me though. On my last I got close to 0.0p of value for 111,000 avios when compared to equivalent revenue fare on AY…but it was priceless in keeping my partner sweet, who must be the last person in the world to consider BA their favourite airline! Happy New Year to you too, to Rob and all the regulars here on HFP.

            • I will use them for the USA over the next few years so hopefully ok on availability. I am not hung up on the redemption values per p as we would never normally pay cash for business flights for a holiday. Having all these points will allow us to travel in business and sometimes first going forward which will be a huge bonus and treat for us? I do now watch the cost I buy them at now.

          • That’s an incredible amount Liz. Would be interested to hear what cards you churned etc. if you had the time. Raffles, perhaps you could do some guest posts where people set out what strategy they followed over the year and what cards they used. It’s definitely useful to see what methods different people use.

            • I made a phone call to Avios on 20 Dec last year to transfer a couple of thousand pts from our BAEC a/c to Avios. I spoke to a guy for over an hour and he told me about HfP! And about credit cards and that flights from Scotland to London for connecting Avios flights are free!!! I had paid cash the previous 3 years! I knew nothing! I previously only had the Tesco credit card and paid for 3 economy trips with Avios. He got me started on the Lloyds Avios card and the BA Blue. I hit the monthly £2500 spend on the Lloyds card to maximise the double points and got the 9000 bonus from the Blue card. I was hooked! I took out the IHG Premim visa and got the qualifying 60K pts and Virgin White 10000 pts in March. Then the Amex Gold card in April, BAPP in May and Virgin Black in June to use in the USA for 3 wks which is when we spend big. We got the increased bonuses on both the BA & Virgin cards. Cancelled the BA Blue and Virgin White in July. The second half of the year I just spread my spend between the BAPP (just hit my first 2-4-1 target yesterday), the Virgin Black to get to £5000 for the upgrade voucher and the IHG card to get Spire and the free night certificate. I referred my husband for the Amex Gold in Oct. I was just targeted for the SPG card. We have just taken out the Hilton card to use next year. All these cards are with my husband. Some in my name and some in his. I now pay as many monthly bills through credit card as I can each month including C/Tax through Amex at the Co-op and daughters rent for Uni. I also pay my in-laws C/tax plus I pay any large bills they have which has allowed me to put much more through the cards than normal. My tesco clubcard points have sky rocketed this year with the use of 3V cards, points deals and finally the Dec coupons giving me around 300k+ miles this year(inc this quarter). As I don’t work I have spent a lot of time this year playing this game and chasing the various deals and following the advice of Rob and everyone else.

              I won’t be able to churn as many cards next year but I have made a great start to this fab addictive crazy hobby. Looking forward to our first business class flights in March and August. It would be great to hear other people’s stories!

          • You deserve a break after all that effort :)
            Spending money, in Tesco, sometimes isn’t that easy :(
            I have to say I’ve had a pretty good year points wise, albeit with a couple of setbacks, devaluations etc 😉

          • >think I got well over 20000 club card points just with gift cards

            I’m guessing you probably already know this, but be careful not to exceed Tesco’s 30,000 clubcard point limit per quarter:

          • Andrew (U) says:

            Yowsers Liz!

            Thought we’d done well with our gift cards – did you take a pallet of the magazines?!

            BTW, do you pay a premium/% for paying bills by AMEX and not direct debit?

            • I grabbed handfuls of magazines every other day. One Tesco had a pallet at the bottom of an escalator by the car park so I stocked up loads from there! I don’t pay any % on Amex for council tax as my local Coop takes Amex through their pay point. I know others have had problems with their local coop’s. Sky, gas/elec, Tesco mobile, BT I pay with my IHG visa at no extra charge. I still pay part by direct debit but put the bulk through card. Eg sky is £87 per month – I pay £80 on card and leave £7 on direct debit. Rent I pay a premium but I am making the most of paying the rent in her final year to boost card spend.

            • Andrew (U) says:

              Thanks Liz.

              Can’t comment direct to your post.

              What’s the benefit/point of the 80:7 split for ie Sky?

              One of my favourite earners has been the BA eStore (Gate 365)…worked well for some standard purchases (M and S) and Christmas presents (Selfridges and White Company)

              HNY, Andrew

            • Andrew – the main benefit is to keep the direct debit going – not sure about sky but energy companies give better tariffs if you pay by d/d. Don’t want to jeopardise that so I put the bulk of the costs through cards and pay a minimal amount through d/d. It pushes a few hundred pounds per month through on credit cards for bills you have to pay anyway. Between c/tax daughter’s rent and bills I am putting about £1000 per month on cards now. It all adds up!

            • Cheers Liz, only just seen your comments now. What an inspiration! Need to persuade the in-laws and parentals to let me put things through the ccards I think!

  2. I’ve had this card off and on for a few years now, mainly for the 20k bonuses that come along from time to time. I think there are some good hotel redemptions at the higher end if you look carefully and there have been some airline transfer bonuses 0ver and above the norm although they are less frequent..

    I don’t know if it’s still the case but the US version used to earn 2 points per $ spend which is effectively 3 times what we receive over here and the card has no currency exchange fees over there. Now that would be worth having!

  3. Is it not better value to opt for the fee free BA amex before Feb 16. 9k avios bonus with no annual fee. To pay if you didn’t get the targeted email for the 20k spg card offer.

    • Not sure if it’s been mentioned but you can move SPG points to another person at sane address for no cost even if it’s only 500 points. I find this valuable of person A has 10000 and B has 10000. With this you can obtain 25000 points in your airline programme.

      I waited for 20000 offer to return but I think it’s unlikely. What I do is wait for a time in year when i have a big spend get the card and spend for the sign up bonus quickly. I get most of the £75 back.

    • If you already have a BA card however our is less than 6 months since you cancelled one this is an additional option. Plus, if going for a BA card the premium (£150 fee) one is often best.

  4. hi,

    just wondering if I could get peoples thoughts…

    my wife and I have cycled through and achieved our welcome bonuses/ 241 etc on our amex platinum and ba platinum credit cards over the last 2-3 months (heavy pre xmas spending!!) and closed them all….I need to wait another 3 months before my new 6 month cycle starts and I can reopen them to get the welcome bonus etc…..we spend about 3 grand combined per month on credit cards…. which card should I open for the next 2-3 months until I can reopen my platinum and ba card to maximise value?


    • Why not stagger future card applications & avoid a fallow period?

      Ie. Month 0, you apply for Amex plat & wife applies for BA plat.

      Month 6, you refer her for Amex plat and cancel yours. She refers you for BA plat and cancels hers.

      Month 12, you refer her for BA plat and cancel yours. She refers you for Amex plat and cancels hers.

      Repeat ad infinitum.

      That way there is no need for a 6 month down period for both of you.

    • The SPG Amex, one of which can be based on a referral between you and your partner. Good timing this article for you!

      Also assuming you’ll need somewhere to stay once you’ve used your airmiles, it’s probably time to start looking a hotel credit cards, Raffles has a link on these too.

      • great, thanks for advice charlie…will go for the starwood card I think, will get raffles to refer me…

        thanks GMH for your thoughts….the only reason I don’t do it that way is that I resent paying 6 months worth of the 450 Pounds platinum fee (225 pounds) so I try to open and close them as quick as possible. As soon as I have spent the 2 grand, and spoken to accor, starwood, and Carlson to renew my premium status, i close them….I don’t mind keeping the ba platinum open a bit longer as it takes longer to spend the 10 grand to get the 241, and the annual fee is cheaper…let me know if I am missing a trick here…

        • Ok well after you have renewed your hotel memberships, refer your wife for amex gold from your plat (fee free for first year) and she keeps that for 6 months until you are eligible for plat bonus again, or 10 months until the regular 6 monthly cycle comes round again for simplicity?

          Yes the signup bonus is lower but so is the fee and you still get the referral points.

      • sorry, one other thing…is there anyway I can get hold of the 20000 spg points targeted promotion mentioned above? am about to open the card, but I suppose if I have not received any email I can only get the 11,000 by raffles referring me? if I phone amex and ask about it will they send me the necessary email?

    • You shouldn’t cancel your BA if you have a 241 – only downgrade to the free card.

  5. OT:
    We have booked 2 rooms in a London doubletree Hilton for tomorrow. With my newly acquired diamond status what are the chances of an upgrade?

    Also, I have just received an email from them inviting me to check in online in advance. Does that make a difference in terms of upgrade potential? How do I know which room to choose( which room is decent) ?

    • Hotel probably does not know you are Diamond as HH often transmits status at time of booking so you may need to prod them at check in. I have never checked in online for a hotel, not sure if it helps or hinders!

      • Thanks for reply. I was diamond at time of booking…
        I think I might wait until tomorrow and not check in online

      • I stayed at 4 continental European Hiltons over Xmas; I had no status when booking. Received Diamond status match literally 48 hours before arriving at the first hotel and was recognised at all of them.

        I’m not sure about the online check-in either. But I don’t really care about the room itself since it’s only for sleeping. I chose a room at two hotels, based on the location (close to lift, direction of morning sun), and got my chosen room both times. At the other two, well, I don’t actually know how to tell if I was upgraded. It’s not like an airline where you can easily tell which class you are in….

        Anyway I did get lounge access, free water from minibar and free breakfast, which is all I really want…

        • I’ve just requalified for my second year as a HH Diamond – and have mixed feelings about the online check in. Generally I’d say my upgrade rate has been a little better than 50/50 when checking in at the hotel (mainly London based Hiltons), but far lower on the app. In either case I’ve always found its worth waiting till the morning of your stay before using the app – as the upgrade is often showing, when it wasn’t the night before.

          Hope that helps!

          • Thanks, that’s useful to know. I will try it tomorrow and see if they show any upgrade, otherwise check in at hotel.

    • Nick Burch says:

      Start the online checkin process, and see what room types it offers. If it’s a better room type than booked (eg you booked a standard Queen, and online checkin in showing Executive Kings), do the online checkin and snag a better room. If not, wait and checkin at the hotel. When at the hotel, hand over your Diamond membership card (physical or virtual), and make some comment about having had system issues and not being sure if it’s on the system. That should prompt them to pay some attention, and ensure they do see you as diamond + upgrade if possible

  6. Hi,
    I just got the card thanks to the 20k bonus and I was wondering do I need to transfer my starpoints before I cancel the card? Sorry I am still new to this!

    • Once the points are in your SPG account you are ok to cancel. Have Amex moved them over yet?

      • Not yet as I haven’t spent £2000 yet! Only got it just before Christmas. So I am guessing they will put the bonus to my Spg account and then I can move that to whatever programme I want?

        Thanks in advance

  7. Happy New Earning and Burning Year to all of us “collecting colleagues”!
    And a special thank you message to Rob as always for another successful year spent together united by our favourite hobby!! i think this has been the third! so all the best wish for the next! you are making our early morning wake ups worth it!

    Now, I am sorry to break the conversation, i chose this post for my OT as it is still hotels. I urgently need advice for a last minute Vienna hotel booking.
    Which Hilton to choose? there are 3 of them I can book (I am Diamond): Vienna, Vienna Plaza?
    Other option would be Accor M Konzerthaus as Platinum.
    What is the best between of them in terms of distance and services?
    I picked these because of similar pricing and need benefits such as late checkout

    • Thanks Rob, I think I am going to Hilton Plaza. Intercontinental is 50£ more and I have no status.

  8. Another hotel-related OT question which I should really have posted yesterday as it’s IHG:

    I’ve never stayed in an InterCon before, but I now have the credit card free night. If you could only stay at one IC in 2016, which one would you choose? It needs to be somewhere BA does RFS to, but doesn’t require a visa (i.e. not Moscow etc)

    • Paris Le Grand (albeit basic rooms are very small but the building is astonishing). I have a soft spot for Amsterdam (huge hotel but only 70 rooms, great in Summer due to the riverside terrace). New York, Sydney, Hong Kong good simply due to the money you save. Boston is excellent – I have reviewed it here. Washington and San Francisco are huge period ‘grand dames’ but I’ve never stayed. The new Bordeaux one looks hugely impressive.

      It depends if you want a ‘wow’ experience or simply want to use it somewhere where hotels are otherwise expensive.

      Koh Samui, Bora Bora are obviously impressive but not exactly around the corner.

      There is Greenwich as well now :-)

  9. So my Question along the lines of the 20K bonus.
    I know I have a spend of £2,500 in eight weeks. What is the best card to go for? Looking for Avios or Virgin.

    I have the following and already triggered the bonus or threshold spend on all.
    Amex BA trigered the 241
    Amex Gold is cancelled as just past the one year
    Virgin Black card

    Is the SPG the next good card to churn with a view to the miles? Shame I did not get the email though. Is there a better option?

    Thanks for your thoughts and answers

    Happy New Year All!!

    • At 10k bonus, it isn’t a massively generous churn (although obviously profitable). That is why the 20k offer is so good. You are taking a punt on whether you think this targetted offer may be followed by a more general 20k offer. Perhaps Amex has contracted to buy millions of SPG points which it will need to use up pretty quickly?!

      • Just a note on the online check in (or not) subject, on a very recent stay in the Park Lane Hilton (courtesy of the Visa card reward) I checked in using the Hhonors App, and chose a room on the 7th floor. When I arrived at the front desk to collect my room key, I had been upgraded to the 10th floor. I also asked to be upgraded to an executive room (which was on a higher floor I believe) and the chap said that the room was already upgraded once so he couldn’t upgrade again but as I was Hilton gold he would give me access to the lounge. Point here being, is that checking in online doesn’t seem to hinder your chances of an upgrade.