Credit & Charge Card Reviews (13): Starwood Preferred Guest / SPG American Express

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.

Most rewards cards are not suitable products 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 Tesco Clubcard MasterCard Low Rate card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 5.9% variable – and you can transfer your Clubcard points into Avios or Virgin Flying Club miles.

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.

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 most 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 Tesco Clubcard MasterCard Low Rate card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 5.9% variable – and you can transfer your Clubcard points into Avios or Virgin Flying Club miles.

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 three 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 for the card.  Email me at rob at headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral link.

Because Starwood points now convert into Marriott Rewards points at 1:3, the bonus is worth 30,000 Marriott Rewards points.

Starwood Preferred Guest points convert 1:1 into 30 different airline schemes. Aegean and LifeMiles were the latest partners 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.

Until December 2018, you will also receive double points (2 per £1) when using the card at any Starwood or Marriott hotel.

What is a Starwood Preferred Guest point worth?

Starwood points are harder to value than other hotel points, for two 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 bonus. Because 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?

My default comparison card is the ASDA Cashback Credit Card which is free for life and offers 0.5% cashback. The representative APR is 19.9% variable.

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.

Conclusion

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.  You can, of course, cancel the card after earning the bonus for a pro-rata refund of the annual fee.

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.

If you are seeking airline miles with an airline which does not otherwise have a UK card partner, this card could be a good choice.  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.

Important dates for your diary - offers about to close which you shouldn't miss
Bits: 100% IHG buy points bonus, Marriott to AA bonus, Hyatt New York deal
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Will I get the 10,000 if I cancel and reapply for the SPG card after 6 months?

    • yes; I and OH do it every six months.

      • When is the earliest you can cancel the card once you have spent the required £1k spend?
        For example, if I have spent £1k day 1 of receiving the card, can I cancel right away?
        Or do you need to wait for the first statement to be produced before cancelling?

        • You need to wait for the points to be transferred, which is 6 days before your first statement date.

  2. I’m fairly new to SPG (still hanging on to my creation Marriott) but one potential benefit if you have unlimited points is SPG flights. This, from what I can see, is a good way of getting on a flight that has no reward flight availability. SPG brag “no blackout dates” and I did a dummy business class booking in march to Sydney. This flight has no reward flights available but can be booked through SPG flights. However!… points required are astronomical, Qatar 395000, BA 635000 and Cathay 955000 SPG points!!!

    • I have done this on a short flight but regretted it. I do not think that it is a good use of points, but I would never convert SPG points to airline but I have got loads of Avios.

      • All they are doing is buying you a flight for cash. It is a better deal than it was, because you get a $ amount per point and the weaking Pound means you now get more when you redeem. Unless you have more SPG points than you need, however, you should get better value from hotels.

  3. Colin mackinnon says:

    If you are a high spender, I think this card is fabulous due to the Marriott conversion rate.

    With Marriott travel packages you then get THREE airline miles per SPG point – and those can be the super AA miles which give you almost fee-free transatlantic flights on AA, cheap India flights and great Aussie fares!

  4. 35,000 points for an SPG cat 7 hotel seems ludicrous when you can convert to Marriott and get one of their cat 7 properties for 35,000 Marriott (12,000 max SPG). We stayed in one in Vancouver (all suites) in June and were very pleased. You also get breakfast with gold in Marriott but not SPG.

  5. A little SPG trick which may be useful to some I did yesterday based on something @Alan said previously.

    SPG -> Marriott is 1:3 with min of 1k SPG
    Marriott -> SPG is 3:1 with min of 1k Marriotts.

    Say you have 667 SPGs in your account but you’re a couple of k from a Marriott redemption. Transfer 1k Marriott to get 333 SPGs to make a total of 1k SPGs, which can then be transferred across to Marriott. You’ve now got the 2k you need.

    • Wally1976 says:

      Great tip as ever Genghis

    • Yep, I make use of that for the Marriott Twitter compo – good that they’re happy to award 333 SPG.

      • Presumably the twitter thing can’t last forever? 1,000 #RewardsPoints for 30 seconds checking what the right answer is from their replies and tweeting it back at them can’t be sustainable.

        • Apparently on till the end of February. It looks like there were less than 25,000 entries for last Sunday.

          It does seem very generous but it’s their ball so we can leave them to worry about it 🙂

        • So another 12-15k Marriott points each by then end? Nice!

        • Scallder says:

          There’s 9 more weeks of the regular season and 4 in the post season so should be 13k each unless they take weeks off (which they did week 3 or 4 from memory)

        • Yes Stu N…….each 😉

        • 13k, fantastic! I must persuade Mrs W to let me use her twitter account too!

          Beware, last week I missed out on the 1000 points. The only reason I can think of is that I had set my tweets to private. So I guess unless Marriott is following you they can’t see your tweet. This Sunday I changed back to public tweets and it worked this time.

        • Can you enlighten me on this – I don’t use Twitter (much).

    • Yep I like that they let you transfer 1k to 333 – I first found out thanks to the weekly NFL promo!

  6. Michael_S says:

    Does sign up bonus increase from time to time? Worth waiting for a higher bonus?

  7. In my opinion this is by far the best card in the UK for on going high spend. I get 3p of value per Starwood point.

    • Nice. Any good redemptions you can share to get 3p?

      • I got 4p at the new Ritz-Carlton in the desert in Ras last week. 40k Marriott (13333 SPG) for a £600 tent.

        • “….. for a £600 tent.”

          Hmnnn….do I detect a faint note of displeasure?

        • No, it was – easily – in the top 5 most luxurious rooms I have ever had. Full review tomorrow. I am just not really the sort of person to sit around in the desert all day but my kids loved it.

        • Look forward to reading it as may nip over in January.

        • @Cate. Book by tomorrow to lock in the rate.

        • I am still trying to get confirmation of that but, yes, in theory it will go up on 1st November.

      • Rob Walker says:

        Just redeemed a cat 9 Marriott travel package – 340k Marriott including 70k Avios. Except BA added 35% due to a hotel transfer promotion so I actually got 94k.
        3 business class flights to Greece next summer booked. Would have been £1468 for cash.
        7 nights at Domes of Elounda in Crete. Would have been £3878!
        So I work that out to be 1.52p per Marriott or 4.56p per SPG point!

      • Thank you Genghis!

    • +1

    • I have booked to stay for 10 nights in Residence Inn Boston Seaport next October for 320,000 Marriott points (of which I have only got half at present, another advantage).
      The cash price is $4726 > £3596 which I make 1.12p per Marriott point so 3.36 per SPG.
      I would not pay $4726 but want to stay there.

      • Can you get the extra value by doing a 7 day travel package plus another 3 night redemption?

        • No, I did look into that.
          It would have need a lot more points and I already have loads of airline points.

    • Wally1976 says:

      The Shelbourne, Dublin (Marriott) can get close to 3p per point (1p per Marriott point) if you get it on nights when they don’t add EUR250.

  8. Wally1976 says:

    Following the buyout of SPG by Marriott this is an excellent card with so many options for the points, some offering superb value (eg Marriott travel package) and others offering different opportunities albeit not always such good value (SPG flights, transfers to unusual arrive schemes…). Long may it continue.

  9. Wally1976 says:

    There really is no need to pay £14.95 a month to get a credit report check, see, Noddle, Clearscore, MSE Credit club…

    • Wally1976 says:

      I typed a much longer comment on this but it refused to post for some reason (tried several times from two different devices with different browsers!?). It doesn’t show an error, just reloads the page with the comment gone (I’ve had this before too)!

      • Did you mention t c b?
        You don’t get full Experian report with MSE though. I pay £2 once a year for my Experian statutory report.

        • Barclaycard ill give you just the number.

        • Exactly. You need more than just the number to do a proper review.

        • Best way to do it Genghis.

          It’s one of my jobs on the May Day weekend. Change the smoke detector batteries, order my Experian report.

          I detest Noddle (CallCredit) with a passion and Clearscore is bizarre. Over the last year or so, Thames Water was added as a utility to their system. “You’ve opened a new account with Thames Water” (Clearscore drops 20 points) – no I haven’t, I’ve had an account with them for 20 years. Also over the last year, John Lewis rearranged it’s Partnership Card. “You’ve closed an account with John Lewis”, “You’ve opened a new account with John Lewis” (Clearscore drops 50 points) – no I haven’t. JLP rearranged it’s structure, I’ve had an account with them continuously for 27 years!

          Experian is the only one I trust to interpret the data well *and* to proactively engage when they have been supplied with duff data.

        • Rob Walker says:

          I think you do actually get the full report now.

        • I’m a big fan of ClearScore – glad to know there’s an option out there which doesn’t involve a stupidly high monthly fee ala Experian and equifax.

          What do you get on the £2 statutory report that is different from clearscore?

        • @Lev441. Different data. Clearscore takes Equifax data. Experian £2 stat gives you Experian data. Two different sources that credit institutions use. They may differ.

        • @Rob Walker Thanks. Didn’t realise. That’ll now save me £2 a year (on MSE Credit Club, not Barclaycard).

      • Wally1976 says:

        I agree; still no need to pay £14.95 a month though! And any number of credit reports doesn’t give a guarantee of being accepted for any given credit card.

  10. Rob Walker says:

    Just redeemed a cat 9 Marriott travel package – 340k Marriott including 70k Avios. Except BA added 35% due to a hotel transfer promotion so I actually got 94k.
    3 business class flights to Greece next summer booked. Would have been £1468 for cash.
    7 nights at Domes of Elounda in Crete. Would have been £3878!
    So I work that out to be 1.52p per Marriott or 4.56p per SPG point!

  11. Can a Platinum or BAAP holder refer a friend for this card?

  12. What is the referral bonus if you refer someone to this card?

  13. As a Brit living abroad this is my number one card when purchasing anything in pounds.
    Often transferring the miles to either my AA or Qatar account for redemption flights (normally on Qatar Airways)

  14. hi, new to site. Ive recently taken out card and hit bonus . it says points transferred on my amex account yesterday but nothing in spg account yet. does it take a few days to show or should it be instant? im worrying now i entered wrong spg account details when applying for the card! thanks al

  15. Any thoughts on whether this card is really worth it given the fee?

    Also, has anyone used the bonus to top up a Miles and More account? – not sure if it’s worth it.

    • Bonus is worth £150 if used smartly and if you cancel after 2 months you’ve paid £12 of fee ….