Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

There are now 48 UK hotels (up from 4) who take your SPG Amex credit card free night voucher

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

American Express has announced two changes to the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card in the run up to the merger of SPG and Marriott Rewards next month.

One change is a statement of the obvious – the earning rate will move from 1 SPG point per £1 to 3 ‘new scheme’ points per £1.  This is in line with the 1:3 exchange rate being used by all other ex-Starwood partners.

The second change impacts the free night voucher that comes with the card.  Before I get to the details, I just want to run over the card again because this is the least-understood member of the Amex’ ‘miles and points’ portfolio.

I am obliged to remind you that the representative APR on this card is 39.7% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. The interest rate on purchases is 22.9% variable.

Why I consider the Starwood Amex card to be a wasted opportunity

The SPG American Express card could have become a strong No 2 in UK loyalty credit cards behind the British Airways American Express Premium Plus.  Unfortunately, the benefits package just failed to hit the right note.

This was the original SPG Amex benefits package pre 2017:

10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points (= 10,000 airline miles) as a sign-up bonus

1 point per £1 spent – worth around 1.5p if used for Starwood hotel stays, or 1p if converted to airline miles

You received Starwood Gold status for spending £15,000 – but this has no real benefits now that everyone who books direct gets the only real Gold perk of free wi-fi

You received a free weekend night in a Category 1-4 hotel for spending £25,000 per year

Last year a new benefit was added:

You receive double points for spending at Starwood or Marriott hotels (2 SPG points per £1, equal to 6 Marriott Rewards points, so about 3p of value per £1) until 31st December 2018

Where did this benefits package go wrong?

It is the free night benefit that really confused me.  Unless you can charge business expenses to a personal credit card, I think that you would need to be earning £150,000 per year in order to make £25,000 of discretionary spending on an American Express card.  This substantially limits the market for the Starwood card, assuming cardholders intend to trigger the free night.

No other UK credit card requires such a high spend target to trigger a reward.  And no other spend-related reward is so useless.

There were few decent SPG properties in Europe in Categories 1-4 which would accept the voucher.  The ONLY UK hotels in Category 1-4 are the Sheraton Skyline, Sheraton Heathrow and Aloft at the Excel conference centre and in Liverpool.  These are not, to put it mildly, top weekend break destinations.

Even then, it is only one free night.  At a weekend.  It is unlikely the cash cost of such a room would be more than £100 – a poor return on £25,000 of card spend.

SPG American Express card UK

What is changing with the free night voucher?

As I noted above, at present there are a grand total of FOUR UK hotels where you can use the free night voucher.  You can of course use it globally, at any Starwood hotel which costs up to 10,000 points per night (so 30,000 ‘new scheme’ points equivalent).

From August, the free night voucher will be valid at any Marriott or Starwood hotel costing up to 25,000 points per night.

This is nominally a downgrade, since at present it is valid at any hotel costing up to (the equivalent of) 30,000 ‘new scheme’ points.  I don’t want to dwell on the downgrade element too much, however, since many lower-standard hotels are getting cheaper under the new scheme.  Three of the four UK hotels currently bookable with the voucher will remain bookable – only the Sheraton Skyline at Heathrow falls away.

However, there are 45 upsides

Whilst the free night voucher will only be valid at hotels costing up to 25,000 points per night (compared with 30,000 points now), there is a LOT more opportunity to use it because the Marriott portfolio is also available to you.

Just looking at the UK, these hotels will now be bookable on the SPG Amex free weekend night voucher:

  • Aberdeen Marriott
  • AC Hotel Birmingham
  • AC Hotel Manchester Salford Quays
  • Aloft Liverpool (reviewed here)
  • Aloft London Excel
  • Bexleyheath Marriott
  • Beardsall Priory Marriott
  • Bristol Marriott City Centre
  • Cheshunt Marriott
  • Courtyard Aberdeen Airport
  • Courtyard Glasgow Airport
  • Courtyard London Gatwick
  • Durham Marriott
  • Forest of Arden Marriott
  • Glasgow Marriott
  • Hanbury Manor Marriott
  • Heathrow / Windsor Marriott
  • Hollins Hall Marriott
  • Huntingdon Marriott
  • Leeds Marriott
  • Leicester Marriott
  • Lingfield Park Marriott
  • Liverpool Marriott City Centre
  • London Marriott Twickenham
  • Manchester Airport Marriott (photo below, reviewed here)
  • Meon Valley Marriott
  • MOXY Aberdeen Airport
  • MOXY Glasgow
  • MOXY London Excel (reviewed here)
  • MOXY London Stratford
  • MOXY Heathrow Airport
  • Newcastle Gateshead Marriot Metro Centre
  • Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park
  • Northampton Marriott
  • Peterborough Marriott
  • Portsmouth Marriott
  • Preston Marriott
  • Renaissance London Heathrow
  • Residence Inn Aberdeen
  • Sheraton Heathrow
  • Sprowston Manor Marriott
  • St Pierre Marriott
  • Sunderland Marriott
  • Swansea Marriott
  • Tudor Park Marriott
  • University Arms, Cambridge
  • Waltham Abbey Marriott
  • Worsley Park Marriott

This is obviously a substantial improvement – we have gone from 4 UK hotels where you could use your free night voucher to 48.

However, the point of my original argument still stands.  Spending £25,000 on an Amex card is NOT easy – and your only reward is a free weekend night at a relatively low-rent hotel …..

Manchester Airport Marriott

Should you consider getting the SPG Amex card?


The free night benefit may be rubbish (it IS rubbish, let’s be honest, and remains so even with another few thousand ‘cheap and cheerful’ potential places to use it) but here’s why the card makes sense for many readers:

You can get the Starwood Amex irrespective of what other American Express cards you hold

Even if you already have a Gold / Platinum charge card and a British Airways American Express card, you can still get the sign-up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card.

It comes with a good sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios

The sign-up bonus is 10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points.  This increases to 11,000 points if you use a refer-a-friend link – email me at rob at if you want a link.  10,000 SPG points convert into 10,000 miles with 29 airlines, including Avios and Virgin Flying Club.  In the merged SPG / Marriott scheme, it will be worth 30,000 points.  Used for hotel rooms, you should get £150 of value from that.

There is a low spend target to trigger the bonus

You only need to spend £1,000 within 90 days to receive the 10,000 Starwood points (30,000 ‘new scheme’ points) as a sign-up bonus.   This should not be tricky for most Head for Points readers, given that the BA Premium and Gold / Platinum cards have far higher thresholds.

It is a good way of earning airline miles if your airline no longer has a credit card

Now that Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, American and United no longer have UK credit cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex is the best way to earn miles in these programmes.  There are also 20+ other airlines who never had a UK credit card, such as Air Canada and Qatar Airways, where this credit card is the best way to earn miles in the UK from day to day spend.

The £75 annual fee is refundable pro-rata if you cancel

You can cancel the card at any point and receive a pro-rata refund of the annual fee.

If you collect Marriott Rewards points, it is a great way to build up your balance.

Just don’t focus too much on spending £25,000 on the card to trigger the free night voucher, because there are far better places to put your long-term spending …..

My full review of the Starwood Amex credit card is here.  You can apply for the card here.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – September 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. Apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 bonus points (SPECIAL OFFER TO 2ND OCTOBER) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (101)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • JPV says:

    Off topic (no bits): how long does it take to combine two BA accounts into a household account?

    • Rob says:

      Instant I think, it is all done online. You do need to wait for everyone invited to accept the email invitation they are sent.

      • JPV says:

        Excellent, thanks Rob. Turns out my dad has 100k avios left over from his business travel and no plans for them 🙂

  • Lev441 says:

    O/T – no bits today

    Received this from curve

    For one night only – Tuesday, July 3rd – you can get your round of drinks paid for with Curve Rewards points. Just use your Curve card during the game, and we’ll compensate your round of drinks up to £30/€30.

    Sounds great, what do I need to do?
    Simply tweet us with a photo of you and your friends during the game with the hashtag #CurveBoost, or tag us in your Instagram story with your friends and we’ll credit points to your Curve Rewards Card balance. It’s as simple as that.

    Read the full Terms & Conditions here. Got any suggestions for future Boosts? Get in touch!

    T&c’s suggest curve will credit only 100 users… doesn’t sound like much!

    • the real harry1 says:

      I suggest you tweet about 5 seconds after the match has started! 🙂

  • Nick says:

    Plus one more soon… they’re building a Moxy in the heart of Slough! Could be useful for Heathrow too, as it’s a 22-min journey to T5 on the 9 bus.

  • the real harry1 says:

    you forgot it was first 100 only! 🙂

  • Lee Thomas says:

    So you can no longer transfer your spg amex points to Qatar miles?

  • JZ says:

    This card looks so weak compared with the US version. It indeed could’ve been one of the best in the UK market because of the flexibility/high value of SPG points.

    If I sign up for this card now but complete the 1k spending after August, what kind of welcome bonus would I receive? Is it 30k points in the new program or something else? Thanks!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.