There are now 48 UK hotels (up from 4!) who take your SPG Amex free night voucher – but is it a good deal?

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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.

SPG Amex

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?

Yes.

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 headforpoints.co.uk 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 miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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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Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Make that 44 – as of 18th July the Sunderland, Gosforth Park, Hollins Hall, Meon Valley and Sprowston Manor Marriott’s will no longer be Marriott’s!

    • Thanks! Will update later. Odd they are on the new August reward chart.

    • Where does it give the date they’ll be leaving? It’s not on the Marriott page for Gosforth Park yet.

      • Martin says:

        If you try to book you will see zero availability beyond 18th July. Staff at Sunderland have confirmed the date – breaking news from yesterday.

    • Steve-B says:

      Thanks for the heads up. Staying in the Sprowston tonight and front desk has also confirmed – will become a Britannia. Get most of my Marriott points here 🙁 thank goodness did a Plat challlenge and only one more stay remaining. Win some, lose some in this game…

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Brittania! What’s going on they get one in blackpool too. Horrible reputation

  2. Martin says:

    Sorry 43!

  3. Jeremy says:

    Apologies for OT: I recently got the new virgin mastercard and once I have spent 20k, I can go for a 241 reward ticket as I understand. My questions are:
    1) Will voucher still apply if I book a multi city return ticket? i.e. London to Los Angeles and Las Vegas back to London or it is only valid between two cities?

    2) Can I use the voucher to upgrade mine and spouse’s ticket from economy to upper for a one-way trip? (i.e. London to Los Angeles?)

    • Not sure about question 1, but the reward is either for an upgrade or a 241 not both. If you go for the upgrade I believe that is economy to PE only (and would only apply to one of you return, or both of you one way). If you go for the 241 that that applies to economy only unless you have Virgin Atlantic status.

      I would also question the wisdom of spending £20K on the free card to get the 241. For the £160 fee the paid card will get you a sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles, a lower threshold for reward of £10K and an additional 7,500 miles on that £10K spend over what you get on the free card. If you both take the paid card for a year you could each earn an upgrade voucher – in that case total fees of £320 will get you an additional 45,000 miles (over the free card) and a return flight each in PE for the normal economy redemption rate on a total spend of £20K.

      If you do have Virgin status the 241 may be more attractive, but you can only use it in Upper Class if you have Gold status.

    • Multi-city is fine but you need to call (you need to calla anyway to use the voucher though!). Not sure what the upgrade rules are off the top of my head.

  4. Lev441 says:

    Very much in two minds whether to pull the trigger and get a cat 1-5 travel package voucher. Does anyone know when the new prices take effect? Is it 1st August or have they not confirmed yet?

    • They are saying it is NOT the 1st – although there are some references to the 1st online!

      • Lev441 says:

        Thanks rob. Hopefully we’ll get some clarification on an actual date – my starpoints have been transferring over on the 31/1st of the month and I’m about 3,000 short for the travel package. Thought I’d made it last month but the 3,000 starpoints have been kept in my amex account – must have been a day too late for them.

        • DaveL says:

          If in doubt, might be worth purchasing the extra 3,000 SPG… They’re on a 35% discount still I believe, so 3,000 should set you back around £55…

        • Polly says:

          Lev
          Definitely worth buying those 3k. We are in the same boat regarding our 5k which missed the cut off by a few hours. V annoying, as it’s our 1st MTP to buy.

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

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

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

  6. OT, we were flying LHR to SJC in CW a week ago, my headset socket was blocked and impossible to use any headset for IFE. Tweeted BA after arrival, BA emailed last night and credited 15000 Avios to my account. I was surprised how much they offer. I was just expecting around 6000.

  7. 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! 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. the real harry1 says:

    you forgot it was first 100 only! 🙂

  10. Lee Thomas says:

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

  11. 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!

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