Whilst the merger of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards does not happen until 18th August, the changes to the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card take place today.
I had thought there were only two changes:
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 free night voucher, triggered when you spend a whopping £25,000 in a card year, moves from being valid on a Category 1-4 hotel to being valid on any hotel costing up to 25,000 points per night
There is a third change, however, which I didn’t know about until Amex sent me a fact sheet on the new card yesterday:
The free night voucher is no longer restricted to weekends. You can use it on any day of the week as long as reward nights are showing and the reward night costs 25,000 points or less.
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.
Note: Because we won’t know the name of the combined Starwood Preferred Guest / Marriott Rewards loyalty scheme until January, I have used the phrase ‘new scheme’ in this article to describe the programme as it will be from 18th August.
Where can you use the free night voucher?
Historically there were a grand total of FOUR UK hotels where you could use the free night voucher. You could of course use it globally, at any Starwood hotel which cost up to 10,000 points per night (so 30,000 ‘new scheme’ points equivalent) but that figure gives you a good impression of how useless it was.
From today, the free night voucher will be valid at any Marriott or Starwood hotel costing up to 25,000 points per night, using the new reward chart from 18th August.
Importantly, what emerged yesterday is that you can now use your free night during the week. This improves the value a little, since most hotels are more expensive on midweek nights.
Whilst the free night voucher will only be valid at hotels costing up to 25,000 points per night, 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 are now bookable on the SPG American Express free 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
- Huntingdon Marriott
- Leeds Marriott
- Leicester Marriott
- Lingfield Park Marriott
- Liverpool Marriott City Centre
- London Marriott Twickenham
- Manchester Airport Marriott (photo below, reviewed here)
- MOXY Aberdeen Airport
- MOXY Glasgow
- MOXY London Excel (reviewed here)
- MOXY London Stratford
- MOXY Heathrow Airport
- Newcastle Gateshead Marriot Metro Centre
- Northampton Marriott
- Peterborough Marriott
- Portsmouth Marriott
- Preston Marriott
- Renaissance London Heathrow
- Residence Inn Aberdeen
- Sheraton Heathrow
- St Pierre 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 four UK hotels where you could use your free night voucher to 43.
However, don’t get carried away. Spending £25,000 on an Amex card is NOT easy – and your only reward is a free night at a relatively low-rent hotel …..
Should you consider getting the SPG American Express 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
It comes with a good sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios
The sign-up bonus is 30,000 ‘new scheme’ points. 30,000 ‘new scheme’ points should – subject to final confirmation on 18th August when we see the new chart – convert into 10,000 miles with over 40 airlines, including Avios and Virgin Flying Club. Used for hotel rooms, you should get £150 of value from your 30,000 points.
There is a low spend target to trigger the bonus
You only need to spend £1,000 within 90 days to receive 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 30+ 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.
You receive double points for spending at Starwood or Marriott hotels
Until 31st December 2019, you will earn 6 ‘new scheme’ points, worth about 3p, for every £1 you spend at a Starwood or Marriott property
You get ‘new scheme’ Gold status for spending £15,000 in a card year
This isn’t worth much, to be honest, because ‘new scheme’ Gold has few benefits. More importantly, you can Gold status for free simply by taking out an American Express Platinum charge card, no spending required.
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 …..
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – September 2022 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:
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.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 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 & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus 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 sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
50,000 points bonus until 2nd October – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company 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.