Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The Starwood American Express free night voucher is now valid ANY day of the week

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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

Starwood American Express UK free night voucher

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.

SPG American Express card UK

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 …..

Manchester Airport Marriott

Should you consider getting the SPG American Express 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 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 …..

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? – February 2024 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.

Virgin Money is offering double points on spending until 14th April (£5,000 cap) to new customers when you apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard. Click here to learn more.

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

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 bonus points 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:

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

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) 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

2% cashback on all your business spend for 3 months (1% thereafter) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (88)

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

  • Ian M says:

    It was disappointing they didn’t take the opportunity to increase the value of the voucher further, considering the spend required is so high, would it really be too much to let us use it at new Cat 1-5 or even 1-6/7!

  • guesswho2000 says:

    Might have missed it somewhere, but any idea what’s happening to existing Marriott Travel Package 7-night certs?

    • Ian M says:

      Not sure how you could miss that! It’s the talk of every forum and blog. The answer is that no body knows get. Marriott are keeping that as their little secret

      • guesswho2000 says:

        Haha, I got that much…I was wondering if there was an outcome, but apparently not…never mind, time will tell I guess!

  • Lumma says:

    Is there any news on the Marriott credit card from Creation being relaunched now that it’s August?

  • Ouaile says:

    Do we know if it possible to redeem the voucher for higher categories by paying the difference in points ? Marriot used to allow this with certificate from travel packages

    I am 500£ away from getting one but it useless for me at 25k

    • Melvin says:

      I would be keen to know this too.

    • Rob says:

      I thought that yesterday but it was too late to check (if they even know). I agree it would be a benefit. The risk is that you then cancel and they can’t process a split refund.

    • will says:

      Would certainly increase the appeal to me more if it was a 25k discount rather than just a redemption for a 25k hotel.

  • rams1981 says:

    Is the card still worth churning? Ie no chance it will be removed in next year or so?

    • Rob says:

      It may well be removed. Why have Amex running an Amex and Creation running a Mastercard?

  • David G says:

    Does the 6 month rule apply to the SPG Amex? I cancelled my previous one only last month.

  • Vasco says:

    If the earning rate holds, will this be the only UK card that pays more than the US equivalent?

    • J says:

      The US card will be earning 2x points per dollar, which is slightly worse than the UK card. However, it comes with the annual free night cert of up to 35k points without any spending requirement.

  • Alan says:

    I’m interested in why you say there are far better places for long term spend? In the first year at least the sign up bonus is worth more than twice the fee, but the ongoing earning rate of 3 Marriott points per GBP seems a pretty good rate (1.5%). Paid for VS has higher fee and lower earning rate (1.125%) plus stuck with only VS miles rather than the more flexible Marriott points. There’s of course the old ‘value of BA 241’ argument but for solo travellers or those that have already earned one of those in the year that doesn’t hold. I guess the spend could go to hitting other Amex targets, but compared to the Amex Plat (0.75%) I thought the ongoing spend on thus card wasn’t too bad.

    • Ian M says:

      As far as I’m concerned this is the best card in the UK for long term spend. I get 1p per Marriott point value. So 3% cash back. I expect this to drop to around 0.8p value with the changes but still it’s a great earning rate

    • Rob Walker says:

      I tend to agree. We’re most of the way to a BA 241, with the vauge plan of earning another and then trying to book 4 seats to the US or similar. I’m not that certain we’ll be able to get 4 seats or even save enough avios before the vouchers expire..

      Under the ‘old’ SPG scheme I achieved 4.5p per SPG point with a travel package.

      • Genghis says:

        All these comments about spend “value” to justify points “buying”. Can’t value at more than you can buy the points for (as you should otherwise buy the points with cash) and SPG have had it where you could buy Marriotts at 0.55p a few times this year.

    • Rob says:

      It’s not bad but you would get better value putting £10k on an IHG Premium and getting the free night cert on that, for instance.

      • Alan says:

        Sure, but if you’ve already done that then for ongoing spend I thought this one was pretty decent – just surprised as how negative you were at the end about ongoing spend on it 🙂

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