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Credit & Charge Card Reviews (12): Starwood Preferred Guest / SPG American Express

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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 of not they are worth applying for.  These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

Key link: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express application form

Key facts: £75 annual fee

The representative APR 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. 

About the card

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is issued directly by American Express. Starwood Preferred Guest is now part of the combined Marriott / Starwood loyalty scheme which covers 30 hotels brands including Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Westin, W, Aloft, Luxury Collection etc.

It is a credit card, like the British Airways American Express, and not a charge card like the Platinum card. There are no restrictions on receiving the sign-up bonus on this card irrespective of whatever other American Express cards you hold.

What is the sign-up bonus?

30,000 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 lower-end Starwood and Marriott hotels.

A higher bonus of 33,000 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.

Points convert 3:1 into 40+ different airline schemes.

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 / Marriott Rewards. The benefits of this are modest, though, and you can get 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 hotel night. However, this can only be used at hotels costing up to 25,000 points which basically knocks out any expensive and / or aspirational hotels. 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 up to 25,000 points 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 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 3 points per £1.

Until December 2019, you will receive double points (6 per £1) when using the card at any Starwood or Marriott hotel.

What is a Starwood Preferred Guest point worth?

Following the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, it has become a little easier to value your points. Based on my recent hotel redemptions, I am happy to say that you should be able to get 0.5p per point without much trouble and, on an expensive night, far more.

The airline conversion rate is also generous. 60,000 points is worth 25,000 miles in most of their partner schemes, including Avios and Virgin Flying Club. This puts a floor under their value.

If you live in London, Starwood / Marriott 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 Amazon Platinum Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.5% cashback. The representative APR is 21.9% variable.

For an average spender, the Starwood card therefore offers decent value. If you manage to redeem for free hotel nights at 0.5p+ per point of value, which isn’t tricky, you are getting 1.5% of your spending in rewards which is a very good deal.

Is this a good card to use when travelling?

As Amex adds a 3% foreign exchange fee, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad. Unfortunately there are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee.  One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

If you want a dedicated credit card to use abroad, take a look at the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  This card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, with no fee.  Representative APR 19.9% variable.

Other points to note

It is worth remembering that Starwood / Marriott offer transfers to 40+ 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.

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 credit card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 30,000 Starwood / Marriott points.

The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 45,000 Starwood / Marriott ‘new scheme’ 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 30,000 points, which also converts to 10,000 airline miles or roughly £150 of free hotel rooms.

Whilst this sounds good, the £75 annual fee reduces the value. You can, of course, cancel the card after earning the bonus for a pro-rata refund of the annual fee.  Cancelling after two months, for example, would mean a £62.50 fee refund and a net cost for your bonus miles of only £12.50.

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 60,000 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.

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Comments

  1. Are you still able to combine your SPG points with other members of your family living at the same address to trigger the higher conversion rate to airline miles? That way it is quite easy to get the two times sign up bonus, convert to miles and then cancel cards and wait another six months and repeat.

    • Under the new scheme you can transfer points to anyone up to a high annual limit.

      • I wouldn’t call 100k that high

        • Handily just over the annual referral limit though 🙂

        • True. Doing his n hers for me will require a bit more thought as to where all points go and who does what – i.e. getting wife’s points to me. 33k+33k = 66k most likely in a year + some MR transfers that she’s earned = the annual limit.

  2. The 10,000 SPG points I recieved as a bonus for signing up to the SPG card prior to the merger appeared on my account in October (although should have been earlier) and only went into my Marriott account as 10k rather than Trippling up 🙁

    Should I speak with Amex or Marriott ?
    If Marriott, does anyone have an email address I can use to get the ball rolling on having them converted correctly.

    Cheers.

    • Amex has they tripled all normal points but missed the bonus in the upgrade. Nothing to do with SPG/Marriott I have tried on chat about 3 times and they tell you they are aware of the issue and wait. Then nothing happens… Just about to follow up again.

    • Same here back and forth a few times they say they tripled it already…

      • Plus1

        • +1. Will be corrected in the November statement run apparently. They have let us down do many times before.

      • 100% an Amex issue and I think only a formal complaint will get it sorted. I suspect that initial csa isn’t able to solve it so you are literally wasting time on chat or the phone. My suggestion: phone to escalate the issue; explain the problem getting in as many dates (of points ‘posting’ and of your calls/chats) as possible; say you’re not prepared to waste any more time going over the details again; (I didn’t, but you could easily) add that you want to use the points soon for a redemption; end up by stating clearly how many points you are missing and agree a time frame (a week seems reasonable) for them to appear in the account, or for a call back. Then I’m afraid it’s formal complaint time if nothing happens. From that point it took one clear working day for me to get the points.
        Basically if you want the points don’t be fobbed off any more. That is what the csa is doing.

    • Spoke with Marriot/SPG last week and their position is that the tripling was a one time event on August 18th, anything beyond that will remain as is.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        They are correct. It’s Amex that should have tripled when they sent over the info for how many points should be awarded on your account.

        • Michael Jennings says:

          Amex transferred the wrong number of points for me in August – should have been tripled but I just got one point per pound spent. My September statement showed a correction, so that the total number of points transferred that month was supposed to be 3 x September statement spending + 2 x August statement spending. However, no points were transferred that month at all. For October, things were done correctly for that month only, so 3 x October statement spending. November seems to have finally fixed it – this month I have received 2 x August statement spending + 3 x September statement spending + 3 x November statement spending, so all the points due have now been transferred.

      • @Jason, I am … somewhat … surprised at the lack of resolution given the apparently undeniable shortfall in points awarded, but it does reinforce my view that push-back is needed. Was yours an official complaint or an escalation? If official, what grounds were given for the decision and was your right to appeal made clear? Of course you have to take a view on just how much time and effort you are prepared to put in. You’ll need to believe me but I can’t ever remember making an official complaint before (certainly never with a financial institution). I just got angry at such obvious rubbish instead of world class service that I decided not to go away next time I phoned.

        • Matt
          Their view is it was caused by Marriott and so they are not at fault

        • Lol!…well that response is true to the extent that if Marriott hadn’t come along then nothing would have gone wrong. However, as I see it Marriott trebled all their balances as a one off in August. It is Amex’s fault if the correct number of ‘old’ points hadn’t been transferred to a Marriott a/c by that time, and Amex’s fault if not all points after that time were trebled before being swept to Marriott. I would say if your official complaint to Amex was turned down on this ground you would definitely have a case with the FOS, but it just seems ridiculous overkill to be at that stage.
          I’m glad more people like Michael J are getting sorted out and hope that those waiting for resolution in the next sweep aren’t waiting in vain. Take some heart though: a colleague took this card out in June and hasn’t received a single Marriott point… they are all still sitting there with Amex, and of course those from June/July/Aug aren’t trebled. If he has got the right number of points transferred before Christmas I’ll eat all my Amexes at the hfp party!
          Anyway, 3 very long posts about this. It’s time for me to let the anger go. Good luck with wherever you go from here. M

  3. OT_ Amex Travel

    Anyone seeing their Amex Travel offer transactions pending from the one done 4/5 days ago?
    Normally it would clear in 2/3 days time. Few of mine which took me over £600 threshold are still pending from last Tuesday.

    • The streets says:

      Usually takes about a week to clear

      • Does this mean I’ve left it too late to use the offer?!

        • I used my last card yesterday and allowed 5 days.
          Did receive the email about offer redemption so hopefully should be good.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          The amount just needs to be charged to the card. It’s never been clear by end of the offer.

          Ive used the offers on the last day on many occasions

        • Now they seem to have changed the wording to read “charged by date”
          IIRC, pending txn. will not count as “charged by”, if you are going to use it anyway I will use it at least 3 days before the offer end date.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I don’t know. I consider Point I purchase and the transaction shows as pending as the date my card is charged.

          The pending to posted is the card issuer doing the nessacery. I’m sure if I spent £600 today I’d get the email and that would be the end of it regardless of when it’s clears.

  4. OT_My 9000 bonus Avios posted for the Iberia Avis promotion. This was for car hire last weekend. Pretty pleased with how quickly those arrived as I was expecting a battle!

  5. If you can get 45k points together and get in the NFL VIP package through moments it’s a great day out. Many thanks to Rob for the heads up as my lad had a fantastic time – must be worth £1000 plus for the pair.

  6. Loyalty status stays until expiry date on individual cards. PP stops immediately

  7. Wally1976 says:

    Any thoughts on how longer this card may be available for? Wife and I are midway through our latest churn (i.e. I’ve got it and will be referring my wife (from plat of course) for it in a couple of weeks).

  8. Scallder says:

    Points have finally(!) transferred across ok and include all correct points dating back to August…

  9. I applied for this for the first time last week, but have never had an SPG account before. On the application form, I put my Marriott Rewards number in the box for SPG number – should that work fine or have I given myself a problem…?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Can’t see an issue. My understanding is they are all technically Marriott accounts now.

      • Correct. No such thing as an SPG account any longer – they all got converted to Marriott accounts and new 9 number account numbers issued.

  10. Still waiting for SPG points to be transferred (I am a pre-Mariott merger card holder) since July… Customer service are trying to be helpful but despite me giving my SPG and Mariott number to avoid delays, been told to wait until December…

  11. OT_ AUH Airport

    Has anyone used the VIP Terminal Lounge (via PP) without flying via VIP Terminal?
    I have 6 hours transit at AUH and would like to use two different lounges during that time, including this VIP lounge.

  12. I’ve just booked Herttz for an upcoming trip to Iceland using their own “Hertz Centenary Q4 Sale” for 25% discount . You status should show on the Good plus Account when you login to make the booking.

  13. Advice appreciated: I had both a Marriott Rewards and an SPG account before merger. I have been emailed to choose one over the other and to merge the accounts. Is there any advantage in choosing one over the other? And if so, which one?

  14. Would it be worth keeping the card after year 1 just for the earning rate ?

  15. Its been 6 months and 1 day since this was cancelled. Is it best to wait one.more week before applying?

  16. I’ve just been accepted for the SPG card after cancelling my old SPG Amex 6 months ago. I’ve just hit the 1k spend but I’ve noticed in the (Android) app that there’s no mention of the “spend a further £xxx.xx to get 33,000 points”. Is this still shown on the app/dashboard? I’ll be pretty gutted if I’ve missed out on the bonus.

    • I didn’t have this show up but the points posted.

    • Applied for the first time, no mention of the bonus in the app and on the web. Still got it around 2 weeks after hitting 1k spend.

  17. OT
    Has anybody stayed at the SPG mystique hotel in santorini?
    Seems like a good stay if u get via points, however doesn’t seem to be that good of a hotel compared to other hotels in santorini.

  18. pxiielott says:

    “Until December 2019, you will receive double points (6 per £1) when using the card at any Starwood or Marriott hotel.”

    If the hotel is abroad, does this increase to 12 per £?

  19. Applied for the card a few days ago using my Marriott Rewards number, since SPG no longer exists. Should I have used my old SPG number instead? Or will they be able to make the connection?

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