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.

This review was updated on 1st October 2019 and all of the data was correct as of that date.

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 SPG American Express card

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is issued directly by American Express. Starwood Preferred Guest is now part of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty scheme which covers 30 hotel 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.

What is the SPG Amex sign-up bonus?

30,000 Marriott Bonvoy 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 often more than one night, in many lower-end 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

What are the rules for qualifying for the sign-up bonus?

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months.  Cards issued by MBNA or Lloyds Bank do not count.

You WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job.  Amex is only interested in any personal cards you have had.

You will definitely receive the bonus if you are only a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card. As far as Amex is concerned, that card belongs to the primarily cardholder and does not make you an ‘existing cardholder’.

If you do not qualify for the bonus, you can still apply.  You still receive the other card benefits.

Any other benefits with the SPG Amex?

Yes, but I do not value them highly.

All cardholders get free Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.  This has few real benefits except for a 10% bonus on base points earned from Marriott hotel stays.

Spend £15,000 per year on the card and you will receive Gold status in Marriott Bonvoy. 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.)

What is the SPG Amex 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 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1.

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

What is a Marriott Bonvoy point worth?

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, Marriott has a private suite at the O2 Arena and makes seats with full hospitality available for points redemption for many concerts.

How does the SPG Amex compare to a cashback credit card?

My default comparison card is the John Lewis / Waitrose Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.5% cashback in vouchers. The representative APR is 18.9% 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 the SPG Amex a good card to use when travelling?

As American Express 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.  Representative APR 21.9% variable.

Other points to note

It is worth remembering that Marriott Bonvoy offers 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.

American Express no longer has a minimum income requirement for its cards.

How else can you earn Marriott Bonvoy 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 10,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 15,000 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 points. It has a £575 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.

(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. 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.

  2. 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?

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 £?

  8. 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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