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 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.

The card will be rebranded as a Marriott Bonvoy American Express at some point in the medium term.  It isn’t clear if the benefits package will change at that point or if it will only be a new logo on the front.

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 assume airline miles are worth 1p then this gives you a floor value of 0.42p per Bonvoy point given the conversion ratio above.

If you live in London, Marriott Bonvoy has a private suite at the O2 Arena and makes seats with full hospitality available for points redemption for many concerts.  The Marriott Moments site shows you some of the other great experiences you can bid for with points.

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 American Express credit 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 Marriott Bonvoy points.

The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. It has a £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

You can read our review of American Express Preferred Rewards Gold here and our review of American Express Platinum here.

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 American Express 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. This card has been left behind so much compared to the US.
    My partner has just taken out a offer for 100,000 marriott points, a free night stay up to 35,000 per year with no card spend and the card is only $95 a year as a fee. Plus a few others perks.

    Why are we being left behind so much in the UK? It feels like the benefits are getting worse on these cards?

  2. Always surprised this card doesn’t get more attention. I use it for business expenditure of around 40k pa. 1.5% minimum return on hotels. Can convert into multiple airlines. The free hotel night is meh but covers the annual fee so the card is essentially free.

    • I think most people look to put £10k onto their BA Amex first each year to trigger their 241. They then do not have enough Amex spend left in the year to justify the £75 fee.

      • If 241s don’t appeal though, SPG for me this is therefore my go-to Amex for most spend.
        That used to be the case after triggering the lloyds upgrade voucher Amex, but now that voucher is gone, it has been SPG for anywhere that takes Amex.

        Even when holding both the 1.5 VS and 1.25 M&M cards at the same time.
        But of course it depends how much spend you have to move around, etc.

        • I agree with David. I’ve held various Amex cards and I’ve decided to stick with the SPG. The 241 voucher doesn’t really work for us so well as a family of 3 and I value hotel points more than airline points whilst the 1.5% return is very good.

      • Richmond says:

        241 is useless to me, so I don’t have any BA card. Use SPG as only Amex card, get some discounts on it and it allows me to earn hotel points. Unfortunately can’t put too mch through it, due to its limitations. Rest goes through my Hilton Visa or Lufthansa Mastercard/Diners.

  3. Are they really going to drop the bonus earning on hotel spend next year? That’s what makes the card worth it for me, and I’ll probably dump it if they stop that.

    • That’s been mooted has it? Well it’s up to them but as someone who’s seen their earnings nose dive with the advent of ‘from the second stay’ they may want to take a view how much further they can confidentially push business users.

      • It’s still saying Double Points on Marriott spend until December 2019. I was thinking they’d’ve extended it at least one year by now (they had before IIRC). What sort of co-branded card doesn’t give a bonus on the brand spend?

  4. OT.
    How long are referral points taking to hit accounts?

    • Varies from a few hours after someone has applied and been accepted till a day after someone has activated their card for me

    • Been waiting a week. My self referral via Platinum seems to have failed 🙁
      Oh well, cant win em all ….

  5. the University Arms Cambridge is a very nice 25000 point UK redemption: https://www.universityarms.com/

    (Most hotels in this traditional style seem quite dated but this one opened recently after a 4-year £80million complete renovation so is entirely new, with modern touches like underfloor heating in the bathrooms, etc)

  6. I really want them to beef this card up in the uk and it would easily become my preferred card.

    A route to earning platinum via spend

    Elite night credits

    Permanent double spend for hotel spend.

    In the US theres the Chase Marriott card ($95) which is more like this one

  7. I put £30k through this card this year and definitely value the flexibility of hotel and airline transfers. Don’t be shy in asking for extra points if you are thinking of cancelling. They gave me 4x for 3 months.

  8. Dannyrado says:

    OT: I have a return to MCO from AMS at Easter. Is there any chance that I’ll be able to tag on a Flybe leg to get me back to MAN with VS, or do you think I should just book my easyJet’s while they are still cheap?

  9. Dont forget on reward nights if you book 4 nights then the fifth is free.

  10. The Urbanite says:

    This card has remained in my wallet for some time. If you spend enough to realistically get a 1.25 miles/£1 earn rate then it’s preferable to the MR scheme in my opinion.

    This only works if you spend a lot and definitely want miles though. If you prefer to churn or do referrals with less spend then the MR cards work better.

  11. Sorry for posting this on the wrong blog post, but Rob, you posted a very informative reply to a previous comment of mine on amex reward post, but seems like comments are closed.

    It was in regards to transferring amex reward points from my UK account to USA account (both in my own name). You said you had done this previously and is easy to do with a limit of one transfer every 12 months.

    I just had two quick questions for you in regards to this:

    1. Who did you actually call? was it the rewards program you are transferring out of or transferring into?

    2. In your past experience, how long did the process take for the points to be transferred successfully?

    Thanks so much for your help with this!!!

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