Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

You now earn 6 Bonvoy points per £1 of Marriott spend on the SPG American Express credit card

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card has become the ugly sister of the American Express portfolio.  

For a start, there are not that many people who have the foggiest idea why a card earning Marriott Bonvoy points is called the Starwood Preferred Guest card!

Secondly, due to the new tough restrictions on sign-up bonuses that American Express launched last year, virtually no-one now qualifies for the sign-up bonus on the Starwood Amex.  You can’t get it if you have any other Amex card, and virtually no-one would choose the SPG card as their first Amex.  Without a sign-up bonus, the £75 annual fee – which is NOT waived in Year 1 – looks tough.

(You SHOULD get the Starwood Amex as your first Amex card, as I wrote in this article.  But unless you read HFP, you probably wouldn’t.)

Thirdly, the American Express website page for the card is confusing and misleading:

it fails to mention a key card benefit – that you receive Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status just for getting the card

it fails to mention a key restriction to the free night you get for spending £25,000 – that it is restricted to hotels costing 25,000 points per less, and that those hotels are generally rubbish

Before we go on, 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.

There is some good news, however

The Starwood American Express had a generous earning rate when you stayed at any of the 30 Marriott brands.  You received 6 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1.

This offer was meant to end on 31st December 2019.  However, all references to an end date have now been removed from the American Express website even though they were there last week.

I think we can assume that 6 Bonvoy points per £1 when spending at Marriott is now permanent.

Starwood American Express benefits

What other benefits does the Starwood Amex offer?

Let’s run through the other benefits of the Starwood American Express card.

You receive Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy

American Express doesn’t tell you this.  However, it is promoted on this page of the Marriott website.

The benefits of Silver Elite are not huge, of course.  You can see the different Marriott / Starwood tier levels here.

The key benefits of Silver Elite status, which usually requires 10 nights in a calendar year, are:

    • 10% bonus on base points earned
    • ‘Priority’ for late check-out requests

…. and that’s it, at least in terms of stuff you will find genuinely useful.  It isn’t a lot but it should stop you getting the room overlooking the bins.

Here’s one important point: you get Silver Elite status and not 10 elite status nights which automatically gets you Silver Elite status.  There is a big difference in this, because the latter puts you 10 nights closer to Gold, Platinum or Titanium Elite.  The former does not.  The SPG Amex would have been a lot more attractive to regular Marriott guests if you were given 10 elite status night credits which is what happens in the US.

Marriott Silver status with Starwood American Express Card SPG

You get a free night voucher you get when you spend £25,000 in a year.

This sounds great, given some of the luxury properties in the Marriott portfolio.  However – whilst the Amex website doesn’t tell you this – it can only be used at hotels which costs up to 25,000 points per night.

This isn’t much.  For comparison, the top Bonvoy redemptions now cost 100,000 points per night.

It is also not possible to book a better hotel and pay the additional points on top.

In the UK, 25,000 points gets you the Bexleyheath Marriott, Courtyard Aberdeen Airport, MOXY Heathrow Airport, Durham Marriott, Portsmouth Marriott etc.  There is nothing in Central London – the MOXY at Excel is the nearest qualifying option, and even that goes up to 30,000 points on a ‘peak’ night.

Spending £25,000 on an Amex card is NOT easy – and your only reward is a free night at a relatively low-rent hotel.  It makes no sense.

Manchester Airport Marriott

It comes with a good sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios

On the off-chance that you haven’t had any other personal American Express cards in the last 24 months, you qualify for the sign-up bonus of 30,000 Bonvoy points.  30,000 points is good for around £150 of free hotel nights or will convert into 10,000 miles with over 40 airlines, including Avios and Virgin Flying Club.

One positive quirk of Marriott Bonvoy is that you can transfer points between members for free, up to 100,000 points per year.  This means that you could persuade a family member who would qualify for the bonus to take one out and then transfer the points to you.

There is a low spend target to trigger the bonus

You only need to spend £1,000 within 90 days to receive 30,000 Bonvoy points as a sign-up bonus.  This is handy if you struggle to hit the £3,000+ required for Amex Gold, Platinum or BA Premium Plus.

You earn 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent which I value at 1.5p

A 1.5% return on your spending isn’t bad at all.   For a high spender – who would earn so many points that the £75 annual fee is immaterial to the maths – this card is a serious contender.

For someone spending £50,000 per year on the card, for example, you’d receive enough Bonvoy points for (on my 1.5% return valuation) £750 of free hotel nights.  The annual fee of £75 is just a rounding error in this case.

As I mentioned above, the double points (6 per £1) offer for spending at the 30 Marriott brands now seems to be permanent.

Note that the card has a 3% FX fee so, irrespective of double points. it isn’t a good one to use abroad until your employer is repaying you.

It is a good way of earning airline miles if your airline no longer has a credit card

This is the real reason that many people get the Starwood Amex.  Now that Emirates, Etihad, 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 get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for spending £15,000 in a card year

This isn’t worth much, to be honest, because Bonvoy Gold Elite has few benefits.  More importantly, you can get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite 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 spend a lot of money in Marriott hotels in the UK (or someone else is reimbursing the 3% FX fee abroad) or want to collect airline miles in a scheme that does not have a dedicated UK credit card, the Starwood Amex card may work for you.  Just don’t focus too much on spending £25,000 on the card to trigger the free night voucher.

My full review of the Starwood Amex credit card is here.  You can apply for the card here.

Earn triple Marriott Bonvoy points with the SPG American Express

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points via UK credit cards

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and Melia Rewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Marriott Bonvoy points.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ 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.

Comments (80)

  • Nick_C says:

    “Virtually no-one would choose the SPG card as their first Amex.”

    Perhaps not in your circle of friends Rob, but for someone who would struggle to spend £3k in three months to get the sign up bonus on the PRGC, the SPG card could be attractive. And for a couple, combine the SPG points and you get a 25pc bonus when you transfer 60000 points (two sign up bonuses) out to an airline. So 31k airline miles for a £2k spend over 6 months (two sign up bonuses, one referral bonus, combine the Bonvoy points, 5000 bonus miles for transferring 20000 miles out). And a fee of less than £40 after the pro rata refunds.

  • Antipest says:

    10% “just a rounding error” maybe in your world, but thats no rounding error in mine. Loose a decimal place and maybe.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    I am a fan of this card. The 25k spend for the bonus reward night is not the best, but there are much better options in the US than the UK, you can often get a night downtown in Manhattan for less than 25k points. When you also consider the five nights for four on redemptions, Bonvoy is my favourite scheme for redemptions when travelling to the States.

  • Craig says:

    I know I’ve asked before but I just want to double check, Mrs S has cancelled both BAPP and Amex Plat and is waiting 24 months before reapplying. If she were to apply for the SPG Amex this wouldn’t affect the clock for the cancelled cards but she wouldn’t get a sign up bonus for the new card?

    • Freddy says:

      That’s correct. Holding the SPG card has no impact on the bonus of the BAPP or amex plat

  • Erico1875 says:

    You can often get the Marriott Aberdeen Airport for around £30.

  • M Todd says:

    It seems like Amex is confused as I spoke to Centurion Customer Services yesterday they went away to check and confirmed the offer of 6 points is no longer valid and the website is out of date. I pointed out the issues regards advertising rules and they apologised but did not back down on their claim.

    Also when you go to landing page for the SPG card on their main website and click on “6 Points” and then the important infiormation”here” it still shows the ending date as of 31st December 2019 this morning.

    I do feel like your probably right Rob that the 6 points will continue and that Amex would have a hard time not giving people 6 points based on how they advertise things if indeed the agent was correct and it is now only 3, but they have not fully updated their website!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I got 6/£1 3 days ago.

      • M Todd says:

        This would backup the theory that the card will earn 6 points and Amex CS are being cautious as they dont actually know for sure. I feel this card has been neglected my Amex, in my card details it still quotes everything as Starpoints and Starwood. I did ask for absolute confirmation from them and expect to hear from them within a couple of days but I would be very surprised if the 6 points dont continue.

  • memesweeper says:

    Marriott Gold may have few guaranteed benefits but I’ve literally always had an upgrade on the strength of it excluding Resident Inn stays. More consistently useful in this regard than IHG Spire Elite! Never tried in the States though.

  • Matthew says:

    You actually get a Cat 1-4 certificate which is now good at peak Cat 4 hotels (30,000 pts.) I often stay at University Arms, Cambridge which is a lovely hotel, well located and offers great value for your certificate. You can often find this hotel just 20,000pts too if going off-peak.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Agree very nice hotel but limited onsite parking nearest public paid parking is across the green.

      Unless you know any free parking tips 🙂

      • mark2 says:

        They do valet parking which is excellent value at £30 per night for the convenience.

      • JohnT says:

        Can use Cambridge park and rides overnight for a small fee. Buses stop almost outside hotel.

        PS we have often had upgrades at Marriott hotels even with Silver including University Arms on points redemption.

      • Matthew says:

        Justpark has a two spaces round the corner at Regus offices (secure with barrier) for about £7 a night.

    • Freddy says:

      The free night award email I’ve received recently no longer refers to the specific categories but rather stays up to 25000 points

      • Matthew says:

        How weird…the last one I got was cat1-4 specific and was used on a 30,000 point night. However my card anniversary is just about to happen so maybe it’s 25,000 point hotel from now on….