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)

  • Peter K says:

    “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 15 nights closer to Gold, Platinum or Titanium Elite.”

    A minor point but these should both say 10 nights Rob.

  • Simon says:

    Rob has never been the biggest fan of this card. I have held the Plat, Gold and the BA cards and I’ve been happiest with this card. I value hotel points more than Avios because I wouldn’t spend my own money on business class travel and budget airlines often offer better value for short haul European travel than an Avios redemption. I also struggle to use the 241 redemptions due to being a family of 3 with a school age child. Bonvoy points have real value to me so I find the 1.5% earnings rate excellent.

    • Peter K says:

      For those that are not high spenders though the £416 spend per month (£5000 per year) to break even on the annual fee is a deal breaker, if not offset by getting the initial bonus.

  • meta says:

    When does one receive the free night after spending 25k? On the anniversary date? It’s been a month since I did the spend and there is a message on Amex website to that affect. However, the certificate is not showing in my Marriott account.

    And how does the redeeming of the voucher work? Do you need to book within 12 months or is it book&stay within 12 months?

    • Freddy says:

      There was a one liner reference to it in my bonvoy activity history, came through within days. It should pop up when you go to book an eligible room.

      This is the terms I received via email

      Terms and Conditions
      1Each year, after £25,000 annual spend with your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, you will receive one Free Night Award from Marriott Bonvoy. The Free Night Award can be redeemed for a one-night stay inclusive of room rate and applicable taxes at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties with a redemption level at or under 25,000 points.

      The Cardmember may be responsible for payment of additional mandatory resort fees at properties where resort fees are applicable, and is responsible for all incidental charges. This benefit is only available to the Basic Cardmember on the Card Account.

      The Free Night Award will be automatically deposited into your Marriott Bonvoy Member Account within 8–12 weeks after your qualifying spend is reached in the form of an e-certificate. You will receive an email from Marriott Bonvoy to the email address listed on your Marriott Bonvoy Account confirming that the Free Night Award e-certificate has been deposited into your Marriott Bonvoy Member Account. The email will also provide instructions on how to redeem your Free Night Award e-certificate. To redeem the Free Night Award e-certificate, you must log into your Marriott Bonvoy Member Account and apply the e-certificate during booking. The Free Night Award e-certificate will expire after 1 year from issuance. E-certificates may not be transferred, extended beyond the expiry date or re-credited for points. To qualify for the Free Night Award, your Account must be open and not in default at the time of the Free Night Award e-certificate issuance.

      • meta says:

        Never received an email and there is no line in my account! I also can’t see it when I go to book eligble hotel.

    • Matthew says:

      The last one I got auto appeared in my bonvoy account a few days after hitting the £25k spend. Then it was available to select when booking the room. IIRC expiry date is stay by but not 100% sure.

  • rahaney says:

    Would you value this card over the Gold PR from Year 2+ for daily Amex spend after you’ve got your yearly BAPP 2-4-1??

  • Ann Rhodes says:

    Amex are replacing this card with on 26th Feb with the new Marriott card. Earnings will reduce to 2 points per pound but you will be able to “earn” elite night credits after a certain amount of spend.

    • Shoestring says:

      quite a reduction 3 points/ £1—>2 points/ £1

    • Robert says:

      Ooh, really? Where’s this info come from?

      I’ve just got the SPG card; will it switch to a new card or will I get to run this card with it’s current 3points /£?

    • Stuart Evans says:

      I’m curious where to find more information about this pending change, which seems to amount to a substantial downgrade. Will there be any compensating improvements?

      • Rob says:

        We have the Bonvoy team at the awards dinner on Monday, will ask.

        • TooManyMiles says:

          Also keen to know this as it will determine whether I get the card prior to some large business stays in Feb/Mar

  • Chris D says:

    Is it just me, or has the “My Earned Points” page of the Amex Website been redesigned (unlike the one for the BA Amex) so that it no longer displays your card anniversary date and/or progress toward the £25k spend target? This is a pretty unhelpful change 🙁

  • FarFy says:

    I get the 0.5p valuation, but I tend not to redeem unless I’m getting 1p of value – hard but doable. This is a superb earning rate for spend at Bonvoy properties and definitely helps drive my business there. Even if paying for personal stays with Forex, buying points for 0.5p each is worth it in my view. I hope they don’t tinker with the card but delighted this rate continues for the moment.

  • Josh says:

    Is “£25k/year” per Amex anniversary year, or per calendar year?