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

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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)

  • chef says:

    its not difficult to get more than a penny a point in China and Japan, the five for four also increases the value? I find five nights perfect in a city like Beijing or Tokyo?

  • BrightlyBob says:

    Although I personally value Marriott points at a cent, the last 2 years have redeemed at almost a full penny per point. So 2-3p per £ (5-6p at Marriotts) represents a great rate of return and it remains my main card with the IHG Premium Mastercard as backup. Living in Manchester and flying only for leisure I choose RyanScare, SqueezyJet, JetPoo and SwizzAir. Beyond Europe only happens once a year and I choose the cheapest for my destination which all means the BA AMEX is of no interest.

  • Pat says:

    If you click on the hyperlink to the t&cs for the earn rate on marriotts hotels, you will will find the 6point/£1 spend promotion ends 31/12/2019.

  • Alex Sm says:

    OT but Bonvoy. I stayed at Sheraton in Moscow in December. The booking was through Booking. But at the checkin a manager asked me for my MB number and said that my rate is eligible for points. Plus I opted in for their Green programme and got vouchers for 500 points each for every night when my room was not serviced.

    To cut a long story short, I have not yet received any points. Missing points claim done but no result. Is it normal? I almost always stay at IHG where all the points credit nearly automatically, especially green ones.

    Should I pursue my claim on the ground that I was told explicitly that my rate was eligible and even if it was a mistake they have to honour it now? Or should I just chase the green points? Or give up and move on (i.e. not stay at Marriotts of this world for good)?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      High chance regardless of what was said retro claiming the points won’t work as Marriott will see it as a 3rd party booking and not post it.

      You would have to contact the hotel directly to stand a chance of getting anything.

    • Rob says:

      As you had already checked in when told this, you’re not liable for anything (except arguably Green Choice). It didn’t influence your view on which channel to book with.

  • Andy says:

    What are the chances that you’d write this article, and then 2 days later Amex would send letters out to SPG card holders explaining changes to the card and a drop in the earnings rate!

    Changes are 2 points per pound spent on the card rather than 3, and 15 elite night credits applied to your account annually instead of the current system.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, slightly annoying. It does however allow me to cut and paste the old article with a few modest changes and present it as a fresh 1,300 piece masterpiece 🙂

      What’s really annoying is that it took me 5 years to get hold of a really high quality image of the front of the SPG Amex and now they are withdrawing it ……!

      • Nick Burch says:

        Quite a nice picture on the letter for the new one, so maybe just scan that in? 🙂

        15 elite nights for £75/year is a very very good deal for anyone who currently ends up doing mattress runs to Heathrow or Excel

        Other than the earnings drop, the way they are doing the earnings is annoying. Round down to nearest whole pound then multiply by 2.

  • ehh says:

    so 2 points instead of 3
    & automatic gold elite removed.

    Time for a new card me thinks.
    Now where is that Flying Blue / Virgin hook up.

    • Rob says:

      Never was Gold Elite, it was Silver Elite (at least since Bonvoy launched). You get Silver Elite by default due to the 15 nights.

      For SOME people this card will work. You’d only need 35 nights to hit Platinum and that is very good – lounge access, GUARANTEED 4pm check-out. 50% points bonus and breakfast at most brands.

      • ehh says:

        Odd, as I have Marriott Gold Elite
        That is what my account is showing & I have not stayed at a Marriott in over a year!
        Had SPG card since before the merger though. Not sure if that is something to do with it.

      • Ben says:

        I’d say 35 nights is a lot…!

        Another card bites the dust.

  • Brian S says:

    Received literature today of the name change of the card and 2 points for every £. Very interesting addition is the 15 elite night credits annually with no spend requirement listed.

    • Jack says:

      Same. The 15 nights is interesting indeed, but the reduction in earning rate is annoying.

  • Donny says:

    Will the new card give double points when spending at Marriott properties?

    • Mike G says:

      It gives 3 points, vs 2 points everywhere else. The earning rate used to be 2 Starwood points =6 Marriott “Bonvoy” points at their properties, and 1 SPG=3 Marriott elsewhere. The new card is awful and it didn’t take a moment’s consideration to decide to close both of the accounts we had.