Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The SPG Amex rebrands as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card

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A few days I wrote a long article on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card.

It seems that this was a partial waste of time (only partial, because we’ve cut and pasted much of it into this article) because American Express has now announced the rebranding of the card, with ‘enhanced’ benefits.

This is what is happening on 26th February:

The name of the card will be changed to the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card

The earning rate will be slashed by 33%, from 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 to 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1

The earning rate at Marriott Bonvoy hotels will remain 6 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1

Instead of giving all cardholders Silver Elite status, you will receive 15 elite night credits per year.  This will trigger Silver Elite status anyway, but also means that you are 15 nights closer to Gold Elite, Platinum Elite or Titanium Elite status.  This is a genuine improvement.

The annual fee remains at £75

Looking at the image on the letter, I think the card design is a copy of this US Bonvoy card:

Marriott Bonvoy American Express card

…… which is a shame, because this Bonvoy card – available only in the US – is much prettier in my view:

Marriott Bonvoy American Express card

Let’s take a look at the elite night credit in more detail.

These are the ‘nights’ requirements for different levels of Marriott Bonvoy status:

  • Basic Member: 0-9 nights
  • Silver Elite: 10-24 nights
  • Gold Elite: 25-49 nights
  • Platinum Elite: 50-74 nights
  • Titanium Elite: 75-99 nights

Because the Marriott Bonvoy American Express comes with 15 elite night credits, you will only need:

  • 10 additional nights for Gold Elite
  • 35 additional nights for Platinum Elite
  • 60 additional nights for Titanium Elite

Gold Elite is not worth much, so I won’t focus on that.  You can also receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for free by getting The Platinum Card from American Express.

Platinum Elite is where it gets interesting.  You can see the list of Platinum Elite benefits on the Marriott website here, but to summarise the relevant ones:

You get Executive Lounge access when the hotel has a lounge

You get a 50% bonus on your base points on every stay

You get a room upgrade, including suites, if available 

You get a welcome amenity – which can include restaurant breakfast if the hotel has no lounge or you would prefer to use the restaurant (this article explains the Bonvoy breakfast benefit by brand)

You get a GUARANTEED 4pm check-out except at convention and resort hotels

However you look at it, Platinum Elite is a good package.

50 nights is a stretch unless you are travelling heavily each week.  35 nights, on the other hand, is manageable for a lot of people.

If you believe that you could comfortably do 35 Marriott Bonvoy nights per year then it is well worth paying £75 for the new Marriott Bonvoy American Express in order to secure Platinum Elite status.

But if you’re not bothered about earning Platinum Elite status …..

For anyone who is NOT bothered about pushing for Platinum Elite status, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express is substantially less attractive than the SPG version. The day to day earning rate is cut by 33%.

I tend to value a Marriott Bonvoy point at 0.5p.  2 points per £1 means that you are getting a 1% return on your spending.  This isn’t bad BUT you are paying £75 per year for the privilege.

In comparison, if you value an airline mile at 1p, you could get:

1% back via the FREE British Airways American Express (1 Avios per £1)

0.75% back via the FREE Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard (0.75 miles per £1)

1.25% back via the £79 Lufthansa Global Traveller Mastercard (1.25 miles per £1)

What other benefits does the Starwood Amex offer?

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

You receive Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy

Because you only need 10 elite nights to receive Silver Elite status, and you will receive 15 elite night credits each year for holding the card, everyone who gets it will be – at the least – Silver Elite in Marriott Bonvoy.

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

The key benefits of Silver Elite status 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.

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

The free night benefit is remaining as part of the card rebranding.

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 – if you qualify

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 Marriott Bonvoy Amex.  You can’t get it if you have any other Amex card, and virtually no-one would choose the Bonvoy 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 Marriott Bonvoy Amex as your first Amex card, as I wrote in this article.  But unless you read HFP, you probably wouldn’t.)

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 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent which I value at 1p

As I wrote above, the earning rate is looking weak now and certainly not a reason to have the card.  The only exception would be if you were spending such large sums that the £75 fee became a rounding error.

The double points (6 per £1) offer for spending at the 30 Marriott brands now seems to be permanent.  This IS a decent deal when staying at UK hotels.

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 you may want to get the Marriott Bonvoy Amex.  Now that Emirates, Etihad, American and United no longer have UK credit cards, the Marriott Bonvoy 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.

The problem is that, at 2 Bonvoy points (0.66 airline miles) per £1 of spending, the £75 per year annual fee doesn’t make sense for a lot of people.

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 new ’15 elite nights’ credit means that you would also receive Gold Elite status after spending just 10 nights per year in Marriott hotels.

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.

Conclusion

For a small group of people – basically anyone who can easily do 35 Marriott nights per year but less than the 50 nights required to get Platinum Elite automatically – the ability to receive 15 elite night credits will make the Marriott Bonvoy American Express worth getting.

Unfortunately, I think far more people will now look at the £75 annual fee and the reduced ‘2 points per £1’ earning rate and decide to cancel.

My full review of the Starwood Amex credit card is here.  You can apply for the card here.  The new card is not available, but if you apply now for the SPG-branded version the new benefits will apply from 26th February.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – May 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards. You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Avios or other airline miles, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 points bonus (SPECIAL OFFER) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital on Tap Visa card

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% on business travel for four months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (256)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Sam G says:

    Yep, this one is going in the bin for me!

  • Chris D says:

    Aww darn. So the rumours were true.

    I might keep the card for the 15 elite nights, but I will certainly not be pushing £25k of spend through it. The thing is, I’m actually not sure what to use instead. I simply don’t need any more Avios or Virgin Miles, and Amex MR is on parity with HSBC earning. I think my Amex days may be coming to an end.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      That’s good in a way, wait 24m and start again!

    • Crafty says:

      Agreed. I may trim them entirely and use IHG Black as primary card. Only problem with that is very low credit limit!

  • Henry-Serge says:

    Damn.

    As a SPG Amex card holder, will Amex send me this new convoy card to replace the current one?

  • Chaim says:

    Ouch ouch ouch.

    That’s the end of that then. It was my best card, since I have so many Avios and Virgin points, I was using SPG Amex to get other airline points and pushing £50k on it a month.

    Now what? Even though I don’t need more Avios, but 1.5 Avios or virgin points per pound spent vs 2 marriot points? Feels stupid to go with the latter.

    Really don’t know what to do now.

    We need some real positive addition to the Card miles scene in the UK.

    I feel like moving to the USA just for that 😉

    Btw will the 0.3% cap change after Brexit? Any point of pinning some hope in that?

    • Alex W says:

      No. It was the UK that drove the introduction of the fee cap.

    • The Original Nick says:

      Miles & More CC?

    • The Urbanite says:

      In the same boat Chaim.

      Other options – the American Express Rewards Credit Card. Going forward it’s probably the best often if you get all your points through spend. However if you can generate 3+ referrals a year and value the other perks the Gold Credit Card might be better.

      With that level of spend the 25% transfer bonus is a real help. It’s pity these changes have rendered that redundant (thanks to the value of MR) unless you amass a huge number of points with stays!

    • Charlieface says:

      The UK didn’t want Amex co-brands to be rolled in though. It ended up coming down to bad drafting of the EU regs.

  • Chai says:

    Why in the world will anyone stick with it now? According to common sense, the number of people to stick with the card should drop 90%.

    Would love to see the numbers.

    How many people cancel…

  • Chris D says:

    Btw, I’d love to hear a convincing rationale as to why anyone would push £25k through the card for the free night, unless they are very extreme Marriott spenders (in which case they’d probably be Ambassador anyway!). A bit like Rob’s argument against anyone spending £20k on the free BA Amex, the opportunity cost of doing so is huge and makes that free night… err… not so free.

    • Harry says:

      Because I already spent enough and got the BA 2-4-1 and the IHG night

      So even thought the voucher and gold is totally trash and never used personally by me, £40k on the card got me 50k points in star alliance. So it’s 50k star alliance vs 60k Avios should I have spent it on the BA card.

      But now that it’s cut to 2 points….

      • Chris D says:

        My comment was based on the rate having fallen to 2p/£1. I agree with you, spending 25k was worth it when it gave a reasonable rate of return in the first place – the free night was genuinely free without opportunity cost then 🙂

    • The Urbanite says:

      Not for the free night but there are bonus miles available for every £20k spent on the card at the moment which makes it worth it.

  • Alex W says:

    15 elite credits is an improvement, but they could have gone a step further. Instead of gold status at £15k spend they could have awarded another 10 elite credits.

    • Matthew says:

      +1. Now no incentive to reach £15k spend. They could also change the Plat card to a choice between free Gold status or 10 elite credits for example…

    • Alan says:

      Indeed, they could also have given Marriott points rather than the free night voucher. Guess they don’t see the UK card scene as needing to be that competitive though.

  • Benilyn says:

    Does it being a “new” card help get around any less than 24 months having since held an amex to trigger bonus here?

    • Anna says:

      I really doubt it but I am wondering if this is now starting to bite for Amex. Every time I switch the radio or TV on there seems to be an advert for the BA cards!

    • Rob says:

      No, it is just a rebrand.

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