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BAD NEWS: Amex cuts the earning rate on the SPG card as it rebrands as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express

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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.

Starwood American Express benefits

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.

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. Can you only get max 15 elite nights credit per year through credit cards? I have already the old Creation card (10 nights) and the EmiratesNBD (5 nights). The last years I did quality for Titanium Elite but taking out the card at the end of the year could be a good option to reach 50 / 75 nights if these extra elite nights count and stays were less

  2. George K says:

    With the 15 nights posting every April, the question is: do they trigger after a full year’s activity, or could you, theoretically take the card out in March, and cancel in May after the nights have posted?

  3. Does anyone have any knowledge as to whether existing cardholders will all get their wodge of 15 night credits in the *first* April, i.e. April 2020? Might hang on until then.

    • memesweeper says:

      Well, I’ve got zero stays for 2020 and my status is showing as Gold Elite (from last year) and…

      16 nights to renew Gold

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Marriott IT issues havent refreshed all of the data properly yet.

        First new year since Bonvoy launched so I’m sure their are gremlins everywhere.

  4. Looking through the comments at 9.30 this morning just shows how little interest the new card is generating other than arbitrage. Again Marriott has assumed UK customers have the same cultural philosophy as US customers and will just take it.

  5. Harry T says:

    Couple of points:
    1) I’ve seen a couple of people advising to hold onto the BAPP in case AMEX change the card adversely or get rid of it – this development with the Marriott card seems to suggest that AMEX is quite prepared to change cards with little notice, and the Costco card showed that Amex will cut cards overnight.
    2) People considering a two year break from Amex before getting the sign up bonuses again should be wary, IMO. Amex has made dramatic changes to sign up and referral bonuses, earnings rates and card availability in the last year. There’s no guarantee they won’t change the bonus rules again or get rid of or reduce bonuses.
    3) Amex is doing a very poor job of incentivising people to keep their cards long term. Only the PRGC and BAPP have a decent bonus for spending a certain amount each year. Amex are showing no signs of offering other substantial incentives and are cutting card benefits. I don’t know what their strategy is moving forward but I do wonder how many customers they’ve lost with recent changes and how many they’ve managed to retain.

    • About 2), if you have no interest/cannot make the spending thresholds in the Gold or BAPP, what exactly do you lose by not going on a 2-year hiatus? My wife has the Gold and we can make the £15k spending there (which is more useful for us than the 241), but barely. So, what exactly would be the point of me holding an Amex? Unless I want to just keep refering me for different cards from my wife’s card, I don’t see any use. If when my 2-year hiatus ends Amex doesn’t want to give me a sign up bonus, so be it, I’ll take my business elsewhere.

      • Shoestring says:

        I’ve had about 20x £15 & £25 off £40 (Amazon) in the last couple of years…Gold Amex…plus other offers of course

        card has paid for itself from the start

        • True. But to be fair the Amazon offer seems to have not been around for many months. For the other offers, I would probably get an additional £5 on shop small per each card (not many small shops around here accepting Amex and I won’t decide on my travel plans based on that); any other offers I rarely use any of them on our 2 cards, so the value of holding any more cards because of that is virtually zero.

          • Shoestring says:

            I was unable to use SS at all this year – decided not to drink at the time, so that ruled out a couple of good pubs – plus also decided fish & chips was too greasy so didn’t buy those multiple times (3 cards) (as was my previous custom)

      • I also have to say that for Amex it would probably be a good business decision to change the rules and not give me the new cards after the 2 years off! As things stand, I’ll probably get my wife to refer me to Nectar+Platinum+BAPP+Gold(to keep long term) and then she’ll cancel her Gold. If Amex changes the rules and doesn’t give me sign up bonuses, we’ll probably stick with her Gold and keep paying the annual fee on that. So, while I say that I’ll take my business elsewhere, I/we’ll probably always have an Amex.

  6. Add another to the list of ‘oh well, not for me any longer’.

    Seems an odd move to me, but there’s a chance they understand these things better than I do.

  7. Yet another depressing devaluation for a UK credit card.

    If the Bonvoy team are at the winter party next week, it would be good to speak with them. I wonder if a second ‘business’ card could be on the cards (similar to the ba accelerating card or whatever it’s called) with better earnings rate/perks due to it not being subject to interchange caps?

    It would be interesting what the cancellation rate of the card will be come 26th Feb. I know I will be canceling.

    Right now I’m an extra point per £1 on this card – making this the only card I’m spending on – which finishes up around the same time as the reduced earning rate comes into play. I think I’ll be pushing spend back on the IHG black now…

    • Is the extra point through a retention call?

      • Yep.1 extra point for 6 months. Was better in the pre merger days (I got this offer a couple of times) as it loads up as 1 additional star point which was in effect double points pre Bonvoy.

  8. Somewhat OT – is it advised that self referrals for amex are to be completely avoided given what has happened in the states with points being clawed back/accounts closed/frozen?

  9. Does anyone know if these 15 nights count towards lifetime status?

    • I’d be keen to know that as well.

      Anyone with the creation card know as I think that gives 10 nights per year?

      • Creation 10 nights count to lifetime status, I’m hoping I will be able to double dip02ith the 15 in Amex. I’m hoping for (although I will reserve any expectations) :10 nights on creation and 15 on Amex. Plus if I choose 10 reward nights for my 75 nights choice awards, that’s 35 nights a year towards lifetime that have not involved a sleep 🙂

        • TGLoyalty says:

          you’ll get a max of 15 nights. the T&C’s about this and IT are at Marriott’s end not the card issuers.

  10. Oh! Matron! says:

    Does it still have the insurance?

  11. Lol at some of the heading copy and pastes, Rob 😉

    “What other benefits does the Starwood Amex offer?”

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