BAD NEWS: Amex cuts the earning rate on the SPG Amex as it 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.

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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. Another Amex card that becomes “meh”. I think the real issue for me as someone has already said is the gulf between what you can get as a USA customer vs UK ones. It’s easy to be elite with Marriott, Hilton etc. in the USA, much harder here. Marriott and Hilton have a range of cards for the USA, we just get one (currently nothing for Hilton at all!).

    • The Urbanite says:

      There may not be any Hilton cards on offer at the moment but at least there is the option of earning Hilton Honors points with the Amex MR cards (2 per £1) or Virgin cards (up to 2.25 per £1) through their conversion partner schemes.

  2. I think you can get 20 elite qualifying nights if you take this card and choose five nights as the Platinum/Titanium yearly award. Brings it down to 30 nights a year for those chasing status.

    • Your 5 nights as the Platinum/Titanium benefit only kicks in when you reach 50 nights so you still need 35 nights. The 5 nights only add on in the year in which you reach the 50 nights, so essentially meaning that year has 55 nights if that’s what you choose. The 5 nights can’t be added to your next year to mean you only need 30 nights that year to qualify. So this means if you got that benefit option in 2019 it can only be added to 2019’s total, and it won’t go on to 2020’s total even if you defer selecting the benefit till January 2020. So good if you’re chasing Titanium at 75 nights but useless for Platinum.

    • You get a choice for hitting 50 nights and another choice award for hitting 75 nights, so technically you can choose 10 elete nights as your award in a year. With this card, that’s 25 nights towards elete status. Helps a little with the removal for the 10 elete nights for booking a meeting. I actually held interviews at my local Marriott to get 10 nights credit (at my own expense) I may as well use my head office now

      • TGLoyalty says:

        but only one of the 5 nights is useful to hit titanium. after 75 nights if you choose 5 nights you are 25 nights closer to ambassador or all you have done is increase your lifetime count. They have no use in the following year.

        • Absolutely agree. Im chasing lifetime Plat, so for now, it has value. Once i reach Plat, this won’t be such a good deal, I will probably take the free night cert as my 75 night choice

  3. Card is now absolute junk. That earning rate would be acceptable (but no more) if the card was free.

    • Lady London says:

      +1. Marriott have shot themselves in the foot here.

      OTOH they may simply have done a good job of selecting their customers. If you are a high spender who stays in Marriott hotels that have decent lounges (like Hamburg) and likrs to transfer miles to US mileage programs then in the absence of better competition they’ll keep you.

      We need a US card issuer (Capital One?) to pair up with Hilton and agree to share enough margin with Hilton to make it worthwhile for Hilton. UK card issuers have got too fat and are not adjusting to reality.

  4. Emily chester says:

    So assuming we use cards to generate airline points only. So let’s do some math. I spend 40k per month.
    -40k on old spg rate gets me 50,000 airline points.
    -40k on new rate spg gets me 33,333 airline points
    -40k on ba gets me 60,000 avios
    -40k on virgin gets me 60,000 virgin
    -40k on amex gets me 40,000 airline

    So i can sacrifice 10k points in order to ib being universal and not locked into ba or virgin.
    But now that the sacrifice is 26,667k! per month….320,000 points per year…!!!
    explain to me why the foggiest I should keep the card??

    • Not everyone collecting airline miles I guess

      • Emily chester says:

        Well then what are you collecting? Hotel points? Then there is no issue and discussion of closing the card. If you want Marriot points then you need to keep the card. Devaluation is just too bad.

        The point of discussion is are the point you earn WORTH the card or rather you will do much better on another.

        So accordingly, it is at the bottom of the UK CC earnings table.

        I sometimes think on one hand the guys over there must know the game and business better then me, but then on the other hand I fail to understand it, so perhaps they indeed to NOT know what they are doing….?

        Plenty Card providers have had to close due to “not the best business move” which they did…
        Be they as big as you want.

        • ‘Well then what are you collecting? Hotel points? Then there is no issue and discussion of closing the card.’

          There may be a broader considerations. For example you could take out Amex Gold, free for first year with Lounge Pass with the option of transferring to either Hilton, Marriott and Radisson at better rates.

    • In a nutshell, based on the conversion bonus transferring 60k Marriotts at a time (to get the 5k airline bonus)

      Old rate 1.25 per £ spent
      New rate 0.83 per £ spent

      Not great.

    • The Urbanite says:

      I agree it is a raw deal for high spenders who wish to convert all of their points to airline miles, but how bothered are Marriott about this market?

      If it wasn’t for the availability of Amex MR and HSBC Premier points, the views on this may be a little different! Guessing there are quite a few on here actively points collecting for airlines that aren’t BA or Virgin!

    • Marriott do offer25% bonus miles once a year historically, that’s always made the card very worthwhile for me. It’s questionable now but flexibility is certainly useful.

  5. I have a couple of questions if anyone can help?

    If i apply for this card today, will i get 15 nights this year, or will i have to wait until next?
    If i have to wait unit next year, for how long will i need to have held the card to get the night credits? Could i apply in December and get the points in the following year?

    • You certainly won’t get it today because the card doesn’t launch until 26 Feb. We don’t know yet when the night credits will post.

      • My letter says by April 2020 for credit of 25 nights for this year on the old SPG card as it currently is. However as another person has commented I only collected to convert to US airline points. This card is now redundant for me. Will need a new strategy.

    • Neil Donoghue says:

      If we assume that this is just a launch of the U.S card, then the 15 nights will post within 60 days of opening the card. Therefore yes you can open the card and cancel it two months later. Of course this is just a hypothetical for now.

  6. I would happily pay 75£ for 15 night credit

    I used to book a conf room for 65£ to get 10 night credit which is no longer possible

    15 night would allow me reach Titanium

    For anyone who’s not after status, this card is not worth it !

  7. As a family of 4, hotel points are probably more useful than airline miles and we have tried to stay at Marriott properties, just so we get some kind of reward/return from our credit cards. SPG have been good to us with a decent earning rate and regular upgrades even as lowly golds – even after the merger.

    It looks as if I will have to stay with the current card, and therefore Marriott as it seems to still give the most points of any hotel rewards card.
    Are there any other cards that give 2pts/£? The earning rate on MR cards is 1.5/£.

    The other option is to go with a BAPP and change the collecting strategy to Avios, but only a “normal” household spend we aren’t going to generate enough Avios for us all to fly premium any time soon. Do BA holidays give a decent return for Avios or is it flights only?

    Thanks in advance.

    LST

    • Shoestring says:

      you’re comparing apples & pears – a Bonvoy point is worth much less than an Amex MR point

      • Hi Shoestring,

        Only if you have a variety of uses for a MR. I either transfer them into Avios (which I have only recently started collecting) or Emirates Skywards (to redeem for football related rewards) so it would probably better for me to have a BAPP.

        Transferring to anything else would be a waste of time for me at least as we typically pay to sit in the cheap seats both long and short haul (and so accrue minimal actual flying miles) which makes sense for us a family of 2 adults and 2 kids under 7 – I understand that this is not the case for most people.

        LST

        • Shoestring says:

          we travel Economy as well so don’t think you’re alone – RFS redemptions in Europe are amongst the very best of MR/ Avios uses

          hotel rooms?

          did you see my comment on Melia points yesterday?

          • Neil Donoghue says:

            L$T – I can’t fault your strategy! Many forget that collecting Avios is only half the battle. The taxes can be extortionate when flying to and from the US and if you have a family, these can stack up quickly.

            Hotel redemption’s on the other hand are the complete opposite! You pay what you see and in many cases, avoid 12% taxes and resort fees.

          • What was your melia comment ?

      • Shoestring, the point I think LST is making is that £1 spend = 1 MR on both Gold and Platinum cards. 2 MRs convert to 3 Bonvoy so day-to-day earning rate is £1 = 1.5 Bonvoy. The “new” Bonvoy card rate is £1 = 2 Bonvoys so this is better.

        Optimum strategy would be to put exactly 15k through a Gold card – you’d earn 15k MRs plus 10k bonus = 25k MRs = 37.5k Bonvoy points = 2.5 per pound. When you hit 15k spend, put the Gold in the drawer, take out a Bonvoy card and spend on that. Is there a better way to accrue Bonvoy points via a credit card?

        • Exactly – with the caveat that its only worth utilizing the Bonvoy card if your spend is significantly above 15k due to the £75 fee

        • Shoestring says:

          OK I get it. Ignoring manufactured spend and referrals, probably not if all you want is Bonvoys. There could be times when it makes sense to buy Bonvoys (when they are on promotion) to hit a redemtion requirement.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          My maths might be wrong but if a Bonvoy point is worth 0.5p and you get an extra half a Bonvoy point on the Marriott card you have to spend £30,000 to make the £75 fee worthwhile (less whatever you think the 10 night status credit and free 25,000 point night are worth).

          • Once you pass 15k spend on Gold, you’re earning an extra 0.5 Bonvoys per £ with Marriott Amex. Monthly fee is £6.25 so break-even point is c.£2.5k per month if you value a Bonvoy at 0.5p.

            I you’re putting significant Marriott spend through the card, it’s probably worth it regardless, 6 per pound is 3% value back so you’d only need to spend £200 a month with Marriott for it to pay for itself. Add on the 10 night stay credit and it’s definitely worth it for me.

          • Shoestring says:

            are you sure of the math? earn 2 Bonvoys/ £1 = 1p
            breakeven £6.25/ month = spend requirement £625/ month?

          • Additional earning rate of Bonvoy over MR is 0.5/£, value 0.25p. Marriott card is £6.25 per month, Amex is free until 1 year anniversary. 6.25/0.0025 = £2,500 spend.

            Or put another way, £2,500 spend earns extra 1,250 points worth £6.25 which covers monthly card fee.

    • As a lifetime Titanium, I shall be cancelling my SPG Amex on 26 Feb. The new earnings rate is not worth £75/year.

    • With the new earn rate on the Marriott bonvoy card, it’s almost comparable to the IHG premium card and with the latter you get a free hotel night at any IHG hotel if you hit £10k which makes up the difference.

      On a typical household spend I’d be opting for this card and potentially slow churn amex cards

  8. I wonder whether when people start cancelling this card in February they will be offered an extra point per £1?

    • Lady London says:

      Even if so would only be short term. Like, say, three months. Can’t build a strategy on that opportunity.

  9. K McCarthy says:

    According to Business Traveller, the welcome bonus has gone down, and the spending required to get it has gone up!

    https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2020/01/14/marriott-reduces-earning-rate-with-new-bonvoy-amex-card/

    • Downward trend continues, if your eligible I’d grab the card now then whilst they are still advertising 30k bonvoy for new sign ups

  10. OT no bits
    has anyone who’s renewed their passport recently got a maroon one or are they all blue now?

    • Got one 3 days ago … still maroon with EU etc.

      • Yours still says European Union on the front? I got a new one in October and noticed how that had been removed. Still maroon, though.

      • Lady London says:

        I’ve lost track. Is the UK still leaving the EU on 31st January or is there an extension to that date?

        • No extension 🙁

        • Enter transition phase until end December, or 1 or 2 year extension.

          During this period everything stays same as now – freedom of movement, EHICs etc.

          EU Commission chief wants extension, Boris Johnson supposedly doesn’t. Decision has to be made by July (suspect Boris will back down and take the 1 year extension).

          • Lady London says:

            So is that an extension of our membership beyond 31st January? For 6 months till July maybe longer?

            Or do we still leave 31st January and the current arrangements are kept for awhile after that?

            Sorry to be so dim. I had stopped following it and am really confused.

          • Shoestring says:

            enough uncertainty in there to renew my daughter’s passport a bit early, only took Passport Office 2 working days to process & approve it (now waiting on printing and delivery)

        • We are leaving the EU on 31st January.

          • Yes. Leaving EU on 31 January with a transition period until 31 December 2020.

            My passport renewed several months ago also didn’t have EU on it, but still maroon. I suppose blue ones will be issued at some point this year when all the existing stock is used up.

          • Only if you think “leaving” means following all of the rules and making the same payments until the end of the year. I didn’t realise the general public were so gullible.

  11. I’m not too fussed about the changes…the 15 nights will now probably get me to Platinum with less struggle than I initially thought. The timing of this enhancement is welcome as this was the year I decided to make the jump from gold to platinum. The revised earning rate will be compensated by the fact that I will get 50% bonus rather than 25% as a perpetual Gold going forward! Swings and roundabouts!

    • I’ve recently hit £15k spend on the SPG card, will I still get Bonvoy Gold Elite?

      I’ll probably wait until reports come in of the 15 nights posting here on HFP, then cancel the card

    • Ewen Cameron Bowman says:

      received my notification of the changes in the post today but no mention of the 15 nights and the card will only change when the old one runs out, so not sure what to expect?

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