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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. 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?

  2. Chelseafi says:

    Does anyone have to had the referral points for each Amex? Plat 12k, BAAP 9k ……
    Thanks

  3. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on my new passport, none of this European nonsense, issued a fortnight ago.

    • Your point? Been this way since April 2019 or earlier

    • And the UK will be able to step out of EU261 compensation for delayed flights and have a USA style compensation scheme (ie the airline decides what it wants to offer, take it or leave it). And none of that “roaming costs the same as being at home” nonsense either – mobile operators can decide for themselves what you will pay when visiting EU countries.

      • My uk mobile phone contract was completely free in Australia last year. I must have missed when they joined the EU.

      • luckyjim says:

        Most mobile phone providers offer free roaming all over the world. The EU law is completely unnecessary. I’m more likely to get caught out with unexpected charges at home than abroad.

        • Were mobile services always free in the EU using UK Mobile networks?

          • James Boyle says:

            Not always but they were free for a couple of years before the EU got its law through.

          • No. Lots of deals and networks still charged until EU ruling became law.

          • True, 2 points to note:
            1. Less choice for customers, the cheapest contracts have gone up in price to cover the cost, so if you don’t travel you pay more.
            2. The fact that you can get pretty much global roaming contracts on the medium to higher priced contracts covering many more countries than the EU just goes to reinforce point 1.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            I haven’t noticed my mobile phone bill going up at all. The best sim free deals still exclude global roaming and include EU roaming.

            The EU forced the networks hand in reducing costs first and then introducing no charges.

            Yes they were forced they were not planning on doing off their own backs, even Vodafone who own lots of european networks wasn’t doing this off their back until the EU forced them.

        • UK telcos were a huge rip off when it came to roaming and would have likely continued to be without legislation to stop it.

          • I’m sure the legislation gave a helping hand and sped the process up, you can’t honestly look at the free global roaming on offer on many UK contracts now though and stand firm that it wasn’t the direction of travel regardless of the EU.

            Why do companies offer global roaming as part of the sim package if all they do is comply with the EU law?

      • They won’t. Very little will change; it’s likely UK will have to adapt all EU standards and so.

        Brexit will be a lite EU membeship. No payments, no decision making power, bit will have to adopt regulations, laws…

  4. Really disappointing changes to the card.

    I called Amex today about the changes and the guy I spoke to told me with great enthusiasm about a big positive change to the card, that I will receive 15 elite night credits, which he said was worth 3 free nights at Bonvoy hotels…

    I explained that’s not the case at all, and they count towards status, they don’t give you any free nights. He sounded very disappointed himself lol! I wonder how many people he’s been telling that today.

    • Any offer of a bonus point per £ as retention?

      • No offer of a retention bonus yet, told him I would likely call back on 26th February to cancel the card. Ive held for quite a few years and been a heavy spender. So let’s see what happens then.

    • Peter K says:

      Some Amex agents are great and really know their job. Others less so, like one I had to explain the 6 month gap rule for getting the bonus on Amex Gold and platinum *business* cards rather than personal cards. I ended up putting a link on the online chat for him which he then looked at and learned something new!

  5. IF you collect AA miles and If you transfer from Marriott to AA when a 25% bonus is on 60k Marriotts concert to 31250 AA miles which is an earning rate of 1.04 AA miles per £ spent which is kind of ok.

    Miss those MBNA days of 1.5 per £ on a Visa card 🙁

    • And I had the Citi card even before that 🙂 A free flight to Rio courtesy of a case of wine was what started me off on this hobby.

  6. OT: Another Flybe rescue deal
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51113895

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      I think Flybe play an important role in the UK economy and the connectivity of such. The footprint and model obviously needs a tweek but it is worth saving if at all possible.

      I see this therefore as positive but question the reporting. There is no ‘APD burden’ that Flybe are struggling under. The tax only becomes due if a ticket is sold which generate cash which then needs to be set aside.

      I’m about to submit my self assessment. I wonder if HMRC will let me off with the income tax burden that I am under from generating income?

  7. Outside of the sign up bonuses, isn’t the 20K 》 25K airline miles(with bonus) still better than Amex MR to airline miles ?
    Even at 2 Marriott points per £, wouldn’t we need to spend only 10K£ to get to 25K airline miles while on Amex Gold, it needs to be 15K£ spend ?

  8. Is anyone having n/a balance on their charge card with amex app and online?

  9. Two questions:
    1. Why do you value Marriott points at 0.5p?
    Can you give a few usage examples? I feel like it could be more…

    2. How’s the process to switch from SPG card to the new one? Any chance to get a welcome bonus? Does the annual fee period remain the same?

    • Peter K says:

      1) We all have different values we put on points/miles. For me an avios is only worth 0.5p for example. Rob’s valuations are on his experience. If your experience suggests a point is worth more (or less) than Rob’s then go with that when making your calculations.

    • 0.5p per point would be pretty close. Rough guide for Starpoints was 1.5p/point, and 3xMarriott=1xSPG. 3x Marriott gets 1x mile in various schemes, which generally are given a valuation of 1p/mile. Transferring 60,000 point blocks gets 25,000 miles (1.25p per 3x Marriott nominal valuation) and add some for the flexibility = 0.5p/Marriott point.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      0.5p is very conservative for Marriott. The cheapest you can buy them for even with a bonus is around 0.6p

      I’ve got close to 1p at hotels that I would and have paid the normal rate for.

      • I have large balances therefore the value I get tends to the median, otherwise I would never use my points. If I only had, say, 85000 Bonvoy then I might save them for my next NYC trip and book the St Regis, getting myself 1p+ on my whole balance.

        Similarly I get poorer Avios value than most because I am only using a 241 on one of the three family long hauls we tend to do each year. Anyone who only uses Avios with a 241 will do a lot better than me.

      • If you could buy them for under 0.5p then I’d have to drop my valuation to match!

    • Look up 20 random stays you may realistically do, cash vs points, and do the maths. Will be around 0.5p. I have tracked all my redemptions in all schemes since 2014 which is where these numbers come from.

  10. OT but kind of relevant to anyone who still holds the Marriott Mastercard, heads up that Creation seem to have started charging cash advance interest on various transactions, even when there’s no cash fee charged, which I found strange.

    • The Urbanite says:

      Any consistency with the MCCs of the merchants being charged interest? I’ve noted down a few where this happens and take steps to prevent it.

      • Bentoni says:

        I had a random cash advance interest of £0.14 charged to my IHG card .. and I couldn’t figure out which one. It only started last month, and I have not changed my spending pattern.

      • Good question, not sure how to find that out with Creation though. MBNA used to list the MCCs on the statement, which was great, never known another issuer to be that transparent.

  11. this card defines what is useless

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