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.

  • Mark L says:

    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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

      • RK says:

        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.

  • Ilou says:

    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 !

  • LST says:

    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

      • LST says:

        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.

          • Anuj says:

            What was your melia comment ?

      • Stu N says:

        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?

        • joe says:

          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).

          • Stu_N says:

            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?

          • Stu N says:

            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.

    • MKB says:

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

    • Freddy says:

      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

  • mark2 says:

    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.

  • 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/

    • Freddy says:

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

  • ali says:

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

    • Jay H says:

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

      • Liam says:

        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?

        • Jay H says:

          No extension 🙁

        • John says:

          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)

        • Tilly says:

          We are leaving the EU on 31st January.

          • Andy says:

            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.

          • Fc99 says:

            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.

  • Dev says:

    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!

    • Axel says:

      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?

  • Chelseafi says:

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

    • Jay H says:

      Plat Bus 18K, Plat 12K, Gold Bus 9K, Gold 6K, SPG 9K Marriott, BA Premium – 9K avios, BA free card 4K, Nectar 5K nectar card

    • BJ says:

      🙂 obviously, do you think we’re all amateurs here on HFP?

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