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What is the best replacement for your Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card?

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As we covered last week, American Express has written to holders of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card telling them that the benefits package is changing on 26th February.

The card is being rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express on that date.  Here is a summary of the changes:

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.  

The annual fee remains at £75

Here is the new design:

Marriott Bonvoy American Express card

Quite a few readers who have the card have said that they will not be keeping it when the changes come into effect.  I can understand why, because a 1% return – based on my valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points of 0.5p – is difficult to justify with a £75 annual fee.

(There are other readers, of course, who now want to get the card because of the addition of 15 elite nights.  Anyone who could easily achieve 35 Marriott Bonvoy nights per year, including reward stays, would be able to earn Platinum Elite status with the extra 15 elite nights from having the credit card.)

I thought I would have a look at the best alternatives if you have decided that you can’t justify keeping your SPG Amex.

Best American Airlines UK credit card replacement

What is your best alternative to the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card?

There are a number of ways of looking at this.  Let’s run through them.

Scenario 1:  You want a card which still lets you earn Marriott Bonvoy points at a decent rate

The good news is that there are other ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from a credit or charge card in the UK.  The earning rate is not too shabby either.

For modest spenders, my preferred choice would be the American Express Rewards Credit Card.

This card is FREE FOR LIFE so, once you’ve got it, you don’t need to worry about any ‘first year free’ deal expiring.  Importantly, the card earns 1 American Express Membership Rewards point per £1 spent.

This is the same earning rate as American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (£140 after the free first year) or American Express Platinum (£575 per year) so you can see how attractive it is.

1 Membership Rewards point gets you 1.5 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1.  This is lower than the 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 on the SPG / Bonvoy Amex BUT you are not paying the £75 annual fee.   For anyone spending less than £30,000 on the SPG / Bonvoy Amex per year, the American Express Rewards Credit Card is likely to be a better deal.  (I calculate £30,000 as the break-even figure based on the Bonvoy Amex earning an extra 0.5 points, which I value at 0.25p, per £1 spent.)

Of course, I am placing no value on the extra benefits offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Amex:

6 points per £1 at Marriott hotels

Gold Elite status for spending £15,000 per year

A free night in a hotel costing up to 25,000 points for spending £25,000 per year

….. but I am also placing no value on the fact that Amex Membership Rewards points can also be converted into Hilton Honors and Radisson Rewards, giving you more flexibility for free nights.

There are two other options for earning Membership Rewards cards – either American Express Preferred Rewards Gold or American Express Platinum.

As I said above, these cards also give you 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent, and they convert at 2:3 into Marriott Bonvoy.

Preferred Rewards Gold is free for the first year.  You won’t qualify for the sign-up bonus if you have the SPG Amex, but you WILL receive two free airport lounge passes.  Arguably, one plan would be to get Gold for a year to get the airport lounge passes and then move on to the ‘free for life’ Amex Rewards Credit Card after 12 months.

The Platinum Card is a totally different proposition, as you’d expect for a £575 fee.

You WILL qualify for the 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (which converts into 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) even though you have the Starwood Amex.  You are only disqualified if you have held a Green, Gold, Platinum, Centurion or Amex Rewards card in the last 24 months.

The Platinum Card also comes with Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy, along with status in Hilton Honors, Radisson Rewards, MeliaRewards, Shangri-La Golden Circle and Taj InnerCircle, the latter via a guaranteed Shangri-La match.

Our full review of American Express Platinum is here.  This article explains how I justify The Platinum Card fee.

Best American Airlines UK credit card replacement

Scenario 2:  You want a credit card to collect hotel loyalty points in general

If you are prepared to swap from Marriott Bonvoy points, there are other options open to you.

All of the American Express options above remain attractive because, as well as transferring to Bonvoy, Membership Rewards points also transfer to Hilton Honors (at 1:2, so 2 points per £1 spent) and Radisson Rewards (at 1:3, so 3 points per £1 spent).

Hilton Honors does not have a UK credit card at the moment.

The only direct Visa / Mastercard option is via the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard (1 IHG Rewards Club point per £1) or the £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard at 2 points per £1.

There is a sign-up bonus on these cards.  The free IHG Mastercard comes with 10,000 IHG points.  The £99 Premium card comes with 20,000 IHG points.

I rate these cards highly.  The IHG Rewards Club Premium Card won ‘Best UK Travel Rewards Credit Card (Editor’s Choice)’ at the Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards 2019.  It is a good package:

you get a decent sign-up bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points

the points you earn from spending count for status

you get Platinum Elite status (benefits here) in IHG Rewards Club for as long as you hold the card

you get a voucher for a free night EVERY YEAR as long as you spend £10,000 on the card – which is easier to do, on a Mastercard, than it is with American Express

Our full review of the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard is here.

It is also worth noting that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, which I outline below, let you transfer your Virgin Flying Club miles into Hilton Honors (at 2:3) or IHG Rewards Club (at 1:1) points.  You lose a lot of value compared to using the miles for flights, however.

Best American Airlines UK credit card replacement

Scenario 3:  You simply want the most rewarding credit card per £1 spent

Without a doubt, the two Virgin Atlantic Mastercards are the most generous Visa or Mastercard products available – either the Virgin Reward Mastercard (free, 5000 miles bonus) or Virgin Reward+ Mastercard (£160, 25000 miles bonus until 28th February – see here).

You get 0.75 miles per £1 on the free card and 1.5 miles per £1 on the paid card.  This is FAR better than any hotel card, assuming you value a mile at 1p.  The only downside is that, with no short haul routes, you are unlikely to earn enough miles purely from the credit card to get a good redemption so the cards are best suited to regular Virgin flyers.

The British Airways American Express cards offer a similar return – 1 Avios per £1 on the free card and 1.5 Avios per £1 on the £195 Premium Plus card.  Most HFP readers understand the value of these cards, and I would stress that – because of the 2-4-1 voucher – the Premium Plus card is the most generous travel credit card in the UK.  A Mastercard or Visa would obviously be more flexible, but if you are swapping out of the Starwood Amex then this is presumably not a concern for you.

You WILL qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus on the BA Premium Plus Amex despite having had the SPG Amex.  You are only disqualified if you have held either of the BA cards in the last 24 months.  However, you will NOT qualify for the 5,000 Avios bonus on the free BA Amex card.

I would also recommend that high spenders take a look at the Lufthansa Miles & More Global Traveller card (review here).

You earn 1.25 miles per £1 spent on their Mastercard, which is an excellent result given the £79 annual fee.  As with Virgin Atlantic, the real value in Miles & More comes from long-haul redemptions.  You need to see a way of getting to 50,000+ miles, either from card spend or a combination of spend and Star Alliance flying, before you can get a decent redemption.

The best non-Amex cards for an Avios / Asia Miles / Singapore Krisflyer / Etihad Guest collector are the HSBC Premier Mastercard or HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard.   The basic card earn 0.5 miles per £1 (no annual fee) whilst the £195 World Elite card earns 1 mile per £1.   You need to have the financial resources to open a HSBC Premier current account to qualify, however.

The Marriott Bonvoy Amex – love it or list it?

If you are high spender, or value the 15 elite night credits towards status, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express may continue to be your card of choice.

With the earning rate being cut by 33% on 26th February, however, you may find needs better met by one of the alternatives above.

Appendix: Learn more about the credit cards mentioned above

Here is the legally required interest rate information on the credit cards mentioned above, together with links to our detailed reviews:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – sign-up bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour American Express Gold review is here – representative APR 57.6% variable including fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

The Platinum Card from American Express – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £4,000 in three months – apply hereour American Express Platinum review is here – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

British Airways American Express – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 in three months – apply hereour BA Amex review is here – representative APR 22.9% variable

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour BA Amex Premium Plus review is here – representative APR 76.0% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

American Express Rewards – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Rewards review is here representative APR 22.9% variable

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 – apply hereour IHG Rewards Club Mastercard review is hererepresentative APR 22.9% variable

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 – apply hereour IHG Rewards Club Mastercard review is hererepresentative APR 45.1% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend £1,000 in three months – apply hereour Starwood Amex review is here –  representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Virgin Flying Club miles after your first purchase – apply hereour Virgin Atlantic Reward review is here – representative APR 22.9% variable

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Flying Club miles after your first purchase (increased to 25,000 miles until 28th February) – apply hereour Virgin Atlantic Reward+ review is here – representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Miles & More miles after your first purchase – apply here – our Miles & More Traveller review is herethis is a charge card and your balance must be cleared in full each month

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.)

Comments (116)

  • Jack says:

    Does anyone rate my chances of AMEX doing anything for me here if I call and cancel? I put over £30k through my SPG card alone last year. As another comment says, they may not care as there’s still plenty of spend going through other cards too!

    • Shoestring says:

      somebody cancelling got offered +1 Bonvoy point on spend, taking them to 3+1 (old card)

      so wait until it’s 2/ £1 – ring up to cancel – angle to get offered the old 3/ £1 if you stay

  • Tamara says:

    For someone who applies for the SPG card now; how long do you think Amex will keep earnings at the 3 points per £ rate?

    Any information regarding that?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You would think a minimum of a month since they would have to give you a months notice of your terms changing. Could be longer of course.

    • Rob says:

      Interesting question, because they would have to give you 30 days notice (or whatever) of variation. Be sure it won’t be long though.

  • Sundar says:

    Great Party last night Rob. Excellent location and quite a large room. Won a raffle prize for Heathrow Rewards as well, thanks to Heathrow and Orbis 😎
    Maybe Elina from Marriott yesterday will read this article and pass along our feedback 😀
    It was great catching up with her and hearing her thoughts on the Marriott Experiences drive that they are intent on pushing through as well as the feedback we provided about Guaranteed benefits like Breakfast at Gold Level which will add a lot of value to staying more at Marriott.
    Very good catching up with a few folks yesterday.

    • Rhys says:

      Yes, I think we hit the sweet spot in terms of size, it was easy to move around which helped me a lot!

  • Freddy says:

    I’m gonna switch to the BAPP card as I fall into scenario 3. Flying BA isn’t my first choice but the return on spend cannot be beaten at the minute

    • Harry T says:

      If you spend 15k a year on the Gold card, you get a return of 1.6 points per pound because of the bonus 10k MR.

      • Shoestring says:

        you’d have to factor in card fee year 2

        otoh the 2 lounge passes = £40

        • Freddy says:

          The fee in year 2 is the downside for that card like shoestring mentions – also would block any churning of MR cards 😉

          • Harry T says:

            Could just cancel the Gold card after the bonus points post. Then apply again in a few months. Of course, depends on your overall strategy, as you rightly point out.

  • Stephen says:

    Slightly OT — If one decided to close down all their Amex cards (e.g. to start the 2 year clock), but wanted to keep their MR points flexible, would Bonvoy be a good place to move them to; rather than committing to, say, BA or Virgin?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, Bonvoy is the best option if you also want flexibility to cash out to an airline scheme at a decent rate.

      Another option, if you have enough points to make it worthwhile, is to take out an International Currency Card Amex. Transfer your UK points onto that. You can then close your UK cards and start the clock, which is not impacted by the ICC card.

    • manoj brahmbhatt says:

      If you love them to Bonvoy and then to an airline aren’t the pints devalued?
      10 MR = 15 Bonvoy
      Then converting 15 Bonvoy to (for example Avios) is at 3:1, so only 5 Avios, whereas transferring direct from MR would give you 10 Avios?

      LST

      • manoj brahmbhatt says:

        Sorry for the typos!

      • Tom says:

        They would be devalued but that is the price you pay for flexibility!

        They do have a regular (permanent?) deal where if you transfer more than 60,000 points to an airline you get an extra 5000 miles.

  • Neil Donoghue says:

    Great night last night Rob! Once again myself, Rhys and Alex ended up in the pub next door until they threw us out. Suffering a small bit today.

    It was also great to put some faces to a few names here! Polly, Cat & Kieran it was lovely to meet you all.

    • Rob says:

      Glad you enjoyed it! Unfortunately I had to head back and make some tweaks to today’s three articles. No sign of Rhys in the office yet I should note ….

    • Polly says:

      Great evening, venue really superb…great catch up with folks, and putting faces to names.

  • Ryan says:

    Trying to think outside the box on this one…

    Would you get 30 nights if you have the SPG/Marriott Amex and then the same card as a supplimentary card?

    • Pat says:

      I think Marriott themselves have capped the elite nights a member can get from credit card to 15Ns. If not, one can apply for a UK, a US and a Canadian Marriott card and collect 45Ns a year.

      • Mandy S says:

        So just to be clear – if you have the SPG Amex and the Marriott Mastercard, you will only receive 15 nights (not 15 plus 10)?

        • E says:

          That’s how it works in the US. You can only get nights added from one credit card. No idea if that will be the same over here.

          • Ricatti says:

            Marriott rules say: 15 nights from a credit card once per account.

            Don’t expect 30 nights from US and UK Bonvoy cards. It will only work once — and if it happens to work twice, someone or a script WILL remove the second lot of 15 nights from your account later in the year.

    • Charlieface says:

      Only the account holder gets the credits

    • koroleon says:

      I mentioned this before. I have a Chase (US) Marriott card and the Creation Marriott card. I have been getting 25 (15+10) elite nights for years now (2019 too). Not sure if this will go on or if the UK Amex Bonvoy would add another 15 nights..

      • Ricatti says:

        Creation Marriott credits under old Marriott Rewards arrangement. Remains to be seen on 15+10, but definitely not 15 + 15.

  • Nick M says:

    I need to simplify my finances somewhat, so the changes to the SPG card are relatively well-timed… I know it is still very early days, but has anyone been offered an incentive to keep the card?

    I currently have the SPG and Gold – will most likely cancel both and go for the ARCC instead. My SPG has the highest amount of credit, am I best to apply for this first, adjust credit balances if necessary and then cancel the others?

    • The Urbanite says:

      If you close a card, you can transfer the limit minus £600 to another card you have.

      I’d suggest cancelling the SPG card and moving its credit limit to the Gold credit card.

      I would then apply for the ARCC before cancelling Gold, to ensure the MR account will be kept alive. If for any reason Amex didn’t approve the ARCC application and you cancelled Gold, you’d lose your MR points after 30 days.

      If all is good with the ARCC, final step is to move the credit limit from Gold to ARCC then cancel Gold.

      • Nick M says:

        Brilliant – thanks… MR account currently has <1000 points as I shifted most out for the Marriott bonus, but yes that would be the easiest option I think

    • Lev441 says:

      In November I received a retention offer of 1 additional starpoint per £1 spent so i’m getting 4 points per £1 on the card – It ends just before the devaluation so probably will be cancelling the card once I get the elite nights on my account.