This article is part of a refresh of our reward credit card reviews. Over the last few months, I’ve been revisiting and updating all of our in-depth credit card features. You can read the current series here.
The SPG app is dead. They’ve purged the former SPG Twitter accounts, yet for some reason, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card lives on. Complete with old SPG branding to boot. Whether that’s a sign that this card will be disappearing in the near future and they don’t feel it’s worth the money to rebrand, only time will tell. But for the time being, it remains a strong card that’s well worth considering.
This my review of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card issued by American Express is one of the best ways for people in the UK to earn points in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty scheme.
The Marriott Bonvoy program covers hotels in the Marriott portfolio which include St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Westin and Sheraton hotels.
This card offers 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending £1,000 in your first 3 months of card membership.
As the actual Marriott credit card (issued by Creation) has been missing in action for a number of years now, this card is currently the best way of earning Marriott points via credit card spend in the UK.
What can I do with 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points?
- Free hotel nights – The points from this sign-up bonus alone are enough for a free night at the Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa, Mauritius or the JW Marriott Bangkok.
- Airline miles – Your 30,000 SPG points can be converted to 10,000 British Airways Avios points. That’s enough for a return trip to Bordeaux, Salzburg or Dublin.
Day-to-day earnings rate
The day-to-day earnings rate on this card is 3 Marriott points per £1 spent.
You’ll also earn six Marriott Bonvoy points for every £1 of eligible purchases charged to your Card at participating Marriott hotels, until 31st December 2019.
This is a good return when you consider that in the UK this card is the only way to earn miles in programs such as Air France’s Flying Blue or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan via credit card spending. Marriott points and the Starwood card have actually become even more valuable for UK readers since the demise of MBNA’s airline credit cards back in 2017. The only way to now earn American Airlines miles from your everyday card spending, for example, is via this card.
What’s the best strategy to maximise value?
Marriott allows free points transfers between members – capped at 50,000 points per year.
If you and your partner/parent/sibling both take out the SPG card, you’d earn at least 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
This opens up a number of lucrative possibilities:
- Transfers to airline miles – As well as having more than 30 different airline partners, when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to most airlines, Marriott will sweeten the deal and give you a bonus 15,000 points (worth 5,000 airline miles).
For example, transferring those 60,000 Marriott points to British Airways will net you 25,000 Avios.
That’s enough for return flights to Rome, Seville or Faro in business class.
- (More) aspirational hotels – With 60,000 Marriott points in the bank, you could enjoy a free night at the newish EDITION hotel in Barcelona or the St. Regis Mauritius Resort.
- Marriott Moments – This lets you use your Marriott points for tickets to a variety of sporting, musical and cultural events worldwide.
In the UK for example, Marriott has a hospitality suite at The O2 Arena in London. You could use your combined 60,000 Marriott points for 2 tickets to see the likes of Rod Stewart or Justin Bieber. These tickets include access to complimentary buffet catering in the suite.
I took a more detailed look at the Moments scheme in this article.
Are Marriott Bonvoy points more valuable than Amex Membership Rewards points?
If we’re focussing on travel rewards i.e. airline miles/hotel points, for me Bonvoy points are the clear winner.
- You can transfer Bonvoy points to all of the 12 airline programs offered by Membership Rewards as well as 22(!) others. You even get a bonus 5,000 miles when you transfer Marriott points in batches of 60,000.
- Membership Rewards points do transfer to three different hotel loyalty programs: Hilton Honors, Radisson Rewards as well as Marriott Bonvoy points.
- But you then lose value converting Membership Rewards to Marriott because of the 2:3 transfer ratio
- You can even indirectly convert your Marriott points to Hilton Honors (as well as IHG Rewards Club) via Virgin Atlantic as I explained here.
Any other perks
- Marriott Gold Status – After spending £15,000 in a (card membership year) you’ll be upgraded to Marriott Gold status. This ordinarily requires 25 nights at Marriott hotels in a year. Some of the benefits of Gold status include 2pm late checkout and an upgrade to an enhanced room at check-in (subject to availability).
- Free night voucher – After spending £25,000 in a year you’ll receive a free weekend night certificate. Unfortunately, this can only be redeemed at Category 1-4 hotels in the Starwood portfolio. This isn’t entirely disastrous and can still be used at hotels such as The Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa, Mauritius or at the Sheraton Grand, Dubai.
Nevertheless, the inability to use it at top-end Category 7/8 hotels which house the majority of St. Regis and Luxury Collection properties does detract slightly.
Why this free night voucher doesn’t really work
I’m not entirely comfortable with the high spend threshold (£25,000) required to trigger the voucher. By comparison, the IHG Premium credit card (reviewed here) offers a free night at any IHG property worldwide after ‘just’ £10,000 of spend. While I appreciate that the top-end Marriott properties are (usually) a fair bit nicer than the IHG ones, the gap is still a big one. Additionally, as a Mastercard, the IHG Premium card is accepted almost anywhere, which can’t be said for the SPG Amex.
I think this has alienated cardholders somewhat. I don’t know anyone who deliberately aims to trigger this voucher. The only people I know who hit the £25,000 are those putting through large amounts on their card anyway and trigger the voucher ‘by accident’.
If you’re going to make the spend requirement £25,000, at least allow the free night voucher to be used at the very top-end Marriott hotels. Allow the free night voucher to be used at any Marriott property and perhaps lower the spending requirement to £15,000 or £20,000, and this card would become a genuine must-have for serious points collectors.
This card carries a £75 annual fee. This is refundable on a pro-rata basis if you cancelled at any point during your card membership year.
Representative 36.2% APR variable. Based on annual fee of £75 and assumed credit limit of £1,200. Interest rate for purchases: 19.9% p.a. variable.
Am I eligible for the sign-up bonus on this card?
Per the new American Express sign-up bonus rules, you will be eligible for the sign-up bonus UNLESS have previously held any personal Amex card in the last 24 months.
There are NO minimum income requirements to be eligible for any cards issued by American Express. This restriction was removed a number of years ago.
I consider Marriott points to be my most valuable loyalty points currency simply because of their sheer versatility.
The ability to redeem them for free hotel nights or access some of the more obscure frequent flyer programs who have limited other UK partners is a prized one. This 30,000 points sign-up bonus is an excellent way to earn a sizeable chunk of Marriott points and kickstart your balance.
The application page for the Starwood Preferred Guest (2019) card is here
Disclaimer: The information provided by Tricks of the Trade is intended solely as a helpful guide to relevant travel rewards card products and their various features. You should always conduct your own research as recommendations provided within may not be suitable for your personal financial circumstances.