American Express, Starwood

Get this hotel credit card now while you still can!

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The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card by American Express comes in two flavors: Personal and Business.

My own SPG Amex card

Each currently has a welcome bonus of 25,000 points for completing minimum spend in 3 months and each has the first year’s annual fee the first year.

And because the merger of Starwood and Marriott is set to merge the frequent guest programs in 2018, it’s a *reasonable* assumption that the SPG credit cards may well go away.

You can only get an Amex bonus once per lifetime, so if you have neither had either of these cards, this is likely the time to get them.

Currently, Marriott and SPG members may freely move points between the two programs at a rate of 3 Marriott for every 1 SPG point.

To meet the spending bonuses, you must spend $5,000 per card, so you will earn 50,000 points from bonuses and 10,000 points from spend.

So if you got both cards, you’d have 60,000 SPG points or 180,000 Marriott points (or any combination thereof) after meeting the spend requirements for the bonuses.

SPG and Marriott points are tremendously valuable currencies. Not only do you have a large range of hotels from budget to extreme luxury for which you can spend points on, you also can transfer SPG points to a huge range of airline partners with a 25% bonus when you transfer 20,000 points at once.

Let’s look at what 60,000 SPG points (180,000 Marriott) could get you.

1: Luxury hotel nights!  Because SPG gives you the 5th night free on award stays, stays at a Category 3 (7k points a night), Category 4 (10k a night) or Category 5 (12-16k a night) this can be worth $2,000 or more.   Example: The THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego sells for $353 a night Sept 20-25.  With all taxes and fees, it would be USD 1,992.65 for 5 nights. But just 48,000 Starpoints will buy this same stay (12k a night / 5th night free).  That’s almost $2,000 in value and about 4 cents a point.  This is my favorite use of SPG points, though my sweet spot is the old world European Luxury Collection properties.

2: Budget hotels! Prefer to stretch your nights? How about the Four Points by Sheraton Venice Mestre? It sells for around 100 Euro a night and is a bargain (not sure I’d stay there as it is 6 miles outside Venice proper, but if you are on a budget you might…).  But as a Category 2 property it ranges from 3k-4k a night in points, meaning you could stay 5 nights (including a weekend when it’s the 3k rate) for 18,000 Starpoints.  You could stay 16 nights in this property for free with the welcome bonuses! This would be around $1,750 in value for the points used. 

3: Cash and points:  You can stretch your points by redeeming with part of your rate paid in cash (effective buying some of the points but at a lower cost than otherwise).

You can even redeem for upgraded rooms and suites with Cash and Points (a feature I hadn’t even noticed before!)

But perhaps the use of these points best is the next one….

4: Airlines that you can transfer from SPG but not from the transferable currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards or Citi Thank You allow you to redeem for First and Business class at redemption prices far less than US airlines.

Emirates A380 Business Class bar

For example, you could fly up to 10,000 miles on JAL’s partner airlines in business class with 65,000 JAL miles!  That’s enough for a round trip from NYC to Milan on JAL partner Emirates in business class all the way.

You could transfer just 40k SPG for 50K Asiana which is enough for a one way FIRST CLASS flight on partner Lufthansa from the USA to Europe.  Compare that with 110,000 miles for the same flight using United miles!!  Yes, 110,000 United miles or just 40k SPG. It’s almost crazy.

There are many more ways to use your new SPG and Marriott points as well. I wrote about 6 of them back in October when the program merger was announced.

If you haven’t had this card and don’t plan to get it before it goes away, I’d love to hear why in the comments or on the MilesTalk Facebook group.