The Starwood credit cards mentioned in this article are no longer offered.
In 2016, Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels – and one of the unique challenges Marriott has faced, however, is how to handle the Starwood-branded credit cards.
Starwood American Express cardholders were concerned about what would happen to their accounts after the acquisition by Marriott. For now, it appears Marriott has decided to maintain Starwood’s relationship with American Express.
In addition, Marriott will introduce a new luxury rewards card into its portfolio. Marriott’s Ritz Carlton-branded luxury rewards card through Chase had been the only luxury rewards card within the company. Now, Marriott has added a new Starwood-branded Preferred Guest luxury rewards American Express card to its lineup.
Amex SPG Luxury Card
The annual fee for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card is $450, which will likely be a turnoff for the less frequent traveler. For the high price, cardholders do get a lot of perks and benefits.
The card gives the holder automatic Gold Marriott rewards status as well as the opportunity to earn Platinum rewards status by spending $75,000 on the card during a calendar year. Cardholders get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases at any Marriott hotel. Since these rewards count for any Marriott-brand hotel, cardholders could choose to use the credits for multiple nights at a lower-priced Marriott chain.
The card also offers a $100 credit for Global Entry service and a $75 credit for TSA Pre-Check service fees. Free Boingo WiFi access is available at any of the one million worldwide Boingo hotspots. Cardholders who renew their cards also get one annual free hotel night reward.
Admission into any Priority Pass Select location is included for the cardholder and up to two guests. Cardholders can earn 6x points at Marriott hotels, 3x points at U.S. restaurants, 3x points on flights booked directly through an airline, and 2x points on all other purchases.
Updates to Existing SPG Cards
Along with the introduction of the new luxury Starwood Preferred Amex, the existing line of cards received an upgrade. Both the SPG and SPG Business cards continue to offer 6x points on all Marriott hotel purchases.
In addition, cardholders benefit from higher Starwood rewards status and other opportunities to earn elite status and rewards stays. The changes go into effect this August, and annual fees are waived during the first year.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card still has an annual fee of $95 and rewards cardholders with 6x points on all Marriott hotel purchases and 2x points on all other purchases. Unfortunately, the earning power of those non-Marriott points has been reduced as part of the conversion from Starwood points into Marriott points.
SPG cardholders only get 1 Marriott rewards point for every 3 Starwood rewards points. The card gives the holder automatic Silver Elite Marriott rewards status along with the opportunity to earn Gold status by using the card for $30,000 in purchases throughout the calendar year.
In 2019, cardholders will need to make $35,000 in purchases throughout the year in order to earn Gold status. After renewing their card at the end of the first year, cardholders receive one free night annually. That benefit alone exceeds the cost of the annual fee. Cardholders will also receive 15 elite nights credits starting in 2019.
Although cardholders who earn the majority of points on non-Marriott expenses may be disappointed by the conversion rate into Marriott rewards points, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card has some good perks. Cardholders primarily looking to earn hotel credit card rewards should be pleased with the new benefits.
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business American Express card still has an annual fee of $95. Cardholders earn 6x rewards points on all Marriott hotel purchases and 4x rewards points on purchases that fall into the special bonus category. This category includes purchases at U.S. gas stations, restaurants, wireless phone services, and shipping services.
All other non-bonus purchases earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent. Although the SPG Business American Express used to give access to the Sheraton Club, this benefit will not be available after August 2018. Cardholders get automatic Silver Elite Marriott rewards status along with the opportunity to earn Gold status by spending $30,000 on their card throughout the calendar year.
As with the Starwood Preferred Guest consumer card, the spending requirement increases to $35,000 in 2019. Cardholders get one free reward night annually with each year they renew their card. They will also get 15 elite nights credits starting in 2019.
Business cardholders who use the card for travel purchases and primarily stay at Marriott hotels should be pleased with the new benefits and earning opportunities that have been added to the SPG Business American Express card.
Frequent business travelers now have the opportunity to earn a more elite Marriott rewards status. Now that Starwood is part of the Marriott brand, cardholders also have the opportunity to use rewards points at a wide variety of Marriott hotels around the world.
What This Means for Cardholders
Overall, the Starwood Preferred Benefits Luxury American Express card is a welcome addition to the Marriott brand of credit cards. The card joins the Ritz Carlton-branded credit card as the most elite rewards card in the Marriott portfolio.
Rather than ending Starwood’s relationship with American Express, Marriott used the opportunity to diversify its branded credit card portfolio. The Luxury comes with a hefty annual fee, but it is in line with other similar elite rewards cards.
With the $300 statement credit towards stays at Marriott hotels, the realized cost of the card is not much more than the regular SPG American Express. Frequent travelers who will use all of the extra perks and benefits should find that it is worth the cost, especially with the ability to use and earn points across the range of Marriott-branded hotels.
In addition to the luxury rewards card, both the SPG consumer and business American Express cards received upgrades. Cardholders can earn 6x points at any Marriott-branded hotel and have automatic Silver Elite rewards status.
Now, they also have the opportunity to earn free nights and elite night credits. Cardholders should also enjoy the added flexibility of being able to earn and use points throughout the entire Marriott family of hotels and resorts in addition to Starwood hotels.
Author: Kimberly Goodwin, PhD
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