Review: Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX

UPDATE: AMEX has brought back the 20,000 SPG Point sign-up bonus!

Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) points are extremely valuable. They transfer 1:1 to a number of airline partners, which provides extreme flexibility, and if you transfer 20,000 points at a time, you get a 5,000 point bonus, which means an effective 1:1.25 transfer rate. Further, SPG points can be used at thousands of Starwood properties, which includes some great budget options at 2,000 points per night, and some extremely luxurious properties that would be otherwise unaffordable. Further, if you redeem four nights on points, the fifth night is free. All in all, SPG points are one of the most valuable points options out there.

Unfortunately, SPG points are very hard to get. Other than actually paying money (who does that!?) for hotel nights, the only other realistic way to get them in Canada is with the SPG American Express Card [this is a referral.] With my referral link, you’ll get 10,000  AMEX has brought back the 20,000 SPG point sign-up bonus, after spending $500 in three months. There is a $120 fee, which is not waived for the first year. I’d consider the 20,000 SPG points to be worth quite a bit more than the $120 fee. The value for sign up just isn’t there. This card used to have a 20,000 SPG points sign-up bonus, which made the card a good churning card. Unfortunately, that bonus has dropped down to 10,000.

The SPG Amex card is my main credit card. Why? First of all, I place a high value on SPG points, and I want to collect them to redeem on hard to obtain flight redemptions. Second, though the dollar-to-point ratio on this card is 1:1, with the 5,000 bonus on transferring 20,000 points, the purchase ratio is effectively 1:1.25. Third, after spending $30,000 on the card in a year, I’ll receive complimentary SPG Gold Status, which has a number of benefits. Fourth, after spending $40,000 in a year, I’ll get a Free Weekend Night certificate for a category 1-4 hotel. Last, you get a number of other benefits, such as extra product warranty, travel/car rental insurance, baggage insurance, etc.

There are a number of cons for this card. The annual spend to get SPG Gold/Free Weekend Night does not roll-over. Further, the $120 annual fee is pretty steep. However, I’ve successfully called up AMEX, and on request, they’ve mailed me an AMEX Gift Card for close to the value of the annual fee, which effectively makes the card free. I’ve heard of others being given up to 10,000 SPG points to keep the card, which is a payment worth more than the $120 fee. Of course, this generosity by AMEX is probably mediated by how much you use the card.

Again, I would not get this card just for the sign-up bonus. I’ve had this card for a couple years now, and it’s my day-to-day card. If you’re looking for a good day-to-day card, I’d seriously look at getting the SPG AMEX card. Note that this is a credit card, not a charge card. I believe AMEX allows you to have up to two AMEX credit cards. An example of another AMEX credit card is the BlueSky card. AMEX does not put a maximum on how many charge cards you have, like the AMEX Gold/Platinum/etc. cards.

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    • I typically redeem SPG points for airport hotels, that would normally be expensive in $, but with points are relatively inexpensive. You can also do some pretty amazing redemptions, like in Aspen, Oceania, etc.

      Just a good example of value: a prepaid, restricted rate at the Westin in Denver runs about 400USD, but is only 10,000 SPG points, or 30,000 SPG points for the St. Regis NYC, a minimum $750/night room!

  1. How would you compare SPG with Gold Rewards Card from AMEX? The latter earns you 2 points for purchases in travel, groceries and gas, which then can be transferred to Aeroplan / Avios at 1:1.

    • Spg points are way more valuable because they can be converted to many more partners than MR points can. Further, because of the SPG 5k bonus on converting 20k, the earn rate is essentially 1.25/$

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