Is the SPG Amex Worth Getting with the Increased Annual Fee?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Ricardo tweeted me to ask about the Starwood Amex:
@thepointsguy– "With the increased annual fee of $95 on the SPG Amex, do you think the card is still worthwhile?"
I hate an annual fee increase just as much as the next points maximizer, but added benefits take the sting out of it. SPG and Amex just announced this week that they will increase the annual fee on the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card from $65 to $95, but they're also adding some benefits to go with it.
Here are some of the new benefits being marketed by the SPG Amex:
- No Foreign Transaction Fees — You can now enjoy international travel without foreign transaction fees from American Express when using the card for purchases abroad.
- Complimentary, Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi — You’ll get complimentary, unlimited Wi-Fi access when you enroll in the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan. Receive Wi-Fi access on up to four devices to more than a million hotspots worldwide, and pay no Wi-Fi roaming fees.
- Complimentary Premium In-Room Internet Access — You won’t miss a beat while away from family, friends or the office with complimentary premium in-room internet access at participating Starwood hotels.
- Sheraton Club Access — If you have the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card, you’ll get free access to Sheraton Clubs when you book rates that are eligible to earn Starpoints.
So, is the card worth the higher annual fee? The answer depends on you. If you think you'll maximize the benefits, then the answer is definitely yes. First off, if you don't already have the card, the fee is waived for the first year anyway, and there is a 25,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. Since I value Starpoints at 2.4 cents apiece, that bonus is worth $600! I'm hopeful that Amex will soon raise the sign-up bonus to 30,000 points as it's done in past summers, since I find Starpoints to be the most valuable loyalty currency out there.
I'm really excited about foreign transaction fees being waived, because this means I can earn double points using my SPG Amex at Starwood properties abroad. The other thing that makes the annual fee worth it for me is the two stays and five nights' worth of elite status credit you earn with the card each year. I'm a Starwood 100-night Platinum, and since I'm usually close to requalifying, those extra stays and nights are a big boost. (On a side note, my ambassador Heather is amazing, and she always makes sure I have a nice bottle of Champagne and sparkling water with lemon in every single Starwood hotel room I visit, but more on that in future posts.)
Getting free Wi-Fi (if you aren't a Platinum elite) is also a great perk that will save you money in the long run. Of course I'm not happy the annual fee has been raised, but I'm very excited about the new perks, especially the waived foreign transaction fees. In general I think the changes are positive, and I'll continue to keep both my SPG Amex and SPG Amex Business cards.