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TPG reader Kavin emailed me to ask about strategizing for the Marriott-Starwood merger:
“Should I sign up for both the Marriott Rewards Premier Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex before the two programs merge?”
There’s been both a lot of excitement and anxiety over the future of SPG since Marriott announced plans to acquire Starwood back in November. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson reassured members that the plan moving forward will be to preserve and strengthen both loyalty programs and to avoid devaluing rewards and benefits. Until we hear specific details, it’s too early to say how a merger will impact award travelers. However, I think now is a good time to focus on earning Starpoints before any major changes go into effect, especially with respect to existing welcome bonuses.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express currently offers a bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Meanwhile, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express offers 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Those bonuses typically increase to 30,000 points at some point each summer, but even the current offers are worth $625 based on my most recent monthly valuations.
Again, we don’t know how the merger will shake out, but I think the writing may be on the wall for both of these cards. Last year we witnessed the demise of the US Airways Premier MasterCard during the merger with American Airlines. Rather than disappearing entirely, those accounts were changed over to one of the varieties of AAdvantage Aviator cards. However, applications were no longer accepted for new cardholders, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the SPG Amex cards eventually meet a similar fate.
Amex is fairly restrictive when it comes to welcome bonuses: You can only earn a single bonus for the personal card, even if you haven’t had it for years. The rules are less stringent for the business card, which allows you to earn a bonus provided you haven’t had the same product in the past 12 months. If you’re eligible for those bonuses, I would think about applying in the near future. Starpoints are just too valuable to leave on the table, and you don’t want to end up wishing you got on that gravy train after it leaves the station. You could consider holding out for the increased bonuses, but pay close attention as the merger progresses for any hint of those cards going away.
I think there’s less urgency to get the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, partly because Marriott points are less valuable than Starpoints, but also because I suspect the card is unlikely to disappear soon. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with it — Chase commonly offers an increased sign-up bonus, and the card comes with benefits like Silver Elite status and a free night at a Category 1-5 property each year following your cardmember anniversary. However, I don’t think you need to go out of your way to apply before the merger.
Check out these posts for more on Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and their respective co-branded credit cards:
- Award traveler’s guides to Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest
- One Year of Earning and Burning with the Marriott Rewards Visa
- One year of Earning and Burning with the SPG Amex