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Why You Should Get the Starwood Amex Before the Merger

March 15, 2016
7 min read
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Why You Should Get the Starwood Amex Before the Merger
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Thanks to a higher than ever sign-up bonus returning, now's a great time to sign up for the SPG Amex. Still, some of you may be having second thoughts about applying due to the upcoming merger with Marriott. TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert explains why it's a good idea to get this product despite uncertainties about the future of the SPG program.

With Marriott set to acquire Starwood sometime this year, many points and miles enthusiasts are understandably concerned about the future of both hotel loyalty programs. Many questions remain unanswered, though for what it's worth Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen has said that SPG elites have nothing to worry about — as did VP of Loyalty Thom Kozik when he spoke with TPG earlier this year.

Amidst plenty of unknowns with the upcoming merger, Amex recently announced its highest-ever sign-up bonus offers have returned for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card. When you spend $3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership with the personal card, you'll earn 20,000 Starpoints, and you'll earn an additional 10,000 points when you spend another $2,000 within the first 6 months. For the business version, you'll earn 20,000 points after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months and an additional 10,000 points when you spend an additional $3,000 within the first 6 months.

This offer is only available until April 5, 2017, so you'll need to act fast if you want to grab it. It's a great opportunity to earn an extra 10,000 Starpoints over the normal sign-up bonuses, but you may be wondering whether it's worth getting these cards at all with the pending merger. No one would fault you for being cautious given the current circumstances, but there are several reasons to get the cards now if you haven't already. Read on for the details.

1. They Might Not Be Available For Long

One of the biggest questions about the impending merger is whether Marriott and Starwood will continue to offer separate loyalty programs. If Starwood Preferred Guest is absorbed into Marriott Rewards, the associated Amex cards (as we know them) would naturally bite the dust. While we don't know what the future will bring, now could be a great opportunity to nab the cards and redeem those 35,000 Starpoints on hotel stays — or with one of the SPG program's 30-plus airline partners.

Plus, even if Starwood and Marriott continue to operate separate loyalty programs, it's possible that the Starwood Amex products could be discontinued, since Marriott has a relationship with Chase. The brand offers the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card — currently offering an 75,000-point sign-up bonus — through this issuer, so it stands to reason that any new credit cards released after the merger would be from Chase, not American Express.

2. Hotel Redemption Rates Could Go Up

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Award nights at the Category 2 Aloft Bangkok currently start at 3,000 Starpoints.
Award nights at the Category 2 Aloft Bangkok currently start at 3,000 Starpoints.

Another reason to get the SPG Amex card(s) now is that award nights could soon be more expensive. Even if Starwood Preferred Guest continues to operate in the medium and long term, the merger could still entail changes to the redemption process — and rates are more likely to go up than down. With 35,000 Starpoints, you can currently book a nine-night stay at a Category 2 property, three nights at a Category 5 property and several other great redemptions. If you have any trips on the horizon, lock in the current rates while you can.

3. You May Be Moved to a New Card

The SPG/Marriott merger may result in a new credit card option for those who already have the SPG Amex.
The SPG/Marriott merger may result in a new credit card option for those who already have the SPG Amex.

As TPG recently advised a reader, if the Starwood Amex cards are eliminated, cardholders could be transferred over to a new product — one that isn't available to new customers. And based on similar offers with other cards, this can end up working in your favor.

We recently saw this happen with the JetBlue Amex; after the carrier ended its relationship with American Express, cardholders were notified that they'd be transitioned to a new JetBlue Rewards MasterCard issued by Barclaycard. It turns out that the new product is a much more valuable option, with increased earning rates and additional perks. This was also the case with the US Airways Premier World MasterCard; after the merger with American, existing cardholders were offered a variety of Aviator cards from Barclaycard. The Aviator Silver card is a particularly standout option, offering 3x miles on American airfare purchases and the ability to earn elite-qualifying miles and a companion certificate. If you didn't have the original US Airways card, though, you're out of luck.

The bottom line? Getting the Starwood Amex now could get you access to an updated product with unique benefits — one that you won't be able to sign up for as a new customer.

4. Starpoints Could Become Less Valuable

We'd hate to see the Starwood Preferred Guest program lose great redemption options like SPG Moments.

TPG consistently values Starpoints higher than any other loyalty currency thanks to the SPG program's wealth of transfer partners and redemption options. In addition to redeeming points for award nights or transferring them to airline partners, you can use them for once-in-a-lifetime experiences like VIP Knicks tickets through the SPG Moments program.

With the upcoming merger, there's no telling how and if redemption options will be altered — and that means now's a better time than ever to use your Starpoints for high-value redemptions.

5. Airline Transfers Could Become Less Valuable

You can currently transfer Starpoints to American at a 1:1 ratio and receive a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 points.
You can currently transfer Starpoints to American at a 1:1 ratio and receive a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 points.

In line with reason #4, the SPG program's transfer partners could become less viable options if the merger results in lower transfer rates. Currently, you can transfer Starpoints to 34 different carriers — most of them at a 1:1 ratio — but who knows how that will change once the program is under Marriott's management? Plus, it's unclear if the current 5,000-point bonus for transferring 20,000 Starpoints to an airline will stay in place, so you should transfer points to book award flights sooner rather than later.

Bottom Line

With so little information available about the Marriott-Starwood merger, it's unclear just how many changes are in store. In an ideal world, the Starwood Preferred Guest program will still operate independently, continuing to offer members highly valuable redemption options and perks. In that case, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express would still come in handy, thanks to the ability to earn 2 points per dollar on Starwood stays and 2 stay and 5 night credits (each) toward elite SPG status.

On the flip side, at least a few changes to the two loyalty programs are almost certainly in store, so it's a good idea to play it safe and earn Starpoints and book award nights and other redemptions sooner rather than later. The higher than ever 35,000-point sign-up bonuses for both the personal and business SPG Amex cards are definitely worth considering if you aren't already a cardholder, and even if you miss out on the elevated offer you should still think hard about adding these products to your wallet.

Are you planning on signing up for the SPG Amex cards ahead of the merger?