The Top Cards for Instant SPG and Marriott Elite Status
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Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood has now closed, and while many award travelers feared this would negatively impact both loyalty programs, that doesn’t appear to be the case — at least in the short term. In fact, you can already link your accounts and transfer points between Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest and enjoy a status match with the opposite program. If you’re a Marriott or SPG elite, this means you’ll be able to enjoy similar benefits across both hotel chains’ portfolios.
If you don’t currently have elite status in either hotel program, the good news is that several credit cards can help you get there and earn you valuable points and other benefits in the process. Here’s a look at the top options for earning Marriott Rewards and SPG status through spending, or by simply being a cardholder.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn Automatic Silver, Spend to Earn Gold
This card gets you 15 credits toward elite status, enough to automatically qualify for Marriott Silver. Earning this lowest-tier Marriott elite level usually requires completing 10 qualifying stays, and while the benefits aren’t extensive — you get a 20% points bonus on eligible stays and complimentary in-room internet when you book through Marriott — it’s nice that you’re getting Silver status for simply hold an $85-a-year co-branded credit card. Plus, you’ll earn an additional credit toward the next level of status for every $3,000 you spend, so you could upgrade to Marriott Gold (requiring 50 credits) if you spend $105,000 on the card in a calendar year. Gold status gets you some additional perks, including complimentary room upgrades, a guaranteed 4pm late checkout, lounge access and breakfast for two and a 25% points bonus on eligible stays.
This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Marriott Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You can also earn another 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months. Other perks include a free night at a Category 1-5 hotel each year after your account anniversary, and earning rates of 5x points for Marriott and stays, 2x points for airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants and 1x points everywhere else.
Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn Automatic Silver, Spend to Earn Gold
The business version of the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers you 15 elite credits toward status, so cardholders get automatic Marriott Silver as well. Even better, you can stack this card’s 15 elite credits with the personal card’s 15 elite credits to get a total of 30 credits, leaving you just 20 shy of Gold status. So if you were to spend $60,000 on one of these cards in a calendar year, you’d earn the necessary credits to reach this next level.
Like the personal card, the business version’s offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. It has the same bonus categories, but in addition to earning 2x points on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants, you’ll earn 2x at office supply stores, and on internet, cable and phone service purchases. This card has a slightly higher annual fee of $99.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card: Earn Automatic Gold for the First Year, Spend to Maintain or Upgrade to Platinum
Marriott Rewards points and Ritz-Carlton points are interchangeable, and the two hotel programs’ statuses get you the same exact benefits. That makes the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card worth considering, since you’ll get automatic Gold elite status for the first year. You can maintain Gold status — equal to SPG Gold — by spending $10,000 on the card in your first account year and each account year thereafter, and if you spend $75,000 on the card in an account year, you’ll be upgraded to Platinum elite status (equal to SPG Platinum). Note that you need to meet this spending requirement each account year to maintain status.
This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of three complimentary nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. It also offers a variety of other perks, including an annual $300 travel credit, a $100 hotel credit on paid stays of two nights or longer and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement. You’ll earn 5x points per dollar on Ritz-Carlton and partner hotel stays, 2x points on travel and at restaurants and 1x points everywhere else. This card has a $450 annual fee.
STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: Automatic Credits Toward Status, or Spend to Earn Automatic Gold Status
This card automatically earns you 2 stay and 5 night credits toward SPG elite status. SPG Gold status requires 10 stays or 25 nights, so you’re 8 stays or 20 nights away. You can also earn Gold status when you when $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. SPG Gold Status gets you 3 points per dollar on Starwood stays (in addition to what you’ll earn from your credit card), plus late checkout, room upgrades, a choice of welcome gift and more.
Currently, you can earn either 25,000 bonus points or two free nights at a Category 1-5 Starwood hotel, depending on the offer you receive — both require that you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Other card benefits include 2x points on Starwood stays and 1x points on everything else, plus free premium in-room internet on eligible stays. This card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express: Automatic Credits Toward Status, or Spend to Earn Automatic Gold Status
Like with personal Starwood co-branded card, you get 2 stay and 5 night credits toward elite status, and you can also earn automatic Gold status when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. This card offers all the same perks as the personal card, plus Sheraton Club lounge access when you book eligible stays and discounts via Amex OPEN Savings. This card is offering a sign-up bonus of two free nights at a Category 1-5 Starwood property after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. There’s no option to earn a 25,000-point bonus instead, and while the current offer ends on October 19, there’s no saying what will replace it.
The Platinum Card® from American Express: SPG Gold Status When You Enroll
The last card on this list isn’t a hotel co-branded option, but it does get you complimentary Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status (along with Hilton Honors Gold status) when you enroll by calling the Amex Platinum concierge. Note that you’ll need to reactivate this benefit each year — a small pain, but considering you’re getting Gold status without meeting any requirements, it’s well worth it.
This premium card just became a much more compelling option thanks to the addition of a 5x bonus category for airfare purchased directly from the airline. As a cardholder you’ll also get access to the issuer’s network of Centurion Lounges, plus a $200 airline fee credit. This card has a $550 annual fee.
Featured image courtesy of Marriott’s Ma Khao Beach – Phuket.
What’s your favorite card for earning Marriott or SPG elite status?
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