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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card

Although the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program has fully folded into Marriott Rewards, Marriott’s decided to continue offering SPG-branded credit cards, as well as introduce new ones — most notably, the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card. The SPG Luxury Card is the first premium SPG credit card, and the only premium co-branded credit card available to new applicants that’s part of the new Marriott program, since the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card was closed to new applicants.

But does the new product justify its hefty $450 annual fee? The mid-tier Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has long been regarded as one of the best all-around credit cards on the market — although it took a hit with the reduction in earnings for non-bonus purchases — and costs just $95 a year. But with the 100,000-point welcome bonus, compelling earning rates and valuable benefits like an automatic $300 annual Marriott property credit (which essentially drops the card’s annual fee to $150), the SPG Luxury Card is probably the way to go for most Marriott or SPG guests.

Who Is This Card For?

As expected from a co-branded hotel credit card, the SPG Luxury Card is geared toward Marriott Rewards members who want to supplement their stay-based points earning and get special perks when staying at Marriott (and SPG) properties. However, you don’t need to be a road warrior to get value from the card — one to two Marriott stays per year are enough to maximize the card’s benefits and more than offset its $450 annual fee. Plus, infrequent Marriott guests can get tremendous value out of Marriott Rewards points thanks to the program’s wide variety of airline transfer partners.

Welcome Bonus

The brand-new card launched with an sizable welcome bonus of 100,000 points after $5,000 in spending in the first three months. That’s worth $900 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, making this the highest offer we’ve seen for any co-branded SPG card. However, this offer will only stick around until October 31, 2018, and may never come back, so you’ll want to apply soon if you hope to take advantage of it. Keep in mind that Amex recently implemented new restrictions that will limit your ability to collect a new member bonus if you’ve had similar Marriott products from Chase.

(Photo courtesy Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas)
(Photo courtesy Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas)

Earning

The SPG Luxury Card’s earning structure is pretty similar to that of the regular SPG Amex Card and Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, but with two additional bonus categories: dining and airfare. Cardholders earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels, 3 points per dollar points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per dollar points on all other purchases.

The non-Marriott earning rates are a bit low so you’ll probably want to pair the card with one that offers superior bonus categories, like The Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and other travel purchases.

Redeeming

There are many lucrative ways to use Marriott Rewards points. The first and most obvious redemption is for free stays. With the ability to book at over 6,500 properties across 29 brands in 127 countries, you’ve got a lot of choices. Plus, until February 2019, Marriott and legacy SPG properties cost a maximum of 60,000 points per night for a standard room. So, the card’s welcome bonus is more than enough for a free night at top-tier resorts like the St. Regis Maldives and the Al Maha in Dubai where room rates are $1,500+ per night most of the year. Beginning February 1, most of these all-suite properties will require 85,000 points per night, but that’s still a pretty good deal given the exorbitant cash rates.

(Photo courtesy of the St. Regis Maldives.)
(Photo courtesy of the St. Regis Maldives)

Those looking to use their welcome bonus to get more than one or two nights could combine stays at low-cost Category 1 and 2 hotels with Marriott’s 5th Night Free feature and get more than 16 free nights with 100,000 Marriott points. For instance, Category 1 hotels like the modern Aloft Panama can be booked for five nights for just 30,000 points in total. If you’d prefer something a little nicer, you can book a a five-night stay at a Category 2 hotel like the JW Marriott Shenzhen Bao’an for just 40,000 points total. Fortunately, Marriott allows you to book awards in advance even if you don’t have all the points you need just yet, so if you’ve got your eye on the perfect redemption, you can book immediately, spend with the SPG Luxury Card and earn the points you need before up until 14 days before check-in.

(Photo courtesy of the Aloft Panama)
(Photo courtesy of the Aloft Panama)

All that said, it’s not just free hotel nights that these points are good for. Unlike Hilton and Hyatt points, there’s also potential for some great value when turning Marriott points into airline miles. With the new unified loyalty program, Marriott points could be transferred to more frequent flyer programs than ever before — 45 to be exact. With the exception of JetBlue, Air New Zealand and El Al, points transfer at a pretty solid 2.4:1 ratio, factoring in the 5,000 mile bonus given for every 60,000 points transferred.

Perks

Where the card shines the most is the perks it offers:

  • Marriott Elite Status — Primary cardholders (unfortunately, authorized users aren’t included) receive automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Platinum after spending $75k in a calendar year. The most valuable benefits of Gold status are upgrades to enhanced rooms and a 25% point bonus on hotel spending. Platinum status is much more coveted and includes perks like upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access.
  • Annual Free Night Award — Each year on your card-opening anniversary, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points. That’s much more valuable than the free night certificates that come with the regular SPG Amex card and the Marriott cards, which are capped at 35,000 points. Some of the best uses of the 50,000-point free night certificate include five star hotels like The Ritz-Carlton Macau and The St. Regis Langkawi, where rooms routinely top $500 per night.
  • $300 Statement Credit for Marriott and SPG purchases — During each cardmember year (defined by when you opened the account) you and your authorized users will receive up to a total of $300 in statement credits for Marriott and SPG purchases charged to your card. Marriott has confirmed that this credit applies to room rates, as well as incidentals charged to your room, so you should have no trouble maximizing this benefit and essentially narrow the card’s annual fee to $150.
  • Priority Pass Lounge Access — As is pretty standard among premium travel rewards cards, the card comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you and two guests unlimited access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. Additional guests are charged $27 per lounge visit (though that fee will soon be raised to $32).
  • Application Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck — Like many other premium cards, the SPG Luxury Card will also reimburse you when you charge the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to the card (up to $100). Unlike the Priority Pass membership which essentially become useless if you already receive the benefit through other cards, if you already have Global Entry or PreCheck, you can use this credit to cover a friend or family member’s application fee. This benefit is available to cardholders once every four years. And remember, Global Entry includes PreCheck, so that’s the smarter choice.
  • Boingo Wi-Fi Access — Cardholders receive free enrollment in the Boingo Preferred plan, which gets you unlimited access to over one million Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and other locations around the world. You can sync this access with up to four devices. This is most similar to Boingo’s Global plan, which costs $39 per month.
  • Elite Night Credits — Beginning in 2019, cardholders will receive 15 elite qualifying night credits per year. This benefit is identical to that of the regular SPG Amex and Marriott Rewards Premier Plus cards and is limited to one per member, not one per card.

Although rather unremarkable when compared to those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige, the card also carries travel protections like secondary collision damage waiver, lost baggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance, as well as improved purchase protection benefits like extended warranty and return protection.

(Photo by Nick Jio via Unsplash)
(Photo by Nick Jio via Unsplash)

Which cards compete with the SPG Amex Luxury Card?

As this is the only premium co-branded credit card available to new applicants that’s part of the new Marriott program, there’s no card that directly compete or conflict with the SPG Luxury Card. However, if you’re not loyal to the hotel chain, you might consider the issuer’s other premium hotel card: The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. It carries the same $450 annual fee and offers many of the same benefits like automatic elite status, automatic statement credits and award nights. That card also offers better returns on bonus category spend.

A more direct competition of the SPG Luxury Card is the Platinum Card from American Express. The card offers some overlapping benefits like automatic Marriott Gold Elite status and Priority Pass lounge access, and is a 1:1 transfer partner of Marriott Rewards. However, that card costs $100 more a year, doesn’t offer the opportunity to earn Platinum status and doesn’t come with free night certificates. Given that the SPG Luxury Card essentially costs just $150 a year after factoring in the statement credit, it’s easy to make a case for carrying both cards to get the annual free night certificate, better return on hotel purchases and potential shortcut to a higher status level.

Bottom Line

If you’re a Marriott loyalist in need of a co-branded credit card, or are looking for an upgrade from a different Marriott or SPG card, then the SPG Luxury Card is an ideal choice. Its earning rates are not as lucrative as those of some of its competitors, but the large welcome bonus coupled with impressive built-in perks like a $300 annual Marriott property credit and 50,000-point free night certificate make it easy for even an infrequent traveler to get tremendous value out of the card. Although you’ll never have trouble finding a hotel to redeem points at, the program’s many airline transfer partners also make it a great choice for those looking to rack up points to redeem for free flights. The SPG Luxury Card’s elevated 100,000-point bonus is only available until October 31, 2018, so if you’re interested in applying, you’ll want to act sooner than later.

Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card

This card has a $450 annual fee, but that's offset by up to $300 in statement credits that you can earn each year for Marriott and SPG purchases. You'll earn 6x points at Marriott and SPG properties, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights purchased directly from the airline and 2x points on everything else.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use the Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points on eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels, 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotels.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74%-26.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.