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Monday marked the biggest Marriott Rewards/SPG news blast to date following Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels in 2016. A major question when two travel companies merge is what will happen with the co-branded credit cards. In this case, the situation is complicated by the fact that Marriott’s credit card issuer is Chase, while SPG uses American Express.
Watch David Flueck, SVP of Global Loyalty for Marriott International, answer TPG’s questions about the combined program:
We’ve known that the combined Marriott program would continue to utilize both issuers and that new cards offered by both, but we didn’t know what the details of the new cards would be, or what sort of changes we’d see in the old cards. Now we have those details. We’ll cover what the Amex SPG portfolio is going to look like in this story — for details on the Chase Marriott cards, check out “Everything We Know About Chase’s Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card.”
Amex has confirmed that both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express will remain — for now — and will be joined by a premium credit card: the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Credit Card, which will carry a $450 annual fee and be available starting in August.
Considering that the two lower-fee SPG Amex cards have been around for years, let’s outline the latest addition before digging into the changes to Starwood’s legacy portfolio.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Credit Card
Previously, Marriott’s only premium credit card was The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card — this is the first $450-fee card to carry the SPG brand. Naturally, it’s loaded with perks, including:
- $300 in statement credits for purchases at participating Marriott hotels each cardmember year
- $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck fee credit
- Priority Pass Select membership (including two guests)
- Annual free night award (up to 50,000 points) after card renewal
- Automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Platinum after spending $75k in a calendar year
- Boingo Wi-Fi access
- 15 elite night credits beginning in 2019 (limited to once per member per year, not once per card)
Additionally, this card earns 6x points at participating Marriott hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points on all other purchases. While the current SPG cards offer identical earnings at Marriott hotels, 2x on all non-bonus purchases represents a 33% drop in earnings, as the SPG cards currently earn the equivalent of 3x Marriott points on non-bonus transactions (since SPG Starpoints currently transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio).
Additionally, you’ll earn far more on restaurant and flight purchases with other products, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which even earns a richer return at Marriott hotels — 3x points worth 2.1 cents apiece, based on TPG’s valuations, compared to 6x points worth 0.9 cents each with these three SPG Amex cards.
While this card is largely unchanged, Amex is adding the following benefits:
- Annual free night award (up to 35,000 points) after card renewal
- Automatic Silver elite status
- Earn Gold status after spending $30,000 on the card in 2018; $35,000 beginning in 2019
- 15 elite night credits beginning in 2019 (limited to once per member, not once per card)
Additionally, this card earns 6x points at participating Marriott hotels and 2x points on all other purchases (again, 2x on all non-bonus purchases represents a 33% drop in earnings from the current 1x because of the 1:3 transfer ratio between Marriott and SPG). The new earning rates will kick in sometime in August.
This card offers the same benefits as the consumer card, plus 4x points on purchases at US restaurants, US gas stations, on wireless phone services from US providers and US shipping purchases. In exchange for this bonus category addition, Amex is eliminating the Sheraton Club access previously offered with this card — cardmembers will only have access until August 2018.
Following the consolidation of elite night credits in 2019, there won’t be a reason to carry both of these cards, aside from the opportunity for new cardmembers to earn two welcome bonuses.
So, here’s the breakdown of bonus categories with Amex’s new lineup of SPG cards, with earnings adjusted for the new points rate (3 Marriott points = 1 Starpoint):
|Card||Annual Fee||Marriott Earn||Bonus Cat Earn||Everyday Earn|
|SPG Luxury Credit Card||$450||6x||3x*||2x|
|SPG Consumer Credit Card||$95||6x||N/A||2x|
|SPG Business Credit Card||$95||6x||4x**||2x|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Plus (Chase)||$95||6x||N/A||2x|
* Purchases at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
** Purchases at US restaurants, US gas stations, US wireless phone services and US shipping
And here’s a consolidated look at the benefits of each of the cards:
|Card||Marriott Credit*||Free Night***||Elite Status||Status Credits||Other Benefits|
|SPG Luxury Credit Card||$300||Up to 50k value||Gold||15****||Priority Pass, Global Entry, Boingo|
|SPG Consumer Credit Card||N/A||Up to 35k value||Silver||15****||N/A|
|SPG Business Credit Card||N/A||Up to 35k value||Silver||15****||N/A|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Plus (Chase)||N/A||Up to 35k value||Silver||15****||N/A|
*** Issued on each cardmember anniversary
**** A maximum of 15 credits may be earned per Marriott member; begins in 2019
While the new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Credit Card is certainly a welcome addition to the Marriott portfolio — and I’m planning to add this card once it becomes available in August — the reduction in earnings for non-bonus purchases is disappointing, as is the loss of Sheraton Club access for business cardholders.
I am quite pleased to see the addition of annual free nights certificates, though, and even though the certificates that come along with the $95-fee cards are restricted to properties priced at 35,000 points or less, it’ll still be possible to get more than $95 in value out of this benefit alone.
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see how these products change once the new program kicks in next year — I imagine the list of benefits announced today will remain even after the transition, but it’s possible that more could change than just the name.