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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.
When building out the perfect wallet to maximize your spending and travel benefits, it usually makes sense to hold more than one credit card. So when Marriott finally absorbs the SPG loyalty program and transforms into a new rewards scheme next month, TPG reader Richard wants to know which credit cards it makes sense to hold on to…
After August 1, is there any reason to hold both an AMEX SPG and the Chase Marriott Premier Plus Visa?TPG Reader Richard
Starting in August, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express will see revised benefits and bonus categories. On the flip side, Chase already ended applications for the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card card and replaced it with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. So for those who might have held onto both an SPG and a Marriott card to earn benefits at each of the previously separate hotel chains, does it make sense to hold onto both of them now that the program is the same?
When it comes to earning, the Amex cards — which will keep the name of the Starwood program for now — are getting a devaluation on everyday spend, while the Marriott Premier Plus will actually increase its everyday earning rate to match the 2 points per dollar of the SPG cards. Additionally, Amex will introduce a luxury credit card with a slew of benefits and a hefty $450 annual fee, while Chase has made changes to its Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and Marriott Premier Plus Business Credit Card. Here’s a chart breaking down the differences on earning with each card:
|Card||Annual Fee||Earning Rate at Marriotts||Bonus Categories||Earning Rate for Everyday Purchases|
|Marriott Premier Plus||$95||6x||N/A||2x|
|Marriott Premier Plus Business||$99||6x||4x*||2x|
|SPG Business Amex||$95||6x||4x**||2x|
|SPG Luxury Amex||$450||6x||3x****||2x|
* Purchases at gas stations and restaurants, and for shipping internet, cabe and phone services
** Purchases at US restaurants, US gas stations, US wireless phones services and US shipping
*** Purchases at restaurants, car rental companies and airline tickets purchased directly from airlines
**** Purchases at US restaurants and on flights directly from airlines
When it comes to earning, the two standard consumer cards will earn the same amount of points on all purchases, as will both the Amex and Chase business products, which also offer 4x points at restaurants, gas stations, wireless phone services and shipping. The high-end Ritz-Carlton and SPG Luxury cards will earn 3x points on restaurants and flights (and car rental companies for the Ritz). Since the earnings are near identical on each tier of cards on both the Amex and Chase side, it doesn’t really make sense from a points standpoint to hold both an SPG and a Marriott or Ritz card at each separate tier, though it could make sense to hold both a mid-tier and a high-tier card.
But what about each card’s benefits? Do any of them make it worth holding more than one card? Here’s an overall comparison of the benefits all the cards will offer:
|Card||Travel Credit||Free Night*||Elite Status||Status Credits**||Other Benefits|
|Marriott Premier Plus||None||Up to 35k value||Silver||15||N/A|
|SPG Amex||None||Up to 35k value||Silver||15||N/A|
|Marriott Premier Plus Business||None||Up to 35k value||Silver||15||N/A|
|SPG Business Amex||None||Up to 35k value||Silver||15||N/A|
|SPG Luxury Amex||$300
(applies only to Marriott purchases)
|Up to 50k value||Gold||15||Priority Pass, Global Entry, Boingo|
(applies to airline incidentals)
|Up to 50K value||Gold||15||Club Level upgrades, companion airfare discount, Global Entry|
* Issued on each cardmember anniversary
** A maximum of 15 credits may be earned per Marriott member; begins in 2019
Before the merger, it made sense to hold both the business and personal SPG cards because you could stack elite night credits together from both cards. Unfortunately, beginning in 2019 when the elite status clock resets, all Marriott members will be capped at 15 total elite night credits from co-branded cards across the entire Marriott portfolio. Since each card in the portfolio will offer 15 elite nights — enough for silver elite status — having one card from almost anywhere in the portfolio will maximize this perk.
The only real reason to hold both an SPG and a Marriott card would be for the free anniversary nights each product offers. The mid-tier consumer cards and business cards will offer a free night after each card anniversary worth up to 35,000 points, which is enough for a Category 5 property on the standard award chart band. The premium cards provide a free anniversary night up to 50,000 points, which’ll get you a night at a Category 6 property during standard times or category 7 on off-peak dates once that portion of the chart comes into effect in 2019.
So if you value the free anniversary nights, it could be worth it to hold onto both your SPG and Marriott cards. Each mid-tier card carries a relatively low annual fee of $95, while those 35,000-point certificates could be worth $315 based on TPG’s points valuations, which would more than cover each card’s annual fee. Of course, maximizing the certificate requires redeeming it at a time when the cash rate on the room is at a high level, which will depend on your travel plans and hotel flexibility.
The same strategy could also apply to the premium cards — with their effective annual fees of $150 (if you can maximize the travel credit) and free nights worth as much as 50,000 points or $450 based on TPG valuations, you’d still be coming out ahead if you held both cards and maximized each free night.
The days of fast tracking to SPG or Marriott elite status by stacking credit card benefits are over, so don’t look to play both sides to get you there. Earning rates across the SPG and Marriott cards will more or less mirror each other come August, and other benefits such as travel credits or spending to Gold status are also similar.
If you can take advantage of the free anniversary nights from each card, it can definitely make sense to hold onto both the Amex and Chase options — holding onto all four of the mid-tier consumer and business cards would get you four nights at a Category 5 property for $384 in annual fees. But if that doesn’t make sense for your travel habits, it’s likely best to just hold onto the one card that fits you best. You can consider the differences between Visa and Amex cards — like price protection or foreign transaction rates — and factor in any minor card differences when making your choice.
Earn 2 free night awards (valued at 35,000 points) when you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. On top of the welcome bonus you'll earn 6x points at participating Marriott and Starwood properties and 2 points on everything else plus a free reward night (worth up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary.
- Earn 2 Free Night Awards (each valued up to 35,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- 1 Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
- Earn 6X points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels.
- 2X points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Guaranteed Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year.
- Path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
- Coming in 2019, 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- Earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points and get Free Night Stays faster.