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Much digital ink has been spilled over the forthcoming combined Marriott and SPG loyalty program, including the addition of new co-branded credit cards from American Express and Chase. All of these changes may have overshadowed another significant development: the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express is getting a makeover.
Set for an August reboot, the SPG Business card will soon offer new rewards bonus categories that will place it in competition with other business rewards cards tailored for less travel-intensive spending. But since it will continue to reward spending on hotel stays, as well, the retooled SPG Business may be setting itself up as a bit of a best-of-both-worlds credit card.
Here’s a look at the upcoming changes and how the refreshed card will stack up against other business rewards cards.
New Rewards Categories
One of the things that makes the current SPG program appealing is its extensive list of airline partners. The good news is that when the combined SPG and Marriott loyalty program debuts, the transfer opportunities for SPG cardholders will improve.
In some cases, the rewards opportunities will improve, as well.
The SPG Business Credit Card currently earns 2 Starpoints per dollar at Starwood and Marriott properties and 1 Starpoint per dollar everywhere else. Under the unified program, cardholders will earn 6x points on all hotel purchases and 2x points on all non-bonus spending. Hotel rewards are essentially a wash points-wise as SPG Starpoints currently transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, while the non-bonus rewards represent a 33% drop in earnings from the current 1x because of that transfer ratio.
If the refreshed card stopped there, it might be little more than a disappointment. Instead, American Express and Marriott will add five new bonus categories that earn 4x points — which represents an improved rewards benefit even with the devalued points.
When the program changes take effect, SPG Business cardholders will earn 4x points on everyday business purchases at US restaurants, US gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers and on US shipping purchases. For small businesses that spend heavily in these categories, this could be an added incentive to use this card.
Other Card Changes
Along with the revised points program, Amex will add the following benefits to both this card and the personal version, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express:
- Annual free night award (up to 35,000 points) after card renewal
- Automatic Silver elite status
- 15 elite night credits beginning in 2019 (limited to once per member, not once per card)
Cardmembers will still be able to earn Gold status after spending $30,000 on the card this year, but the threshold increases to $35,000 beginning in 2019.
Amex is taking away one perk in exchange for the increased points. Beginning in August 2018, cardmembers will no longer get free access to Sheraton Clubs.
Other remaining features that are unchanged: No foreign transaction fees and complimentary unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at once, plus complimentary premium in-room internet access. The card also will retain its $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
The New Competition
Rewards-conscious business owners have had little reason to place the SPG Business card at the front of their wallet. Outside of hotel spending, there are numerous other cards that pay well more on other typical business expenses. But the additional bonus categories make this card a far more intriguing option for everyday use.
How will it stack up? Let’s look at what other cards that offer similar bonus categories offer.
This other Amex offering pays 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers on up to $50,000 in purchases during a calendar year, then 1% thereafter. It pays earns 3% cash back on up to $50,000 in annual spending (then 1%) on one of eight categories of your choice — airfare purchased directly from airlines, hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels, car rentals purchased from select car rental companies, US gas stations, US restaurants, US purchases for advertising in select media, US purchases for shipping and US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all other eligible spending.
The reward on telephone services is slightly higher on this Amex card, while if you chose the restaurant, gas or shipping categories for the 3% bonus, you’d earn a bit less. Since this is a cash-back card, a 3% return is worth 3 cents for every dollar spent. Points in the combined SPG/Marriott program will be worth 0.9 cents each according to TPG’s valuations, meaning a 4x reward would be worth 3.6 cents.
This card from Chase pays 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year (then 1%), 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year (then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
As a cash-back card, Ink Business Cash offers a better return on wireless services and a slightly lower return on dining and fuel spending than the revamped SPG Business card. But Ink rewards become considerably more valuable if you transfer those earnings to another Chase credit account — say the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve — that earns Ultimate Rewards points. Utilizing the transfer option means you could effectively earn a return of 10.5% percent (based on TPG’s valuations).
This card offers slightly better value on gas and slightly worse value on restaurant spending than will the SPG Business card. You’ll earn 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year (1% thereafter), 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco andand 1% cash back on all other purchases.
There’s no perfect 1-to-1 comparison that can be made between the revamped SPG Business card and some of the existing business rewards credit cards. But while it’s clear the changes will make the SPG Business more competitive when it comes to non-travel spending, there are other cards that offer slightly better returns in some of the new bonus categories.
But if your business budget includes hefty line items for client dinners, gas, mobile phone service or shipping costs, the card changes should pique your interest — especially if you’re a Starwood or Marriott loyalist.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
- Earn a $100 statement credit after you make $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Plus, earn an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the Card at a participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotel within your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- From now through July 31, 2018: Earn 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other eligible purchases.
- Note: On August 1, 2018, SPG will convert every one Starpoint in a loyalty member account to three points. In general, corresponding redemption changes will occur. Visit members.marriott.com for details.
- Effective August 1, 2018: Earn 6 points for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels.
- Earn 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees