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Since Marriott International closed on its acquisition of Starwood Hotels in 2016, things stayed fairly quiet for loyalists of the two brands. The ability to link your two loyalty accounts and swap points between them was announced fairly early, but the next big news came this spring.
In April 2018, Marriott outlined plans to introduce a new, unified set of benefits across its brands separate loyalty programs: Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest (or “SPG”), and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards — Marriott owns the Ritz Carlton brand. The rollout of the unified benefits and merged program happened this month.
As part of this merger, both of the bigger brands have refreshed the rewards credit cards they offer — Marriott’s cards are issued by Chase, while Amex issues Starwood’s cards. While Amex changed the benefits and points-earning structure attached to the SPG cards, Chase and Marriott were the first to introduce a completely new credit card for the new program: the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card.
Today, American Express followed suit, introducing the brand-new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card.
The new card differentiates itself from the current SPG credit card by providing a greater set of perks and benefits — all of which should outweigh the card’s higher $450 annual fee.
For a limited time, you can earn a welcome bonus of 100,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. The bonus will be dropping on October 31, so you should apply before then. While some had hoped for a higher welcome introductory welcome offer, that’s still a significant value.
There’s another reason that you may want to apply on the sooner side. Beginning Sunday, August 26, you won’t be eligible to earn a bonus on any Amex Starwood credit card if you’ve received a bonus on a Marriott credit card from Chase within the past 24 months. That means that if you opened a Marriott credit card within the past two years, you should still be eligible for the bonus on the SPG Luxury card if you apply before then.
While $450 is a high annual fee — for comparison, the regular card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year — the card’s rewards and benefits make the fee absolutely worthwhile for Starwood and Marriott frequenters.
Each year, cardmembers can get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases at Starwood and Marriott hotels, which can apply to room charges. That effectively brings the fee down to just $150.
Additionally, each year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll get a free night award that can be redeemed at any hotel that costs 50,000 points a night or less — that should cover a wide selection of properties. If you use this at the right hotel, it should be easy to get enough value to erase the remaining $150 of the annual fee.
You’ll also get complimentary Gold elite status, and you can earn Platinum status if you spend $75,000 or more on the card in a calendar year. In addition, the card offers a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, and a credit to enroll in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
The card will earn 6x points at Starwood and Marriott hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline, and 2x points on everything else. While it earns the same number of points on hotel stays and general purchases as the regular SPG card, the bonus on dining and flights is a unique addition.
Remember, if you’ve opened a Chase Marriott card in the past two years, you may only be eligible for the welcome bonus until August 26. Also keep in mind that the bonus drops in October, so if you’re looking to boost your stash of points in the new Starwood and Marriott loyalty program, now’s the time to apply.