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The merger of Marriott and Starwood Hotel rewards has gone surprisingly smoothly, despite some initial concerns from existing members. One question that was debated after the union was announced was what would happen to the chains’ respective cobranded credit cards. The credit card line-up for the hotel chains has remained mostly unchanged. The biggest news from the merge was the surprise announcement of a new card to the Starwood Preferred line-up: The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Credit Card.
The united chains give cardholders access to over 6,500 hotels in over 120 countries. The choice is unparalleled and, put simply, the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card has a ton to offer frequent travelers and heavy spenders on travel.
The clue is in the name. This luxury card offers customers a lot of additional perks and benefits to elevate your standard hotel stay and travel. From now through to October 31, 2018, eligible card members can earn 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
The card carries a hefty fee of $450 annually but it will be more than worth that as each year you can enjoy $300 hotel credit (good for Starwood or Marriott purchases) as well as a free annual hotel night, which can be redeemed for a stay worth up to $500.
The Luxury card offers excellent high earnings rewards, not just on Starwood and Marriott purchases, but on everyday spending too, which is uncommon. The card allows users to earn 6 points per dollar on spending at SPG and Marriott Rewards Hotels, 3 points per dollar on restaurant spending and flights booked with the airlines, and 2 points per dollar on all other spending.
For a co-branded card, the points redemption is fairly flexible. Points are best used for Marriott and Starwood branded hotel bookings but they can also be transferred to a number of airline programs with most having a 3 to 1 transfer ratio. If you’re a United MileagePlus member your transferred points go a bit further because of the RewardsPlus® system, which gets you a 10% mileage bonus when you transfer your hotel points.
For frequent travelers, the card carries plenty of additional benefits that improve the overall value proposition. Complimentary access to Priority Pass™ Select membership gives the cardholder (plus up to two guests) access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. Additional benefits such as the statement credit every four years for either TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry (worth either $100 or $85) is a great bonus for those clocking plenty of airline miles. Similarly, busy travelers will appreciate the unlimited WiFi through Boingo.
Cardholders will automatically qualify for Gold Elite status giving them late checkout options, enhanced room upgrades, and 25% boost on points earned through the Marriott rewards program. In 2019, each year you will earn 15 nights towards the next level of Elite status. For Platinum – the next status level up – this takes the number of qualifying nights down from 75 to 60.
Who is the card good for?
For regular Starwood-Marriott guests, this card makes a lot of sense. The rewards system makes this card good as an everyday-use card as well as special use.
Rewards have clearly been designed with the frequent traveler in mind with excellent general travel benefits making it competitive with a lot of its peers. The airport lounge access and Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check statement credit are equal to what’s offered by some of the most premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
The bottom-line is that if you stay regularly at Starwood and Marriott hotels you will get the most from this card and it’s well worth the $450 annual fee. The newly united SPG-Marriott rewards maintain the versatility of the prized SPG points, even if you have to spend a little bit more to get them.
While the rewards redemption is somewhat flexible if you’re a traveler looking for maximum flexibility you should consider alternatives like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Fees and APR
- Annual fee of $450 per year.
- APR for purchases and balance transfers 17.49% to 26.49%.
- Balance Transfer fee – either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer.
How the card compares
This is a great travel card for brand-agnostic travelers. If you’re looking to earn maximum travel rewards for the most flexible redemption, this card might be better for you. This card gives you 3 points per $1 spent on all travel purchases, while car rentals, taxis, and Airbnb purchases have a 4.5% rewards rate. For those same purchases on the SPG Luxury card you would only get 2 points per dollar. Points can be redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate or transferred to a number of airline and hotel rewards programs. It really depends on where you spend the most as to what card will be better for you. The Sapphire Reserve card does currently offer a compelling 50,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 on the card in the first 3 months, those points equal about $625 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate.
This is a card synonymous with luxury travel. It offers a whole host of premium travel perks like American Express Global Lounge Collection access, complimentary membership at many car rental agencies, and purchase protection and coverage. Generally, you get the most value from your Amex points if they are transferred to airlines so if you fly frequently but don’t have an airline you stick with, this could work for you. The card comes with $200 in Uber Credit, $200 annual airline fee credit and Hilton Honor Gold Status, if you would take advantage of these bonuses then the Platinum Card from American Express is better for you. However, if you won’t use these benefits, or are more interested in earning free hotel nights, then the SPG luxury card is the right choice.
If you would rather not shell out the hefty $450 annual fee for the Luxury card (though, it’s worth noting that with the $300 travel credit it’s more like $150) there is a standard cobranded card offering for just $95 a year. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is still a great choice for Marriott-Starwood loyalist. The most notable difference between the cards is the middle-tier rewards: The Luxury card gives you 3x points on U.S. restaurants and flights booked with the airlines, the same spending gets just 1x points with the Preferred Guest card. It may be worth doing the math on this one. If you spend heavily on dining and travel, and you would make use of the $300 travel credit, the Luxury card is still worth consideration. If you envision this more as an occasional-use card to book hotel stays then the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card offers all you may need.