Big changes, good and bad, coming to SPG AmEx cards

Summer Hull
Personal Finance Writer
Summer Hull writes the weekly "Get to the Points" column for CreditCards.com

Get to the Points

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The merger of the Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards loyalty programs has been in motion since 2015, but it wasn’t until last week we learned what the future will look like for these programs once they combine on Aug. 1, 2018.

Changes include elite status requirements to loyalty benefits, and even a new combined award chart.

One big question for many who have been watching these developments is what will happen to the very popular SPG American Express credit cards once the loyalty programs combine? For current SPG Amex cardholders, there are several major card updates to review now as the changes will kick in later this summer.

The Starwood AmEx credit cards will remain

The first thing to note is that the Starwood AmEx cards aren’t going anywhere. Existing cardholders will continue to be able to use their cards after the programs combine. American Express has even said it will continue to issue the products to new cardholders. In fact, I was told to expect a “very rich sign-up bonus” from the cards later this summer. 

SPG AmEx earning rates will change

While the SPG AmEx cards will remain for new and existing cardholders, the rate at which they earn points will change Aug. 1. Currently, the SPG personal and American Express SPG Business cards earn 2x points at Starwood and Marriott properties and 1x everywhere else. Until Aug. 1, 2018, you can transfer your Starwood points to Marriott Rewards at a ratio of 1 SPG point to 3 Marriott Rewards points. On Aug. 1, all remaining SPG points will be automatically converted to Marriott Rewards at that same ratio.

In conjunction with the August changeover, the SPG AmEx cards will begin to earn 2x points on most charges and 6x points at SPG and Marriott properties. The SPG Business AmEx card will gain new 4x bonus categories at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, on cellphone services from U.S. providers and on U.S. shipping purchases.

The earning rate on these cards from the current equivalent of 3x Marriott Rewards points per dollar to 2x Marriott Rewards points per dollar is a downgrade in their everyday earning power.

New SPG AmEx anniversary night awards begin Aug. 1

While the everyday earning power of the SPG AmEx cards will get downgraded in August, a new benefit will largely offset that change. Beginning Aug. 1, cardholders will receive an anniversary award night valid at SPG and Marriott properties, bookable for 35,000 points per night or less.

Marriott has not yet released a full list of where all its properties will fall on the new award chart, but they have released a preview list. Some of the properties listed at or below 35,000 points per night include Element New York Times Square West, The Westin Resort Nusa Dua in Bali, Le Meridien Etoile in Paris, JW Marriott Mexico City, Westin Resort and Spa in Cancun and the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai.

Picking up an annual award night that can be used at hotels such as these is a very solid new perk for a card that costs $95 per year in annual fees.

Annual stay credits and elite status perks are changing

Also beginning in August, those with the SPG personal and business AmEx cards will get automatic silver status in the new program. Silver status does not confer many benefits, but it does give you a 10 percent bonus on base points earned at SPG and Marriott properties, priority late check-out and access to an elite reservations line.

Currently, you can earn gold elite status with $30,000 in purchases on the SPG AmEx cards in a calendar year, but in 2019 that threshold increases to $35,000 per year.

Gold elite status gives you a 2 p.m. late check-out when available, 25 percent on base points earned and a shot at a slightly better room upon check-in.

I wouldn’t recommend shifting all your spend to this card as the benefits are minimal. Instead, you will still receive gold status in the combined program by having the Platinum Card from American Express with no spending requirement.

If you like to use the annual elite status credits conferred by the SPG AmEx cards to help you get closer to the status benefits you want, be aware that benefit is changing, too.

For 2018, you still get the two elite stay credits and five elite night credits for each SPG Amex card you hold. However, for 2019 that will be changing to credit for 15 nights toward earning elite status regardless of how many SPG Amex cards you have. There will no longer be the option to qualify for elite status based on stays instead of nights after this year.

A new luxury SPG AmEx is coming soon

If a regular old SPG AmEx won’t cut it for you anymore, a new luxury SPG AmEx will debut this August. This new card will offer expanded perks, as well as charge a larger $450 annual fee.

The new SPG AmEx will provide $300 in annual statement credits valid when you stay at participating SPG and Marriott hotels, a credit toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, Priority Pass Select membership, automatic gold elite status and the opportunity to earn platinum status with $75,000 charged to the card each calendar year.

This card will also give you access to an annual anniversary award night that can be used at properties costing up to 50,000 points per night. This means that pricier properties, such as Ritz Carlton Bali, St. Regis Mexico City, Westin New York Grand Central and the Renaissance Paris Vendome, will be within range each year you hold this new premium card.

There is a future for the SPG AmEx credit cards in the combined Marriott and SPG program, but it is a future marked with some pretty dramatic changes compared to the cards we know and love today.

See related: Chase to launch new Marriott Rewards card with 100,000 sign-up bonus, Reward possibilities soar with Starwood-Marriott merger



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Updated: 05-23-2018