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The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card review

The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card review

Published: September 14, 2018
Published: September 14, 2018
Ratings Policy
Hotel Rating:
3.1 rating
3.1 rating
3.1 / 5
Rewards Value: 1.5
Annual Percentage Rate: 4.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Hotel Options: 4.5
Features: 5.0

In a Nutshell:

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card is a good card for luxury hotel perks; however, fans of Marriott and SPG hotels who simply want to collect free hotel nights may be better off with one of Marriott’s lower-priced cards.

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per at participating SPG and Marriott hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 100,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Bonus
Free award night (redemption level up to 50,000 points) on your anniversary

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$334

APR
17.49-26.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 24 months
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Cash + points option available at participating hotels
  • Can transfer points to a variety of airline partners at 1:1 ratio
  • Variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, airfare, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and charity donations
  • Largest hotel network in the world

Cons

  • Marriott points are somewhat inflated, worth only 80% of the value of the average point
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the Marriott rewards program
  • Most redemption options outside of hotel stays have a very poor value
  • Hotels may limit standard room awards

Hotel Options

  • Properties: 5700+
  • Countries served: 110+

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, free night award each year on card anniversary (category 1-6 room), $300 hotel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, complimentary Gold status, earn Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend, 25% point bonus on hotel stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout, welcome gifts, dedicated elite reservation line, priority late checkout, ultimate reservation guarantee, free premium in-room internet, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi

Luxury Rating:
3.1 rating
3.1 rating
3.1 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.0
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 4.0

In a Nutshell:

Aside from its gigantic introductory bonus, the main appeal of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card is luxury hotel perks.

View similar hotel rewards cards

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per at participating SPG and Marriott hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 100,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($6,250 monthly spend)
$1,433

APR
17.49-26.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 24 months
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Cash + points option available at participating hotels
  • Can transfer points to a variety of airline partners at 1:1 ratio
  • Variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, airfare, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and charity donations
  • Largest hotel network in the world

Cons

  • Marriott points are somewhat inflated, worth only 80% of the value of the average point
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the Marriott rewards program
  • Most redemption options outside of hotel stays have a very poor value
  • Hotels may limit standard room awards

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, free night award each year on card anniversary (category 1-6 room), $300 hotel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, complimentary Gold status, earn Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend, 25% point bonus on hotel stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout, welcome gifts, dedicated elite reservation line, priority late checkout, ultimate reservation guarantee, free premium in-room internet, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi

Rewards Rating:
3.6 rating
3.6 rating
3.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.3
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 5.0

In a Nutshell:

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card offers a lot of value in its first year thanks to a giant introductory bonus, but – if you’re not interested in luxury perks with Marriott hotels – you can find many rewards cards that offer better ongoing value.

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per at participating SPG and Marriott hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 100,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$334

APR
17.49-26.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 24 months
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Cash + points option available at participating hotels
  • Can transfer points to a variety of airline partners at 1:1 ratio
  • Variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, airfare, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and charity donations
  • Largest hotel network in the world

Cons

  • Marriott points are somewhat inflated, worth only 80% of the value of the average point
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the Marriott rewards program
  • Most redemption options outside of hotel stays have a very poor value
  • Hotels may limit standard room awards

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, free night award each year on card anniversary (category 1-6 room), $300 hotel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, complimentary Gold status, earn Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend, 25% point bonus on hotel stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout, welcome gifts, dedicated elite reservation line, priority late checkout, ultimate reservation guarantee, free premium in-room internet, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi

Travel Rating:
3.4 rating
3.4 rating
3.4 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.7
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.9
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 5.0

In a Nutshell:

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card offers great perks with Marriott and SPG hotels plus your standard array of luxury travel benefits; however, if you’re looking for a go-to travel card, you can find better values.

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per at participating SPG and Marriott hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 100,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$334

APR
17.49-26.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 24 months
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Cash + points option available at participating hotels
  • Can transfer points to a variety of airline partners at 1:1 ratio
  • Variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, airfare, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and charity donations
  • Largest hotel network in the world

Cons

  • Marriott points are somewhat inflated, worth only 80% of the value of the average point
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the Marriott rewards program
  • Most redemption options outside of hotel stays have a very poor value
  • Hotels may limit standard room awards

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, free night award each year on card anniversary (category 1-6 room), $300 hotel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, complimentary Gold status, earn Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend, 25% point bonus on hotel stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout, welcome gifts, dedicated elite reservation line, priority late checkout, ultimate reservation guarantee, free premium in-room internet, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi

The Marriott rewards program, which has undergone many changes and updates lately, has launched yet another new credit card: The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury card. As part of the launch, Marriott has adorned the card with an impressive 100,000-point introductory bonus.

The hitch is that the card comes with a very large $450 annual fee. You may be wondering: Once all those bonus points are spent, is it worth doling out $450 for a second year of card membership?

The answer depends mostly on how likely you are to use the card’s luxury hotel perks. The card is laden with hotel benefits – including a $300 hotel credit and automatic Gold status in the Marriott Rewards program. The rest of its benefits are fairly standard for a luxury card – it is one of many options for getting a Priority Pass membership, and its yearly rewards value is average.

Also, the card is probably too expensive for a moderate spender, who simply wants to earn free hotel nights and doesn’t spend enough with Marriott hotels to see the value of the card’s hotel benefits.

Read on to see whether the new SPG Luxury card is right for you:

High rewards rate

The SPG Luxury card offers a very high return on your spending. You earn six points per dollar on purchases at participating SPG and Marriott hotels, three points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and U.S. restaurant purchases and two points per dollar on other purchases. Even when you consider that Marriott points are inflated – worth only 0.8 cent per point (about 80 percent of the average rewards point) – this is a very high earning rate.

Basically, you get 4.8 cents worth of points for every dollar that you spend with Marriott hotels, 2.4 cents per dollar on your restaurant and flight spending and 1.6 cents per dollar on the rest of your purchases.

100,000 bonus points

The card also comes with a very generous introductory offer: 100,000 points if you spend $5,000 with the card in the first three months. Even when you factor in the lower value of Marriott points, this is a very large bonus – worth around $800 in hotel nights. These points can score you up to 13 nights at the lowest tier Marriott or SPG hotel (up to 16 nights if you use Marriott’s free fifth night on award stays to stretch your points).

If you plan to apply for the card, now is the time to act – the offer expires on Oct. 31, 2018.

Transfer points to frequent flyer programs

One of the greatest features of the Marriott rewards program is that it allows you to transfer points at a good ratio to more than 40 frequent flyer programs. While many hotel programs allow you to transfer points to airline partners, the transfer ratio is usually poor (most of Hilton’s travel partners, for example, have a 10:1 transfer ratio).

Marriott, on the other hand, offers a 3:1 transfer ratio for most of its partners. Since Marriott points are worth far less than other program’s points, you maintain most of the value of your points when you transfer them. Plus, when you transfer more than 60,000 points in one transaction, you earn 15,000 bonus points.

In other words, if you want to apply the points that you earn with the SPG Luxury card to something besides hotel stays, the Marriott rewards program gives you many other good options.

Flexible redemption options

The Marriott program is flexible with its points – your points don’t expire as long your card is active every 18 months and there are no limits on the number of points you can earn. Plus, aside from the option to transfer points, you have a variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, vacation packages, gift cards and merchandise. Also, you can redeem points for a combination of points and cash at participating hotels.

As a drawback – though the Marriott rewards program officially states that it doesn’t enforce blackout dates on free night awards –  individual properties can choose to restrict the number of standard award rooms. So, though a hotel may appear to have availability, you may find that there are no rooms available for award bookings when you try to redeem your points.

Large hotel network

Another great advantage of the Marriott rewards program is the size of its hotel network. With more than 6,500 hotels in more than 127 countries, the Marriott hotel network is the largest in the world. You can redeem points for hotels at most levels – from moderately priced properties to luxury resorts – and you should be able to find a hotel option in most places you want to travel.

Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury card benefits

As a luxury card, the SPG is loaded with valuable hotel and travel perks – such a free award night each year and a $300 hotel credit – that can easily justify the card’s annual fee:

  • No foreign transaction fees – The SPG Luxury card is a great card for traveling abroad, since it doesn’t charge a fee for foreign transactions.
  • Free annual award night – You get a certificate for a free night stay at a participating hotel (categories 1 through 6) each year on your card anniversary. This is a very valuable benefit, worth up to 50,000 points each year. However, you need to be diligent about using the certificate in time, since it expires after 12 months.
  • $300 hotel credit – You get up to $300 in travel statement credits for eligible purchases made with your card at a participating Marriott or Starwood hotel. Unfortunately, the credit only covers incidentals, such as restaurant and spa purchases. However, if you make many on-property purchases, it could be very valuable.
  • Priority Pass membership – The card includes a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, granting you and two guests access to more than 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges around the world.  A Priority Pass membership normally costs $399, so this benefit also adds substantially to the card’s value.
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit – The card offers a $75 to $100 credit to cover the fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. These programs combined allow you to pass through customs and security lines faster – a nice benefit to have if you fly often.
  • Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi access – Your card membership grants you free access to Boingo Wi-Fi access in airports, hotels, restaurants and other locations around the world.
  • Complimentary Gold elite status – You get automatic Gold status in the Marriott rewards program with your card membership. Gold status grants you valuable perks at participating Marriott locations, including a 25-percent bonus on your base points, free room upgrades, late checkout and Marriott’s “Ultimate Reservation” guarantee.
  • Earn Platinum status after $75,000 in spend each year – The card also offers a fast track to Platinum status in the Marriott rewards program – you get a status upgrade each year you spend $75,000 on the card, good for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it and through the next calendar year.

Is the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury card worth it?

The main advantages of the SPG Luxury card are its perks and elite status benefits. If you stay frequently at Marriott hotels and you value the perks that come with Gold status – including the 25-percent point bonus and complimentary upgrades — the SPG Luxury card gives you fast access to those perks without requiring you to spend a large amount at Marriott hotels. Also, the card’s $300 hotel credit can cancel out most of the card’s $450 annual fee, if you purchase enough hotel incidentals to take advantage of it. Finally, if you don’t have Priority Pass access through any of your other cards, the card’s Priority Pass membership justifies most of the card’s fee on its own.

However, if elite hotel and travel perks aren’t for you, then the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express may be a better option. The Starwood Preferred Guest card offers the same six points per dollar on hotel purchases and two points per dollar on other purchases, for a much lower $95 annual fee. It also grants you automatic Silver status in the Marriott program, which comes with a few good perks, such as late checkout and a 10-percent bonus on your base points.

Unlike the SPG Luxury card, the regular SPG card does not offer a triple-point earning rate on flights and restaurants. However – with the other earning categories on the cards being equal –  it would take quite a bit of spending on restaurants and flights with the SPG Luxury card to outmatch the rewards value of the regular SPG card. As you can see from the chart below, you would need to spend $22,188 on directly purchased flights and U.S. restaurants with the SPG Luxury card to equal the regular SPG card:

Rewards earned on $22,188 in flight and U.S. restaurant spend
SPG Luxury card SPG card
3 points x $22,188 x 0.8 cent per point – $450 annual fee = $83 1 point x $22,188 – $95 annual fee = $83

In other words, if you aren’t looking for fancy travel perks and just want a card that lets you earn bonus points in the Marriott program for a moderate amount of spend and a reasonable annual fee, the Starwood Preferred Guest card may be the better option.

Why get the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury card?

  • You are a fan of Starwood and/or Marriott hotels and resorts and spend a larger than average amount at these properties.
  • You want automatic elite status in the world’s largest hotel program.
  • You want to score a large number of Marriott points through an introductory bonus.
  • You want a good luxury travel card that offers access to airport lounges, along with other luxury travel perks.
  • You spend more than $22,188 per year on flights and U.S. restaurants on one credit card.
  • You want to earn points that you can transfer to a variety of airline programs at a good rate.

How to use the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury card:

  • Be sure to spend at least $5,000 in the first three months to earn the card’s introductory bonus.
  • Use the card for most of your purchases to earn a high rewards rate.
  • Charge your hotel bill at a participating property to your card to earn bonus points and take advantage of the card’s credit on hotel incidentals.
  • Transfer your points to one of Marriott’s airline partners in 60,000-point increments to earn a 15,000-point bonus.
  • Book your awards stays in five-night increments to earn a free fifth night.

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