The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program is beloved by travelers and miles and points hobbyists alike. SPG points are valuable and versatile, which is the equivalent to travel hacking gold. So naturally when it was recently announced that Marriott had acquired Starwood, heartbeats quickened, knees knocked, and palms sweat.
Perhaps in an attempt to quell the fear of SPG diehards, Starwood announced an increased sign-up bonus on the SPG American Express Card. (Incidentally, Marriott is also offering an increased sign-up bonus on its co-branded Chase credit card, but Marriott points are far less valuable than SPG points so the offer isn’t as flashy.)
The 35k SPG point offering is the highest ever, making it seem like an excellent time to apply for the personal and/or business versions of the card!
First, let’s look at the SPG loyalty program and its co-branded American Express credit card.
The Starwood Hotel Rewards Program includes brands like Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, W Hotels, Le Meridien, and Aloft. There are no blackout dates when booking award stays and, if you stay 5 consecutive nights, the 5th award night is free.
Besides the awesome, upscale hotels, SPG points transfer to any of their numerous airline partners. For every 20k SPG points you transfer to the partner airline of your choosing, you’ll get a 5k bonus.
You’ll earn the SPG American express HIGHEST EVER sign-up offer of 35k SPG points after meeting the $3k minimum spend within the first 3 months. The business version of the card also has increased its sign-up bonus to 35k SPG points after meeting the $5k minimum spend within 3 months. Both offers are only available until March 30, 2016!
For both cards, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. The SPG Amex has no foreign transaction fees and allows combining cash and points to redeem award nights. You’ll earn 1 SPG point for every dollar you spend with the SPG Amex. With hotel redemptions beginning at just 2k SPG points a night, you’re on your way to earning award travel!
So, is the SPG Amex a no-brainer?
Let’s take a look at what we know about the Marriott and Starwood merger.
The short and sweet way to put it is, we don’t know much, if anything. Marriott’s CEO has tried to calm the panic by publicly speaking to SPG loyalty members, but the truth is no details have been released about what’ll happen to the SPG loyalty program. At the time the CEO spoke, Marriott wasn’t even privy to all the nitty gritty of SPG’s members.
Basically, miles and points enthusiasts know that claims like this have been made in the past with other mergers. History proves things can work out (somewhat) ok, but not overly favorable for those of us concerned with our travel rewards points and their valuation.
All is not lost, though.
Here are a few things to consider about applying for the SPG Amex.
- American Express only allows you to earn a sign-up bonus once in a lifetime for each of their cards. Given that the SPG Amex is offering the highest ever sign-up bonus, it appears to be an excellent time to apply for the card.
- The American Express “once in a lifetime” sign-up bonus rule may not matter, either. There’s no guarantee Marriott will choose to maintain the relationship between Starwood and American Express, given its partnership with Chase. If they parted ways, the SPG Amex would no longer exist, except for current cardholders. The same uncertainty might also be said for the Chase Marriott credit card.
- No details have been announced about the merger, which also means you have time to plan award travel with your 35k/70k SPG points! Every knowledgeable travel hacker knows the longer miles and points sit in an account, the more likely it is for disasters like devaluations and expirations to occur.
- If catastrophe strikes and the SPG loyalty program is decimated as we know it, you can transfer your SPG points to one of their many airline partners before all value is lost.
Should You Sign Up for the Increased SPG Amex 35k bonus?
Yes. SPG points are incredibly valuable and this won’t change at least until the merger is complete later this year. In the meanwhile, you can book award nights at any of Starwood’s gorgeous hotels around the globe and transfer points for award flights to over 30 airline partners.
Are you planning to apply for a Starwood American Express? What have your experiences been staying at Starwood properties?
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