My Experience At The SPG Amex US Open Cardmember Event

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Full disclosure: This experience was in conjunction with the SPG Amex Stars program I’m participating in, courtesy of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. They covered the cost of my flights to New York and two-night stay at the Westin Times Square New York. That being said, all opinions expressed are my own.

For the past several years I’ve been participating in the SPG Amex Stars program, which has taken me to some pretty awesome places. I love the SPG Amex, and it’s one of the cards I’ve had in my wallet for the longest amounts of time. It was one of the very first cards I applied for when I was 18, and I’ve had it ever since.

What makes Starpoints so awesome

As I’ve often explained, I consider Starpoints to be the single most valuable points currency out there. I value each Starpoint at 2.2 cents each, which is higher than I value any other individual points currency. The reason for that is because of how versatile Starpoints are. They can efficiently be redeemed for hotel stays, especially when booking free nights with the fifth night free, or when using Cash & Points.

For example, I stayed at the St. Regis Bal Harbour with my parents over Christmas 2014, a stay which would have retailed for $1,200+ per night.

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St-Regis-Bal-Harbour-Rate

But as someone who loves flying premium cabins, I also love how Starpoints can efficiently be converted into airline miles. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only hotel points currency where converting them into airline miles is actually a good deal.

That’s because they convert into airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points you transfer, you get a 5,000 point bonus. So if transferring in the right increments, each Starpoint is worth 1.25 airline miles. And sometimes even more than that, as we sometimes see transfer bonuses when converting Starpoints into airline miles.

Starpoints-AAdvantage

Simply put, I hoard Starpoints. They’re the only currency that I voluntarily have 500,000+ of at any given time, since they haven’t devalued, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve valued them consistently for over five years now.

The refreshed SPG Amex

The SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex underwent a major refresh as of August 11, 2015, which makes the card even more compelling. These changes included the following:

  • The elimination of foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary unlimited Boingo wifi
  • Complimentary in-room premium internet access
  • Sheraton club lounge access (for those with the SPG Business Amex)
  • The annual fee being raised by $30 per year, from $65 to $95 (the first year’s annual fee is $0, though)

SPG-Amex

There are several great new benefits there, though the best has to be that those with the business version of the card now receive access to Sheraton club lounges, which is an awesome value.

Sheraton-EDI-Club-Lounge

Getting tickets to the SPG Amex US Open cardmember event

A couple of days ago I wrote about my experience at the SPG Luxury Suite at the US Open, which SPG members can gain access to through SPG Moments. So you can redeem Starpoints for that experience, and it’s a heck of a value.

The SPG Amex cardmember event at the US Open is different, but equally awesome. It’s available exclusively to those with the SPG Personal Amex or SPG Business Amex, though you can’t redeem points for it. Instead, you can pay $110 for the tickets.

However, for that price you’re getting:

  • Lower promenade seats at Arthur Ashe stadium for quarterfinal night matches (which retail for $115)
  • Access to the SPG Amex cardmember event, which includes drinks, appetizers, etc.
  • A pretty snazzy gift bag, including a signed copy of Andre Agassi’s book, a $50 Ralph Lauren gift card, a $10 American Express gift card, a Centurion Lounge pass, and more

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SPG Amex Arthur Ashe Stadium tickets

Attending the SPG Amex US Open cardmember event

I once again went with to this event with my mom, and we arrived at around 5PM for the 5:30PM cocktail reception. We picked up our tickets at will call, and followed the signage to the Hospitality Pavilion, which gets you fast tracked through security.

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US Open entrance

The Hospitality Pavilion hosts all sort of events, and upon presenting our tickets we were directed to the SPG Amex event. The entryway is gorgeous, and doesn’t at all feel like it’s at a tennis stadium.

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US Open Hospitality Pavilion entrance

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US Open Hospitality Pavilion entrance

The SPG Amex event was located inside the entrance and to the right. Upon registering we were given wristbands.

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event

The room itself was spacious, and I’d estimate there were maybe about 100 people in attendance. Seating was split between couches, dining tables, and then bar-style seating.

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event

While the event is advertised as offering h’ordeuvres, I’d say in reality it’s just about a dinner spread. The food is fantastic, with all kinds of seafood, salad, chicken, cold cuts, etc.

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event food spread

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event food spread

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event food spread

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event food spread

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event food spread

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event dinner

On top of the impressive spread, there were servers constantly roaming to offer more appetizers, which weren’t otherwise available at the buffet.

On top of that there was an open bar with liquor, beer, wine, etc.

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US Open SPG Amex cardmember event open bar

Every year they have a different pro tennis player speaking at the event. And this year it was possibly the most exciting guest yet — Andre Agassi! My mom is a huge tennis fan, so was clearly pretty starstruck when she saw him.

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Andre Agassi speaking at SPG Amex cardmember event

First there was about a 15 minute conversation he had with the host, and that was followed by a Q&A.

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Andre Agassi speaking at SPG Amex cardmember event

As I said above, my mom is a huge tennis fan, so was really excited by this. She’s usually a pretty shy person, but she was actually the first person to ask him a question during the Q&A. Given that Andre Agassi is married to Steffi Graf (another professional tennis player), my mom asked whether their two kids are also into tennis as much.

Here’s part of Andre’s response:

After the Q&A anyone at the event could have their picture taken with him.

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Photo opportunity with Andre Agassi

At that point it was time for night matches, so tickets were distributed. The dessert spread was also put out at this point.

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SPG Amex cardmember event dessert selection

I especially loved the SPG Amex cupcakes.

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SPG Amex cardmember event dessert selection

The match started at 7PM, at which point we headed to the stadium, which was just a short walk away. We lucked out, as our tickets were for the men’s quarterfinals between Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet. This was my first time seeing Federer in person, and it was super impressive. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a game, as Federer easily won in three sets.

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Watching Federer at US Open

Bottom line

This event has been running for several years now (I’ve attended it in 2012, 2013, and 2014), and it seems to get better every year.

It continues to be an excellent value, available exclusively to those with the SPG Personal Amex personal or SPG Business Amex. The tennis tickets would retail for $115 alone, so for $5 less you get the tickets and access to an incredible cardmember event.

Kudos to American Express and Starwood for offering this!

Have you attended an SPG Amex US Open cardmember event? What was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. “What makes Starpoints so awesome”

    Totally surprising that would be the first headline on an event in which SPG paid for your hotel and flight.

  2. Ben, I’ve been waiting for your post about this event and I am hoping that you can help direct my rage where it will do the most good…I had never heard of this even until last year when AMEX sent out an e-mail about the offer –2– days after it opened up for sale…Obviously it was sold out when I called…I held on to that e-mail for a year and started calling the 1-800 # in July to find out when tickets would go on sale…As I am sure you can imagine answers were not easy to get…Finally in early Aug a rep told me the day and time that they would go on sale…I called late in the morning the day that sales were to open and had another discussion w/ an AMEX rep who told me that the event was VERY popular and to “dial the last digit 5-10 seconds before ticket sales opened”…I asked her if I should call earlier, and she said, “NO, you have to call when the tickets go on sale”…I’ll skip what happened next as I am sure you can imagine…Needless to say, after waiting on hold for over 1/2 an hr I was told the event was sold out and that there were really only 80 tickets avail and over 200 calls on hold when the tickets came open for sale…At this point I do not know who to be more upset with, SPG or AMEX…The rep that I spoke with last explained how they handle the calls and it seems completely messed up…I will be the first to admit that if I had scored the tickets I clearly would not feel the same way, but basically AMEX handled it terribly, and SPG touts this amazing event/offer that in reality only 80 people can get…Who would you reach out to…??? Or would you just suck it up and live to attend next years Open…???

  3. That’s a good question Tom. And how he gets to go year after year? It’s pretty cool. It’s funny that Andre didn’t come out on the court for the exhibition match that was after the Federer match, because Chang was playing! hahaha I was there except I was front row, and the night before I was sitting 2nd row from the end.
    Lucky- You bought or redeemed a package to have SPG ‘pay’ for your flight and hotel, or they literally paid you?
    I would like to know what the real life is of you Lucky. Everyone is fake online pretty much or they have their persona, but what is everyday life, and I would love to see the money and point flows. hahaha

  4. Looks like it’s time for Lucky to update his advertising policy. To his credit he prefaced the article with the disclaimer that SPG/Amex paid. It must be hard to be objective when the company/event you are reviewing pays the tab. I suppose that’s why he doesn’t mention credit card companies (SPG/Amex) in the below excerpt from his policy. I do appreciate a lot of the info provided, but it’s this type of schmoozing that makes me question loyalties. Is someone looking to provide me with unbiased information to benefit me and provide honest income for themselves via referrals or am I being deliberately set up to be fleeced with no regard for my financial well being? I look for unbiased reviews in these blogs and this article just feels “dirty.”

    Copied from Lucky’s policy page – “I fund all of my own travel, and all airline and hotel reviews are done without notice or approval of the companies involved. No airline or hotel chain sponsors or endorses content on this blog with the exception of certain reader giveaways, which are clearly labeled as such.”

  5. @SEM I wonder if one has an Amex Platinum card as well if you could use the concierge service to get these tickets for you and around the call in order system. I don’t know if you have a Platinum card but if you do that could be worth a shot net year.

  6. I don’t think the fact that the flight and hotel were complimentary change the fact that AMEX puts on a good show. It’s also stated by several travel enthusiasts that star points are exceedingly valuable, not just on Lucy’s blog.

    I’m also sure as flattering as it may be Lucky isn’t necessarily WoWd by a complimentary hotel and flight when it’s something he does full time. It’s like you people actually believe these companies pay for ALL his flights and nights. That’s illogical.

    Let’s not forget he owns a travel consulting business and his income comes heavily from that and of course the success of his blog which you envious Nay Sayers happen to be contributing to.

    Keep up the good work Lucky! Excited to read more reviews about the Citi Prestige Card, maybe some redemptions you’ve made with ThankYou points. 🙂

  7. I love how in your disclaimer you claim all your opinions are your own, but then proceed to shamelessly pimp this event like you would the highest paying cc referral.

    This was nothing but a paid advertisement.

  8. Hey don’t get mad at Ben. I called the minute they went on sale and I guess I was fortunate because I got tickets. The rep did say the demand was very high.

  9. @Rich Fanboyism is also childish.

    All these “travel” bloggers remind of foodies who post glowing review for every restaurant that gives them “perks”.

  10. I’m not “nay saying”. It’s interesting you interpreted it as such. I gave him credit for disclosing the fact that the trip and event were provided to him by Amex/SPG. I also mentioned I do enjoy a lot of the content provided and find it useful. I merely stated my opinion that I distrust bloggers that actually publish articles reviewing services/products which they receive gratis from the company/service or product being reviewed. Make no mistake, they get compensated quite well for referrals. The fact that his travel was paid for by the company conflicted with his disclaimer stating he pays for all of his own travel.

    If you choose to not question the world around you, follow others blindly, and not challenge thoughts and notions that you don’t agree with, that’s your prerogative. I however choose not to be a lemming in life an be taken advantage of by those unscrupulous enough to do so. By the way, I AM NOT stating outright this is what Lucky does with his blog or intended to do with this article. He may have had good intentions and provided an honest and unbiased review. I simply don’t agree with the conditions under which this article was written. That’s all….

  11. @Mike I do indeed have the Plat AMEX, and actually tried what you suggested after my awful experience the year before…They said that there are separate “Platinum AMEX” events @ the Open that they can take care of for me, but as this is an SPG AMEX event, I had to deal w/ the Event Line…

    To all the haters, seriously, get over it…If you want SPG to pay for something for you, start a travel blog and work on it day and night for years…My posting was in no way intended to be a negative comment @Ben, I just know that as an insider he will have access to the best person to express my displeasure w/ AMEX events, SPG, or both…

  12. @Lucky

    Wanted to point out the pricing for the tickets to the event (at least what i received in my email) were $185 per person.

    While this was my second time attending this event, the highlight for me may have been meeting you and getting a chance to talk with you.

  13. Ben is not an insider. hahaha Actually, I think the opposite is what comes off in everything he does, though I have to agree that some times not. I am glad he was able to go and have a good time, even though the match was not much of one. How was it ever going to be bad or he was going to have a good review even though it was bad!?!?! hahahaha He had a picture of the cupcakes, and no one was there! haha He didn’t have to fend people off and say hold on while I take a picture. hahaha Same goes for the lox and everything else. And he was at the game in the box (which I would have never left) haha. I don’t think buccscott’s contentions really apply here at all, but I appreciate them, and agree that they could be true in other situations. I think Lucky did just what he said he was going to do, and it was cool to read about. It seems like SPG AMEX could have invited another 20 people. haha It’s more fun with more people, and if they don’t have seats and have to stand in the suite, that would have been fine with me!
    I think it is a reasonable question to ask about whether they paid for everything for him. Even if you just e-mail the people that want to know…I’m cool. I won’t blow it for you. I’m just curious. I also go out of my way to use your links to apply for credit cards, so you benefit. I have nothing, but goodwill. I am actually a massive supporter! haha This is the only blog I follow, and I regularly tell other people to follow it too.

  14. @SEM Interesting. Have you been to the Platinum event? I would think that event would be even better than the SPG event.

  15. @Mike I am SURE the Platinum Event would be even better, but the 3500$ price for 2 was just not as attractive as the 185$ SPG event ; )

  16. No offense, but this is a terrible experience.

    1) $115 seats – not even that close to the players
    2) All you got access to was fancy smancy appetizers and Aggasi talking. Oh, and people playing music at the front.

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