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Both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express cards come with awesome perks, like free Boingo wifi, complimentary premium internet at Starwood properties, and two elite stay credits and five elite night credits towards status annually, which helps me requalify for Platinum status.
The cards are also great for everyday spend, as I consider Starpoints to be the single most valuable points currency on a per point basis (I value them at ~2.2 cents each, and you’re earning one Starpoint per dollar spent on the card).
But there’s one benefit which really sets apart the business version of the card for anyone looking at applying. I know a lot of people are already familiar with this benefit, so this post is intended mostly at those not as familiar with the card.
Primary cardmembers on the SPG Business Amex receive executive lounge access whenever staying at Sheraton properties. This is a huge perk, possibly one of the biggest perks offered by any hotel credit card.
Lounge access is otherwise reserved for Platinum members and those paying for access, so this is a great way to get one of the biggest benefits of top tier status without actually having to put in the nights.
Club lounge at the Sheraton Skyline London Heathrow
I figured I’d share some FAQs about this benefit, for those not familiar with the rules:
Do additional cardmembers also qualify for Sheraton club lounge access?
No, only the primary cardmember is eligible for this benefit. In other words, you can add employee cards to the SPG Business Amex, but those cardmembers wouldn’t be eligible for Sheraton club lounge access. Only the person paying the $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year) would be eligible.
Club lounge at the Sheraton Salzburg
How many guests can I bring in a Sheraton club lounge?
This benefit is available to the primary cardmember as well as up to one guest registered to stay in the same room. So at most two people can use the lounge. In the case of hotels which have different rates depending on single or double occupancy (this isn’t uncommon in Europe), you’d have to pay for double occupancy for two people to be able to use the lounge.
Do Free Night/Points & Cash stays qualify for Sheraton club lounge access?
Absolutely! If you book directly with Starwood you’ll be eligible for this benefit, regardless of whether it’s a paid, corporate, free night, or Points & Cash stay.
What if I booked through Priceline/Hotwire?
Third party bookings technically aren’t eligible for this benefit. So you have to book directly through SPG or an approved travel agent if you want this benefit. In practice some hotels may still honor the benefit, but that would be out of generosity, and not because they have to.
Can I use a Sheraton lounge when not staying at a hotel?
No. You actually have to be staying at the property with a reservation in your name in order to use the perk.
Does the Sheraton club lounge benefit apply internationally?
Yep! It applies at Sheraton hotels around the world.
Club lounge at the Sheraton Maldives
Do I have to pay for my stay with the SPG Business Amex to use this perk?
Nope, you can pay with any credit card you’d like and still take advantage of this perk.
How will the hotel know I have the SPG Business Amex?
Your SPG account should automatically be notated for this benefit. As the primary cardmember with your SPG number linked to the credit card, your account will reflect that you’re eligible for this benefit, and you should automatically be offered club lounge access at check-in. There’s no need to show your card, etc. Instead your actual room key will be programmed to get you lounge access.
Does this benefit apply at other SPG brands as well?
No, this benefit only applies at Sheratons. It doesn’t apply at Westins, Le Meridiens, or any other SPG brand.
What impact will the Marriott merger have on this benefit?
We don’t know. The merger between Marriott and Starwood is expected to close around the middle of the year, though we still don’t know what that will look like in practice for guests.
We don’t know the benefits of the combined loyalty program, and also don’t know whether American Express or Chase will be issuing the co-branded credit card in the future.
I do feel pretty confident in speculating that Starwood Preferred Guest will continue to exist at least through the end of 2016, and possibly well beyond that. So if you apply for the card now you still have plenty of time to take advantage of this benefit, and who knows, maybe it will stick around long term.
What should I expect of a Sheraton club lounge?
Starwood is in the process of rebranding Sheraton, as they sort of realize the brand is tired and lacks an identity.
The Sheraton brand can be pretty inconsistent, and the same is true of the quality of their club lounges.
Generally speaking US Sheraton club lounges are pretty basic. You can expect a continental breakfast with maybe one hot option, then maybe soft drinks and packaged snacks during the day, and then appetizers and an honor bar in the evening (meaning you have to pay for alcohol).
Club lounge at the Sheraton Miami Airport
Outside the US there are some really nice club lounges, on the other hand. For example, you could literally have all your meals in the club lounge at the Sheraton Salzburg, if you were so inclined. They have a hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet, with complimentary drinks (including alcohol) available for most of the day.
But beyond that, I find club lounges to be a great place from which to work, so whether you’re between sightseeing or trying to get some work done, they’re a great place to come and relax, grab a drink, and use your laptop.
So yeah, the quality does vary significantly, though there are some nice Sheraton clubs out there.
But if you’re trying to decide between cards or are focused on perks beyond that, I think the Sheraton lounge access on the business version of the card is worth specifically pointing out, as I know many people have gotten a lot of value out of the benefit since it was introduced last year.
If you have the SPG Business Amex and aren’t a Platinum member, have you gotten a lot of value out of the club lounge perk?