Are The Starwood AmEx Changes A Net Positive?

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On Wednesday I first wrote about the changes announced to the Starwood American Express, which kick in as of August 11, 2015.

The changes to the cards include the following:

  • The annual fee being raised by $30 per year, from $65 to $95
  • The elimination of foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary unlimited Boingo wifi
  • Complimentary in-room premium internet access
  • Sheraton club lounge access (for those with the business version of the card only)


There won’t ever be benefit and/or fee changes on a credit card which will please everyone. We’re all different consumers who are looking for different things. I mean, heck, I know some people who are excited when airlines announce award chart devaluations, because they say “maybe now it will finally be easier for me to redeem my miles.”

With that in mind, are these upcoming changes a net positive or negative?

Changes to the SPG Personal AmEx

For the $30 per year annual fee increase you’re getting no foreign transaction fees, complimentary unlimited Boingo wifi, and premium in-room internet access.

If you accrue Starpoints exclusively as a vehicle for converting points into airline miles, never travel internationally, and have no use for wifi hotspots, then yes, you’re paying $30 more and not getting any extra benefits.

But chances are that a vast majority of us will get value out of at least one of the above three perks, and potentially a lot more than $30 of value out of them too. And in that case it’s a big win.

All things considered the annual fee on the SPG Personal AmEx is now in line with the competition, and I think that’s fair, since it is a very well rounded, lucrative card.

Changes to the SPG Business AmEx

While I think the new benefits on the personal card are a win on the whole, I’m shocked by how generous the business card is now. In addition to the above perks, you get club lounge access at Sheratons, which is an amazing perk for non-elites.

Let’s keep in mind the other awesome perk of this card. Since it’s an American Express small business card it’s eligible for the AmEx Open Savings program, which offers cash back with many retailers.

For example, the AmEx Savings Program gets you 5% cash back at many Hyatts, so if you use the SPG Business AmEx at Hyatts you earn one Starpoint per dollar spent, plus 5% cash back on up to $10,000 per year. As someone who lives in hotels full time, that benefit gets me $500 cash per year.


So the business version of the card already had an advantage over the personal version, and now the gap widened even further.

The Starwood Business AmEx has become a really powerful card now, and I think will become interesting even to people who hadn’t previously considered it.

Bottom line

Personally I view the changes on both the personal and business versions of the card as a net positive, as I do think the benefits more than outweigh the $30 increase in the annual fee (which will continue to be waived the first year). Will that be the case for everyone? Nope.

Actually, if I’m being honest, the changes aren’t necessarily directly good for me. I’m a Starwood Platinum member, so I already get lounge access and premium internet. And I have The Platinum Card® from American Express, which also gets me unlimited Boingo wifi. The only thing I gain is waived foreign transaction fees, which is an awesome change.

Club lounge at Sheraton Skyline Heathrow, which those with business card will soon have access to

So do the changes benefit me overall? Probably not, but cards also aren’t custom made for individuals, and I do think these changes improve the overall value proposition. I have both the personal and business versions of the card, and I don’t see that changing.

At the very least I think most will agree that the value of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express went up a ton.

How do you feel about the changes to the Starwood American Express — do you view them as a net positive or negative?

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  1. Lucky,

    Sorry this might be irrelevant to your original post. Please kindly delete it if it’s the wrong place. Just wondering how you look at this: Undercovered journalist revealed that Hangzhou Four point Sheraton and JW Marriott use guest towels to clean the restroom. Same towel is used to clean toilet and cups. Original vedio and report are in Chinese. (Vedio length: 10:08)

  2. The fee is the same for both personal and business, correct? If that’s the case, I think I rather the new PRG or Everyday Preferred as my personal card and use the SPG business. I personally can’t justify 2 versions of the SPG card.

  3. Lucky,
    i got my spg personal card back in january.
    will i pay $65 or 95 on my anniversary?

  4. Do we know whether AmEx will convert a personal Starwood AmEx card to a business one? I have a solo law practice, so I’m sure I could get the business card. I could just apply for it fresh, but the personal card is my oldest card by far, so I suppose there’s some value to my credit rating to keeping that account continuous.

  5. Does the Sheraton club benefit work on award nights? If so, that’s a huge added benefit.

  6. I have diamond status with Hilton so I’m very familiar with a number of their executive lounges but only have gold with SPG. Am I correct to assume I’ll be getting access to similar lounges with Sheraton now? Basically, full breakfast in the morning, cocktails and a light meal at night, and access to an espresso machine all day?

  7. Since you stay in hotels full time, why bother with 2 SPG? Surely you don’t need the extra stays to earn top status at SPG?

    And since you have airline status and fly premium class the majority of the time, why bother with a Plat? Centurion Lounge access is about the only perk worth having, but since so few lounges, hardly worth the AF.

    And didn’t you say you had Citi Prestige that has a lot better Priority Pass lounge access than the Plat?

    I’d dump the business SPG and the Plat. Then wait and get signup bonus in a year for business SPG and biz Plat.

  8. I have the personal card and I figure I get zilch for the increased fee. So what if there are no longer FTF, they shouldn’t be there for a start if they want to be competitive. No need to make out they are doing us a favour by removing them. Boingo, well who cares. As a SPG Plat I already get free internet. If anything these changes annoy me, that is that every Tom, Dick and Harry who has the business version will now have lounge access, something others have to acquire thru loyalty. Hate to think how crowded this is going to make lounges.

  9. I’m in the same situation as you are, Lucky. I’ve earned Starwood Platinum status and have the AmEx Platinum card, so I end up paying $30/year more only for the elimination of the foreign transaction fees. With my projected travel plans, it looks like a net negative for me.

    However, I plan to keep both my personal and business SPG AmEx cards for now because of the annual 5 nights elite status credit that each provides. I need only 2 more years of earned Platinum status to become lifetime Platinum, and those 10 extra nights credit per year help out quite a bit. After I qualify for lifetime, I’ll probably drop the business card.

  10. @ Jeff R Couldn’t you just keep the personal one, and apply separately for the business one? That way you still have your oldest card, and you can get the sign up bonus and the perks of the business card..

  11. Net negative for me. I am lifetime platinum. I have Amex plat, citi prestige, citi exec etc. probably going to drop at least one Spg personal or biz.

  12. At best neutral, have to put $1k of foreign spend to break even.

    Surprised it’s so weak for existing Platinums.

  13. Is it necessary to pay for your stay with the SPG Business Amex to get the club lounge benefit, or do you just need to have the card?

  14. @ Paul — I keep the Platinum Card because it essentially costs me $250 per year, when I factor in the $200 airline fee credit. I transit Centurion Lounges a ton, so get quite a bit of value out of that. Furthermore, I value Fine Hotels & Resorts.

    I do automatically earn Platinum status, though probably wouldn’t make it to 100 night Ambassador status without the credit card nights.

  15. @ Jeff R — Nope, don’t believe you can convert from a personal to a business card. But you can apply for a new one, of course.

  16. Re: Personal card – The removal of FT fees is the biggest new benefit IMO but even that doesn’t necessarily make it a great card for those who travel. Yes, it’s great that we can finally use the card at SPG properties around the world without getting hit for 2.7% (I always thought it was ridiculous that we couldn’t) but, outside of SPG hotels, would you use it elsewhere? Sapphire Peferred would probably better for dining out and a card like Arrival would be more flexible. When looked at in the cold light of day, the benefits will not outweigh the increased cost for a lot of people (most people?).

  17. @Lucky

    Is the Sheraton Club access benefit for Sheratons throughout the world or is it for the USA only? On that same topic can you name some of the best Sheraton clubs worldwide that you are aware of?

  18. I echo Vicky’s comments. Net negative for me. I’m Lifetime Platinum and the last thing needed in the Club Lounges are even more people.

    If I keep the AMEX SPG card what is the point of Platinum loyalty? If I’m Platinum, why should I keep the card with its increased annual fee? I don’t care about Boingo & have 3 cards that do not charge currency conversion fees.

  19. Not seeing much value in this change.We travel internationally a fair bit but I would not use Amex Stwd when I can use Chase SP and get 2 X’s points on restaurants and hotels which represent 95% of charges.When Amex let the value of the PRG card diminish(last year) we at least were able to park our points in the Everyday account. How can we salvage these Stwd Amex points without paying the increased fee????

  20. For those of you Business folks with Platinum Status… I can’t wait to start taking your fruit, muffins and coffee in the lounge. Seriously! The lounge is nice but it’s not even a full breakfast. Go read your newspaper and wait for all the parents with kids to steal your latte machine right before a big business meeting. LOL!!!!

  21. Is there a way to find out which amex are charge and which are credit? I think I have 4 credit (I know my gold biz is charge), so I’d have to drop one to get a new card. But, I’d rather not do that if I don’t have to so I want to find out about my blue biz card. Thanks for all your great info, Lucky.

  22. Not happy with the changes. See little value for me. And creep in annual fee is a concern. This credit card was $45 not too long ago.

  23. As a current SPG personal card holder for nearly three years (opened 8/26/2013), I will hope the AF will be back $65 for some current card holders this year. Or the AF for SPG personal card should be like ~20 bucks less than that for SPG biz card, since the personal version lacks lounge access benefit. Also, Amex is not that widely acceptable than Visa & MC.

  24. @ mbh — If you tell me which cards you have I can tell you. Typically if it has “Credit Card” in the name then it’s exactly that, and if it doesn’t it’s a charge card.

  25. @ Dan — Throughout the world, as far as I know. In general the ones in Asia and often Europe are excellent.

  26. With the bns card, can we use the Sheraton hotel clubs been when not staying at the hotels? Like when on long stopovers at Heathrow?

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