What’s The Future Of The SPG Amex?

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Reader Nick asked the following question on a recent post about my American Express card strategy:

I know it’s speculation, but what do you think happens to the Starwood AMEX card post-merger? In the meantime, I’ve had the card once and can’t qualify for a bonus again. But wouldn’t you agree others should apply, especially since even the minimum 25K SPG point signup bonus equals 75K Marriott Rewards with no first-year fee?

While I’ve addressed this topic in passing, I figured it would make sense to dedicate a post specifically to this:

What Marriott wants the future of SPG to look like

While I’m not thrilled about Marriott’s takeover of Starwood (eliminating competition is rarely good for consumers), there’s no denying they’ve done an incredible job in terms of offering reciprocity quickly. The day the merger closed they introduced reciprocal status matching and points transfers. That’s extremely impressive, especially given the scale of the merger.


At the moment Marriott is happy running the three loyalty programs — Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest — independently. Marriott management has said that they’re eventually hoping to create a single loyalty program, and that will happen in 2018 at the earliest.

That’s all we know as of now. So we could see the programs integrated as early as next year, though I also wouldn’t be surprised if it only happens in 2019. I get the sense that Marriott management is taking their time, and would rather do things correctly than quickly.

What the Marriott merger means for credit card issuers

Marriott and Ritz-Carlton cards are issued by Chase, while Starwood cards are issued by American Express. For the time being it’s “business as usual” for both American Express and Chase.

Once the programs integrate, or once we get a sense of the timeline with which programs will integrate, that will likely change. What could we see happen?

  • American Express could take over the entire agreement for the combined program
  • Chase could take over the entire agreement for the combined program
  • It’s not out of the question that both American Express and Chase will issue cards for the new program; American AAdvantage, the world’s largest airline loyalty program, now has cards issued by both Citi and Barclaycard, and Hilton has credit cards issued by American Express and Citi, so we can’t rule out the possibility of this happening with Marriott

If Marriott does decide to go with one issuer over the other, I could see it going either way.

It could very well be Chase, given their overall strength with co-brand cards, the fact that Marriott is part of their transferrable points currency, etc. Amex might seem like the underdog on the surface, given that Marriott’s previous arrangement was with Chase and they’re the “dominating” company, but I wouldn’t rule them out. They took a big hit in losing the Costco co-brand agreement, so might go to great lengths not to lose another big partner.

Why you might want to consider the SPG Amex

Both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offer sign-up bonuses of 25,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, with the first year’s annual fee waived. The card also offers one Starpoint per dollar spent, and two Starpoints per dollar spent for stays at any of Marriott’s 30 hotel brands.

Given that Starpoints can be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, this means:

  • The sign-up bonus is worth 75,000 Marriott Rewards points
  • The card offers three Marriott Rewards points per dollar spent, which is much better than the one point per dollar spent offered on the Marriott Card
  • The card offers six Marriott Rewards points per dollar spent at Marriott properties, which is better than the five points per dollar offered on the Marriott Card

On top of all that, these cards are anecdotally easy to get approved for. Getting approved for Marriott’s card can be tough since it’s subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule, while most people should have no issues getting approved for the above two cards.

Does that mean you should apply for the SPG Amex?

If you don’t yet have the SPG Personal Amex or SPG Business Amex, you absolutely should consider getting them at some point. The cards are easy to be approved for, and the sign-up bonus alone will get you 25,000 Starpoints, which can be converted into 75,000 Marriott points.

If you’re someone who presently uses a Marriott card for everyday spend, you may also be interested in earning three Marriott Rewards points per dollar spent, and six points per dollar spent on Marriott-family hotel stays.

The one reason you may consider holding off is because historically Amex has offered a once-per-year increased sign-up bonus on the card. Last year the bonus was increased to 35,000 Starpoints, while in 2015 it was increased to 30,000 Starpoints.

There’s certainly a chance the bonus will be similarly increased this year, though it’s no guarantee. Everyone can decide for themselves whether or not it’s worth waiting for that bonus. The last “special” bonus that Amex offered on the SPG Card was actually worse than the normal bonus, in my opinion.

Bottom line

The SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex were among the first cards I ever applied for. While we don’t yet know what the future of SPG looks like, as of now it’s “business as usual” on these cards. That could change at some point, though if you haven’t yet picked up these cards, I’d seriously consider doing so. They’re quite easy to get approved for in my experience, and are great regardless of whether you’re looking for airline miles, Starpoints, or Marriott Rewards points.

The only other consideration is that we may see an increased bonus on the card again this year.

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  1. @ BFD — You can get it once on the personal and once on the business card. But it’s “once per lifetime” on each card.

  2. I will flip sh*t if the 5/24 rule somehow prevents my SPG card from being converted into a Marriott card, assuming Chase wins out.

    Based on the attitude we’ve been getting from Chase lately, I could totally see this happening.

  3. On Saturday my friend went to book one night at a spg hotel and when she finished the booking 30k offer popped up on her screen..

  4. @Matt Give it a rest. Everyone with a brain is tired of the anti-Trump stuff. No ordinary, non-SJW cares anymore. Either he does what he said he will do, and the country gets safer and more prosperous, in which case he gets reelected. Or his plans don’t work out, and in 4 years the country moves on to the next pied piper. But in office less than 3 weeks, with most of his picks not confirmed yet, it’s way too early to tell.

  5. @Robert Hanson,

    The Republicans were a bunch of ass##/%s for at least 6 years, ever since the house flipped after the passage of obamacare. Stop acting like you have suddenly found decorum now.

    I always wonder if the toad aka McConnell actually doesn’t remember how he acted to block anything in the Senate for two years or if he actually can hold two conflicting, mutually exclusive beliefs at one time and use the one that is convenient at any time. He seems like a psychopath to me.

    I hope the left wing liberals stay a PITA for you guys, even if they actually have nothing to prove.

  6. Robert Hanson’s raison d’etre seems to be going around Boarding Area, defending Donald Trump on every blog, usually with about this degree of privileged dismissiveness. If the bloggers are cool with it, then fine. I’ll just say that he’s transparently and obviously wrong here, and that many, many tens of millions of “ordinary” people remain in a high state of anxiety about the attempted takeover of the country by a cabal of racist, self-parodying crypto-fascists. Nearly everything about the current administration is unprecedented and repugnant, and it’s probably vital to the future of the country that we resist normalizing any of this.

    On topic: the SPG Business AMEX has shown up, on occasion, without the “once in a lifetime rule” but with the “last 12 months” rule.

  7. here we go again. liberals instigating and turning this discussion into yet another Trump bashing.
    you lost. get over it, losers.

  8. Lucky,

    On a related note, IF you are looking for ideas/brainstorming for future posts:

    If it is likely the 5,000 mile bonus for each transfer of 20,000 Starpoints to SPG airline partners is eventually going to get pulled (because of the merger), what airline partners do you recommend transferring Starpoints to now (assuming folks don’t want to redeem Starpoints at hotels)?

    Understand the general rules are:

    1. Earn & burn
    2. Don’t transfer transferrable points until you are ready to book an award.

    But, I suspect many of us have large Starpoint balances we don’t plan on using in the immediate future.

    I’d rather park them in a decent program and get the 5,000 mile bonus than either lose out on the 5,000 mile bonus and/or get stuck with a ton of Marriott points down the road.

  9. Once again, I”m reading a travel blog about the SPG-Marriott merger, and idiots have to inject their political views into the conversation. Save the crap for someone who cares and grow up.

  10. that’s right. not only readers but bloggers got in it or started it as well, since the day after election, mommy points (What I Told My Six Year Old..), rapid travel chai, the gate all started moaning all the way till Fri (Arriving JFK to see American Values still Exist). All one sided (I am not implying they are right or wrong) but all pointing one direction, imaging the readers got in with their comments. Enough of them from both bloggers and readers.

  11. I already have gotten the spg personal and business card. I still have the business card. Im wondering if given the changes i should close it. I used to use my spg card on all non-cat spend. Now i have the amex business blue which i think will get all my non-cat spend for the next year due to 2 points per dollar and 30% bonus on uearly spend. My spend at spg properties is minimal (since most are award stays) and i have marriot gold status. Im thinking maybe i should ditch the spg when AF hits. Thoughts?

  12. But the SPG card is available internationally whilst the Chase cards aren’t. What will happen to international SPG cards?
    We already get double starpoints for spend at SPG and Marriott until end November 2017. They will terminate after that?

  13. Lucky, I am a SPG/Hyatt Loyalist and this year I started to shift some Hyatt stays to Marriott hoping the merged MR-SPG will count the combined nights credit. Do you think the merged program will start to calculated the combine the stay/night credits in 2017 for the 2018 elite status? If such calculation will not start until 2018, I might postpone my stays with Marriott and try to stay with SPG as many as possible then.

  14. Lucky, I have the same question as Grant:

    “If it is likely the 5,000 mile bonus for each transfer of 20,000 Starpoints to SPG airline partners is eventually going to get pulled (because of the merger), what airline partners do you recommend transferring Starpoints to now (assuming folks don’t want to redeem Starpoints at hotels)?”

  15. And, what is the future of the Marriott Visa? I like aspects of both cards, though only have the SPG card right now.

    If they really want to do it right, they’ll keep the airfare partners that SPG has and add a free hotel night on the card anniversary like Marriott does.

    I will keep my SPG card at least until the points merger is finalized. Maybe they will grandfather in current cardholders to something that is unavailable to new applicants.

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