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As all of you are probably aware of by now, the Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs will be merged at some point in August 2018. These changes are pretty major, so even just a few weeks before the changes are kicking in, there are still lots of questions.
Both American Express and Chase will be issuing credit cards in the future for Marriott and Starwood, though these cards will also see some major changes.
One of the things I get a lot of questions about is what happens with the co-branded Starwood American Express cards. In April I shared the full details of the changes happening to the SPG Amex cards as of August 1, 2018. Just about everything about the cards is changing, so if you’re not familiar with those changes, check out the previous post.
One aspect of these cards that has caused quite a bit of confusion is the anniversary free night certificates that will be offered by these cards in the future, and in this post I wanted to look at those a bit more closely.
What are the Marriott and Starwood anniversary free night certificates?
Going forward, several Marriott and Starwood credit cards will offer an anniversary free night certificate. This is something that some Marriott cards have offered in the past, though it’s being expanded to Starwood cards as well. Specifically, as of August 1, 2018:
- The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express will offer an anniversary free night certificate valid at a hotel costing up to 35,000 points per night
- The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express will offer an anniversary free night certificate valid at a hotel costing up to 35,000 points per night
While it’s not a Starwood card, I’d note that the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card also offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a hotel costing up to 35,000 points per night.
Can you earn an anniversary free night certificate on multiple Marriott & Starwood credit cards?
This has been a point of confusion, but the answer is yes. If you have multiple cards earning free night certificates, then those certificates are stackable, meaning you can get multiple free nights per year.
Since this hasn’t been too clearly published by Marriott, an email has just been sent out about this benefit, with the subject line “Get a Free Night Award for Each of Your SPG Amex Cards.” Hopefully that puts any confusion to rest.
When do you get your first SPG Amex anniversary free night certificate?
This new benefit kicks in on August 1, 2018, so you would get your first anniversary free night certificate on your first account anniversary on August 1, 2018, or later. An e-certificate for a free night will be deposited into your account within 8-12 weeks of the account anniversary date, though in practice will likely post sooner.
How can you tell when your account anniversary date is?
This is something that’s rather annoying. I went to Amex’s website and looked at a summary of all my transactions over the past year, figuring that would easily tell me when my account anniversary is (based on when I was last billed an annual fee). That’s not the case, apparently, as fees aren’t listed in that summary (someone correct me if I’m wrong please).
So the only way I could see when I was last billed the annual fee was to go to the “Billing Statements” section and download my individual statements.
After going through a few of them, I saw that I was last billed the annual fee for one of my cards on August 18, 2017. That’s fantastic, since it means I should get my first anniversary free night certificate just a couple of weeks after this benefit kicks in.
Do you get to keep your anniversary free night certificate if you cancel your card?
Once your anniversary free night certificate posts it won’t be taken away. So if you pay your annual fee and then the anniversary free night certificate posts, you can cancel the card and keep the certificate, as it’s linked to your loyalty program account rather than your credit card account at that point.
How many hotels will be eligible for these certificates?
Apparently 6,300 hotels will cost 35,000 points per night or less, so you can redeem these certificates at a vast majority of Marriott and Starwood properties.
Can you pay the difference in points to stay at a hotel costing more than 35,000 points per night?
Nope. You need to stay at a hotel that would cost no more than 35,000 points for a standard room for your one night stay. You can’t pay the difference for a more expensive hotel, and you can’t get any points back if your hotel costs less than 35,000 points.
How do they decide which hotel costs less than 35,000 points?
Here’s Marriott’s new award chart as of August 2018:
Here’s a tool that will show you how many points are required for a free night at each of Marriott’s 6,500 hotels.
Starting in 2019, Marriott will have peak and off-peak pricing, as well as Category 8 hotels. However, between August and December 2018, all hotels will price at the standard levels, and there will be no Category 8 hotels. This means that for the rest of the year, you can redeem these certificates at up to a Category 5 hotel any time of year.
Starting in 2019, you wouldn’t be able to redeem at a Category 5 in peak season, though, since that would cost 40,000 points.
Is the anniversary free night certificate worth the $95 annual fee?
There are a lot of redundant benefits across the Marriott and Starwood cards, so a lot of people are in a position where they’re trying to decide whether it’s worth paying the $95 annual fee to get an incremental anniversary free night certificate.
Everyone has to decide for themselves, though personally I think the answer is yes. Marriott claims that this free night certificate will be valid at about 6,300 of Marriott’s 6,500+ hotels around the world, and a majority of those hotels would probably retail for over $95 per night.
Personally I’d pick up as many of these free night certificates as I could for $95 per night, so I think it’s a great deal.
Do these cards have good welcome bonuses?
At the moment the SPG Amex cards don’t have good welcome bonuses at all. I think we might see better ones when the cards formally relaunch, but it’s understandable they’re not offering much since the card is being transitioned at the moment.
If you want to take advantage of a great welcome bonus, consider the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card. This card has many of the same perks, and it’s offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 Marriott Rewards points after spending $5,000 within the first three months. This is a great offer that’s due to expire on July 12, 2018.
You can learn all about the card here.
The changes coming to the SPG Amex are both positive and negative. The cards are no longer lucrative for everyday spend, though on the plus side they will offer anniversary free night certificates, which for many will more than justify the annual fees. If you have multiple cards you can get multiple of these.
Does anyone have any other questions about anniversary free night certificates? Do you plan on keeping one or multiple cards come August 1?