About Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Published on: May 8, 2018

The Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury card from American Express is a new luxury hotel credit card Amex will release in August 2018.

The card first made headlines in April 2018 when American Express and Marriott announced the card via a press release, in which they revealed the card’s rewards structure and perks.

What makes the card unique is that it’s only the second premium hotel rewards cards in the mainstream market: the Ritz-Carlton Premier Rewards is the other one.

While the card has yet to be released, there are enough details in the press release and an Amex page devoted to the card to provide you with a solid picture of what the card’s rewards and perks are, how it compares to other premium cards and our perspective on the card’s general strengths and weaknesses.

A Quick Note About the Marriott and Starwood Merger

In 2016, international hotel chain Marriott announced it was buying the Starwood hotel chain, a move that caused a lot of buzz in the travel rewards cards world, mainly because the two hotels have rewards programs. A merging of companies meant a merging of rewards programs.

At the time of publishing, Marriott noted that SPG points (also known as “Starpoints”) would be worth three Marriott rewards points.

The merger is set to finish in August 2018, which means those SPG points will be converted to Marriott points.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card’s Rewards

The credit card world has all kinds of different genres ranging from cars that offer cash rewards for every purchase you make and cards that feature low interest rates to travel-focused cards offering enough rewards to book free flights and hotel nights.

This card from Amex falls into the travel category and, more specifically, hotel rewards credit cards.

The reason that distinction is important is that hotel rewards cards tend to offer more robust rewards and perks than the average travel or airline card.

Purchase Rewards: Earning Starwood Preferred Guest Points

Starwood’s loyalty program is known as the Starwood Preferred Guest program. You use this portal to check how many rewards points you have and also to use those points to book rewards stays.

Earning points is really just a matter of using your Amex SPG Luxury card to make purchases. You’ll earn a certain amount of points for every dollar you spend based on the following tiers:

  • 6 points for every dollar spent at SPG properties
  • 3 points for every dollar spent at restaurants
  • 3 points for every dollar spent booking airline tickets through the airline
  • 2 points for every dollar spent on everything else

What’s significant about this points structure is that you get 2 points for all purchases that don’t fall into the 6x and 3x categories, something that you don’t find with any other premium hotel rewards credit card on the market.

The Ritz-Carlton Premier Rewards and American Express Hilton Aspire card offer 1x bonus on “everything else” purchases.

These purchases are important because they comprise most of the cardholder’s spending.

For example, the average American household can spend around $25,000 a year on their credit card. However, since the SPG Luxury card most likely attracts high-earning individuals, there’s a good chance the average user might spend at least $30,000 a year on the card.

If $5,000 of that spending is on airfare and restaurants and $500 is spent at SPG properties each year, then your total bonus in those two categories is 18,000 SPG points.

The remaining $24,500 in “everything else” purchases will earn you 49,000 SPG points.

Sign-Up Bonus

Most hotel rewards cards offer a sign-up points bonus that you can get if you spend a certain amount of money in the first three months of owning the card.

In the press release about the new Amex SPG Luxury card, Amex noted they’re going to offer a “rich welcome bonus” sign-up.

At the time of publishing, the size of the bonus was not known. However, it is worth noting that Amex’s other premium hotel credit card, the Hilton Aspire, offers a bonus of 100,000 points.

While we can’t say for certain what the SPG Luxury bonus will be, expect it to be at least 50,000 points.

The Extras: Statement Credit, Free Night, Gold Status

In addition to earning rewards on purchases, you get a trio of nice hotel-related perks.

You can get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases you make at SPG and Marriott properties.

According to the fine print, these charges have to made directly through SPR or Marriott, and, when you’re making purchases at the hotel property, everything must be charged to your room and then charged at the end of your stay to your SPG Luxury card.

When your cardmember anniversary rolls around, you’ll receive a free stay good for any room that costs 50,000 points or less.

And, finally, cardmembers get automatic Gold status in the Starwood (and eventually Marriott) loyalty programs. Gold status entitles you to the following perks before and during your stay:

  • 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Complimentary upgrade at check-in
  • Free points, premium in-room internet or beverage

Travel Benefits

In addition to the rewards and hotel perks you get with this card, you also receive travel benefits very similar to luxury travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve.

Amex will reimburse you $100 for your application fee for the Global Entry program or the $85 application fee for the TSA Precheck program.

In addition to this, you get complimentary membership in the Priority Pass Select program, which entitles you to free entrance into Priority Pass airport lounges, which number more than 1,000.

The final travel-related perk you get is complimentary Boingo wifi, which is available in many locations – airports and hotels are common.

Rates and Fees of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card

Along with all the great free stuff you get with this card comes the "dark side" of owning a credit card: rates and fees.

Many consumers sign up for cards because of the rewards they get but they don’t consider that around four out of 10 people with credit cards carry balances. And, when you carry a balance, you pay interest.

Therefore, it’s important to understand that rewards credit cards are only as good as your discipline in paying off your balance every month and avoiding fees.

If you don’t pay off your balance, pay late or make a balance transfer/cash advance, here’s what you can expect to pay, according to information available at the time of publishing:

  • Purchase and balance transfer APR: 17.24% - 26.24%
  • Cash advance APR: 26.24%
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
  • Cash advance/balance transfer fee: 3%
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Foreign transaction fee: None

The card’s $450 annual is standard for luxury cards. The APR is on par with the Amex Aspire as well as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Unlike the Chase card and other competitors like the Citi Prestige and Mastercard Black, the SPG Luxury has a penalty APR of 29.99%.

At the time of publishing, there was no information available about when the penalty APR kicks in but, judging by the Amex Hilton Aspire and other Amex cards, it most likely activates when you make a late payment and could be removed in as little as six months.

How the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card Compares to Other Premium Hotel Rewards Cards

The following table will give you an idea of how the card compares to Amex’s other luxury hotel card offering (Hilton Aspire), the Ritz-Carlton Rewards and the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

SPG Amex Luxury AmEx Hilton Aspire Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Chase Sapphire Reserve
Sign up Bonus Unknown 100,000 Two free nights 50,000
Yearly rewards 67,000 116,400 41,000 47,900
Cheapest Room 3,000 5,000 + cash 30,000 5,000
Travel credit $300 at SPG/Marriott properties $350 at certain hotels $300 for incidentals $300 for all travel
Lowest APR 17.24% 17.24% 17.49% 17.49%
Lounge Access Yes Yes No Yes
Annual Fee $450 $450 $450 $450

The card holds its own against other luxury cards. Its APR is lower than the two Chase cards and its yearly rewards are second to Amex’s Hilton cards.

As far as travel credits go, the dollar amount is competitive and your options for using it are actually pretty vast considering you can put it toward a hotel booking, restaurant tab, room service and more.

As far as the cost of the cheapest rewards booking, the card is the best among the four because properties can be booked for as little as 3,000 points a night. Keep in mind, though, that number could change when the Marriott-Starwood merger concludes.

For now, we believe this card’s rewards and benefits are competitive when compared to other luxury hotel rewards cards.

Whether or not it’s the right choice for you depends on your hotel preference, which is something we’ll talk about in the next section.

The Final Word: Pros, Cons and Who the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card Is Good For

Based on our research, we believe this card’s greatest strength is the combination of the number of points you can earn each year and the ability to book hotels for as little as 3,000 points.

We also like the various set of perks and benefits you get with the card; each one presents good value for those who travel at least a couple of times a year and can take advantage of the $300 credit and the Global Entry/PreCheck application reimbursements.

As far as downsides go, the penalty APR is a drawback for someone who carries a balance and pays late. Also, it goes without saying that the card may not be a good fit if you are partial to other hotel chains.

If that’s you, take a few minutes to browse through the different brands in the Starwood portfolio and see if any of the properties are appealing.

We believe this card is a good fit for someone who loves the Starwood brand and wants a luxury card that offers them Starwood- and Marriott-specific rewards that can enhance your stay.

» See Also: Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018

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