About Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Updated on: Oct 15, 2018

The Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury card from American Express is a top-notch luxury hotel rewards credit card with substantial bonuses and perks for travelers.

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.

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 hotels are part of the Marriott umbrella of brands, and, as a result, the points you earn with this card will appear in your Marriott Rewards account. If you don’t have an account, Marriott will assign one to you when you fill out your application.

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 and Marriott 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, our research of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 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. The Starwood Luxury card’s sign-up bonus is 100,000 points, which is good for up to 12 free nights in SPG or Marriott hotels.

In order to get this bonus, you’ll need to spend at least $5,000 in the first three months of owning the card. Transactions that don’t count toward that requirement are credit card interest payments and late fees, as well as your annual fee and any balance-transfer or cash-advance fees that you pay.

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: 17.74% - 26.74%
  • Cash advance APR: 27.24%
  • 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 100,000 150,000 Two free nights 50,000
Yearly Rewards 67,000 116,400 41,000 47,900
Cheapest Room 7,500 10,000 30,000 5,000
Travel Credit $300 at SPG/Marriott properties $350 at certain hotels $300 for incidentals $300 for all travel
Lowest APR 17.74% 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’s 7,500-point fee for a Category 1 hotel puts it in second place behind the Sapphire Reserve, which allows you to transfer your points to the World of Hyatt program. Through this program, you can book rooms for 5,000 points per night.

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.

Pros and Cons: Who Is This Card Good For

Based on our research, we believe this card’s greatest strength is 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.

We also like the big sign-up bonus and yearly rewards. In the first year of owning this card, $2,500 of monthly spending can earn you enough points for up to 22 free nights.

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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