[Disclosure: The links in the post earn us a referral. Emily and I are always grateful when you use our links to apply for a card!]
Update: The current offer is for only 25,000 points.
2 weeks ago I speculated that, similar to last year, the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) credit card, would again offer a version of the SPG card with a lower spending requirement to get 30,000 bonus SPG points.
Our room at the Hotel Imperial in Vienna, a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel.
Last year, you could get 30,000 SPG points after spending just $1,000 within the first 3 months on the AMEX SPG card.
SPG 30,000 Bonus Offer
You can now get 10,000 SPG points after the first purchase, and an additional 20,000 SPG points after completing $4,500 in spend within the first 3 months.
That’s a total of 30,000 SPG points after spending “only” $4,500 within 3 months versus the regular offer of spending $15,000 within 6 months!
I value SPG points, very conservatively, at 2 cents each, so 30,000 SPG points is worth about $600.
Starwood sells SPG points for 3.5 cents per point, up to a 20,000 point limit per year, and was recently selling them for a 20% discount.
I applied for this card as part of my 6 card app-o-rama last Sunday, which will net me 340,000 miles and points. I’ve already been approved for 5 out of 6 cards.
For those who want to know more, I applied for 2 Citi AAdvantage cards with 75,000 bonus miles each, the Chase Southwest Airline Rapid Reward card with a 50,000 mile bonus, the SPG card with a 30,000 point bonus, and 2 other cards which I will write about later this week.
5 Reasons Why I Applied For The AMEX SPG Credit Card
1. Incredible Value with Cash & Points.
I would not be interested in the SPG program and the AMEX SPG card, if there were no “Cash & Points” option.
Cash & Points greatly increases the value of SPG points, because it lets you pay for a hotel stay using fewer points, but with a nominal cash supplement.
For example, we recently stayed at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver, a category 4 hotel, which would otherwise cost 10,000 SPG points. Using Cash & Points, we paid only 4,000 points plus $60 per night!
I have NEVER paid the full redemption rate for a Starwood hotel ($200+ a night), and have always used the Cash & Points option!
Unlike regular redemptions, Cash & Points redemptions are subject to black out dates, but I’ve usually managed to snag them.
2. Starwood Has A Lot Of Nice Hotels
Starwood owns brands such as Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meredien, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin and W brand hotels.
Emily and I have stayed in a lot of Starwood hotels using the Cash & Points option.
The most memorable hotels were the Sheraton Iguazu overlooking the Iguazu falls in Argentina, the Imperial in Vienna (which used to be a palace), the Convento do Espinheiro, which used to be a monastery, and the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver where we could see the snow capped mountain peaks, the crystal clear marina, and the green forests from our bedroom window!
3. Everyday Spending Card.
Everyday spending means that you use this credit card for your day-to-day purchases. And you do this only after you have spent the minimum amount to get the sign-up bonus on your other credit cards, which I know may not be relevant to many folks.
For example, transferring 20,000 SPG points to US Air would net you 25,000 US Air Dividend miles with the 25% transfer bonus.
This bonus alone makes the SPG card one of the best cards for everyday spending, and the reduced sign-up bonus makes it currently one of the most attractive cards available.
A few airline partner offer a 2:1 redemption rate, such as United or Continental, which is a very unfavorable transfer rate, but in general there is a LOT of value in the 25% bonus on transfers.
- 1 SPG point per $1 spent on the card for regular purchases. For example, spending $4,000 will get you 4,000 SPG points which can be redeemed via the “Cash & Points” option for 1 free night in a category 4 hotel. This is a much better value than spending $4,000 on other hotel credit card like the Priority Club or Hyatt credit cards.
- 4 SPG points per $1 spent on the card at a Starwood Hotel if you are a SPG member (2 points from using the credit card & 2 points for being a SPG member) so you should use the SPG card to pay for your Starwood hotel stays and earn more points.
- 5 SPG points per $1 spent on the card at a Starwoods Hotel if you are a SPG Gold or Platinum elite member (2 points from using the credit card, 2 points for being a SPG member, & 1 point for being a Gold or Platinum elite member).
5. No Annual Fee
The $65 annual fee is waived for the first year, and you can always cancel the card when the next year’s fee is due if you don’t want to keep the card
6. Nights and Flights
You can redeem 60,000 SPG points for 5 nights in a category 3 hotel AND get 50,000 air miles (only with those airlines which offer a 1:1 transfer).
This is a good deal, because it would normally take 40,000 SPG points to earn 50,000 air miles (with the 25% bonus), so in effect, you’re getting 5 nights in a category 3 hotel, which usually costs 28,000 SPG points for only 20,000 (60,000 – 40,000) points.
Similarly, you can redeem 70,000 SPG points for 5 nights in a category 4 hotel AND get 50,000 air miles (only with those airlines which offer a 1:1 transfer).
It would normally take 40,000 SPG points to earn 50,000 air miles (with the 25% bonus), so in effect, you’re getting 5 nights in a category 4 hotel, which usually costs 40,000 SPG points for only 30,000 (70,000 – 40,000) points.
In other words, instead of redeeming 40,000 SPG points for 5 nights at a category 4 hotel, you may as well redeem an extra 30,000 SPG points using the Nights and Flights option and get 50,000 air miles!
7. Gold Preferred Status after spending $30,000
You get free Gold Preferred Status once you spend $30,000 per year on the card.
In my view, getting first-tier Gold elite status for spending $30,000 on a credit card is a lousy deal, since there are better benefits available on other credit cards for similar spending, for example, the British Airways Companion Pass or top tier Diamond status with the Hilton Surpass card.
8. Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th free
Get the 5th night free when you redeem for 4 nights at a category 3 to 7 hotel. This is a saving of 20% on the regular redemption rate.
9. 5 Nights Credit Towards Elite Status
It takes 25 nights to earn Gold elite status and 50 nights to earn Platinum elite status, so a 5 night stay credit toward elite status is not terribly exciting to me.
10. 3rd night Free At Participating Sheraton Hotels
Up to December 31, 2011, you will receive your third night free when you stay (and pay) for 2 nights from Thursday thru Saturday at any Sheraton.
In my opinion, this is one of those fluffy benefits, so riddled with exceptions and special rate requirements, that it is unlikely to really yield the suggested 3rd night truly free.
But you could have better luck than me!
Why you shouldn’t get the card:
1. Foreign exchange fees. The card charges a 2.7% foreign exchange fee, so don’t get this card if you will be using it overseas.
2. Low redemption value for highest category hotels. One Mile At A Time and View From The Wing explained that redeeming SPG points for the highest category rooms is phenomenally expensive and is not a good value.
That said, there are a lot of properties which are a very good value.
The increased sign-up bonus of 30,000 points is valid only up to September 3, 2012 after which it drops to 25,000 points.
If the $4,500 minimum spending seems too high, take a look at these 40+ ways to complete minimum spending on your credit card.
It costs only 2,000 SPG points for weekend nights in a category 1 hotel, and 4,000 points for a Cash and Points reward in a category 4 hotel, which are great ways to stretch out SPG points.
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