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We recently learned there will be (mostly) positive changes coming to the unified Marriott and Starwood loyalty program in August 2018. So it’s a great time to boost your Starwood and Marriott points balances to save on future travel.
But now AMEX has made a huge change to the welcome bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Instead of earning points as an intro bonus, you’re only eligible to earn a small statement credit.
Folks who apply for the card will still continue to earn flexible points, which can help save money on hotel stays, flights, and much more!
New American Express Starwood Card Offers
When you apply for the AMEX Starwood card (personal or small business version), you’ll earn a $100 statement credit after you make $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the card at a participating Starwood or Marriott hotel within your first 6 months of account opening.
This offer is WAY less valuable than the previous 25,000-point (or 35,000 point) welcome bonuses.
- From now through July 31, 2018, earn 2 Starwood points per $1 for every eligible purchase on the card at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels.
- Earn 1 Starwood points per $1 for all other eligible purchases
- Effective August 1, 2018: earn 6 points per $1 of eligible purchases on the card at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels
- Effective August 1, 2018, earn 2 points per $1 for all other eligible purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- Terms Apply
And the small business version also includes:
- Effective August 1, 2018, earn 4 points per $1 at US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, and on US purchases for shipping
- Complimentary access to Sheraton Club Lounges before August 1, 2018
Note: On August 1, 2018, Starwood will convert every 1 Starwood point in a loyalty member account to 3 points
Cardholders will also enjoy these benefits:
- Access to AMEX Offers, which can save you money on purchases you’re already planning
- Purchase protections, including extended warranty benefits
Both versions of the AMEX Starwood card have a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year.
Note: You’re only eligible to earn AMEX welcome bonuses once per card per lifetime.
Lots of Loyalty Program Changes Starting in August 2018
Starting in August 2018, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood will combine loyalty programs. One loyalty program will make it easier to search for award stays, as you can see all 6,000+ Starwood and Marriott hotels in one place.
And on August 1, 2018, your balance of Starwood points will be converted to Marriott points at a ratio of 1:3 (1 Starwood point = 3 Marriott points). You can already do this yourself any time.
The chain is expected to announce the categories of every hotel within ~6 weeks.
Right now, top-tier Starwood hotels cost 30,000 to 35,000 Starwood points per night. That’s the equivalent of 90,000 to 105,000 Marriott points based on the 1:3 conversion ratio. But under the new award chart, a standard award night at top-tier hotels will cost 85,000 points.
Until the loyalty programs officially merge, you can use Starwood points for:
- Free award stays at amazing hotels all over the world and potentially get a 5th night free depending on the category of the hotel
- Cash + Points award stays (you’ll get credit toward elite status when you book this way)
- Nights & Flights packages, even deals at Disney World!
- SPG Flights – use points to book flights on 150+ airlines with no blackout dates
- Award flights by transferring Starwood points directly to ~30 airline transfer partners
- SPG Moments – attend unforgettable experiences (like concerts or sporting events)
Some folks might prefer to use fewer points and pay a little cash to make points last longer.
But one of my favorite ways to use Starwood points is to transfer them to airlines. Besides having lots of fantastic Starwood airline partners (like American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, and many others), you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to airlines with a 1:1 transfer ratio!
Once the loyalty programs merge in August, you’ll be able to transfer 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. And you’ll get a 15,000 point bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer. That’s equivalent to 5,000 bonus airline miles, so this popular perk is NOT going away.
For example, you can currently transfer 20,000 Starwood points to Singapore Airlines. With the transfer bonus, you’ll have 25,000 Singapore Airlines miles. If you book a flight on partner Alaska Airlines, you’ll have more than enough miles book a round-trip coach award flight to Hawaii from West Coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
You’re Better Off Applying for a Chase Marriott Card
With the Chase Marriott personal credit card offer, you’ll earn 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. And the $85 annual fee is waived the first year.
Because of the 3:1 transfer ratio, these offers are like earning 25,000 Starwood points! That’s enough for a free night at hotels like the Westin Grand Cayman.
With this card, you’ll still earn flexible Starwood points for everyday purchases. And after the Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs officially merge in August 2018, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to book fantastic deals!
That said, you’ll almost certainly get more value from the Chase Marriott cards (personal and small business) instead. These cards are still offering valuable points welcome bonuses, which means you can boost your balance!