Credit Card Review: The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card From American Express UK

Apr 27, 2019

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Starwood merged with Marriott in 2018 to create the world’s largest hotel group. The loyalty program of this group was recently announced to be called Mariott Bonvoy. If you had hotel points in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, they automatically converted to Marriott Bonvoy points at a rate of 1:3 (as the old Starwood points were much more valuable than the old Marriott points).

American Express offers an SPG cobranded credit card, even though the program no longer exists. The card now earns Marriott Bonvoy points (rather than the old SPG points). Like the US counterparts, it should have been rebranded as a Bonvoy Amex card but hasn’t yet, creating a confusing product offering for UK consumers.

Who Is This Card For?

As Marriott is the world’s largest property group with almost 7,000 properties in 130 countries, this can be a great option for someone serious about earning and redeeming hotel points.

There is no minimum income requirement to be approved for this card.

Welcome Bonus and Annual Fee

This card has a reasonable annual fee of £75 but also provides a welcome bonus of 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending £1,000 in the first three months of card membership.

Now, while 30,000 points sounds huge, remember Bonvoy points are worth far less than, say, Membership Rewards points. Based on TPG’s current valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points, that welcome bonus would be worth around £210, which should offset the annual fee.

Note the strict new restrictions on welcome bonuses issued by American Express.

Representative example: This card has an APR of 39.7% variable and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.

The St. Regis Hong Kong, a Marriott Bonvoy property (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
The St. Regis Hong Kong, a Marriott Bonvoy property. Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

Earning

You will earn a generous 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent on normal purchases. This increases to a fantastic 6 Bonvoy points per £1 spent with participating Marriott group hotels until 31 December 2019.

If you already hold this card and recall a lower earn rate of 1 point per £1 spent, remember that SPG points are worth three times what Bonvoy points are.

While you will still receive these amounts for purchases spent in foreign currencies, you will also be hit with a 2.99% foreign transaction fee. Based on TPG’s valuation of Bonvoy points, the cost of the foreign transaction fee is higher than the value of the points you’d earn for making the transaction. Because of that, you may wish to instead put international spend on a non-foreign transaction card.

Redeeming

Read our complete guide to redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points from our US sister site here.

Perks

You will automatically receive Gold elite status when spending £15,000 on this card each year. You will also receive a Free Night Award each year when you spend £25,000 on the card which can be redeemed for a Category 1 – 4 participating Marriott property.

  • Generous travel inconvenience insurance when paying for travel with the card, including £150 for flight delays, overbooking or missed connections, £600 if your baggage is delayed by an airline for six hours and an additional £850 for extended baggage delays.
  • Refund protection for eligible items for 90 days up to £250, where the retailer you bought the items from won’t refund.
  • Purchase protection for eligible items stolen or damaged, up to £2,500 per item.
  • Travel accident insurance up to £150,000.

You can also opt to have free supplementary cards for any close family and friends in order to maximise your cashback, but remember that you, as the primary cardholder, will still be responsible for paying the balance each month.

(Photo courtesy of Marriott)
Al Maha Resort, a Marriott group property. Photo courtesy of Marriott.

Which Cards Compete With This Card?

This is a unique card, as it earns hotel points directly. A comparable card might be the Preferred Rewards Gold Card from American Express UK, as while that card earns Membership Rewards points rather than Bonvoy points, these can be converted to Bonvoy at a rate of 2:3. That comes with a 20,000 Membership Rewards point welcome bonus, which would convert to 30,000 Bonvoy points.

Bottom Line

This is a strange card, as it is still marketed and branded as a SPG card, even though SPG doesn’t exist anymore. The official application page just refers to ‘points’, not clarifying they are Bonvoy points and not SPG points, which had completely different values.

Still, with the range of Marriott properties across the globe, this is an interesting card for those travellers serious about hotel loyalty points.

Featured photo courtesy of Marriott.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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