American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Review

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card: At a Glance
Sign-up bonus points: 50,000 points when you spend $1500 in the first 3 months Qualifying annual income:  None
Annual fee: $120Recommended credit score: 740 – 850
Purchase interest rate: 19.99%Rewards: 5:$1 ratio on purchases at Marriott and SPG properties; 2:$1 ratio on all other purchases

It’s been a few months now since Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) merged their loyalty programs, so now’s a great time to reflect on the updates and take a closer look at the much-lauded American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. With outstanding rewards, a hefty sign up bonus that equals 4 free nights, and no qualifying income required, we look at why the American Express SPG credit card is one of the best rewards credit cards in Canada.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express Review

spg amex canada

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that this is a travel rewards card. Cardholders earn Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, also known as Starpoints. Personally, I think the name is kind of unwieldy, but the program is garnering tons of attention—and with good reason. Starpoints can be redeemed at more than 6,500 properties in over 120 countries, and can be applied to your room, food and drink, and some incidentals like spa treatments at participating facilities. The potential for those who travel frequently is obvious. And, with a reasonable $120 annual fee, the bar isn’t too high for applicants with a good credit score.

SPG Rewards Program: Benefits and Points-Earning Structure

Unlike some rewards programs, there isn’t a straightforward points-to-dollars equation to share. This is because, although there are no blackout dates, there are differently rated properties (hotels on a scale of 1 to 8 categories), and standard, peak, and off-peak seasons. In other words, your points are going to go further at certain times of the year and spent on certain things at certain properties. That said, it doesn’t take a calculus degree to see that SPG points have a fair value. More on this below, but first, let’s look at how you earn points.

  • Bonus points! When you sign up, you will receive 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months.
  • A generous 5:$1 ratio on purchases at Marriott and SPG properties
  • A completely respectable 2:$1 ratio on all other purchases.
  • 15,000 bonus points when you transfer 60,000 points to a partner frequent flyer program.

It’s pretty easy to see that your SPG points can add up quickly—and exponentially, when you use the card to purchase at Marriott and SPG properties.

In my opinion, a points program is only as good as its redemption process. After all, who cares how many points you accumulate if you can’t redeem them easily? Because these points are SPG branded, redemption is a breeze. Simply use your points when you reserve (and don’t forget to earn 5 points on the dollar by putting that reservation on your card!).

It is worth noting that SPG points are also transferable to 45 different airline partners, so if you want to offset a flight cost you can do that, too. The transfer ratio is 3:1 for Aeroplan but will depend on the airline. As an incentive, you’ll get 15,000 SPG points when you transfer 60,000.

Tip: Check redemption opportunities for the value of your points. As mentioned above, the points-to-dollar ratio will depend on many factors, but it’s not as straight-forward as a category 8 hotel costing more than a category 1 hotel. Cross-reference the number of points to book a room against the real-world dollar amount. In general, if your points are valued at 1: $0.01, you’re spending well. By calculating your rewards this way rather than by number of points only, you can find terrific deals across categories of hotels and at all times of the year.

Other Perks of the AMEX SPG Credit Card

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express also carries other perks of value to the frequent traveler.

  • Travel insurance: travel accident, car rental theft and damage, flight delay, baggage delay, lost and stolen baggage, and hotel/motel burglary insurance. Note that travel emergency medical insurance is not included, so that will be an extra expense.
  • Shopping coverage: American Express Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty up to a year on many purchases, while the Purchase Protection Plan gives up to 90 days damage or theft on many retail items.
  • Entertainment Access: American Express Invites and Front of the Line benefits give cardholders exclusive access to pre-sales and special events.
  • Annual free night reward: Each year, cardholders get a free night in a Starwood hotel with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points!

Pros and Cons of the American Express SPG Credit Card

The Starwood Preferred Guest card by American Express comes with a super generous 50,000 bonus points, many easy opportunities to earn more points, and fair values on redemption. The free night reward alone is worth the annual fee, and cardholders get other perks like purchase protection, special events access, and travel insurance.

But speaking of travel insurance, this package is lacking the all-important emergency medical travel coverage. Also, while these points can be transferred to flight partners, the program is not as flexible as say, a cash-back program. Finally, points expire after a year of inactivity.

The Verdict: Is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Worth It?

amex spg canada

Frequent travellers—particularly those who already purchase in the SPG/Marriott brand family—need this card. The sign-up bonus and benefits are outstanding and easy to redeem, and it’s clear that the more you use it, the better your travel will be. The free annual night sweetens the pot even for those without a packed travel roster, so at the very least, the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest credit card should be on the short-list as one of the cards in your wallet.

Earn 50,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Card membership. Click here to apply.

The following two tabs change content below.

Keph Senett

Keph Senett is a Canadian freelance writer with an interest in helping people make solid choices towards debt-free living. Her work has appeared in publications including Al Jazeera America, Greedy Rates, BBC News, and The Globe & Mail.

8 Comments

  1. chantl01 on June 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I did the same thing…was going to shun this card because of the annual fee but when they hit me with that ‘last chance’ offer to sign up and have the fee waived for a year, I bit. The rewards are worth it. And I, too, have penciled in the date next year to switch or cancel this card. Being a personal finance geek like that, also.



  2. young on June 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    @chantl01- LOL good to know I’m not alone! Personal finance geeks unite! What do you use your starwood points for, primarily?



  3. FinancialBondage.org on June 6, 2010 at 3:20 am

    cash back, points, airline miles, free hats, tshirts, blah blah blah. All gimmicks to trick you into playing their game and getting into debt.

    Looks like you’re doing just what they want. Unless you pay the balance off in full each month. If that is the case, then no problem. 🙂



  4. young on June 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    @FinancialBondage- Definitely don’t sign up for all the gimmicky cards if you can’t pay the balance off each month. I am actually super obsessive about paying my balance. Almost to the point that when I charge something (e.g. like a big purchase like my annual car insurance for example) to my card, I pay it off even before I get my statements!



  5. EdM on July 8, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I don



  6. young on July 8, 2010 at 10:41 am

    @EdM- yeah, that DOES suck! Oh well, 10,000 SPG points is better than no points! I think it has always been that the US market has better credit card rewards (especially if affiliated with AMEX) than the counterparts up north. Good find (only if you can apply for an american card) =)



  7. SavingMentor on September 2, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I just came across this old post about the SPG Amex. I too used to have the MBNA SPG MasterCard as my primary credit card. I also signed up for the SPG Amex for the free year and 11,000 points. After those 11,000 my balance is now slightly over 100,000 which I will be using some of for a free trip to Europe hopefully in the next year.

    Anyway, I’ve recently done and in depth study using a scoring system that I developed to objectively determine the best credit cards in Canada. You can find it here:

    www.howtosavemoney.ca/Finan…dsInCanada

    Surprisingly, even to myself, the SPG Amex actually came out as the best credit card in Canada, even with the annual fee. I also have a full page analysis of just this card individually here:

    www.howtosavemoney.ca/Finan…arwoodAmex



  8. young on September 2, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    @SavingMentor- Wow, have you cashed out on your points at all? You must have been saving for a while. You’ll definitely get a free trip to Europe with that (maybe even on business class). Thanks for the link- I’ll go and check it out. Interesting that even with the annual fee of $120, the SPG Amex came out on top?? wow…! I do love that they give you an extra 5000 points if you transfer 20,000 points to an airlines. I love SPG!!



Leave a Comment