On the surface, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (or SPG Amex) seems like an average card, with an earn rate of 2 points per dollar spent. But…
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find one of the best travel credit cards available.
Despite its name, the points earned are for the new combined SPG & Marriott Rewards program, the combined program of the former Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs
The SPG & Marriott Rewards Program Overview
Before we get to the card, let’s go over the new combined program.
This is the loyalty program for all Marriott and Starwood hotels with brands that include:
- Four Points by Sheraton, and…
- Westin to name a few.
Points are earned based on amount spent per stay (converted to USD) at a hotel, and vary based on the hotel brand – and they can be used in many different ways:
- To stay at any SPG & Marriott hotel. Taxes and fees are all covered as well. Book a room with points for a five night stay and the 5th night is free! At select hotels you can either use points or cash to upgrade your room.
- To book travel through the Marriott Rewards program with no restrictions or blackout dates. Taxes and fees are also covered.
- Or, you can transfer your points (usually on a 3:1 basis) to more than 40 airline programs (Aeroplan is one of them). As a bonus, for every 60,000 points you transfer, Marriott will give you an additional 5,000 airline miles for free – a 25% bonus.
There are a couple of other uses for points, but these three are the biggest ones.
If you’re a traveller, SPG clearly is a valuable rewards program, with a variety of options in how you wish to redeem your points.
The SPG Amex Credit Card
Here we have the only Canadian credit card to earn SPG & Marriott Rewards points, that has both a personal and small business versions (we will only cover the personal one). You get the following when you use this card:
- 5 points for every dollar spent at Marriott properties,
- 2 points for every dollar spent elsewhere, and
- a welcome bonus of 50,000 points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months.
…for a $120 annual fee.
Credit card perks
There are also a couple of SPG & Marriott Rewards perks included with this card:
- receive complimentary Silver Elite status,
- upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend $30,000 in each year, and
- receive a free night after your anniversary each year, with a room rate of 35,000 points, a value of up to $350!
Related: 17 Drool-Worth Credit Card Perks
Redeeming Points For Best Value
Earning one point per dollar spent doesn’t seem like much – but when you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover that each point is quite valuable. We’ll evaluate the return of this card in three ways:
- using your points for hotel stays,
- booking flights through SPG & Marriott, and
- converting them to Aeroplan.
1. Using Points for hotel stays
To figure out the value of a point, we surveyed 18 Starwood and Marriott hotels across Canada to get a rough value for a point (here is the PDF with our results).
All hotel stays were for a 3 night stay from Thursday to Sunday booked 3 weeks in advance, using the program’s flexible preferred rates. For our larger cities, we surveyed two hotels: one in the downtown core and the other outside the downtown area (usually close to the airport).
We came up with a value of 0.01 cents per point (to remove outliers, we removed the two highest and lowest results). On our average $2,000 month spend, your rewards work out to 48,000 points annually, for a value of $480. Less the annual fee of $120 – your annual return is $360, or 1.5%.
2. Booking flights
Points can be used to book any flight on any airline with no blackout dates.
A quick survey of various flights revealed a point value of between 0.045 to 0.55 cents – with lower numbers found for flights within North America and higher values for long distance international flights
While this is a convenient way to book flights as you don’t have to pay for anything, the value is generally not as good as using them for hotels. But then again, it does present another good way to use your points.
3. Convert Points to Airline Programs
Points can be converted to many different airline programs. We’ll evaluate the return using the Aeroplan & Avios programs, where 3 SPG & Marriott points are worth 1 aeroplan mile.
The following table shows various Aeroplan & Avios point values and the return for each one. Transferring to Aeroplan is done in increments of 60,000 points to maximize the value of the 15,000 point bonus – and the percent return is also based on the 30,000 dollars spent to get those points (this is on the base spend only).
|Aeroplan/Avios Point Value||Total value based on 25,000 Aeroplan miles||Percent return based on $30,000 spend||Annual Return less Annual Fee
(based on $24,000 spend)
*the 2.5 cent Aeroplan return is used to calculate rewards at creditcardGenius for this card
Depending on what you are able to get for your Aeroplan points, this can be an even better return than using points for hotels stays. If you can consistently get more than 2 cents per Aeroplan mile you can get an even better return on your spend, and is one of the top Aeroplan cards available.
Doing any or all of the following can increase point value:
- Fly as far as you can within a point zone.
- Book far in advance and fly on points at peak travel times when flights cost more.
- Consider flying business or first class. Flights can cost 5X more in dollars but sometimes only cost 2X the points as economy.
- Add a free open jaw (get off the plane in one city and back on in another city). Some airlines allow this.
- Add a free stopover that forms a triangle with your departure and destination city. Some airlines allow this.
The Bottom Line
While seemingly an average card on the surface, after digging we found a card that has some great perks and a multitude of redemption options.
The free annual hotel stay more than pays for the annual fee, and having flexible travel points makes the rest of what you earn easy to redeem.
With many options on how to use your points, as well as some great program specific perks, this is one of the most versatile travel credit cards available in Canada and definitely worth taking a look at.