Best Alternative To The SPG Amex Come August?

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Historically the SPG Amex has been one of the most popular credit cards to use for everyday spend, though some major changes are coming to the card in August due to the upcoming SPG/Marriott merge. This raises the question of what people who use this card for everyday spend should do in August. Let’s take a closer look at what’s changing, and what the best alternatives are.

Why the SPG Amex has historically been popular for spend

I’ve had both the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex for about a decade. Back in the day these cards were the gold standard for credit cards, as this was before we saw cards offering 3-5x points for popular spend categories.

The SPG Amex has offered one Starpoint per dollar spent, and personally I value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each. So earning a return that high for everyday spend has been an excellent option, especially given how flexible these points are. That has been a good value regardless of whether you’re looking to redeem those points for hotel stays, or are looking to convert Starpoints into airline miles.

What’s changing with the SPG Amex as of August 1, 2018

Well, just about everything. The SPG Amex is getting a full revamp as of August 1, 2018. It’s not just the perks you get for holding onto the card that are changing, but also the return on spend offered by the card:

  • The card presently offers one Starpoint per dollar spent (which is the equivalent of three Marriott Rewards points)
  • The card will offer two Marriott points per dollar spent as of August

In other words, points earning on this card is being reduced by one third. Like I said, I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, so by my valuation, two Marriott points are worth about 1.5 cents.

That means that this card goes from offering a return of over 2% (which I consider to be excellent), to offering a return of closer to 1.5%. That’s all based on my valuation, and everyone will have to crunch the numbers for themselves if their valuation differs.

The other thing is that while there are perks just for holding onto the card (like an anniversary free night certificate), there aren’t many other worthwhile thresholds for spend. For example, spending $35,000 on the card for Gold status really isn’t worth that much.

Unfortunately the way I see it, the SPG Amex goes from a card that offers an exceptional return on everyday spend, to a card that no longer offers a competitive return.

The SPG Amex that will potentially be worth spending money on

In August we’ll see the introduction of the $450 annual fee SPG Luxury Card, which will offer a variety of perks, including:

  • 6x points at Marriott and Starwood hotels, 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights purchased directly from airlines, and 2x points on all other purchases
  • An anniversary free night certificate every year that can be redeemed at a property that retails for up to 50,000 points per night
  • Complimentary Gold status, and receive Platinum status when you spend $75,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Earn up to a $300 statement credit each year for eligible purchases at Marriott and Starwood hotels
  • Starting in 2019, receive 15 elite qualifying nights towards status annually
  • A TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fee credit once every four years
  • A Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited visits
  • Free premium in-room internet access at Marriott and Starwood hotels
  • Free Boingo wifi

Purely in terms of the points you earn per dollar spent, this card isn’t worth using. What does make the card potentially interesting is the ability to earn Platinum status for $75,000 of spend in a calendar year.

If you were to spend around $75,000 per year on the card and got Platinum status out of it then I’d say that absolutely could be worthwhile, but that’s about the only circumstance under which it makes sense to put spend on an SPG Amex card going forward, in my opinion.

What are the best alternatives to the SPG Amex?

Aside from the SPG Luxury Card for those who want to earn Platinum status through credit card spend, I’d recommend just giving up on trying to earn Marriott points (formerly Starpoints) through credit card spend. Unless you value Marriott points at more than a cent each, you simply won’t come out ahead using this card for spend.

So let’s look at a few good alternatives that are best for everyday spend. If you need a personal card:

  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has no annual fee and offers 1.5x points per dollar spent; if you have this card in conjunction with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® Card, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, then you can pool points, and all of them can be transferred to Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners (I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so that’s a return I value at 2.55%)
  • The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has a $95 annual fee and offers 3x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of purchases per year), 2x points at U.S. gas stations, and a 50% points bonus when you use your card 30 or more times per billing period, meaning you’re earning up to 4.5x points at supermarkets, 3x points at gas stations, and 1.5x points on everyday spend (I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so that’s a return I value at 2.55%)
  • The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and offers 2% cash back, plus a big welcome bonus
  • If all else is too complicated just use the no annual fee Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 1% cash back on every purchase, and then an additional 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases

If you need a business card:

Bottom line

I feel like it’s the end of an era with the SPG Amex. Personally I think the card is still worth keeping for the anniversary free night certificate, which I think more than justifies the annual fees. However, to me the card is no longer worthwhile for everyday spend. It’s simply not worth considering using this card for spend unless you value Marriott points at over a penny each, which seems questionable.

The one exception is the new SPG Luxury Card, which could be worth spending money on in order to earn Platinum status.

To those who previously used the SPG Amex for spend, what’s your new strategy?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).

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  1. And those of us in Canada get hosed since there are none of those alternatives available.

  2. Excellent article, Ben. It is the end of an era and a lot of us are scratching our heads trying to figure out an answer to your question: “To those who previously used the SPG Amex for spend, what’s your new strategy?”

  3. What about the Alaska card? I feel like it’s the next best most versatile card for getting the best redemptions out there. Thoughts?

  4. Lucky, what happens if a person has an SPG statement close date later in August, like August 21st? Will the spend that takes place in July and August still receive the same (3x) Marriott points? Or will any purchase taking place on or after August 1 receive just the 2x for general spend?

  5. Unfortunately none of these will work for me because they have foreign transaction fees (except the Capital One cards). Very sad to see the SPG Amex go, especially because it had contactless, which was very useful in Europe. I will probably switch to the Sapphire Preferred or Barclays Arrival Premier (which has chip&pin) because the majority of my spend is foriegn non-bonused.

  6. @ just curious over here — While I do think Alaska miles are one of the most valuable mileage currencies, you still don’t get much flexibility with them, since you can’t transfer them to other programs. I value the miles at around two cents each, and at that point I’d rather get a 2% cash back card, since it would get me a lot more flexibility.

  7. @ Jon — Let me see if I can get clarification on this, though I think the latter is the correct answer.

  8. I have personal and biz. Wife has personal and biz. I think we’ll be closing all four of them relatively soon. I’m considering redeeming a couple of hotel & air with United/Alaska before 8/1 drops (7 night/132k and 120k). Seems like now is the time for that.

  9. It’s looking clearer and clearer that cards like CapitalOne Venture, Barclays Arrival/Arrival Premier, etc deserve wallet space.

    Also, the Discover It earns at least 2% cash back in the first year, and 10% cash back on rotating categories in the first year, so it should be considered as well.

  10. @lucky: Any word yet on what Chase is doing with the UR as a replacement for the combined Marriott/Ritz transfer option? Would another airline transfer partner be added (Avianca/JAL)? Any ideas?

  11. Lucky,

    This is a theoretical question, but how much of the 2.2 cents per point valuation of SPG points came from the flexibility versus their use for redeeming at Starwood properties? In other words, if SPG had ended airlines transfers years ago, what would have the points been worth?

  12. @ Ian — I’ve heard unofficial rumors of them maybe adding something, but haven’t heard anything specific, unfortunately. Hopefully they announce something sooner rather than later.

  13. My wife has been putting 100% of her spend on this for years, so that was a low-effort way to diversify our points pool. I think the BBP with the Schwab plat is what I’ll have her spend money on going forward (neither of us have any biz cards yet).

  14. @ Anthony — That’s a great question. A large part of the value comes from their flexibility and transferability. If Starpoints hadn’t been transferable to airline programs all these years, I’d say I would have probably valued them at 1.8-2.0 cents each. At least that’s my initial instinct without putting too much thought into it.

  15. Perhaps I’ve missed it somewhere but I’m can’t seem to find any discussion of transferability of SPG points post-merger. Will SPG points still be transferable to airlines after 8/01?

  16. Agreed, the SPG cards essentially go from the first option in my wallet to not earning one of the 12 slots in my wallet.

  17. I have a USAA Preferred cash back Visa that provides a return of 2.5%. I can transfer that to my USAA checking account or credit it to my card balance. This will be my go-to card for non-category spend.

  18. @ Ralph — They will be, and the transfer ratio will (mostly) be maintained. 60,000 Marriott Rewards points can be converted into 25,000 airline miles.

  19. Any word on what the upgrade offers will be for current card holders looking to upgrade to the Luxury card?

    Also, any idea why Amex had to wait until 8/1 but Chase has been pushing their new card for months?

  20. If your goal is to earn Marriott points (regardless of your valuation), this card (along with the Chase card) are still the best ways to go, right? Freedom Unlimited only gives you 1.5 Marriott Points per dollar when linked to a Sapphire card…

  21. @ Anthony — Correct, if you still want to earn Marriott points for everyday spend, then any of the co-branded Marriott cards would be best, as you’d earn two points per dollar.

  22. @ Jonathan — Nope, the upgrade offer hasn’t been revealed, unfortunately. I think contractually Amex has to wait to release the new card. I think the timing of the new Marriott card was coincidental. It wasn’t completely related to the merger, but rather was part of Chase redoing their whole hotel card portfolio, since they also made changes to the IHG and Hyatt cards.

  23. Hi Lucky,

    Do you know if it is possible to move your credit line to a no-fee card with Amex?

    I have moved my credit line around with Chase whenever I wanted to close a card – I closed the BA one many years ago after redeeming the welcome bonus, and then the legacy United Chase for the Chase Explorer.

    At this time, the only reason for me to keep the SPG card would be the 25k credit limit I have – pay the $95 fee and use the free night – which by itself isn’t a bad deal and not really use the card for any other non SPG/Marriott expenses.

    Having a Chase sapphire make the SPG luxury card a no go for me. And I get status with the stays so the benefit of the the status isn’t lucrative enough for me.

  24. @just curious over here @Cobi
    I’m in the same situation as most of my non-bonus spend is done overseas and I need a card with no foreign transaction fees. For this reason, I’ve decided to go with the BoA Alaska card. However, I plan to keep using CSP on dining and travel for 2X UR points.
    Can anyone else offer a recommendation for a card with no foreign transaction fees for everyday non-bonus spend?

  25. Will an additional user’s spending (adding a second card) be pooled towards the $75000 threshold for plat for the primary account holder? My guess is not?

  26. @lucky, regarding: “if you still want to earn Marriott points for everyday spend, then any of the co-branded Marriott cards would be best, as you’d earn two points per dollar.”

    At least for the first 50k, Amex BBP will be the best option at 2 Amex MR/$. Starting Aug 1, it will have the flexibility of transferring to Marriott at 1:1, so if you have to/want to transfer to Marriott, you still earned it at 2 points/$. But you retain flexibility of keeping those points in Amex MR and transferring them to any other partner instead of Marriott at 1:1, whereas earning those points equivalently on Marriott cards would mean a worse transfer ratio of 3:1.

  27. “The SPG Amex has offered one Starpoint per dollar spent, and personally I value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each….That has been a good value regardless of whether you’re looking to redeem those points for hotel stays, or are looking to convert Starpoints into airline miles.”

    That was always the biggest con about the SPG AMEX cards. Sarpoints were worth 2.x cents each as a HOTEL points currency, which did not account for their popularity, considering the very high cost of SPG awards. When converted to airline miles, which became the preferred way to redeem them, starpoints were worth about only 1.25 cents a piece, i.e., about half their value as hotel points. And, then, when the difficulty of earning them at 1/$ was factored in, the value proposition of starpoints simply went poof!

    An “investment” in starpoints was not at all what it was cracked up to be. I knew it early on after doing the easy math, avoided drinking the kool-aid, and thus never bothered much with SPG or starpoints. With the verdict now in, there is no longer any doubt that it was a sound strategy…

  28. I use amex blue business plus. 2x points each valued at 1.7 c.

    What is the need for further discussion?

  29. What about the Ritz Carlton card since you will get platinum come August vs the Spg Lux? I have been thinking about getting the card with all these new Chase hotel cards releasing. Also aren’t the categories for points easier on the Ritz Chase and not as specific? Ie Starbucks counts as dining etc.

  30. @Debit
    Many readers of this blog travel extensively overseas and the amex blue business is not a viable solution due to foreign transaction fees.

  31. Lucky:
    What about Lifetime Platinum Premier (I am LT PLT SPG with ca. 785 SPG nights + 80 Marriott nights)? I have no value in 15 qualifying nights and will not benefit from PLT status after $75K in spending.
    What AMEX should do is to provide a choice. For example, a Gold status or XX of Marriott points.
    $75K in spending: a PLT status or Y free nights.
    SPG was very good about “your choice” benefits after 50 nights.

  32. The real question remains whether there is any particularly attractive way to earn free hotel stays going forward. Chase UR points for Hyatt is decent but Hyatt is a fairly limited portfolio. Is there anything else?

  33. Looks like AMEX BBP will be the next card to get. Until then, it’s the BoA Premium Rewards at 2.625% on everything (Plat tier).

  34. @Treesha
    Have you considered the opportunity cost of maintaining $100k balance in a BoA checking account to qualify for the 2.625%?

  35. @ Bgriff — That’s an interesting point. I think Ultimate Rewards transfers to Hyatt are “efficient,” but other than that I don’t think there’s a compelling way to earn hotel points through credit card spend. I’d think you’re best off earning cash back and then redeeming those points towards hotel stays.

  36. @ Alex_77W — You’re right that credit cards often aren’t designed with every possible scenario in mind, and your situation is one where there’s limited value from the card. So in your case I think it comes down to whether it’s worth paying the $95 for the anniversary free night certificate.

  37. @ Doug — The card is also definitely worth considering. In some cases the bonus categories might be broader, though I think some of the other benefits aren’t quite as good. For example, the SPG Luxury Card will offer a $300 statement credit for eligible Marriott and Starwood hotels, rather than a $300 travel credit with lots of restrictions. It could still make sense to get the card, though.

  38. BGriff and Lucky – Consider Hilton cards and promotions. I value Hilton points at 0.5 cents per point. With an Amex Ascend, I earned about 45,000 points for a recent $1,000 cash stay, which I consider a return of 22.5%. Those points are enough for one night at a full service hotel in Europe. Nothing luxurious, but a free night at a well located property. The return would have been even better with the Aspire (largely because the stay I completed was at a resort, and I could have used some of the resort credits to defray the cash cost).

    Aside from good returns on Hilton spending, I think 6x earnings on restaurants and supermarkets (7x if you have the Aspire) is compelling. I currently split my restaurant spend between a Sapphire Preferred and my Hilton Ascend, and I put all my supermarket spend on Hilton Ascend. 3x restaurant earnings on a Sapphire Reserve is hard to beat, but I think the 6/7x earnings on the Hilton Cards are something to consider if you have a lot of restaurant spend to spread around.

  39. Since Capital One cards are mentioned, then I would presume the Barclays Arrival Plus would be good too. Another one that is possible for everyday spend (this product hardly gets mentioned) is the Bank of America Premium Rewards (once meeting the 75% bonus through their Preferred Rewards program): everyday non-bonus spend will be 2.62% with travel/dining at 3.5%. I heard redemption through BofA travel portal/center is terrible so I would recommend using the points as statement credit similar to Capital One and Barclays.

  40. I think next down from the Sapphire Reserve, the Hilton cards are good for restaurant spend, but many restaurants don’t accept Amex because of the interchange fees. The reward rate is non coincidentally equal to the Amex PRG and the SPG Amex biz. Other good non Amex options are the ink cash and the premium jet blue card.

  41. @Lucky — It is as good a valuation as any that are thrown around, but the short of it is that when starpoints become airline miles, their redemption value becomes like that of airline miles and start at 1cpp. Then I give a little credit for the bonus that one gets for transferring starpoints in multiples of 20K…but even that is generous. It could go to as high as the value of the miles that starpoints are transferred to but only if all other costs are abstracted.


  42. @ DCS — Be that as it may, I’ve purchased Alaska miles for 2.1 cents in the past, and it has been a great deal (like redeeming for Cathay Pacific first class). If I could instead transfer over Starpoints, then I have a pretty direct value of those airline miles. So while the math may work out the way you suggest for some, for others it absolutely doesn’t.

  43. @Lucky: I have a question related to the status qualification on Stays. Will that count until the end of the year to re qualify for Platinum status in my case by reaching 25 stays or I have to get to 25 stays before August 1st? In case it goes until the end of the year, will Marriott stays count towards that goal or it has to be on SPG properties?

  44. @Jules – I noticed that Treesha wrote something about BofA while I was writing my post. 100K to meet Platinum Honors in the Preferred Rewards program for the 75% bonus doesn’t need to be in a checking or saving accounts; other products through Merrill Edge/Lynch qualify such as an IRA. I have an IRA (via rollover from many employers’ 401k) to meet the requirement.

  45. Hi Ben, do you know if the SPG transfer partners will stay in place when MR takes over? What about other AMEX options? I’ve had the SPG card a long time and I don’t want to close it because it has been active in my credit for a long time but am wondering if AMEX would allow a product change or not.

  46. @Lucky – One size does not fit all, of course, but I am speaking in general terms. Starpoints as airline miles cannot be worth more than what the miles that they were transferred to are generally worth. It would be some trick if starpoints as airline miles maintained their value as hotel points, but simple common sense forbids it…


  47. No change on bonused spend, but we are swinging our $60k SPG non-bonused spend toward: BB Plus, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Alliant 2.5% cash back (3% first year.)

  48. @ Jerry — You can continue to convert Starpoints into airline miles, and Amex points can be converted into Marriott points at a 1:1 ratio (keep in mind Starpoints convert into Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio).

  49. Sounds like using a no-foreign-transaction-fee SPG or Marriott card is still a good option for non-bonused spend overseas (since most of the higher points earning options carry foreign transaction fees).

    In my case, I use SPG/Marriott points entirely for hotel stays (not for airline transfers or travel packages). So maximizing the new “annual free night” certs gives good value (a person can earn 5 certs/year if they have all 5 cards – 4 certs worth 35,000 points each for $95 annual fee; a 5th cert worth 50,000 points for net $150 fee after $300 rebate). I can easily use those certs for hotel rooms that would otherwise cost me $250-$300/night or more in major cities. Not as convenient as redeeming equivalent points, but still worthwhile.

    My hotel optimization strategy moving forward will involve using these SPG/Marriott free night certs, earning and redeeming points from paid SPG/Marriott stays, booking Citi Prestige “4th night free” stays, and leveraging UR to Hyatt points transfers. (Sorry, Hilton and IHG…)

  50. @Lucky – even with the 300 dollar credit being somewhat annoying to redeem, since we do not know the SPG Lux sign up bonus even if it was 100,000 points so to say wouldn’t the two free nights at the ritz + platinum status on year one still make the first year worth while over the spg lux still? I still have the spg personal card and the amex platinum (which gave me gold status) and i was either thinking of getting it before august or wait to see if its even worth to have platinum status after august and just stay with gold. i also have the CSR as well.

  51. @Lucky do you feel the SPG Business Card is worth using for the 4X points on dining, gas, and cell phone bills?

  52. Boa travel rewards (no annual fee, allows chip and pin, zero foreign transaction fees) or premier rewards are in my opinion the best everyday spend cards for international non bonus spending. I have my $100,000+ in a roth ira and taxable brokerage account in which I hold only vanguard index etfs and pay sero fees. I get a host of other banking benefits as well. I currently have just the travel rewards because I have been planning to get under 5/24 and just achieved that. For me the sign up bonus is good for the travel rewards premium but I am uncertain I will put enough dining or travel spend on the card given I have a sapphire reserve to make up for the hassle of having to use the travel credit to make up the $95 annual fee, so I keep the non annual fee card….

    In addition you get access to the boa cash rewards that gives you 5.25% on all gas station purchases (including gift cards inside at most places), and 3.5% at grocery stores and whatehouse clubs like costco, which is a better return than the citi costco card at Costco. You are limited to $2500 in bonused spend on the cash rewards a quarter, but I have both a mlb mc version and a visa so I get $5000 a quarter, which i never hit. I save the visa for costco and overflow after i hit the $2500 per quarter cap. I think that card does charge foreign transaction fees?

  53. Being mostly an AA flyer (since I used to fly for them, lol) I’ve been using the SPG to load up on AA miles since about 2015. Now, I plan on switching to the Blue Business Plus Amex Card so I can get 2X points everywhere. I also have Delta miles so a little diversity won’t hurt.

  54. @ Mark — It all depends on what other cards you have. 4x points in the new program is the equivalent of 1.3x Starpoints in the old program. Personally I’d rather use the Sapphire Reserve for dining, the EveryDay Preferred for gas, and the Ink Cash for cell phone bills, but if you don’t have any/all of those cards, it could be a different story.

  55. Lucky,

    You should do a no-Chase, no-business card model credit card collection for those that may be limited by 5/24 or those that can’t sign up for business cards. Maybe limit it to 6 or 8 cards. Would be interesting

  56. Lucky, I just got off the phone with Amex for my Business SPG card trying to figure out the anniversary date etc for the new free night certificate. Turns out I just had my anniversary and the fee will come on my bill in 2 days. Which means I won’t get the free night until next June 12th, 2019. In the meantime while talking to her, I brought up this devaluation from 3 points to 2 points on non bonus spend that all bloggers are talking about. She had no clue what I was referring to so I had her look up 3 different blog posts dedicated to that subject. She finally got what I was referring to and had to put me on hold to ask her manager. She came back with the response that this was Marriott devaluing the spend not Amex and I told her that then her card had the unfortunate consequence of being the recipient of Marriott’s devaluation, probably to encourage people to spend with Chase. Long story short, I never actually read from any blogger the nuance of the devaluation. I always understood and read that there was a devaluation and therefore it must be AMEX’s fault, when in fact they say it is Marriott’s fault/decision. I told her that I doubted very seriously that American Express did not know about this as it was a major factor on putting spend on this card and took away the enticement. She got it but still insisted that Marriott was the bad guy here. I told regardless, you are being punished. So my question to you is, is that how you understand it as well?

  57. @Scott sez: “She got it but still insisted that Marriott was the bad guy here.”

    There is no doubt Marriott was the “bad guy here.” I’d boldly and correctly predicted that, considering what happened to SPG, where they turned starpoints into, essentially, an airline points currency that people could earn by simply putting spending on the SPG AMEX cards without ever setting foot inside Starwood hotels, there was no way Marriott would adopt the same boneheaded model, which likely contributed, along with other factors like SPG’s exorbitantly-priced awards at their top hotels, to the demise of Stardwood and SPG. With that move, Marriott has now put their loyalty program and associated co-brand cards squarely where they belong: as a revenue booster for the company by (a) making it such revenue stays at Marriott hotels are pretty much the only way to earn significant numbers of MR points on co-brand credit cards, and (b) bringing down the costs of awards at previously unaffordable top-tier Starwood hotels, thereby making the redemption of MR points for award stays at such hotels much more attractive. Like Hilton’s co-brand cards, MR cards are now useless for un-bonused spend…

    What makes Marriott the “bad guy here”, makes the company’s bottom line managers savvy “ideas people”. Really. 😉


  58. @Rabbmd
    Thanks for pointing out that the $100k+ requirement for the BoA Premium Rewards at 2.625% can be held a roth ira and/or brokerage account. I was under the impression that only a checking or savings account qualified. This is something I should consider going forward…

  59. @ Lucky — I agree that the Amex SPG card is no longer a viable option for non-bonus spend from 8/1 forward, and while I was considering cancelling it, you make a good point that the $95AF is worth the Free Night certificate by itself, so I’m now planning on basically keeping it in my desk drawer. Plus, as it’s one of the oldest cards in my “portfolio,” keeping it helps to maintain my credit history and, thus, my credit score.

    But I do have a question. Just to make sure, post 8/1, will there be *any* difference in earnings between the (eviscerated) SPG Amex and the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Visa from Chase? (I don’t think so, but I haven’t read all of the fine print.)

  60. It’s good to see that DCS is as big a troll as ever with his Flat Earth Society-esque theories that the SPG program was SO good it took down Starwood as a company. Always good for a laugh.

    Marriwood may not be amazing going forward, but it’s still heads and shoulders above Hilton of course.

  61. @UA-NYC —> “Marriwood” as a nickname going forward works for me. That said, pre-merger Marriott has long been my #3 among hotel chains, with Starwood in #1 and Hilton #2. I’ve received much better (more value) redemptions at Hilton than I have at Marriott (not including free night certificates). With the prospect of the combined program “not be[ing] amazing going forward,” Hilton may indeed rise in the rankings. Sadly we can only fall back upon that tired cliché: “only time will tell.”

  62. @UA-NYC — I’d hoped that the final nail in the coffin of SPG would give you the good sense to shut up, but your case was clearly terminal; no bringing you back from Delusion. To call me a troll even after I’d boldly predicted the demise of the un-bonused spend on SPG AMEX cards based on, yes, nothing but one of my “theories”, confirms who has always been the troll. Here hopes that in just a few months you and your failure of a loyalty program will not be heard of or from ever again.

  63. The notion that SPG was ever #1 almost makes believe in reverse Darwinism: The demise of the fittest or strongest 🙂

  64. Interesting you have not mentioned any of the Marriott or Ritz Carlton cards as an alternative because the status if earned by Marriott or Ritz is viewed differently under then new system compared to if status obtained through them or their credit card.

    If we have the SPG card and have spent over $75k this year on that card already, then would we qualify for Platinum Status under the new system or does it take effect after?

  65. @ Iamhere — Platinum status for spending $75,000 only applies on the new SPG Luxury Card, which hasn’t been released yet. So any spend on a current SPG card wouldn’t qualify.

  66. I’m keeping one variant of the card for the 15 annual elite night credits plus the free night offsets the AF. That being said, the Ritz card seems to be a bit more attractive. Sure the upfront AF is much higher but $300 of that is offset with travel credits. You also get the higher value free night award and four Ritz club upgrade certificates annually. Finally, I primarily travel internationally and AMEX is just a real pain to use at times whereas a Visa (Infinite, I believe) is much more broadly accepted. IMO, the Ritz card is the better option if you have to pick just one.

  67. @ Alex Tse – The main reason why the Ritz card seems attractive is because SPG and Marriott Gold won’t be considered the same in the new system. If you are gold from SPG you will not upgrade to Platinum, but if you are gold from Marriott or Ritz then you will upgrade to Platinum and many of the benefits that we enjoy as gold now are part of the new platinum. Consider beside the $300 that you point out, also the fact that you just need a couple of stays of either using your RC lounge access allowance or just getting the upgrade as a platinum member. That savings is worth more than $150.

  68. Would there be any benefit for transferring my 100k SPG to Alaska before August 1? My main goal with points is to redeem for premium flights.

  69. Still hoping for an answer to the earlier q above about details of cut-off for earning/closing date on SPG card. If my card “closes” on 8/4, is all of my July earning only getting the 2x conversion rate? I may need to see if I can move that date, if so. Thanks.

  70. My current credit card strategy is: if it’s for travel, I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve (X3 then use for travel at 1.5X). Groceries: Amex Blue Preferred (6X MR). Anything else, Amex Blue Business (2X MR). If they don’t take Amex, then I use Citi Double Cash (2X cash back). I have Discover, which I’m using right now for Restaurants (5X cash back) – though it’s a toss up between that and the CSR… Use various Amex Cards for special offers from Amex.

    I have cards for SPG, Marriott, Hilton, Costco, United, Delta, etc. Use those at their appropriate places …

    Sometimes Amex has offers, and I use specific cards for those if they are worthwhile. Offers don’t seem to be so lucrative these days though.

    It’s a big game. Always try and maximize my points if I can.

    I probably would have cancelled SPG because of the perks downgrade, but kind of like the free night stay, so probably will keep that one… not sure when you get that free night — my card renews at the end of August…

  71. And as far as the $450 SPG Luxury card… I don’t seem them giving anything special here. $300 credit for staying in SPG/Marriott hotels? That makes this a $200 card. Most of the benefits are the same as on the AMEX SPG card… Gold status, I get that with my Amex Plat card.. plus all those other things like Priority Pass and free TSA Pre-check. I would expect they should offer Diamond status… but they don’t. So never mind… might work for someone who doesn’t have a Plat card though.

  72. And as far as the $450 SPG Luxury card… I don’t seem them giving anything special here. $300 credit for staying in SPG/Marriott hotels? That makes this a $150 card. Most of the benefits are the same as on the AMEX SPG card… Gold status, I get that with my Amex Plat card.. plus all those other things like Priority Pass and free TSA Pre-check. I would expect they should offer Diamond status… but they don’t. So never mind… might work for someone who doesn’t have a Plat card though.

  73. @ farsighted99 –

    “Anything else, Amex Blue Business (2X MR). If they don’t take Amex, then I use Citi Double Cash (2X cash back).”

    I don’t think that this is a good part to your strategy because then you are dividing your points into more accounts than necessary. Assuming without the current Discover category of restaurants, you usually use the Reserve card for restaurants, I would have thought that “anything else,” which is not travel, restaurants, a rotating category on Discover, or groceries should go on a Chase Freedom Unlimited card because while it earns 1.5 points per dollar and this is less than your 2 points per dollar you do get to redeem them together as Reserve points because it is based on your highest card, so that would be 2.25 points per dollar effectively and condensing the types of points you have.

  74. Lucky,

    I haven’t seen any discussion of using SPG to purchase AMEX gift cards

    I have used my SPG card as a vehicle to stop using cash by buying AMEX gift cards (without activation fees!!). I pay my cleaning lady, my yard guy and my house sitter in gift cards (they are not set up for taking credit cards)

    Do you have any advice for this category of spend?

  75. @DCS, I would differ with you when you wrote above (July 10th): “That was always the biggest con about the SPG AMEX cards. Sarpoints [sic] were worth 2.x cents each as a HOTEL points currency, which did not account for their popularity, considering the very high cost of SPG awards. When converted to airline miles, which became the preferred way to redeem them, starpoints were worth about only 1.25 cents a piece, i.e., about half their value as hotel points. And, then, when the difficulty of earning them at 1/$ was factored in, the value proposition of starpoints simply went poof!”

    First of all, I have previously redeemed Starpoints for hotel stay at a redemption rate higher than “2.x cents.” It all depends upon the property, when you stay, etc., etc. I have frequently received redemption rates of 3.x¢ and even 4.x¢ per point. That, of course, will never happen again once Starpoints become Marriott points after 8/18 — it’s Marriott where I’ve never received significantly “oversized” redemptions on hotel stays, and I don’t expect to in the future.

    Secondly, Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio to airlines, except in increments of 20k, when you receive 25k in airline miles. There is no denying that (prior to 8/18) each single Starpoint is worth more than each single airline point, presuming you agree with the 2.7¢/pt. valuation. Since no airline mile is worth that much, yes you take a hit right off the bat. However, there are two things wrong in your comment above: a) you aren’t factoring the 5k “bonus” you get on transfers; and b) just as with hotels, your redemption rate can far exceed the “posted” valuation of (e.g.) 1.2, 1.5 or 1.8¢, respectively for AirFrance/KLM, BA, or AS. Excluding purchases involving sign-up bonuses, I’ve received valuations of 1.7¢ on B6, when their points are listed with a value of 1.3¢; I’ve gotten 4.8¢ worth of value on the late, great VX when they were listed as being worth 2.2¢.

    As with the hotels, the value one receives is based upon the SPECIFIC redemption, not a flat rate.

    SO, let’s just say I disagree with your assessment and let’s leave it at that.

  76. Miles! Miles! Miles! 🙂 I have been building my credit up and waiting in painful anticipation to get an SPG card for almost a year so this has been a major wrench in my “Christmas in Hawaii” plans! I don’t need hotel nights or hotel status (I bought a time share and father in law has upwards of 2M Marriott points), I don’t want cash back (my wife will spend it ) I just want Alaska Miles, enough to fly 3 people round trip to Hawaii at Christmas time (180×3=520K) per year. We buy everything we can online through the Alaska mileage shopping site total I’ve racked up almost 60K miles in just 5 months, and we use AMEX gold for everyday and rack up about 10k Amex points a month. But I wanted the 5K transfer bonus SPG offered! What’s my next best option I know the BofA Alaska card but I am about to start a home remodel and spend about 150K in the next 3 to 4 months on home repair and paying the contractors do you have any suggestions on the best card for my goals and spending?
    P.S. to all you fathers trying to take the fam to paradise: the secret to a happy flight with little kids is Alaska Air! 11 month old has been on 6 flights all with Alaska and he has had his own seat (unpaid) with all 3 of us being upgraded to premium class for free (I am NOT a mvp or gold or any other status) because their staff ROCK! and they played with him the whole flight. Happy kids= Happy wife= Great vacation!

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