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® Card, Chase 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:
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express has no annual fee and offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually (a return I value at 3.4%)
- The Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card 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® Card, Chase 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 Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and offers 2% cash back, plus a big welcome bonus
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?