Update: These offers for the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
Reader Anne asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum:
We had settled on switching to AmEx Premier Rewards Gold from Platinum but now with the announcement of the new benefits for SPG AmEx we are torn. My instinct is the higher earn on the Gold is more valuable but didn’t know if the larger # of partners on the SPG Amex beat it out. We also have the Chase Sapphire. Thanks for any advice!
It’s an interesting question, especially given that refreshes were announced on both of these cards recently:
- A $100 annual airline fee credit was added
- The card now offers double points at US restaurants, US gas stations and US supermarkets
- The card no longer has foreign transaction fees
- The annual fee is now $195 per year
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are being refreshed as of August 1, 2018, which will result in the following changes:
- 6x points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at Marriott properties
- 4x points at US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, and US purchases for shipping (Business card only)
- 2x points on all other purchases
- A free night award every year after your card account anniversary, valid at a property retailing for up to 35,000 points
- Silver Elite status for as long as you have your card
- Gold status when you spend $35,000 on the card in a calendar year
- Starting in 2019 you earn 15 elite qualifying nights per year just for having the card (you can receive this benefit for at most one card)
- Unlimited Boingo wi-fi on up to four devices at more than one million Boingo hotspots worldwide
- No foreign transaction fees
With that in mind, which card is a better option, given what we know about Anne’s circumstances?
Comparing the annual fees
The annual fee on the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is $195 (waived the first year), though you receive a $100 airline fee credit each calendar year.
Meanwhile the intro annual fee on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is $95 (Rates & Fees).
So on paper the SPG AmEx has a lower annual fee, though if you fully utilize the value of the airline fee credit on the AmEx PRG, it’s not a huge consideration point, in my opinion.
For example, I was able to redeem my $100 airline fee credit for $100 worth of American Airlines gift cards, which I value pretty close to face value.
Comparing the value of points
The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express accrues Membership Rewards points, while the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express accrues Marriott Rewards points.
In terms of my valuation of points, I value Marriott Rewards points at 0.8 cents each, while I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each.
Both currencies have their pros and cons.
Marriott Rewards points can be converted into airline miles at a 3:1 ratio, and for every 60,000 points you transfer you get a 15,000 point bonus. Starwood/Marriott also has the most extensive list of airline transfer partners, including programs like Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, etc., which other transferable points currencies don’t give you access to. The downside is that the points don’t transfer instantly, and in some cases can take more than a week.
Membership Rewards has quite a few great airline transfer partners, and fairly regularly even has transfer bonuses. In most cases points even transfer instantly.
Comparing the return on everyday spend
Because of the bonus categories the card has. The Premier Rewards Gold Card offers the following bonus categories:
- 3X points for flights booked with airlines
- 2X points at US gas stations, US restaurants, and US supermarkets
- 1X points on other purchases
Given that the AmEx PRG offers bonus points on airfare, dining, gas, and groceries, you probably have a good shot of coming out ahead using that card. However, if you have a ton of non-bonused spend, you’d probably come out ahead using the SPG AmEx.
These are both cards I have, and both cards that I think are worth holding onto long term. But given Anne’s situation, assuming the goal is to maximize the points on everyday spend, and assuming she could fully utilize the airline fee credit, I’d say the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express will probably offer her a better return.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).