Update: These offers for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
Reader Ryan asked the following question on Twitter:
@OneMileataTime if you had SPG biz and personal and Marriott personal (all over 3 years old) which would you keep and what would you close?
— Ryan Fults (@RyanFults) August 5, 2018
I suspect Ryan isn’t alone in terms of the card portfolio he has, as the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, are probably the three most popular Marriott & Starwood credit cards.
So if you’re someone who is trying to decide between these cards — either because you don’t have any of them and are considering applying, or because you have all three of them, and can’t decide which to keep — what should go into your thought process?
In this post I’ll focus specifically on these $95 annual fee cards given their comparable benefits, and not on the new $450 SPG Luxury Card, which is being introduced on August 23, 2018.
If you already have all three cards
- 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 (that amount is the same across cards starting in 2019)
- 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)
- No foreign transaction fees
So when deciding whether to keep these cards, the first question I’d ask myself is how much you value the anniversary free night certificates. Personally I value those alone at more than $95 each. You can earn that benefit for each of these cards, so based on that, I’d keep all the cards solely for that benefit.
But let’s say you don’t value them at more than $95 each, which is also reasonable. Given the overlapping benefits, at that point you may want to drop one or two of these cards.
Do any of these cards have benefits that set them apart?
- All else being equal, I’d probably choose the Starwood Personal Amex Card and/or Starwood Business Amex Card over the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card because they give you access to Amex Offers, which can save you money on all kinds of purchases; I often save hundreds of dollars using this benefit per year
- While the two personal cards offer 6x points at Marriott properties and 2x points on everything else, the SPG Business Card has the added benefit of offering 4x points at US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, and US purchases for shipping
- Both the SPG Business and SPG Personal Cards offer unlimited Boingo wifi on up to four devices at more than one million Boingo hotspots worldwide
- If you’re worried about using the card internationally, generally more places accept Visa cards than American Express cards
So while there are lots of overlapping benefits, the above are what I see as the primary differences between the cards.
If you’re considering applying for the cards
If you don’t have any of these cards yet and want to apply for one or multiple of these cards, what should you be considering? Well, to start, here’s how the welcome bonuses on the cards compare:
- The Starwood Personal Amex Card is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months
- The Starwood Business Amex Card is offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months
- The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months
As you can see, the SPG Business Card has the best welcome bonus at the moment, and it’s limited time, so getting that card would be my first priority.
In terms of general odds for approval:
- The two American Express cards have “once in a lifetime” language, so you can only earn the bonus on each card once
- If you’re concerned about Chase’s 5/24 rule, applying for the SPG Business Amex Card wouldn’t count towards your five card limit
- The Marriott Card is subjected to the 5/24 rule, and you’re not eligible for the bonus if you currently have any Chase Marriott Personal Card, or have received the new cardmember bonus on such a card in the past 24 months
We’re also seeing new restrictions added to all of these cards for applications as of August 26, 2018.
Here are the new restrictions for the Starwood Personal Amex Card:
Effective 8/26, welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards Credit Card from Chase, or The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card from JP Morgan in the last 30 days.
Then here are the new restrictions for the Starwood Business Amex Card:
Effective 8/26, welcome offer not available to applicants who (i) have or have had the Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card from Chase or Marriott Rewards Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase or The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a welcome offer in the last 24 months on The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase or The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase.
Lastly, here are the new restrictions for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card:
The bonus is not available to you if you:
- are a current cardmember, or were a previous cardmember within the last 30 days, of the Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card;
- are a current or previous cardmember of either the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury credit card, and received a new cardmember bonus or upgrade bonus in the last 24 months; or
- applied and were approved for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, Starwood Preferred Guest Business credit card, or Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury credit card within the last 90 days.
There’s value to be had with all three of these cards. Personally I plan on holding onto as many Marriott and Starwood cards as possible, because I value the anniversary free night certificates on the cards at more than the annual fees. So that alone is a reason to have as many of these cards as possible.
If you are hoping to decide between the cards, hopefully the above is a good outline of the major differences.
In general I tend to think the Starwood Business Amex Card is the most compelling in the collection, in terms of the welcome bonus, approval odds, access to Amex Offers, and better bonus categories. But there are circumstances under which the Starwood Personal Amex Card or Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card could make more sense as well.
To those trying to decide between the $95 annual fee Marriott and Starwood Cards, what’s your strategy?