New SPG card benefits: Do they work for award stays? Authorized users?

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about the new benefits of the Amex SPG cards as of August 11.  As a reminder, the new benefits (and new fee) are:

  • Higher annual fees ($95 vs. the current $65)
  • Complimentary, Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi for up to 4 devices
  • Premium in room internet at all SPG hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Business cardmembers only: Free access to Sheraton club lounges

Full details of the new benefits can be found in this press release: American Express and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Enhance Cobrand Credit Card Benefits.  It takes a bit of digging, though, to answer common questions: Are these benefits available during award stays? Will my authorized users get these benefits?  I’ve dug through the terms & conditions and followed up with American Express to answer these questions.  Read below, or jump to the bottom to view summary tables…

SPG card benefits

Lounge benefit details

Regarding club lounge access, here is what the press release says:

  • Access to Sheraton Club Lounges for SPG American Express OPEN Card Members
    Card Members with a SPG Business Credit Card feel like VIPs with access to Sheraton Club Lounges, which includes a complimentary daily breakfast, evening selection of premium beverages and hors d’oeuvres, and space for hosting a friend or colleague. (4)

And, here are the details (bolding is mine):

Sheraton Lounge:

(4) Available at select Sheraton Hotels® & Resorts for the duration of a Card Member’s stay. Visit www.sheratonclubroom.com/find for a full listing of Sheraton® Club properties. This benefit is for Basic Card Members only on Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations. Exclusions of Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations might include rooms booked through a group rate as part of an event and the SPG Member does not directly pay the SPG Participating Hotel for such room; tour operator; or online travel channel or third party channel, such as expedia.com, hotwire.com, priceline.com, orbitz.com, booking.com, Travelocity.com, ctrip.com, or elong.com. A full description of Starpoint Eligible Rates can be found at www.spg.com/terms. Sheraton Club lounge access is limited to the eligible Card Member and a guest staying in the same room for the duration of the stay, regardless of how many rooms have been reserved.

From the above text, we find a few important limitations to the lounge benefit:

  • Basic Card Members only: With Amex business cards, you have the option of adding employee cards to the account.  Amex usually refers to employee cardholders as “Additional Card Members”.  So, the restriction to “basic card members only” means that the lounge benefit is for the primary cardholder only.
  • Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations only: This means that stays booked through online travel agencies, tour operators, group events, etc. typically won’t qualify.
  • Eligible Card Member and a guest staying in the same room only: Other than one guest staying in your own room, you can’t invite guests in with you.  Whether this is really enforced remains to be seen.

I think it was smart of Amex/SPG to limit the lounge benefit to basic card members only.  Otherwise, one person could sign up for the card and add all of their friends and relatives as “employees” so that everyone could get the benefit.  And, if that happened, those Sheraton lounges would likely become intolerably crowded.

Club Lounge Benefit: What about award stays?

The restriction to “Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations only” seems to indicate that award stays are ineligible.  After all, you don’t earn points on award stays.  That didn’t seem right to me, though.  Starwood counts award stays towards elite status requirements, so why wouldn’t they also provide this benefit during award stays?  I reached out to William Tsang at American Express for clarification.  He replied with great news:

You do get free premium internet and Sheraton Club lounge on award night redemptions and Cash & Points, since those are technically coded as “Starpoint eligible rates”.

William D. Tsang
Director, Corporate Affairs & Communications

Great!

Premium Internet

It turns out that the Premium Internet benefit has similar restrictions to the club lounge benefit: basic card members only; Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations only.  However, the Boingo Wi-Fi benefit is less restrictive: Card Members with eligible cards.  I take this to mean all card members get the benefit, including authorized users and employee cardholders.

Benefits and limitations summarized

Do the SPG card benefits apply to authorized users or employee cardholders?

Authorized Users / Employees
No foreign transaction fees Yes
Boingo Wi-Fi Yes
Premium In-Room Internet No
Sheraton Lounge
(business card only)
No

What types of stays are eligible for premium in-room internet and/or Sheraton lounge access?

Premium In-Room Internet Sheraton Lounge (business card only)
Paid stays booked via SPG.com Yes Yes
Award stays Yes Yes
Cash & Points stays Yes Yes
Stays booked through online travel agents No No
Stays booked through tour operator No No
Stays booked with group rate No No
Stays booked with the Starwood business rate No No
Complimentary stays No No
A voucher or third party award (e.g., Aeroplan room award, Air Miles room award) was redeemed for the guest room No No

About Greg The Frequent Miler

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DonT
Guest
DonT

Hard to justify basic personal SPG. No real benefits at $95 that I can see.

Jdb
Guest
Jdb

very helpful info! I’ve been wondering how the free lounge access would work. Makes more and more sense to me to sign up for the business version and cancel the personal version when the AF comes around.

dean
Guest
dean

Just saw my recent statement, and renewal just came up (for Personal) w/ the $65 fee.

I would think of cancelling and going to biz, but one thing the personal has is the ability for referrals. When I had the biz SPG, I was always denied as it wasn’t a benefit of the card…

Andrew G
Guest
Andrew G

Does booking a room through the Citi or Chase (or Amex) portal count as eligible for club lounge access? Those are supposed to be point/miles eligible, right?

Private
Guest
Private

Do you have to pay for the stay with the spg biz card to get the lounge benefit?

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

How does Boingo “know” that it should give you free access?

Mangar
Guest
Mangar

What’s frustrating: I have a three night stay in Ireland from August 5th to August 8th. Had these benefits kicked in sooner, I’d have absolutely stayed at the Sheraton in Dublin. However, with exchange fee’s – Not really worth it.

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[…] New SPG card benefits: Do they work for award stays? Authorized users? […]

No You Wouldn't Have
Guest
No You Wouldn't Have

There is no Sheraton in Dublin bud…………

Geo
Guest
Geo

Does the new lounge benefit include the Na Hoku Sheraton Club Lounge in Maui that just opened up last year? My business cards AF is around August and we will be in Maui in December. This would be my sole reason for keeping card upon renewal.

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[…] For more info on the new benefits, see: New SPG card benefits: Do they work for award stays? Authorized users? […]

wh
Guest
wh

If the Sheraton reservation is in my name, but the SPG Business card is in my spouse’s name, will we be able to have lounge access? (I cancelled my SPG business card due to account fee and am waiting a few more months until the 12 mo. period is reached to reapply).

Pointsloverrrr
Guest
Pointsloverrrr

Does this only apply to “Sheraton” club lounges or does it also apply to “Westin” club lounges?

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[…] not even counting improvements made to the actual credit cards of those programs, such as the new perks on the Amex SPG Business card or the $250 airline fee credit on the Citi […]

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[…] get the free Sheraton Club lounge access on award stays or Cash + Points, but Frequent Miler has already reached out to American Express to answer that question and the answer is YES (which is a huge deal for me, as I don’t like to pay for anything […]

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[…] New SPG card benefits: Do they work for award stays? Authorized users? – A look at the recent SPG card changes along with a detailed analysis of which new benefits apply to whom. […]

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[…] Update: Dan from Pointswithacrew blog has mentioned that you do get free lounge access on pure award stays. I found this post on Frequent Miler that confirms it.  […]

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[…] Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) authorized users get free, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi for up to 4 devices (details here) […]

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[…] SPG Business card offers free access to Sheraton club lounges.  It’s important to note that this is a feature only of the business version of the card, and […]

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[…] Update: Dan from Pointswithacrew blog has mentioned that you do get free lounge access on pure award stays. I found this post on Frequent Miler that confirms it.  […]

Harry Shao
Guest
Harry Shao

I am a gold member butI was denied access to the lounge. I protested and called SPG as well as American Express. American Express said yes but SPG said no. This was two years ago. Marriott gave me no problem
even if the room was booked by tour company.