It’s time to shelve your SPG card

Starting today, August 1st 2018, your SPG credit card will earn 2 rewards points per dollar for base spend.  Previously, the same card earned 1 Starpoint per dollar.  If you haven’t been following the details of the Marriott & SPG transition to one rewards program, it might sound like the card has gotten better.  It hasn’t.

Each Starpoint is worth 3 rewards points.  So, the transition from earning 1 Starpoint per dollar to 2 rewards points per dollar is a 33.3% depreciation.  For those most interested in airline miles, SPG cards previously offered 1.25 miles per dollar when Starpoints were converted to airline miles at the ratio of 20K points to 25K miles.  The new program has preserved the points to miles transfer ratio (20K Starpoints = 60K rewards points = 25K miles), but with 2X point earnings, it will take $30K spend to get the same 25K miles that required $20K spend before.  In other words, the SPG card now offers only 0.833 airline miles per dollar.  Boo.  For more on the topic of spending for airline miles, see: Spending for miles. Best SPG alternatives.

What if you’re not interested in airline miles, but prefer to earn hotel rewards?  Our current Reasonable Redemption Value for Marriott Rewards points is 0.72 cents per point.  With that valuation, the new base earning rate for your SPG card is only 2 x 0.72 = 1.44 cents per point.  Compared to a 2% cash back card, or even a 1.5% cash back, that’s not very good.  For hotel rewards, you can get better returns for spend if you focus on Hyatt or Hilton instead.  See: Manufacturing free nights (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott).

Picking a new Everywhere Else card

Ever since the loyalty program merger was announced, I’ve been using my SPG card as my “everywhere else card”.  This is the card I turn to when I can’t earn a valuable category bonus using other cards.

With a few exceptions, these are the cards I use for various categories of spend:

And then there’s my “everywhere else” card.  This is the card that I use at local merchants, department stores that don’t accept Apple Pay, discount stores, etc.  With my SPG card turning into a pumpkin, my favorite everywhere else options are:

You can find a complete list of great “everywhere else” cards, here: Best rewards for everyday spend.

In my case, my new everywhere else card is the Blue Business Plus Credit Card.  2X everywhere Membership Rewards points is hard to beat!

Is the SPG card still useful for bonus categories?

The consumer and business SPG cards now earn 6 rewards points per dollar at SPG, Marriott, and Ritz properties. That’s pretty good, but I value 3X Ultimate Rewards points about the same as 6X Marriott/SPG points.  So, personally, I’ll keep using my Sapphire Reserve card for hotel spend.

The business SPG card adds the following bonus categories: 4X at US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, and US purchases for shipping.  If you don’t have a card that offers valuable category bonuses for those categories, it may be worth using your SPG Business card for these purposes, but many cards offer far more valuable rewards within these categories.  See our Best Category Bonuses page for in-depth category bonus coverage.

Personally, I already have cards that offer equal or better category bonuses, so I won’t use my SPG card for any of the above purchases.

Consider keeping the SPG card even if you don’t use it regularly

Even if you don’t use the SPG card regularly, it might still be worth keeping despite the $95 annual fee thanks to these perks:

  • 1 Free Night Award (redemption at or under 35,000 points) every year upon renewal.
  • 15 nights towards elite status (starting 2019). This does NOT stack with elite nights offered by other cards.
  • Free unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi
  • Amex Offers

The most valuable of the above perks, as far as I’m concerned, is the annual free night award.  Based on the award pricing that becomes effective on August 18th, these certificates can be used to book hotels up to category 5.  And there are many very nice hotels at category 5 or below (you can find the announced pricing per hotel here).

The annual free night certificates will hit a snag once peak pricing becomes a thing in early 2019.  At that time, some or many of the category 5 hotels you may want to stay at will have peak pricing at 40K.  You won’t be able to use the 35K free night certificates to book 40K nights.  Instead, you’ll have to use the certificates during non peak times or with lower category hotels.

Personally, I was initially excited to see that a favorite Michigan hotel of mine would be priced at 35K in the new program: Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection.  It would be great if I could use my free night certificates there each summer.  But then I realized that they’ll almost certainly set the entire summer to peak award pricing.  So, that won’t work.

Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection

Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection.  I had hoped to use the 35K free night certs at this property, but peak pricing will probably thwart my plans.

Despite the peak pricing issue, I’m confident that I can get significantly more than $95 value from the free night certificates each year.  Until that changes, I’ll keep my SPG cards open, and continue to pay the $95 annual fee.  Yes, they’ll be stuffed into my sock drawer, but they’ll still be alive.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Jacinto
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Jacinto

My wife and I have several personal and business SPG cards each. Would we be able to string together a stay of, let’s say 5 annual award nights at a hotel of 35,000 points or less? Could we get the anniversary dates to align better?

Blue
Guest
Blue

SPG Amexs aren’t worth the limited slot, IMO, even with the free nights. If you want to do some targeted MS for Marriott points, keep Marriott biz–e.g., Alaska miles at 1.67 points per dollar of spend. Not great compared to 3xTYP Premier or 3xMR BGR but OK for top ups, I guess.

Interested
Guest
Interested

How does Marriott Biz get you 1.67 Alaska miles per dollar of spend?

billy
Guest
billy

$15,000 grocery store spend = 60,000 Marriott Rewards = 25,000 AS miles. 1.67 miles/spend

Interested
Guest
Interested

Thank you 🙂

P-=
Guest
P-=

I thought SPG biz and Marriott Bix only earn 2x on grocery. So, it’s $30,000 spend for 25,000 Alaska miles.
SPG earns 4x on gas stations. Did you mean gas stations?

TMouse
Guest
TMouse

RIP SPG, You were my favorite purple card

DaninMCI
Guest
DaninMCI

I’ve had a love hate relationship with SPG over the years and have continued to use my CSR for most spending for various reasons. Basically I think it’s the AMEX factor. They work so hard to avoid letting you use points or earn them. I think the best use of my SPG points was when for a short period I was able to transfer all my SPG points to Marriott and on to Virgin to Alaska for my wife and myself. That might be been the best deal (for me) in the past 4 years. It’s really too bad that the SPG card was devalued along with a devaluation of Marriott points overall. I like Marriott more than SPG properties overall but it’s all just a big devaluation. My guess is that the SPG cards will die a slow death.

Sam Palmer
Guest
Sam Palmer

What’s weird is that Marriot has no category 5 at 35K points as of 2019. Only 30K non peak or 40K peak. I think they are gonna have to fix this some way. Bc effectively, come 2019, 30K IS the new 35K. I.e. they’d be giving us only a redemption up to 30K points, and not 35. They’ll fix this, right? RIGHT? …..Crickets….

Ed C
Guest
Ed C

We have the SPG card, as well as the Marriott Premier, which we took last fall for no fee first year and 10 points per dollar up to 120.000. They seem pretty identical in benefits. Any feedback on which to get rid of at anniversary time?

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Well, Amex limits the number of cards you can get. And the SPG cards take a slot. So that’s one negative for them. Plus Chase is shutdown happy these days when you apply for new cards so that’s one in their favor. Amex Offers are dead as of today so that’s one that would have weighed in on the Amex side. I’d say kill the Amex and keep the Marriott.

billy
Guest
billy

Is the 2X MR on the The Blue Business Plus forever (with $50k per year cap,) or only for the first year? I remember seeing somewhere it was just a one-year deal.

Interested
Guest
Interested

Each year (not just for the first year)
“2X points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year”

Carter
Guest
Carter

Each year. Which is why its crazy that they offer it with no AF. May be the card I ultimately use the most often since its my “everywhere else” card

SanNed
Guest
SanNed

I have the Ritz card, SPG Buss, Marriott Buss, which one should I cancel when annual fee is up? I have all the Chase cards: Reserve, Ink Prefered, Freedom, FU. The Ritz I will need to get Marriott Plat from 75k spend (I know it is terrible but I can’t stay even hit 50 nights) but I am on my way to LT Plat with some years left.

John
Guest
John

I transfer my Starpoints to Alaska to redeem for premium cabins on international flights with a free stopover (e.g. Cathay Pacific, JAL). I do appreciate the 5000 bonus on a 20K transfer. I will probably keep this card for another year to let changes settle.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Greg? I know this site isn’t what it once was but the fact that there’s no post about the death of Amex Offers multi tab is kind of shocking actually.

PoorChurner
Guest
PoorChurner

I’m curious IF/WHEN Amex discontinues the personal SPG card entirely. I hate Chase I’d rather have a SD card from Amex than a Chase one.

B b
Guest
B b

Does the Amex blue business plus card still only soft pull credit?

Credit
Guest
Credit

How are you using the chase freedom categories this quarter,

P-=
Guest
P-=

Amex offer nixed. Points-earning devalued. I think I’ll cancel mine if there’s no retention just to free up a card slot for another applicaiton.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

You left out the fact that you can’t stack stay credits from two SPG cards anymore.

Probably
Guest
Probably

True but I don’t chase status so it’s not a big deal for me.

LAXJeff
Guest
LAXJeff

I’m about $3K shy of $30K spend on the card for the year. Still worth spending to get Gold status or not worth it?

Dimitry
Guest
Dimitry

Would it still make sense to apply for a business version of SPG card, solely because of bonus points?

Carter
Guest
Carter

I will never genuinely use the SPG personal/biz card again, but will be keeping both for the free nights. Marriott did a smart thing by keeping the free nights as cat 5 and below. It used to be that cat 5 hotels would only be in garbage locations and spots well outside of desirable metro areas. Now, those same free night certs can get you hotels in some great places. Found hotels in NYC, Boston, Chicago, and bunch of others that weren’t previously available for those free night certs. Because of that, its an easy choice to keep both open. And since I also have a Marriott Premier Plus card, thats three cat 5 certs I can stack together for a fun long weekend each year. That easily offsets the AF.

Blue
Guest
Blue

For now. Between Peak pricing and inevitable devals I expect the current crop of Cat 5 NYC hotels, for example, to be outside the certs within 2 years.

Which is why I am going to NYC in June.

Ricardo
Guest
Ricardo

Ill use the spg Business card for Gas stations (4X) with the 10% discount on Mobil (Amex offer). I think is a great deal.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

Not as great as 2x MR on Amex BBP

leo
Guest
leo

or 3X MR (Amex Everyday Preffered)

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

But no 10% discount.

Pat
Guest
Pat

I enjoyed SPG stays. Too bad Marriott took it over. I may just concentrate on
Capital One cc.

MSer
Guest
MSer

Anytime you are forced to find a reason to visit a shitty mid-range hotel just to use a supposed “benefit”, you know you’re screwed. Can’t see any reason to tie up a slot with the SPG card anymore. Hasta la vista to ~100 AUs once 11/30 comes, or whenever I’m done with Lowes/Staples.
Amex is sure going downhill fast. I was hoping they’d do something with MRs to replace the versatility of Starpoints, but they’ve totally failed – beyond mystifying. What are those clowns thinking? Must be hundreds of millions of spend that are going to competitors as of Aug 1 (most of it to Chase, no doubt). Chase is eating Amex’s lunch and they don’t seem to have an answer – although it’s staring them in the face.

Ken
Guest
Ken

My card anniversary is Aug 28th. Will I receive the annual free night in a few weeks or will I have to pay the AF now and then wait another 12 months after paying another AF till I receive the first free night?

Brandon Chase
Guest
Brandon Chase

Will the Business SPG card still grant access to Sheraton Club lounges?

gul
Guest
gul

Nope

John Lubbers
Guest
John Lubbers

What is the best thing to do with all of my SPG rewards? Transfer to the airline of my choice? I have 25K points.