Which Marriott or SPG card is best?

With the introduction of the SPG Luxury card, and the merger of the Marriott and SPG rewards programs, there are now a boatload of cards that earn the same type of rewards.  Whether you already have some of these cards or are thinking of getting one, you might be curious about which is best.  Here’s everything you need to know…

The table above shows all of the Marriott and SPG cards that I know of.  The column labelled “Avail New?” indicates whether or not the card is available for sign-ups today.  Others are kept on the list either because it may be possible to product change to them, or because you may have one of those cards and may be wondering whether to keep it.

SPG Luxury Card vs. Ritz

This table summarizes the benefits for these ultra-premium cards:

SPG Luxury Card Ritz-Carlton
Annual Fee $450 $450
Annual free night upon renewal 50K free night award 50K free night award
Elite Status Gold status. Platinum status with $75K calendar year spend. Gold status. Platinum status with $75K membership year spend.
Statement Credits $300 SPG/Marriott
(can be used for hotel bill)
$300 airline incidental fees
$100 Global Entry Credit Yes Yes
Priority Pass Select 2 free guests Unlimited free guests
Other meaningful perks
  • Visa Infinite Discount Airfare $100 discount on multi-passenger ticket purchases
  • 3 club level upgrades for paid Ritz stays
  • $100 hotel credit for each paid 2 night or longer stay

The SPG Luxury card and Ritz-Carlton card aren’t as expensive as they appear to be.  Yes, they cost $450 per year, but if you get the full $300 in hotel rebates from the Lux card, or the full $300 in airline incidental fees from the Ritz card, then your net cost comes to just $150.  That’s still more than the next level down cards which cost $95 pear year (or $99 per year for the Marriott Business card), but the extra $55 may be worth paying if you value the card’s other benefits.

And that brings us back to the main question…

Which Marriott or SPG card is best?

If you’re looking for a rewarding card for general spend, you’ve come to the wrong place.  SPG cards used to be good for that, but that’s no longer true.  Marriott Rewards points are worth approximately 0.7 cents each [See: Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs)].  So, since most cards here offer 2 points per dollar for most spend, they offer only about 1.4% back in rewards.  You can do much better than that.  See these posts, for ideas: Best Rewards for Everyday Spend and Best Category Bonuses.  That said, if you still want to use these cards for everyday spend, the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Plus offers the best 4X categories (with the SPG Business card close behind).

In my mind, there are only two good reasons (for most people) to keep these cards: annual free nights, and elite status.

Annual Free Nights

Most of the cards on the list offer annual free night certificates each year upon renewal (but not first year) for hotels costing up to 35K points per night or up to 50K points per night.  Obviously, the 50K free nights are worth more, but the cards that provide the 50K nights also cost much more ($450 per year) than the cards that provide 35K free nights ($95 or $99 per year).

The Residence Inn New York Central Park now costs 35K points per night standard.  35K Free night certificates will work here except during peak pricing.

To give you an idea of what to expect: There are many very nice hotels in the Marriott/SPG portfolio that cost 35K points per night.  And, even in the most expensive cities, there are decent hotels that cost 35K points per night (such as the Residence Inn New York Central Park shown above).  The problem with these will start when peak pricing is introduced in 2019.  When that happens, the same hotels that cost 35K points per night standard will cost 40K points during peak pricing, and you won’t be able to use your 35K free nights for those hotels during peak dates.

St. Pancras Renaissance London now costs 50K points per night, standard.  50K Free night certificates will work here except during peak pricing.

At the 50K level, you’ll find outstanding properties even in the most expensive cities.  For example, I’m a big fan of the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel in London, which is now priced at 50K points per night.

Obviously 50K free nights are better than 35K free nights, but how much you value them will depend upon your travel preferences.  In general, my guess is that most people will be able to get great value from the 35K free night certificates.  These certificates do need to be used each year before they expire.  If you’re coming to the end of your certificate year and haven’t yet used the certificate to offset a super expensive stay, at least it won’t be that much of a waste to use the 35K certificate to cover an otherwise cheap hotel night (maybe you need a night at a near-airport hotel that would have cost about $120, for example).  I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty upset with myself if I used a 50K certificate in that way.

If you value the certificates more than the annual fee, consider getting/keeping more than one card

If you already have more than one of the $95 (or $99) Marriott/SPG cards and you’re pretty confident that you’ll get much more than $95/$99 value from the free night certificates, then keep the cards.

If you’d like to get more cards so that you’ll have more certificates, things get a little bit more complicated.  There are now strict rules about whether or not you can qualify for a signup bonus based on what other Marriott/SPG cards you have or have earned bonuses on (see: Navigating Marriott’s Byzantine Credit Card Rules).  If you want more cards just for the free nights, then check out that post to see which cards can offer you a signup bonus.

Complex rules determine who is eligible for welcome bonuses

If you want more cards, but can’t qualify for a signup bonus, then the best option is the SPG Business Card since it waives the first year annual fee and does not add to your 5/24 count.  If you have multiple businesses, you should be able to get a card for each business in order to secure multiple 35K free night certificates each year for $95 each.  Since you won’t qualify for a welcome bonus for each of these business cards, consider offering a friend or family member to refer you so that they’ll get points (or use our link, found here, to support this blog with our thanks!).

Elite Status

Other than the free night certificates, another reason to get or keep these cards is to help you acquire elite status.  In my mind, Platinum status is worth striving for if you stay often at Marriott and SPG hotels.  Platinum status offers free breakfast (at most hotels), lounge access, upgrade to a suite (when available), 50% point bonus, etc.  Gold status, though, is more of a nice to have if you get it automatically.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.  So, let’s look at how the different cards can help you get meaningful elite status (Platinum or higher)…

Elite Nights

Beginning in 2019, almost all Marriott/SPG cards offer automatic 15 elite nights towards status, but those nights are not stackable if you have multiple cards.  Members need to earn 50 elite nights per year to get to Platinum status, so this will get you 30% of the way there.

If you typically stay 35 or more nights per year at Marriott and SPG properties, then keeping one of these cards is a no-brainer.  You’ll get to Platinum status, or maybe even to a higher level of status that you wouldn’t have attained without the card.  And when you use the free night that comes with the card, you’ll earn another elite night that way.

Automatic Elite Status

The $95/$99 cards offer automatic Silver status.  Silver status isn’t worth much: you get 10% bonus points on paid stays, plus the chance to ask for a late checkout.

The $450 cards offer automatic Gold status.  Gold status adds 25% bonus points on paid stays; guaranteed 2pm late checkout, and the possibility of a room upgrade.  Neither status level is worth all that much, but obviously Gold is better than Silver.  But I wouldn’t pay the higher annual fee on these cards just to get to Gold status.  No way.

Status through spend

The $95/$99 cards offer Gold status with $35K spend, and the ultra-premium cards offer Platinum status with $75K spend. $75K spend is an awful lot, but it’s worth noting that it was never before possible to earn SPG Platinum status through spend alone.  Now it is possible.

Interestingly, the Chase cards base the spend on card membership year whereas the Amex cards go by calendar year.  Depending on when your card anniversary falls, the Chase cards may have a significant advantage.

Suppose, for example, you want to earn Platinum status via $75K spend.  With the SPG Luxury Card, it is theoretically possible to do this once every two years in order to keep Platinum status continuously.  Status lasts the rest of the year in which you earn it, through all of the next year, and through February of the year after that.  So, if you could spend $75K in January and February every other year, you could keep Platinum status without a break.

With Chase cards, this could be much easier.  Suppose your account year starts in September.  In that case, you could spend $75K on the Ritz card between September and the end of February in order to earn Platinum status for two years.  This gives you much more time to complete the spend.

Chase would have the same advantage for spending your way to Gold status, but I just don’t think it’s worth doing, so I’m going to ignore that option.

In summary, if you want to earn Platinum status with spend, then keep the Ritz card if you have it.  Otherwise, your only option is the SPG Luxury card since the Ritz card is no longer available to new applicants.  Do keep in mind that if you earn Platinum status this way, you won’t earn the Choice Benefits that come when you achieve 50 elite nights each year (and again at 75 nights).

Bottom Line

There’s no single best Marriott/SPG card for each person.

If you highly value 50K free nights over 35K free nights, and/or you value the ability to earn Platinum status with $75K spend, then I’d argue that the Ritz card is best.  Unfortunately the Ritz card is no longer available to new applicants, so if you don’t already have that card, then the SPG Luxury Card is your best bet.

If you know that you’ll make good use of the 35K free nights each year, then all of the $95/$99 per year cards are arguably a good bet.  I wouldn’t use them for spend, but just to have and to hold in order to get a nice hotel stay each year.  If that’s you, consider getting or keeping more than one of these cards so that you can stay more than one night per year for “free” (really for $95 or $99 per night if you account for the card’s annual fee).  Keep in mind, though, that you won’t get your first free night until you’ve had the card for a year.

If you’re not sure that you’ll use the free night each year, and you don’t need the 15 elite nights that come with these cards, then don’t carry any of them.  As I wrote early in this post, none of these cards is a good choice for everyday spend. There are many better alternatives.  See: Best Rewards for Everyday Spend and Best Category Bonuses.

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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Linda Marin Lant
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Linda Marin Lant

What about the transfer to airline partners with the SPG card?

MDDCFlyer
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MDDCFlyer

One additional benefit to the Ritz card which could be VERY valuable is that it provides free authorized users. The AUs gets their own unlimited guests Priority Pass, and can use the $100 Visa Infinite benefit without the primary user traveling.

Sam
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Sam

@Greg- other advantage with Ritz is that some have the annual fee still at $395. Thanks!

Mike
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Mike

Just a comment about the $100 credit at Ritz during 2 day paid stay. We are currently staying at the Ritz in Philadelphia. The only way to use that credit is valet parking. The spa and restaurant are third party vendor! We don’t have a car so no credit. Such a wonderful benefit…

Tom
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Tom

Unless I missed it, I don’t see any mention of the elite night credit for every $3000 in spending on the legacy Chase Marriott card… users are NOT being forced to upgrade yet, and I believe this has not gone away on the personal card yet, right? I know it’s gone on the Chase Marriott Business card, but at least for now, it’s still an option on the personal card… and considering this gives you actual elite night credits, I’m pretty certain that you WOULD still receive your choice benefits if you hit Platinum/PP this way, right?

Jonathan S
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Jonathan S

For accumulating platinum status through spend on these cards, why does the spend need to be completed in february? In your example of the ritz card member year ending in september, what if you completed your 75k spend in january instead? Does that only give you platinum status for one year rather than two?

AlexL
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AlexL

To answer your first question, the reason is to spend 75K every other year instead of every year and to have platinum status uninterrupted. For example, you spent 75K on your spg lux in 2018, so you will have platinum status until the end of February in 2020. If you finish the 75K spend in the first two months in 2020, platinum status will be extended until the end of February in 2022. If you do not finish your spend requirement until August 2020, you will not have platinum status between March and August in 2020. If you do not mind the gap, you can finish your spend when you need it.

To answer your second question, you should still get 2 years. In Greg’s example, the person finished the spend in February (or in January in your example), the person should have platinum status from March (or February in your example) of 2019 until the end of February in 2021.

FlyingNinja
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FlyingNinja

Thank you, I was just looking for this comparison.

Dan
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Dan

Did anybody else read the headline and think of The Office? haha

Jim: Question, what kind of bear is best?

carl
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carl

I received 100K lux upgrade offer. If I accept will I still be eligible for a sign-up bonus later on? Or is the upgrade bonus considered same as sign up once lifetime bonus? Do you know if the $300 travel credit is available right away or after first year., seeing various opinions. Looking for facts.

P-nope
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P-nope

I think the question is not which card is the best but which is the least bad

wise2u
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wise2u

I agree, and to make things worse the devaluation will put a lot of properties out of reach once peak pricing goes live…in order to keep up, without raising earning rates on the cards, the welcome bonuses will have to be jacked quite a bit…I think 100k offers on the $95 and $99 cards will become the norm….and in order to get the big AF they will have to sweeten that welcome bonus as well…expecially if the new language is once lifetime for spg and 2-4 years on chase cards…I jumped on the spg business and Marriott business cards recently, just because I could… I will probably regret doing it before all my travel packages are used….the Ritz card has its unique perks, but unless you plan on a Ritz stay to take advantage of them, you might be better off waiting for the next big offer.

Robert
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Robert

Greg: I just upgraded my regular SPG card to the Luxury card. I was given an offer for 100k points after $5k spend. I was disappointed to discover however that the $300 spend credit at SPG/Marriott properties is not awarded until my one year anniversary after the upgrade. They also confirmed that this benefit also does not take effect until one year later for NEW applicants as well. That is a BIG difference compared to the CHASE RC card which offers the $300 right from the get go. I will still keep the card since the 100k bonus is worthwhile plus the one free night worth 50k points after the one year anniversary. But in the first year, you are not getting much for the $450 fee.

ivan
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ivan

@ Greg – have you been able to get a definitive answer on when $300 credit starts for upgraded cards – upon upgrading / after prorated annual fee is charged / when first full annual fee is charged?

FWIW, upgraded immediately but no card yet.

Boonie
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Boonie

If both my husband and I have the Marriott is it with keeping both? I have the Ritz and value the upgrade certificates and lounge access and have the SPG Amex

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[…] Which Marriott or SPG card is best? […]

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[…] Which Marriott or SPG Card is best?:  Now that the dust is beginning to settle from combining loyalty programs, many of us are rethinking our credit card strategy.  Which card is best to earn Marriott/SPG points? Here’s a great article breaking down each card. […]