Review of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Reviews

Sep 26, 2018 | Updated Nov 15, 2018

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The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express might be the card for you if SPG and Marriott hotels play a role in your travel plans.

You’ll earn 6X Bonus points per dollar at SPG/Marriott properties, but that’s not all. You also get complimentary Silver Elite status, which provides an additional 11X Base points per dollar at these hotel brands.

Silver Elite status also comes with perks like priority late checkout and a dedicated reservation line, among others. Gold Elite status can be earned by spending $30,000 in a year, or by using the 15 Elite Night Credits you’ll get every year.

One of the best benefits is the annual Free Night Award, good for redemption levels up to 35,000 points. That will get you a night in a Category 5 hotel for free, but this free night only starts after your first year with the card. Cardholders will also enjoy free premium internet access at SPG/Marriott.

The SPG credit card costs $95 per year, but this fee is waived the first year. You’ll pay no foreign transaction fees on purchases in foreign currency.

There are currently five SPG/Marriott co-branded cards available for new applicants, including two business cards. The Starwood cards are issued by American Express, while the Marriott cards are issued by Chase.

Is the basic SPG card the best for you, or would a different option work out better? Keep reading to learn more and find out.

Card Annual Fee Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (This review) $95, $0 the first year
  • 6X points at SPG and Marriott
  • 2X points for other purchases
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express (Review) $95, $0 the first year
  • 6X points at SPG and Marriott
  • 4X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. service providers, and U.S. shipping purchases
  • 2X points for other purchases
Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card (Review) $450
  • 6X points at SPG and Marriott
  • 3X points at U.S. restaurants and for airfare booked directly with airlines
  • 2X points for other purchases
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card (Review) $95
  • 6X points at SPG and Marriott
  • 2X points for other purchases
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card $99
  • 6X points at SPG and Marriott
  • 4X points at restaurants, gas stations, internet, cable, and phone services, and on shipping
  • 2X points for other purchases
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $95, $0 the first year
  • Interest Rate: 17.74%–26.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 6X Base points per dollar at SPG/Marriott properties.
  • Complimentary Silver Elite member status, with 11X Base points per dollar at SPG/Marriott.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Free Night Award every year after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Shopping and travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Our Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

We give the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card 5 out of 5 Stars for being a solid hotel rewards card, with good point-earning opportunities and several valuable benefits.

Why We Like It

  • 6X Bonus points per dollar at SPG/Marriott
  • Complimentary Silver Elite member status provides 11X Base points at SPG/Marriott, plus other perks
  • 75,000-point introductory bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Annual Free Night Award after your first year
  • Fast track to Gold Elite status, including 15 Elite Night Credits per year
  • Premium internet access at SPG/Marriott
  • Comprehensive shopping and travel protections

Why It Could Be Better

  • $95 annual fee, but waived the first year
  • The annual Free Night Award only begins after your first year
  • Only provides Silver Elite status, whereas other hotel cards might give a better member status
  • You’re not eligible for the introductory bonus if you’ve had other SPG/Marriott cards recently

Insider Advice: Using This Card as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy

  • For spending at SPG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton hotels: Use this card to earn 6X points per dollar at these hotel brands, plus 11X points from your automatic Silver Elite status.
  • Get the introductory bonus: Be sure to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months to get your 75,000-point bonus.
  • Use your Free Night Award: After your first year with the card you’ll get an annual Free Night Award, which you can use at properties with a redemption level up to 35,000 points (Category 5 hotels).
  • Take advantage of Silver Elite status: Use your Silver Elite hotel member status to get priority late checkout and guaranteed reservations.
  • Reach Gold Elite more quickly: You can get Gold Elite status by spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and you’ll also get 15 Elite Night Credits every year towards a higher member status.
  • Stay connected wherever you go: Enjoy complimentary unlimited internet at over 1 million Boingo WiFi hotspots around the world.
  • Redeem your points wisely: Lower-category and higher-category hotels tend to give the best redemption values, so save your points until you’ll get a good deal.
  • Offset the annual fee: This card costs $95 after the first year, but you can completely recoup your costs by using your annual Free Night Award.
  • Take note of the changing redemption schedule: In 2019, Marriott is changing some hotel classifications and will have new redemption requirements for free nights.

The Rewards

The Starwood Preferred Guest card can provide a cash back equivalent of about 13.6–32% at SPG and Marriott properties, assuming you redeem your points for 0.8–2 cents per point.

Earning

Spending Rewards
  • 17X points per dollar or more at SPG and Marriott properties
    • 6X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 11X Base points per dollar or more on eligible purchases for being a Marriott member
  • 2X Bonus points for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 75,000 Bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $600–$1,500 (assuming 0.8–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 20–50%

The SPG credit card offers 6X Bonus points per dollar at SPG and Marriott properties, along with the regular Base points you’ll earn for being a Marriott member.

This card provides complimentary Silver Elite status with Marriott, which includes a 10% bonus on Base points earned. Since basic members earn 10X Base points at most properties, your Silver Elite status bumps that up to 11X.

That means you’ll be earning 17X points in total at SPG and Marriott, quite a nice deal compared to the normal member rates. Some hotel brands provide fewer Base points per dollar, as shown below, so your earn rate won’t be as high in those cases.

There are many ways to redeem your points, as we describe later on. If you assume a value of 0.8–2 cents per point, which is about the normal range you’ll find for this rewards program, you’ll be getting a cash back equivalent of 13.6–32% for purchases at SPG and Marriott. That’s a pretty good return on your spending, much better than you’d get if you were just a regular hotel member without the card.

Take note that you will not be eligible for the signup bonus offer if you’ve had other SPG or Marriott co-branded cards at certain times. You will not be eligible if:

Marriott wants to prevent people from gaming its signup bonus offers, so it’s using what has been referred to as the “one lane rule.” This means you can only get the bonus through one card.

SPG, Marriott, and The Ritz-Carlton recently combined their rewards programs, and they’re all now covered under one program. If you had any SPG Starpoints in the previous system they will be multiplied by 3 to give your new point value. And if you had multiple accounts with these brands you should merge them, which will collect all your points and benefits together in one account.

Participating Hotels & Resorts

Most properties within the SPG and Marriott brand portfolios provide 10X Base points per dollar, but there are a few exceptions.

10X Base Points
AC Hotels® Aloft® Autograph Collection® Hotels
Courtyard® Delta Hotels® Design Hotels™
EDITION® Fairfield by Marriott® Four Points®
Gaylord Hotels® JW Marriott® Le Méridien®
Marriott Hotels® Marriott Vacation Club® Moxy® Hotels
Protea Hotels® Renaissance® Hotels Sheraton®
SpringHill Suites® St. Regis® The Luxury Collection®
The Ritz-Carlton® Tribute Portfolio® W® Hotels
Westin®
5X Base Points
Residence Inn® TownePlace Suites® Element®
2.5X Base Points
Marriott Executive Apartments® ExecuStay®

Redeeming

The point redemption options include:

  • Hotel reservations
  • Point transfers to a variety of airline loyalty partners
  • Exclusive Moments and Experiences
  • Vacation packages
  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise

You’ll have quite a few options, although we recommend going for hotel reservations to maximize the value of your points.

But what kind of hotel reservation? There are several ways to use your points at hotels:

  • Standard room reservations
  • PointSavers reservations
  • Cash + Points reservations
  • Fifth night free on standard award stays
  • Room upgrades
  • Purchases charged to rooms

We suggest looking for PointSavers reservations whenever you can get them, which provide discounted redemption rates. But standard room reservations and fifth night free stays are good options as well.

The higher the hotel category, the more points required for a night’s stay.

Hotel Category Standard Requirement Off-Peak
(coming 2019)
Peak
(coming 2019)
1 7,500 5,000 10,000
2 12,500 10,000 15,000
3 17,500 15,000 20,000
4 25,000 20,000 30,000
5 35,000 30,000 40,000
6 50,000 40,000 60,000
7 60,000 50,000 70,000
8 (coming 2019) 85,000 70,000 100,000
Starting in 2019, Marriott will introduce Category 8 hotels, along with peak and off-peak redemption values. Hotels that will end up being Category 8 are classified as Category 7 for the rest of 2018, so you can save up to 25,000 points per night by booking those hotels before the category switch.

You can browse the full list of 6,700 Marriott/SPG properties, including their categories and point requirements.

The best redemption values are typically found at low or high category hotels. The middle categories, around 3–5, tend to provide less value per point.

The value you end up getting will depend not just on where you book but also when you book. Different dates throughout the month will have different cash prices, but the point redemption value is always the same.

Here are some examples of the best redemption options. First we compare a PointSavers reservation to a standard room reservation, and then we show a fifth night free redemption.

PointSavers Reservations

PointSavers reservations require 1,500 to 10,000 fewer points than standard reservations, so we suggest looking for these deals whenever you plan to book a room. They aren’t always available, but they’ll give you more bang for your buck if you manage to find one.

Each hotel category has its own PointSavers reservation redemption level:

Hotel Category PointSavers Requirement Off-Peak
(coming 2019)
Peak
(coming 2019)
1 6,000 4,000 8,500
2 11,000 8,000 13,000
3 16,000 12,000 18,000
4 22,500 17,500 27,500
5 32,500 27,500 37,500
6 45,000 35,000 55,000
7 55,000 45,000 65,000
8 (coming 2019) 80,000 65,000 90,000

Now let’s look at a PointSavers reservation compared to a standard reservation, and see what your points would be worth in each case. We’ll check three different hotel categories to show how the point values differ.

The three hotels we’ll use for this example are:

Here are sample prices for a standard room at each hotel, after taxes and fees. We’ve included how many points you’d need to redeem in that category, and the value of those points. The cash back equivalents assume you’re spending at SPG/Marriott properties, earning points at the 17X rate.

Keep in mind that these hotels and booking dates were chosen somewhat randomly, so you’ll probably find slightly different redemption values.

Standard Room Reservations

Hotel Cash Price Points Required Point Value (cents) Cash Back Equivalent
TownePlace Suites Winchester (Cat 1) $172 7,500 2.29 38.92%
Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel (Cat 4) $198 25,000 0.80 13.46%
W New York – Times Square
(Cat 7)
$524 60,000 0.87 14.84%

PointSavers Reservations

Hotel Cash Price Points Required Point Value (cents) Cash Back Equivalent
TownePlace Suites Winchester (Cat 1) $172 6,000 2.87 48.73%
Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel (Cat 4) $198 22,500 0.88 14.95%
W New York – Times Square
(Cat 7)
$524 55,000 0.95 16.19%

As you can see, a PointSavers redemption at a Category 1 hotel could provide 2.87 cents per point, giving you an incredible 48.72% return on your spending! Even a regular redemption would provide a 38.92% return, which is still very good.

It’s typically easier to find a good value for your points at lower category hotels, although high-end hotels can provide good returns as well. You’ll have to plan your trips ahead of time to see if it will be worth using points — if you’re not getting a good rate, just pay with your card and earn more points to use later.

Fifth Night Free on Award Stays

SPG/Marriott members get their fifth night free on award stays of five nights or more. Stays of ten nights will get the fifth and tenth nights for free.

This deal only applies to standard room reservations. You must book five nights to get the fifth for free. And you only need enough points for four nights — when you book five award nights you’ll automatically get a one-night discount.

Let’s use the three hotels above for this example as well. Here’s how much you’d normally pay for five nights, along with the points required for five nights (you only need four nights’ worth of points). The cash back equivalents assume you’re spending at SPG/Marriott and earning 17X points per dollar.

Hotel Cash Price: 5 Nights Points Required: 4 Nights Point Value (cents) Cash Back Equivalent
TownePlace Suites Winchester (Cat 1) $860 30,000 2.87 48.73%
Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel (Cat 4) $990 100,000 0.99 16.83%
W New York – Times Square
(Cat 7)
$2,620 240,000 1.09 18.56%

Getting your fifth night free can be a great way to extend your vacation a bit at no extra cost. But remember that you’ll only get this deal when redeeming points for award stays, not when paying the cash price.

How to Offset the Annual Fee

The Starwood Preferred Guest card comes with a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. So you should aim to get enough value from the card to make it worth the fee.

You won’t have to worry about offsetting the annual fee in the first year. But what about after that? You’ll need to get at least $95 in value every year.

After your first year with the card you’ll get a Free Night Award each year on your cardmember anniversary. That award has a value of 35,000 points, and can be used to book stays at Category 5 hotels and below.

So how much is that Free Night Award worth? One night at a Category 5 hotel could easily cost upwards of $250, depending on the hotel and booking date. Other rooms at some Category 5 hotels may cost less, with some as little as $150 or so.

Even if you use the Free Night Award to get a room valued at just $150, you’re still coming out $55 ahead of the $95 fee. And if you get a room worth $250 or more you’ll be flying high, offsetting the annual fee for at least two years in one go!

The SPG credit card will pay for itself if you make good use of the Free Night Award. We recommend saving it until you’ll get the best possible value, based on your current and upcoming travel plans, but remember that each Free Night Award expires after one year.

The Benefits

Free Night Award

Each year after your account anniversary you’ll get a Free Night Award, good for one night at a hotel with a redemption value of 35,000 points or less. This will get you a night at a Category 5 hotel or below, which could be valued at $150 to more than $300, depending on the property and time of year.

Take note that you’ll only start getting your free night after your first cardmember anniversary. So you’ll need to wait a full year after getting the card.

The Free Night Award will appear as an e-certificate in your Marriott rewards account eight to 12 weeks after your card account anniversary. It will be expire one year after being issued.

Check out the Free Night Award Chart to see where you can use your Free Night Awards when planning your next trip. There are no blackout dates for Free Night Award redemptions.

The upgraded version of this card, the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card, offers a better version of this Free Night Award. Its award is good for redemptions of 50,000 points or less, which will get you into a Category 6 hotel. That could be worth more than $600 at some properties, like the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel.

Free nights are a pretty typical perk to find on hotel credit cards like these. The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus provides the same exact Free Night Award as the basic SPG card, which is valid for SPG/Marriott properties.

If Hilton is more your style, the comparable card for that hotel brand — the Hilton Honors Ascend Card — offers a similar benefit, but in this case it’s a Weekend Night Reward and you only get it after spending $15,000 in a calendar year. So it’s not nearly as valuable as the free nights provided by the SPG cards. The premium Hilton card, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card, provides a Weekend Night Reward every year with no spending requirement.

Complimentary Silver Elite Status

Cardholders get automatic Silver Elite status with SPG/Marriott. This comes with a selection of perks that non-members won’t get:

  • 10% bonus on Base points earned
  • Priority Late Checkout
  • Ultimate Reservation Guarantee
  • Dedicated Elite Reservation Line
  • Free WiFi
  • Mobile Key
  • Exclusive Member Rates

You can see that Silver Elite status provides free basic WiFi, but you’ll actually get automatic premium WiFi just for being an SPG cardholder.

Hotel credit cards typically offer some level of hotel status, although Silver Elite status with Marriott isn’t quite as good as what you’ll get with some other cards. The upgraded SPG Luxury Card provides the next status level, Gold Elite, which comes with a 25% point bonus and enhanced room upgrades when available.

You’ll find similar offerings from other hotel brands. The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Review), for example, comes with Hilton Honors Gold status, which has many of the same benefits as Marriott’s Silver Elite but also includes complimentary breakfasts, so it’s usually valued more highly. The World of Hyatt Credit Card provides automatic Discoverist status at Hyatt, and you’ll get complimentary Platinum Elite status at IHG with the IHG Rewards® Club Premier Credit Card.

Fast Track to Gold Elite Status

Spend $30,000 or more in a calendar year with your SPG card to earn Gold Elite status with Marriott. Starting on January 1st, 2019, this requirement will increase to $35,000.

You’ll receive the upgrade to Gold status within eight to 12 weeks of meeting the spending requirement. Your status will last for the remainder of the calendar year, and for the entire next year.

Gold Elite status comes with all the perks of Silver Elite, along with a few more:

  • 25% bonus on Base points earned
  • Enhanced In-room Internet access
  • Enhanced Room Upgrades, when available
  • 2 p.m. Late Checkout
  • Welcome Gift of Points

This fast track would come in handy if you’re going to spend a lot with your card anyway. But if you’ll be spending $30k or more per year you should probably consider the SPG Luxury Card, which provides automatic Gold Elite status. That card also provides Platinum Elite status for spending $75,000 in a calendar year.

Premium Internet Access

Cardholders get premium on-property WiFi internet access at participating locations. You must provide your loyalty member account number when checking in.

Internet access is limited to one room only, regardless of how many rooms are booked.

15 Elite Night Credits

Every year you’ll get 15 Elite Night Credits that count towards a higher member status with Marriott.

You must link your SPG credit card account to your Marriott account to get these credits. A maximum of 15 Elite Night Credits can be awarded through credit cards, so you’ll only get them once per year even if you have other cards that provide this same perk, like the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus or Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.

Your Elite Night Credits will be awarded on or before March 1st.

Here’s how many Elite Night Credits you’ll need for each Marriott member status level:

Membership Status Elite Nights Required
Silver Elite 10
Gold Elite 50
Platinum Elite 75

Your automatic Silver Elite status does not affect your Elite Night requirements. So Gold Elite will require 35 Elite Nights after getting your credits, and Platinum Elite will require 50.

Bonus Points for Airline Transfers

The points you earn can be transferred to over 40 different airline partners.

Marriott will add 15,000 bonus points for every 60,000 points transferred. So a 60,000-point transfer will actually be credited for transferring 75,000 points. A 120,000-point transfer will be credited for 150,000 points, etc.

You can transfer 3,000 to 240,000 points per day. Most transfers are at a 3:1 rate (3 Marriott points for 1 airline point or mile).

Some of the participating airline loyalty programs include:

Marriott Rewards Airline Transfer Partners (partial list)
Aeromexico Club Premier Air France/KLM Flying Blue Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan American Airlines
British Airways Executive Club Delta SkyMiles Emirates Skywards Etihad Guest
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns JetBlue TrueBlue Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards United MileagePlus

Complimentary Boingo Wifi

Get complimentary unlimited WiFi at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide, for up to 4 devices.

You must register for the Boingo American Express Plan and authenticate your Amex card before you’ll have access to this service.

Other Benefits

  • No Blackout Dates: On award redemptions.
  • Lowest Hotel Rate Guarantee: For eligible hotel reservations made on amextravel.com.
  • ShopRunner Membership: Free two-day shipping and returns at select retailers.
  • Entertainment Access: Discounts to cardmember-only events, concerts, sports, and shows.
  • Instant Card Number: Use your new card account instantly if Amex can verify your identity (you may not have access to the full credit line).

Shopping Benefits

  • Purchase Protection: Eligible items are covered against damage and theft for 120 days (90 days for NY residents).
  • Extended Warranty: Warranties of five years or less can be doubled by up to an additional two years.
  • Return Protection: Provides refunds for eligible purchases if the merchant refuses to accept a return within 90 days.

Travel Benefits

  • Roadside Assistance: Call for help with roadside problems, like dead batteries or towing needs. Service fees will apply.
  • Global Assist Hotline: Help with travel accidents and emergencies.
  • Travel Accident Insurance: Up to $100,000 in coverage against accidental death and dismemberment when traveling by common carrier.
  • Baggage Insurance Plan: Covers your lost, stolen, or damaged bags, up to $1,250 for carry-on bags and up to $500 for checked bags.
  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance: Eligible rental vehicles are covered against damage and theft, as long as you decline the rental company’s own insurance.

Account and Security Benefits

  • $0 Fraud Liability: You won’t be held responsible for fraudulent transactions (contact customer support immediately if you suspect fraud).
  • Dispute Resolution: Help dealing with fraudulent and unauthorized transactions.
  • Account Alerts: Get notified about account information on your phone.

The Terms & Fees

Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
17.74%–26.74% Variable 17.49%–26.49% Variable 27.24% Variable
Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
$95, $0 the first year  None See Terms 3%, $5 minimum
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
29.99% Variable Up to $38 Up to $38

The terms of the Starwood Preferred Guest card are pretty typical, as far as credit cards go.

Its annual fee of $95 is waived the first year, so you won’t have to worry about offsetting it until year two. At that point you’ll get your Free Night Award, which will serve to offset the annual fee as discussed above.

There are no foreign transaction fees for purchases made outside the U.S. or in foreign currencies, making this card a good pick for anyone traveling abroad.

You can check the official terms and conditions of the SPG Credit Card.

What is the Credit Limit of the SPG Card?

There is no specific minimum or maximum credit limit for the SPG Card. Your credit line will be based on your overall creditworthiness, including your credit scores and other finances (especially income).

You can request a credit limit increase from American Express whenever you’d like. If you want higher limits we recommend requesting an increase once every six to 12 months or so.

Customer Support

Phone Support

Amex Customer Support 1-800-528-4800
Marriott Rewards 1-801-468-4000
SPG Rewards 1-888-625-4988

Contact Marriott or SPG for concerns about earning and using points, or other hotel-related matters. Contact American Express for any problems with your card account.

Every year J.D. Power publishes a Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, ranking all the major card issuers on a number of factors. Their latest report, in 2018, ranks American Express second out of 11 issuers. It got 4 out of 5 points for the “Interaction” category, which covers customer support.

When calling American Express you can typically expect to be helped by a competent customer support agent. But occasionally you may find someone who doesn’t quite understand your problem. If that happens we suggest asking to speak with someone else, or hanging up and calling again to get a different rep.

Amex seems to have good customer support in general, especially compared to some other issuers. But it may take some time to find the right person to speak with.

Web Support

Amex Twitter Customer Support @AskAmex

Anyone can tweet to Amex’s customer support account with questions, @AskAmex. Be sure never to reveal personal or account information on Twitter or other social media networks.

American Express cardholders can also contact Amex through its live web chat system. This will pop up after you log in to your account.

The Bottom Line

Do you find yourself staying at SPG and Marriott hotel brands often? If so, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card could be a great addition to your wallet.

You’ll earn 6X Bonus points per dollar in addition to all the Base points you get from your member status. The card provides automatic Silver Elite status, which earns 11X Base points per dollar. So you’ll be getting a total of 7X points per dollar more than regular members (6X from the card and 1X from the status boost).

The extra perks can prove to be quite valuable, especially the Free Night Award and Silver Elite status. That free night is enough to offset the $95 annual fee every year, making this a card that pays for itself — and then some. But remember you’ll only get that free night starting after your first cardmember anniversary.

The basic SPG credit card might be right for you, but take note that there are a handful of other cards that are co-branded with SPG and Marriott. There are also cards for other hotel brands altogether, and one of them may be a better fit. Take a look at some alternatives to the SPG credit card below.

How To Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest Card

Want to learn more or apply for this card? Click the “Apply Now” button below to begin your secure application.

You’ll be applying through American Express, who may check your credit reports from all three of the major bureaus. Most applications are processed in just a minute or two, but in some cases it can take longer. Amex may request more information to verify your identity or income.

Qualifications and Requirements

  • Must be 18 to apply
  • Personal identifying information, including SSN, email address, and phone number
  • Total annual income, and source of income
  • Monthly mortgage/rent payment
  • SPG, Marriott Rewards, or Ritz-Carlton rewards account number (if available)
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $95, $0 the first year
  • Interest Rate: 17.74%–26.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 6X Base points per dollar at SPG/Marriott properties.
  • Complimentary Silver Elite member status, with 11X Base points per dollar at SPG/Marriott.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Free Night Award every year after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Shopping and travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Alternatives to the Starwood Preferred Guest Card

 

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card (Review) is the upgraded version of the basic SPG card, with a higher annual fee ($450) and better perks.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 18.5X points per dollar or more at SPG and Marriott properties
    • 6X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 12.5X Base points per dollar or more on eligible purchases for being a Marriott member
  • 3X Bonus points:
    • For flights booked directly from airlines
    • At U.S. restaurants
  • 2X Bonus points for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 100,000 Bonus points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $800–$2,000 (assuming 0.8–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 16–40%

The SPG Luxury card provides the same number of Bonus points at SPG/Marriott properties as the basic SPG card — 6X per dollar. But it also provides a higher member status, Gold Elite rather than Silver Elite. This comes with a 25% bonus on Base points, rather than just 10%.

That means you’ll be earning 12.5X Base points at SPG and Marriott properties, instead of 11X. It’s not a huge increase, but when you’re talking about points per dollar it could add up to a lot.

The Luxury card’s signup bonus is bigger as well, with 25,000 more points, but it also costs $2,000 more to earn.

The redemption options are the same as the regular SPG credit card. So if you redeem for 0.8–2 cents per point, you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 14.8–37% at SPG and Marriott properties with this card.

Benefits

The SPG Luxury card has luxury-class perks compared to the basic SPG card, even going as far as airport lounge access with a Priority Pass Select membership. It provides all of the benefits of the basic SPG card, plus several more.

  • $300 SPG/Marriott hotel credit: Good for eligible purchases at SPG/Marriott properties, including room reservations.
  • Free Night Award: A free night every year after your cardmember anniversary, good for redemption levels up to 50,000 points (Category 6 hotels).
  • Complimentary Gold Elite hotel status: Includes a 25% bonus on Base points, enhanced room upgrades, and 2 p.m. late checkout.
  • Fast track to Platinum Elite status: Spend $75,000 in a calendar year to earn Platinum Elite status.
  • 15 Elite Night Credits: Annual credits toward a higher member status.
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership: Provides free access for you and two guests to Priority Pass airport lounges.
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application credit: A credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓ ($85), once every four years.

Terms & Fees

The SPG Luxury card comes in at $450 per year. There are no foreign transaction fees.

This may seem a bit high, but remember that you’ll get a $300 travel credit each year which offsets that down to just $150. And considering the value you can get from free night stays and Priority Pass lounge access, it looks like a pretty good deal for cardholders.

Read more in our Review of the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card

 

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, but you can learn more here, on our advertising partner's website.

The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card (Review) is a bit like a clone of the SPG credit card, but it’s issued by Chase instead of American Express. Some of the benefits are different, and there’s an important difference in the fee structure.

Earning

Spending Rewards
  • 17X points per dollar or more at Marriott and SPG properties
    • 6X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 11X Base points per dollar or more for being a Marriott member
  • 2X Bonus points on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 2 Free Night Awards (each valued up to 35,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

This rewards program is identical to that of the SPG credit card. You’ll earn points at the same rates, and you’ll have the same redemption options.

Benefits

The benefits of the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus are almost the same as those of the SPG card. There are just a few differences.

The Marriott card has a few perks that the SPG card lacks:

  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call for non-emergency help whenever you need it, like assistance with travel or dining reservations.
  • Premier Experience Events: Invitations to exclusive events in big cities around the world.
  • Dedicated Customer Support Line: Call 1-800-338-5960 for 24-hour customer service.

The Marriott card does not include two benefits that you’ll get from the SPG card: complimentary Boingo WiFi access and ShopRunner membership.

Terms & Fees

The terms of the Premier Plus are almost the same as the SPG card, with one big difference: The $95 annual fee is not waived the first year. It’s not clear why this fee isn’t waived the first year, because there don’t seem to be any extra rewards or benefits to balance it out. You’ll just have to pay more for basically the same card product.

There are no foreign transaction fees with the Marriott card.

Overall we recommend going with the SPG card because its fee is waived the first year, saving you $95 from the start. But if you strongly prefer Chase cards over American Express you may choose otherwise.

Read more in our Review of the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

 

Many big hotel brands have their own co-branded cards, and if you’d rather stay with Hilton over Marriott you should consider the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Review). It’s on the same fee level as the SPG card, with similar rewards and benefits.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 30X points per dollar or more at Hilton properties
    • 12X Base points per dollar from the card
    • 18X Base points per dollar or more for being a Hilton Gold member
  • 6X Bonus points for:
    • U.S. restaurants
    • U.S. supermarkets
    • U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Bonus points for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 125,000 Bonus points for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,250 (assuming 0.4–1 cent per point)
    • Return on spend: 25–62.5%

You’ll earn quite a lot of points per dollar with this card — at least 30X at Hilton properties. But Hilton points aren’t valued as highly as Marriott points, so the actual return on your spending will be comparable.

If you value those points at 0.4–1 cent each, you’d be getting a cash back equivalent of 12–30% at Hilton properties.

This card also has some non-hotel bonus categories, which you won’t find on the basic SPG card. That gives you more point-earning opportunities, with a cash back equivalent of 2.4–6% on those purchases. Depending on the value you’ll get per point, you may want to choose a different reward credit card for those purchases to get a better return on your spending.

Benefits

The Hilton Honors Ascend has a set of benefits that are pretty standard for a hotel card, for the most part. But it also includes limited access to Priority Pass airport lounges, a rare feature for a card at this fee level.

  • Annual Weekend Night Reward: Spend $15,000 in a calendar year to get a Weekend Night Reward, valid at most Hilton properties.
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status: Includes an 80% bonus on Base points, complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades when available, and more.
  • Fast track to Diamond Status: Spend $40,000 in a calendar year to get Hilton Honors Diamond Status.
  • Limited Priority Pass Select membership: 10 free visits to Priority Pass airport lounges, with a $27 fee per person after that.
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership: Free two-day shipping and returns at a selection of online retailers, like AutoZone, Express, and Newegg.
  • Amex Offers: Exclusive discounts at a changing selection of merchants, including Sam’s Club, Grubhub, and Pier 1 Imports.
  • Shopping and travel protections: Like Purchase Protection, a Global Assist Hotline, and a Baggage Insurance Plan, among others.

Terms & Fees

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card costs $95 per year, and has no foreign transaction fees. It’s similar to the SPG card, but the annual fee isn’t waived the first year.

Which card is right for you? The answer depends on whether you’ll be spending more time and money in SPG/Marriott hotels or Hilton hotels. If you spend a lot with both brands you may consider applying for both cards, or you might prefer our next alternative, a general travel rewards card that can be used anywhere.

Read more in our Review of the Hilton Honors Ascend Credit Card

 

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, but you can learn more here, on our advertising partner's website.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (Review) is a much-loved general travel rewards card. Unlike the other cards mentioned here it’s not co-branded with any hotel or airline, and is a solid choice for travel spending of all kinds.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on:
    • Travel
    • Dining at restaurants
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5–25%
Redemption Bonus
  • 25% point bonus when redeeming for travel expenses through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
    Equivalent to:

    • 2.5X points on travel and dining at restaurants
    • 1.25X points everywhere else

The Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, which are typically worth 1 cent each. But if you redeem for travel expenses through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal you’ll get a 25% bonus, for 1.25 cents per point.

At that rate you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 2.5% for travel and dining, and 1.25% everywhere else.

You can get more out of your UR points through point transfers, however. Cardholders can transfer points to a variety of hotels and airlines, where they could be worth upwards of 2 cents each depending on the deal you find.

At 2 cents per point you’d be getting a cash back equivalent of 4% on travel and dining, and 2% everywhere else.

So you won’t get the same amount of cash back for hotel spending as you would with a co-branded card. But the trade-offs are being able to use the Sapphire Preferred at any hotel, airline, car rental agency, etc., along with the ability to transfer your rewards to the loyalty program of your choice.

Benefits

The Sapphire Preferred’s benefits are more about travel in general, instead of being focused on hotels.

  • 1:1 Point Transfer: Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 rate with popular airline and hotel loyalty partners, like Southwest, United, Marriott, and Hyatt.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: 24/7 help with non-emergency tasks, like finding interesting gifts or making travel plans.
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Perks at participating hotels, like complimentary breakfasts and WiFi.
  • Direct Access to a Customer Support Specialist: You’ll be immediately connected with a real human when you call customer support.
  • Shop Through Chase: A shopping portal where you’ll find offers to earn more points, from retailers like The Apple Store, Home Depot, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
  • Chase Preferred Experiences: Invites to exclusive experiences from Chase, often for music or sports events.
  • Invite friends for bonus points: Get 10,000 bonus points for every friend you successfully refer, up to 50,000 points per year.
  • Shopping and travel protections: Including Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Travel Accident Insurance, Price Protection, and more.

Terms & Fees

This card has a set of terms and fees that are basically the same as the SPG credit card.

The Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95 per year, waived the first year. It has no foreign transaction fees.

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

There’s an upgraded version of the Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve (Review). For a $450 annual fee it offers 3X points on travel and dining, with a $300 travel credit, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, and other cost-saving perks.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $95, $0 the first year
  • Interest Rate: 17.74%–26.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 6X Base points per dollar at SPG/Marriott properties.
  • Complimentary Silver Elite member status, with 11X Base points per dollar at SPG/Marriott.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Free Night Award every year after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Shopping and travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Didn’t find the right card for you? See our picks for the Best Hotel Credit Cards: 2018 or the Best Travel Credit Cards: 2018.

Was this review helpful to you? Go ahead and share it with a friend! And if you use this card leave your own review of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, we’d love to hear from you!

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The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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