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UPDATE: Some elements of this review are in flux due to the ongoing SPG and Marriott Rewards merger.
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express personal credit card (SPG Amex) is a card that might escape your radar in the world of crazy perks and huge signup bonuses. But this card is actually one of the best cards for everyday spending, and it's one that Disney and family travelers need to know about. Here's our review of the SPG Amex!
Current Signup Bonus for the SPG Amex
UDPATE: While the SPG / Marriott Merger is ongoing, the below bonus has been reduced to $200 statement credit. We do not know when it will return to a more reasonable amount, but we expect it will do so by August 2018.
The current publicly available signup bonus for the SPG Amex is 25,000 points for spending $3000 in 3 months. You might be able to get a better bonus by using a browser in incognito mode or logging into your American Express account. Here's our referral link to the current offer:
Starpoints & Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)
The card earns 5X Starpoints on expenses at Starwood Hotels, 2X at Marriott hotels, and 1X on all other purchases. Because of their incredible value, 1X Starpoints on all purchases is often considered better than 2% cash back.
If you don't stay at Starwood (or Marriott) hotels with any frequency, you might think you don't have a need for Starpoints, but that's way wrong! Starpoints are actually some of the best points you can acquire. In many travelers minds, they're unequivocally the best. This reason is two-fold:
Starpoints can be transferred to a huge number of partner airlines
For every 20,000 points you transfer they give you an additional 5,000.
This means a flight that costs 50,000 airline miles will only cost you 40,000 Starpoints.
But even if you have no interest in transferring your points to partners, you should still care about Starpoints. Starwood has an extensive portfolio of hotels around the world, some with exceptional rates when booking with points.
Most importantly for us, the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin can both be booked with Starpoints. The Dolphin requires 10,000 points per night. When you book four nights with Starpoints, you get the fifth night free, so you could do 5 nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for 40,000 Starpoints.
SPG Amex Perks
Unlike many of the cards we cover that are all about perks (like the Citi Prestige's 4th Night Free perk), the strength of the SPG Amex really lies in putting your everyday spending on it to earn points. But there are a few perks to know about.
Free In-Room Premium Internet
This is a pretty low-value perk. First, you'll always get free internet at Starwood by being a SPG member (free to sign up) and booking through Starwood. The card gets you free "premium" internet (when you book through Starwood, generally), which I guess is just…faster? A nice perk, fine, but not a reason to get the card.
Gold Status When You Spend $30,000
When you put $30,000 on your SPG Amex, you'll get SPG Gold Status, which you can match to Marriott Gold and Ritz Carlton Gold. Gold status can be quite nice in these programs, particularly because you'll get room upgrades when they're available. We've been upgraded to a harbor view room at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong (a $200 per night upgrade from the room we booked) and an executive suite at the Sheraton Nha Trang (about $250 per night upgrade from what we booked).
That said, we earn our SPG Gold Status by putting $10,000 annually on our Ritz Carlton Visa Card.
Boingo Wifi Access (But Not On Planes)
Cardholders who register with Boingo can get free access to Boingo hotspots, but not Boingo in-flight wifi. This perk can be pretty valuable if your airport has Boingo wifi, for example.
Credit Toward Elite Status
Cardmembers get credit for 5 nights and 2 stays toward Starwood elite status, leaving them only needed 20 nights for SPG Gold Status or 45 nights for SPG Platinum status. Status from SPG can be matched to status at Marriott and Ritz Carlton, but stays at Marriott and Ritz won't count toward your SPG status. If you can get all the way to platinum status, this is a great perk.
Get The SPG Amex If…
After the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the SPG Amex is probably the easiest card to make a case for a spot in your wallet. This is especially true if you're not interested in or able to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points using combinations of cards. The SPG Amex is a straightforward option for a single card with good perks that earns very valuable points.
If you're a Walt Disney World fan who doesn't mind staying at the Swan and Dolphin, the SPG Amex is a must-have. You'll earn 5X Starpoints on your rooms at the Swan and Dolphin and be able to redeem a five-night stay at the Dolphin for just 40,000 points.
Skip The SPG Amex If…
If you have a way to beat the value of Starpoints using Chase Ultimate Rewards or (somewhat more difficultly) Amex Membership Rewards, you don't need the SPG Amex.
Finally, until the SPG / Marriott Rewards merger is finalized and the signup bonuses return to these cards, we could encourage you to wait.