It’s safe the say that the August, 2018 merger between Starwood and Marriott dealt what many travelers would consider to be a very mixed deck, as the loyalty programs combined under one massive roof. For starters, on the credit card side of the equation, many brand enthusiasts were disappointed to see SPG American Express cards see their points earn rates torpedoed to the tune of a 33% decrease.

The changes aren’t over though. On February 13, 2019, both the SPG and Marriott portfolio of credit cards will relaunch under the new Marriott Bonvoy brand. With this change, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express will no longer exist. Here’s what you need to know about the coming changes to the card so you can decide if you want to apply before it’s gone.

a group of people walking around a buildingA New Card Name

As of February 13, 2019, the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex Card will be known as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and with that name change, you will no longer be able to apply for the card. That’s right, Marriott and Amex are ditching the card from the portfolio and will only continue the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card. These cards will become the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, respectively.

Yeah, that’s going to take some time to learn.

Welcome Bonus

If you decide to get the SPG Amex Card before it ceases to exist, you’re looking at a welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott points if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months.

While the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card will each offer a 100,000-point welcome bonus from February 13 until March 24, 2019, the SPG Amex Card is only around for another three weeks with its current set of excellent benefits, so it’s soon – or never.

It comes with a $95 annual fee but it’s waived the first year. Ongoing benefits really help justify keeping this card.

What Does It Have To Offer?

Besides the welcome bonus, the SPG Amex Card offers the following bonus categories:

  • 6X Points at Marriott properties
  • 2X Points on all other purchases

And yes, you earn your Marriott Points in addition to these bonus points. Pretty straightforward. You can get a better return on your spend from other cards, but that’s okay because there are other neat perks that come with the card.

Specifically, when you hit your cardmember anniversary, you’ll be issued a free night certificate that can be used at any Marriott property that requires up to 35,000 points per night. It’s not hard to see the value there.

Additionally, you will receive 15 elite night credits per calendar year which can help you reach the next elite status tier much quicker. You also receive complimentary Silver Elite status. Do note: the serious Marriott benefits kick in at Platinum Elite status — two steps beyond Silver, but this is a great head start.

If you spend $35,000 on this card within a calendar year, you’ll receive Gold Elite status. While you won’t get lounge access or free breakfast, you will earn 25% bonus points on stays and can receive 2pm check (if available) and room upgrades (if available). It’s definitely a lot better than nothing, and in holiday destination properties, recognition can be excellent.

Stay At Some Insane Marriott Properties With The Welcome Bonus

Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
Image courtesy of Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa

Let’s say you’ve used some American AAdvantage miles to fly the luxurious Etihad Apartments to fly to Abu Dhabi or maybe some Alaska Mileage Plan miles to fly Emirates first class to Dubai. What better way to cap off the trip than with a stay in a suite with a private pool at the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai.

For 60,000 Marriott points — 85,000 once the award chart changes in March, you can book the Al Maha for a night. Yes, you read correctly, 60,000 points for a suite with a private pool. If that weren’t enough, you also receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as two desert activities for two people.

Activities provided by the Al Maha include:

  • Archery
  • Camel trek
  • Desert drive
  • Falconry
  • Ghaf tree walk
  • Horse riding
  • Nature walk
  • Sundowners
  • Wildlife drive

While not included in the Al Maha activities, I had a blast driving a dune buggy across the desert and would absolutely recommend it if you enjoy a little adrenaline rush.

Don’t Forget Marriott Moments Too

Marriott Moments offer some of the best value, aspirational points redemptions, like private Michelin starred dinners, trips with the biggest football clubs in the world and suites for the most sought after concerts. Here are a few Marriott Moments gems which went for fewer points than this welcome bonus.

JW Marriott Phu Quoc
Image courtesy of JW Marriott Phu Quoc

Get Amazing Value For The Free Night Certificate

If I had to pick one property to use a free night certificate, I think I might go with the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. Located on the coast of Vietnam, this is a beautiful property if you want to escape the hustle of day-to-day life and just relax.

At 35,000 points per night, this is just about as good as it will get with a free night certificate from the SPG Amex Card. In fact, I’ll soon have the same free night certificate from the SPG Business Amex Card and am considering a stay during my trip to Vietnam.

Don’t forget about that 75,000-point welcome bonus. If you combine that with the free night certificate, you could get three nights in Phu Quoc.

a bedroom with a bed and a chairAre You Eligible For The SPG Amex Card?

When the many credit card changes were announced last August, the eligibility rules for the co-branded Chase Marriott cards and SPG Amex cards changed.

If you have or have had one of the following cards in the last 30 days, you won’t be eligible for the welcome bonus:

  • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
  • Chase Marriott Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Additionally, if you’ve ever had the SPG Amex Card, you won’t be eligible for the welcome bonus. You can still get the card, you just won’t get the bonus.

Should You Get The SPG Amex?

Now, just because you’re eligible doesn’t mean you should automatically jump on this, or any offer. With Chase’s 5/24 rule restricting what you can get from Chase, if you’re planning to add many new cards, it’s best to start with Chase cards, especially those that earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

If 5/24 is in your rearview mirror and you’re eligible for the SPG Amex Card’s welcome bonus, it just might make sense. For those who find themselves at Marriott’s regularly, the 15 elite night credits are a great boost toward the next tier of elite status.

Of course, the welcome bonus of 75,000 points and the annual free night certificate could be useful for just about any traveler. There are never too many free night certificates! Personally, I think the free night certificate can be a great option and goes a long way in justifying the card on an ongoing basis!

New Big Spend Bonus For Current Cardholders

One final note for those who already have the card, and opened the SPG Amex Card before January 23, 2019. As an incentive to keep the card, you will be eligible for a big spend bonus as of February 24, 2019. Those cardholders who were approved before January 23rd, who spend $25,000 this year, receive a bonus of 25,000 Marriott points and you can do this three times. So, if you have $100,000 of unbonused spend coming up this year and you have this card, you might want to consider this as a go to.

If you can reach the spend threshold, this effectively bumps the earn rate on the SPG Amex Card back up to what it was before the change in August. I don’t expect this perk to last beyond the year, but you might as well take advantage of it if you can.

Final Thoughts

While you’ll often see “last chance” when a card bonus is about to decrease — only to increase later, this really is the last chance for this card. On February 13, 2019, it will cease to be available. While I wouldn’t call this card a first-tier priority, the combination of the welcome bonus and the ongoing benefits could make the SPG Amex Card a very useful choice if you’re over 5/24 and could use some points for a hotel stay (or stays) or some help reaching Platinum Elite status. The free night certificate never hurts either…

Spencer Howard

Spencer Howard is a credit card rewards and award travel expert. He’s living proof that points and miles can unlock many of the greatest travel experiences and uses his skills to tick off new bucket...

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