Taryn and I just returned from a quick and awesome Labor Day Weekend to Santiago, Chile. And I’m already planning how to earn points for more international business class flights, which means it’s time for a new credit card. So earlier this week, I signed up for my third credit card of the year: the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury credit card.
Most people think of Chase, American Express, and Citi as the main points “currencies.” But Marriott/SPG points are also transferable points currencies that can be transferred to a wide variety of airline partners in addition to being redeemed at Marriott or SPG hotel properties around the world. And while American Express is the card issuer, money spent on the credit card actually earns Marriott points. Kind of like how American Express also sponsors the Delta SkyMiles credit card.
I love Marriott points, because they helped me fly in Emirates business class to the Maldives, and after that kind of experience, I’m completely obsessed with doing it again. Unfortunately for me, American Express cards have a “once in a lifetime” policy on their sign-up bonuses, and since I already signed up for the non-“luxury” SPG credit card, I thought I was out of luck. However, the big Marriott-SPG merger earlier this year led to a new portfolio of Marriott and SPG credit cards, including a brand new SPG-branded credit card which I would be eligible for.
The SPG Luxury credit card is the new premium card offering, and it includes:
- *gulp* $450 annual fee (not waived for the first year) 👎
- $300 statement credit for Marriott or SPG purchases (essentially making the annual fee $150)
- 100,000 Marriott points (after $5,000 in spending within three months, which is a high spending threshold)
- No foreign transaction fees
- 6x points on Marriott/SPG purchases with credit card
- 3x points on U.S. restaurant and airline purchases
- 2x points on all other purchases
- Priority Pass membership (access to a variety of airport lounges for you and up to two guests)
- Application fee refund for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (once every four years)
- Automatic Gold Elite Status at Marriott and SPG hotels (late check-out, free wifi, 25% bonus points during stays… but no free breakfast)
- Free night award on account anniversary (limited to a room valued at 50K/night and only valid after owning the card for one year)
There are definitely a lot of great benefits to the card. I have three upcoming nights at Marriott/SPG properties, so I’ll easily recoup the $300 statement credit in the coming months. Priority Pass membership and TSA PreCheck/Global Entry refunds are also valuable, though I already receive those for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. And while Gold Status with Hilton Hotels gives you free breakfast, there are new free meals with SPG/Marriott Gold Status. 🙄
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend a novice points collector sign up for the SPG Luxury credit card (but if you do, here’s my referral link). Yes, the card comes with a hefty annual fee as well as a slew of perks. And the $300 statement credit and free night award will probably outweigh the annual fee if I keep the card after the first year.
Unfortunately, the new points earning rates of the Marriott/SPG credit cards pale in comparison to other premium card options, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Keep in mind that Marriott points transfer to airlines at a 3:1 ratio. Since everyday purchases only earn 2x Marriott points for every dollar spent, you only actually earn 2/3 of an airline frequent flyer mile for everyday spending. The bonus categories are even worse. With the transfer ratio, airline and restaurant purchases only earn the equivalent of 1x airline frequent flyer mile per dollar spent, and even purchases at Marriott or SPG properties only earn 2x frequent flyer miles per dollar. If you used the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’d earn 3x points for all hotel, airline, or restaurant purchases.
So I won’t be using the SPG Luxury credit card for my everyday spending. Once I hit the $5,000 spending threshold for the sign-up bonus, I’ll probably add it to my collection of old credit cards. But I can’t pass on the opportunity to earn 100,000 Marriott points, since they are one of the best ways using points to fly in Emirates business class.
How do I expect to use the 100,000 Marriott points? Well, after spending $5,000, I’ll have at least 110,000 Marriott points (since everyday spending earns 2x points per dollar). I still have 10,000 Marriott points in my account, so I would conveniently have 120,000 total Marriott points.
Once of the best things about Marriott points is that they offer a transfer bonus – for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer into an airline frequent flyer program, Marriott adds an additional 15,000 points as a bonus. So with 60,000 points (equivalent of 20,000 airline frequent flyer miles with the 3:1 transfer ratio), Marriott transfers a total of 25,000 points into the chosen airline frequent flyer program. Since I will have 120,000 Marriott points, that is the equivalent of 50,000 airline frequent flyer miles.
That’s not enough for an Emirates business class flight, but after signing up for the Alaska Airlines credit card, I’ll be within striking distance of another 13+ hour flight with an onboard bar.
New to credit card points? Then I’d recommend signing up for either of the non-premium options offered by either Marriott or SPG. They’ll only earn 75,000 points (or the equivalent of 25,000 airline miles), but after months of strategically spending, you could also accumulate 120,000 Marriott points without forking over $450 for an annual fee.