I am very confident that my long-term cards list (not bonus list) provides the best overall combination for 90 percent of middle class families in America. But there is always that other 10 percent which I also would like to cover. As you have noticed, all of the cards on that list (other than the oddball Club Carlson visa) provide cash back. But this is a travel related industry and my readers probably fly more than the average Joe.
I have covered SPG Amex a couple of times and have shown how in certain situations it can make sense even for regular families. And I have compared it to Chase Southwest card, and proclaimed Amex the winner. If you are after miles or low category hotels, this card makes a lot of sense. Especially for low spenders, since you get 5000 bonus on each 20000 miles transfer. Let me describe a family I have in mind, when talking about Amex SPG:
You have relatives in another state and can’t drive there for whatever reason. You would pay for tickets if you had to.
The route is very expensive with cash, but a bargain with miles such as Avios 4500 miles one way redemption. You are confident that you can beat 2CPM(cents per mile) and by that logic Fidelity Amex card, which pays 2 percent cash back.
You can’t or don’t want to churn cards.
You have several Starwood hotels in mind, that are category 1 or 2 (running 2000 and 3000 points on weekends)
You don’t want to have more than 1 card for primary usage, choosing to forgo category bonuses for simplicity (that would describe my husband).
I have recommended before that if you absolutely insist on earning miles, you will be better off going with flexible points, such as SPG. But its not the only game in town and today I will compare it to American Express Premier Rewards Gold, which earns Membership Rewards. The card is currently one of my top picks because of 50000 points targeted sign-up bonus. Lets ignore the bonus and see which one makes more sense when the annual fee hits.
1) Which one has a lower fee? Gold has 175 dollars and SPG 65. Obviously Amex SPG is the winner.
2) Which one has more family friendly (redemption wise) airlines and hotel partners? SPG partners with British Airways and AAdvantage and has some low category hotels going for only 2000 points. Gold partners with British Airways and I don’t see any good hotel options for family. Amex SPG wins.
3) How quick are the transfers to airline programs? Thats where Gold wins with instant transfers. SPG can take a week or more, a huge downside.
4) How do bonuses on miles transfers compare in both programs? Gold regularly runs bonuses on British Airways transfers, though there is no guarantee they will return in the future. The minimum amount is 1000 points on each transfer. While SPG gives a 5000 point bonus, you have to wait till you reach 20000 points threshold. And that can take awhile for low spenders. Still, the bonus with Amex SPG is a certainty, while with Gold it is not. Amex SPG wins.
5) Which one has category bonuses? SPG earns 1 point on everything other than their hotels. Gold earns 1 point on everything and 2 points on groceries and gas. Where I live Walmart is coded as a grocery store, though YMMV Gold wins.
6) Is there a bonus on reaching a certain amount in spending? Not on SPG card. On Gold, you get 15000 points once you reach 30000 dollars in spending. I debated whether to include this point, because my blog targets low spenders. But there were some years we put close to 30000 dollars on credit cards because of big purchases or renovations. That bonus would make up for the fee. So Gold wins here.
7) Can you redeem for cash if needed?
Both points can be redeemed for gift cards, though only SPG partners with Amazon, which would be my number one choice. In addition, the gift cards redemption ratio is more favorable with SPG program, where you can redeem 14000 points for 150 dollar Amazon card. Amex SPG wins.
8) Which point is harder to acquire? Membership rewards points can be earned from other Amex cards, like Platinum. SPG points can only be earned from SPG card. Amex SPG wins.
9) How much value does one point get when it comes to family-friendly redemptions? Once again, because of guaranteed transfer bonus on 20000 points and low category hotel redemptions, SPG wins.
Ladies and gentleman, Amex SPG wins again . But not for all families. Here is the bottom line:
If you spend around 20000 dollars per year and are not interested in manufactured spending , plan to use category 1 or 2 SPG hotel redemptions, would like to have the option of AAdvantage program and don’t need instant transfers, your pick should be SPG card.
If you spend close to or more than 30000 dollars per year, put considerable amount on groceries and gas, insist on instant transfers and don’t care about AAdvantage or hotel redemptions, go for Gold.
Next Monday I will make one final comparison between SPG Amex and Chase Sapphire Preferred, affectionately called the “king” of all credit cards. Among those, who spend like kings that is. Stay tuned.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.