Best Credit Cards

Amex SPG vs. CSR vs. Merrill+ Visa Signature

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the big news: the sign-up bonus on Starwood Preferred Guest  Card from American Express (personal and business versions) has been increased to 35,000 points.

Why is it a big deal? Three reasons:

  1. It’s been a year since we saw this bonus, so this particular offer is relatively rare, not to mention, highest ever.
  2. SPG is going to be absorbed into Marriott brand eventually, so presumably, the credit card will be discontinued. Nobody knows for sure, but that’s the assumption at the moment.
  3. SPG points can now be freely transferred to  Marriott via 1:3 ratio, which opens up more opportunities to utilize them. Marriott hotels are everywhere, so it makes it easier for normal family to leverage the sign-up bonus  during road trips.

The bonus structure is a bit different. Here are the details for personal version:

And here are the details for business version:

Obviously, the latter requires a bigger commitment when it comes to minimum spending threshold. But there is one compelling advantage compared to personal version: Sheraton Club access. This can be invaluable when you travel with family, though be aware that it’s limited to primary cardholder and a second guest.

Still, the kids don’t usually eat that much and even if you decide to bring them with you, I doubt anyone will care. I’m not telling you to do it, just making an observation. This benefit is valid on points reservations, not just paid ones. Here are the details, click on the screenshot if it’s hard to read:

I definitely consider both offers to be excellent, and last year I wrote about just few  ways you can leverage the bonus. For the most part, all the info there still applies, but do take note of upcoming category changes on SPG as well as Marriott.

Both  cards pay us commission if you apply through the blog. You can only apply for either card if you have’t had it in the past. So, in all likelihood, this news item is only relevant to new hobby recruits. If you already have Amex SPG credit card, you can use this page to refer friends  If you’ve recently applied for lower offer, contact Amex and see if they can match it.

Is this your last opportunity to pick up 35K points offer on both cards?

I have no idea. I’m fairly confident that it will not go higher than 35K points, but I could be wrong. I’m also pretty certain that it will go down to 25K points after April 5th.  It’s very possible that Amex will decide to increase  the offer to 35K points again if the card will indeed  end up on the chopping block due to Marriott takeover.

I can say this. If I were in the market for Amex SPG card, I would absolutely consider pulling the trigger before April 5th. Business version is especially lucrative for those who have upcoming stays in Sheraton properties with Club lounge. Getting breakfast, snacks and dinner for free is a wonderful thing for families on a budget.

One beachfront property that offers this perk is Sheraton Sand Key in Clearwater, Fl. It costs 10,000 SPG points per night, but you get the fifth one free. It hasn’t been affected by recent category changes, so this could be a great choice for your Spring Break vacation in 2018.

Sure, you would have to commit a good chunk of your spending, so it’s something to consider. You can read my post on ways you can prepay your expenses. Do not buy Visa gift cards because Amex will probably claw back your points! But other methods should be fine.

Other lucrative offers to consider instead

While I consider Amex SPG offer extremely compelling, it’s not a no-brainer. For one, there is still 100K points Chase Sapphire Reserve offer available in branch. If you can apply for it before March 12th, do it!  See my post on Chase Sapphire Reserve  and I think you’ll agree. The bonus on CSR will drop from 100K to 50K points on March 12th. Be aware, in-branch pre-approvals for this card have been removed, so this will only work if you are under  5/24.

If you are over 5/24 or don’t live near Chase branch, I recommend you consider applying for Merrill +Visa Signature right now. I recently wrote a post on it and consider it a hot offer, second only to CSR. It could literally disappear any day or it could be alive for several months. Hard to say. Neither offer pays us commission, so there is zero incentive to recommend them. Update: the link for Merrill card appears to be dead.

But overall, if I had to rate current non-targeted offers for those who are not 100% sure on what they will do with sign-up bonus, they would rank like this:

1) Chase Sapphire Reserve

2) Merril+Visa Signature

3) Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express (personal or business)

One compelling reason to go for business version of Amex SPG is if you want to stick to business cards which don’t show up on your personal credit report. I’m talking about folks who want to be under 5/24 limit so they can apply for lucrative Chase offers down the road. Sheraton Club access is a second reason to consider business version of Amex SPG. Of course, I only recommend it if you have a legitimate business.

One possible strategy for those who are over 5/24 limit and don’t want to wait it out. You can apply for Merrill offer right now and then pull the trigger on SPG card right before April 5th. Obviously, do the math and decide if you can handle the requirements. But if you have money in savings, it could make sense to prepay some expenses and buy gift cards to places where you frequently shop. I have no problem dropping $600 at Walmart every month, so that would be a good candidate.

Bottom line

I very rarely use hyperboles on this blog, but I have no problem saying that the offer on Amex SPG card is an excellent one. Whether you should apply for personal or business version will depend on your plans and ability to get the other two cards I’ve mentioned.

There is also a good chance that the offer may come back later this year, but it’s impossible to say for sure. So, if you’ve been thinking about getting Amex SPG card in a near future, you should probably consider doing so before April 5th.

Readers, who is planning to apply?

(Hat tip to US Credit Guide blog via Doctorofcredit)

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and 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.

8 thoughts on “Amex SPG vs. CSR vs. Merrill+ Visa Signature

  1. Wish this offer was around when I got this card a few years ago!

    I’d love to transfer about 40k SPG points to Marriott to get 120k marriott points. I never do SPG hotels/resorts. Not that they aren’t great, but there often tends to be an option just as good that I have access to either through timeshare rentals or other hotel points. And i tended to use SPG points to transfer to airlines. But I’d probably lean toward the 1:3 to Marriott if I found myself flush with SPG points.

    We could grab the biz card as my wife definitely needs one for her business. But we’ve scaled back on her Etsy business so don’t have a lot of spending planned there. And we can’t use Amex cards on some of our biggest expenses like daycare. If only there were no lifetime language on these!

    Ah well, I’ll just focus on meeting the minimum spend on our 60k delta, 50k AA, and 2 free night Fairmont offers before hopefully moving onto the 50k CSP. Ce la vie.

    But I echo your sentiment. This could be it for these cards. Grab em while you can.

    • Cheapblackdad, I also got my card back when the offer was 30K points, but it’s OK. Like you, I’m currently working on several cards. I don’t think we could handle another one. Can’t win them all!
      I would like to apply for Amex SPG business version, but I don’t have enough business expenses to qualify for the bonus. It’s not something Amex probably cares about, but I personally don’t feel right applying. But many do, and I don’t have any issues with it.

  2. I got in on the 35k with 3k spend last year on the personal spg. The spend for the business is way to high..and you can’t ms with Amex so I’ll pass. Working on my fairmont card and the Amex green cards.

    • @Ngwira I completely understand! Putting $8K on business version of SPG card is quite a commitment, especially if there are other lucrative offers available at the moment. Without MS it’s an even bigger challenge. I still think it’s a very lucrative offer, but as you’ve pointed out, there are some serious drawbacks.

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