Relax, this is not a high-pressure sales pitch post! So, as I’m sure most of you are aware, the increased offers on Amex SPG (personal and business versions) are due to expire tomorrow. So, the question arises: Is this news item a big deal? Yes, it definitely is. SPG points are extremely valuable as well as versatile.
But is applying for this card right now a no-brainer? No, it’s definitely not. Keep in mind, there are other lucrative limited-time offers currently on the market, like Wells Fargo Propel World. Unfortunately, it looks like the online link for Merrill card is dead… again.
However, if you already got those cards or perhaps your applications were denied, Amex SPG should be on your radar. And of course, the biggest reason to consider Amex SPG is the fact that it will most likely be discontinued in a year or so. Will Amex increase the bonus to 35K points again? Who knows. I sure don’t and I’m not about to take a guess.
So, let’s assume you are looking to apply for personal version. You qualify for the bonus if you’ve never previously received it. First, here are the details:
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
- Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Earn extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 04/05/2017
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
- Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
- Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- The offer pays us commission if you apply through the blog
So, basically, you have to commit to spending $5,000 in 6 months. It shouldn’t be an issue for most families. But is it worth it? It might be if you are considering doing one of these things:
1) Redeeming SPG points on Amtrak.
You can get close to 3 cents per point, so your 40K points (after you meet the minimum spending) will get you close to $1,200 worth of train travel. Not too shabby! SPG is the only transfer partner of Amtrak (1:1 basis), so this is a unique opportunity for train lovers out there.
2) Redeeming points on category 1 and 2 SPG properties.
Those are usually no-brainers. I suggested this offer to one of my readers last year because she was planning on visiting Niagara Falls with her family (a total of five people). There is a Sheraton there that is a category 2. That means it costs 3,000 points on weekends, 4,000 points on weekdays. You can fit 5 in one room, and it’s located close to the Falls on Canadian side. The reader said at this rate they will redeem points on two rooms. And why not?
Let’s say you stay a total of five nights, two on a weekend. It would cost you 18,000 points total. So one bonus will take care of two rooms for five nights. Even with conservative estimate of $125 total you would have to pay for vacation rental in high season, you should be getting a value of $625. Squeeze all five in one room, and you would make out like a bandit.
Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort recently became a category 2 property. That means it costs 3,000 points during weekends, 4,000 points on weekdays. This is good news for families looking for an affordable place near Disney. Just watch out for parking fees.
If you don’t mind a bit of a drive (25 minutes or so), there is a Four Points by Sheraton Studio City that happens to be a category 2, which is a bargain for Orlando area. It’s located close to Universal Studios park, and would provide a good base for exploring the area. Rooms have two queen size beds with a possibility of adding a rollaway.
You can see hotel listings and corresponding categories on this SPG page (scroll all the way down).
3) You have plans to stay at Marriott properties that are category 1, 2 and 3.
Those cost 7,500, 10,000 and 15,000 points respectively. Marriott takeover has made SPG points even more valuable and versatile. Since you can transfer them to Marriott on 1:3 basis, you can score some sweet deals at various low category properties.
This can come in handy during road trips because Marriott has a fantastic footprint, unlike SPG. Plus, don’t forget, you will get every 5th night free.
3) You are looking at redeeming points on SPG and Marriott resorts during peak season.
Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater, Fl. is a good example. It’s a category 4, so the cost is 10,000 points per night. If you stay 5 nights total, the last night is free. The room will fit five with a rollaway. I can tell you for sure that paying 8,000 points per night for this resort during Spring Break is a tremendous bargain.
Rooms go for $300 per night at this very popular beach destination. No, I’m not saying they are worth it, but using points makes sense in this particular case. Nancy who is a regular contributor for this blog stayed at this resort with her family and they all enjoyed it. Read her trip report
You might also look at this property: The Westin Cape Coral Resort It’s a category 4, and could be a good deal on points during high season. It’s not on the beach, but it sure looks nice. Plus, they do have a free boat shuttle to Fort Myers beach. A tip for families with two small kids: You might be able to upgrade to a 1-bedroom suite for extra 1,500 SPG points per night.
Unfortunately, there is only one king bed in a separate bedroom and a regular couch in the living room. If you bring an inflatable mattress, it would accommodate the whole family. I spoke to the resort manager and he said it would be fine. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s only an option for those with very small kids.
Marriott has decent deals as well, though most beachfront resorts cost 35,000 (11,666 SPG) points or more. Still, it’s a good option during high season, especially since you get 5th night free.
4) You are looking to combine SPG and Marriott points, so you can redeem them on Marriott Travel Package.
There are many options like United, Alaska, Avios, Korean Sky Pass and more. Southwest travel package no longer counts towards Companion Pass, but it can still be a good deal for many families.
5) You are looking to combine SPG and Marriott points and redeem them on SPG “Nights and flights” Package.
This can also be a very good deal under certain circumstances. Read more details on this page of SPG website.
6) You absolutely need AAdvantage or Alaska Air miles.
SPG is the only program that partners with those airlines. Be aware, transfers are not instant, so this is a huge bummer for families. AA transfer does take around 2-3 days, not bad. So, you can can put your award seats on hold, and hope and pray that the miles will show up in time. You get extra 5K miles on every 20K transfer.
For the last two years, SPG gave an extra 20% bonus on transfers to AAdvantage during summer months. For AA lovers, this could partially take the sting out of recent devaluations and lack of award availability. Of course, there is also an option to simply use Alaska or Etihad programs (American partners).
Miles in both airlines transfer from SPG 1:1 and they happen to have pre-devaluation rates on many of the popular routes, like 40K roundtrip tickets to South America or Europe on American metal. See this post on Milevalue for more on this subject.
I rarely dedicate several posts to the same credit card offer, but I made an exception in this particular case. It’s true, it does pay us commission, but I have no problem recommending it regardless. Only you can determine if this offer is right for you (it may not be), but I can say with absolute confidence that this is a fantastic deal under the right circumstances.
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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.