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Last Call on Increased Amex SPG Offer, Plus “Sweet Spot” Redemptions for Normal Family

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.

Bottom line

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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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.

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13 thoughts on “Last Call on Increased Amex SPG Offer, Plus “Sweet Spot” Redemptions for Normal Family

  1. Note that kids under 12 are 50% off with Amtrak, so you get that much more value if you’re going to use them for Amtrak. Although given the number of uses of Starwood points, you’re probably better off going with the B of A Amtrak card if you want Amtrak points.

    • @Nick Very true! I remember that when I researched the whole Amtrak redemption scheme. And yeah, I would apply for BoA card before dipping into SPG stash, but it’s an option nonetheless.
      I was seriously thinking about taking my kids to DC by train, but it’s on hold for now. Maybe in a few years we’ll get there. Too many plans, not enough money!

      • Florida to DC would be a long train trip. CLT to DC is seven hours by car, nine by train, so I would guess that FL to DC would eat up an entire day. Maybe a one-way flight plus a one-way spring car rental? DC is tons of fun for families.

    • @Nick Yeah, super long trip, which is why I scrapped it for now. It sounded fun in theory, but I think the kids would lose their mind after few hours on the train. Not to mention, I don’t know if they would get any sleep.

  2. We went the SPG route early in starting travel hacking, and boy am I glad we did. We got a ton of use. We used them to book revenue tickets out of airports that award flights are rare in, and transferred them to airline partners. Super versatile. We actually never used them on a hotel stay.

    In general I’m just not a fan of Amex cards. I like to keep things simple and Amex is just a smidgen too complicated given how many institutions won’t accept them.

    • @Cheapblackdad I’ve actually never heard of anyone using SPG points on revenue tickets! I thought about mentioning that option, but the juice doesn’t seem to be worth the squeeze. Not with Flexperks and 1.5 cents on airfare per UR point via CSR. But yeah, it’s certainly an option for those who are short on cash.
      I hear you on Amex’ lack of acceptance as I’m dealing with this issue right now. I actually have a post in the works on the woes of dealing with Amex cards. Fortunately, you can always pay things via Plastiq, but it does add a layer of complexity not to mention, fees. Still, the bonus on Amex SPG is worth the potential headache IMO.

  3. I really should move some of our monthly non bonus spending to this card. I really want to plan a Kona trip for next summer and invite my entire family. Those Korean Skypass points really come in handy. Nancy’s post about her dad really reminded me how we need to do more family trips.

    • @Stephanie I totally hear you on not taking family trips for granted. I’m seriously thinking about bringing my parents here in March instead of November of 2017. My dad’s health has been declining, and who knows whether he will be able to handle flights to US much longer.
      On collecting SPG points for Korean transfer: going after UR points may be a better option. Chase also partners with Korean and transfers are instant. If you have Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll get 1.5 points on everything. That’s 1.5 Korean miles. Consider converting an existing Chase card to Freedom Unlimitd or possibly applying for it if your non-bonus spending is significant.

  4. Good point Leana. I have the Freedom, but is the unlimited under 5/24? If so, that’s out for both of us.

  5. @Stephanie Yes it is, unfortunately! So, yeah, maximize Freedom on 5% categories if you can. As far as 1 UR point vs. 1 SPG point comparison, the latter is technically more valuable. But as you may remember from my post here: https://milesforfamily.com/2017/03/06/case-study-chase-ur-portal-destroys-spg-award-redemption/
    you need to take the $95 fee into consideration. I think for an average joe who doesn’t accumulate a ton of points via everyday spending, it’s a real deal breaker.

  6. Leana, I pulled the trigger and applied (and got approved) for the Amex SPG using your link 🙂 Thanks for all your useful tips!!

    • @TropicGal Thank you so much for your support, as always! I do think it’s a very good deal, and I doubt you’ll regret getting the card. I will warn you, it’s hard to part with SPG points. You’ll be going through tough time deciding where to maximize value. Don’t drive yourself too crazy, though!
      Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

  7. Pingback: Miles and Points Recap: 35k Points Offer on Business Amex SPG, Hotel Promos, Maui Resorts and More - Miles For Family

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