As you probably know, few weeks ago, Amex surprised everyone by introducing The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express. As a result, my reader Stephanie asked me this question and I thought it deserved a separate post. Here is her dilemma:
“Since the new AMEX Business Blue Plus came out, would it be worth it to keep the SPG Amex for non-bonus spending? I’m wondering if MR points (especially since you can transfer them to airlines but not sure to who else) are more valuable than SPG points. Wondering if you saw any write up on it.”
First of all, the answer is not that simple and depends on several factors. Namely:
a) How much non-bonus spending you put on credit cards per year.
b) Your main goal for points.
In case you are not familiar with the offer, here are the details on The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express :
- Special Offer: Earn 20,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in qualifying purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Get rewarded for business as usual. Earn 2X points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners.
- 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
- 0.0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99%
- The variable APR rate is based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
- No Annual Fee
Update: the bonus on the offer has been removed. It does pay us commission if you choose to support the site. Basically, you’ll be getting 2 MR points per dollar on everything, on up to $50K per year. Unless you are an MS enthusiast, this restriction shouldn’t make any difference. With that, let me hopefully guide you through the decision making process.
1) SPG is quite different from Amex MR program, but there is one important caveat.
You can convert 1,000 MR points to 333 SPG points, but you can’t do it the other way around. This is an important note because if you earn 3 MR points per dollar, you are effectively getting 1 SPG point, which is the most you can accumulate via Amex SPG itself.
Sometimes MR program has a bonus on transfers to SPG, though you can’t count on it. But wait, Amex Blue Plus for Business earns only 2 MR points per dollar! True, but there is another MR-earning card that will let you get a better return on your spending in certain categories (more on that later).
2) Overall, Amex MR program is probably a better fit than SPG when it comes to most middle-class families.
This is my opinion, of course, but hear me out. Transfers to many airline programs are instant, and that is a huge deal. Found a saver award on American? You can transfer MR points to Avios and book it within minutes. Yes, the transfer rate isn’t great (250 MR=200 Avios), but at least you can get it booked. Compare it to SPG that takes 5 days to transfer to BA Avios program. If you need 4 or more tickets and plan to travel during peak season, they may be long gone by then.
3) If you have a lot of flexibility and like to redeem points on Amtrak and low category SPG/Marriott hotels, then Amex SPG may be a better fit.
The latter is probably the most compelling reason to stick with Amex SPG. Let’s say you want to stay in a Category 2 Marriott (10,000 MR points or 3,333 SPG points). You would need to spend $3,333 on your Amex SPG vs. $5,000 on Amex Blue Plus for Business. The math works like this: You spend $5,000 and collect 10,000 MR points in the process. You then transfer them to SPG (10,000 MR points=3,333 SPG points), and then to Marriott. Makes sense?
4) SPG program has the most airline transfer partners.
Some airline programs only partner with SPG. The usual suspects: Alaska Air and American AAdvantage. Alaska miles are very flexible and widely regarded to be the most valuable out there. I concur (in theory, at least).
While American AAdvantage program has lost its luster due to lack of saver availability, there are good deals to be had, especially when it comes to partner redemptions. Also, over the last few years, SPG has been running a bonus on transfers to AAdvantage, effectively letting you get 1.5 AA miles per SPG point as long you transfer at least 20K points.
5) But don’t forget to factor in annual fee on Amex SPG.
This is hugely important. Amex SPG comes with $95 annual fee, while Amex Blue Plus for Business comes with none. So you need to be reasonably sure you’ll recoup it before you put all of your eggs in one SPG basket.
6) If you haven’t yet applied for Amex Everyday Preferred, you should probably get it before Amex Blue Business Plus.
You can potentially earn 4.5 MR points on groceries (on up to $6,000 per year), 3 points per dollar on gas purchases and 1.5 points on everything else. You can read my detailed analysis of this card as well as my post on best MR transfer options for regular family. This offer no longer pays us commission, but I still think it’s a must for any MR lover out there. Here is direct link Be aware, this application link only offers 15,000 points sign-up bonus, but you may do better opening it up in incognito mode. YMMV
So, why rush to apply for this card first? Well, it’s possible Amex is planning to discontinue this product since it’s been removed from affiliate channels. I honestly don’t know, but like I said, if you want to collect MR points and routinely buy groceries and gas, you should consider it regardless.
Let’s say you have $1,500 in non-bonus monthly spending, and you’ve decided to focus on MR program. Let’s assume $200 is spent on gas and $500 on groceries (at an actual grocery store). Note that many grocery stores will sell Visa/retailer gift cards and let you pay with a credit card.
Here is what you’ll earn at the end of the year: a total of 48,600 MR points. If you use The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express instead, you’ll get 36,000 MR points.
Yes, Amex Everyday Preferred has a $95 annual fee, but I think most people value 12,600 MR points at more than that amount. I know I do. Of course, there is something to be said about simplicity, and that’s where Blue Business Plus truly shines. You don’t have to make 30 transactions per month or worry about bonus categories.
7) Consider pairing up Amex Everyday Preferred and The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express in order to squeeze the most value out of your non-bonus spending.
Simply use the former for groceries and gas, and latter for everything else. Boom. Amex Blue Business Plus doesn’t have an annual fee, so you don’t have to worry about “keep vs. cancel” conundrum. Be aware, it is a business card, so technically, you are not supposed to use it for personal expenses. However, I’m not here to give you a lecture on it, and banks don’t usually care.
8) In the battle of MR vs. SPG, the winner may be…. Ultimate Rewards.
Something this reader mentioned to me is that she really likes to collect SPG points because they transfer to Korean program. In the past, she was successful in redeeming this currency on tickets to Hawaii at 25K miles roundtrip and even wrote about her experience on my blog.
I know she also likes to collect UR points and plans to renew a premium Chase credit card, so I suggested that she may want to stick with that program instead. This is especially true if you happen to have Chase Freedom Unlimited which earns 1.5 UR points per dollar on everything. Why? UR program partners with Korean as well.
If you don’t have Chase Freedom Unlimited, then focusing on SPG points may be the way to go, but it does come down to scale. If you can easily collect enough points in order to take advantage of 5,000 miles bonus on each 20K transfer, great. If not, then it’s pointless to add yet another card with an annual fee to your wallet.
Be aware, it looks like Amex is currently offering some really juicy retention offers on Amex SPG. Before canceling, call and see what’s available. Also, if you happen to have a business version of Amex SPG, you may want to hold on to it if you value free Sheraton Club access.
You may also want to read my post Membership Rewards vs. Ultimate Rewards: Which Program Is Best for a Middle-Class Family? In general, there is an overlap when it comes to the most valuable airline transfer partners, but there are programs unique to each bank.
Overall, I consider MR program inferior to UR when it comes to rewards and will do another post on it soon. However, if you value Delta, Jet Blue and ANA transfer options, you should focus on accumulating MR points. Read my post Looking into Europe Business Class Award Redemption via ANA Mileage Program
As I’ve said in the beginning of the post, the question of which flexible points you should focus on is not an easy one to answer. In general, I think 2 MR points are more valuable than 1 SPG point, but you may feel differently. So do the math and figure out what will benefit you the most. And don’t forget to factor in the annual fees!
Readers, what are your thoughts?
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.