As many of you know, the 35k points bonus on Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit card from American Express will be reduced tomorrow. Is it a big deal? It kind of is…for some. First things first. Here are the details on the card, in case you are not familiar with it (bolding is mine):
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $4,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months. Offer ends 11/1/2017.
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint® for all other purchases.
- Redeem Starpoints® for free nights at over 1,300 hotels & resorts in over 100 countries and for free flights on over 150 airlines with SPG Flights. Some hotels and resorts have mandatory service charges.
- Free, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
The card does pay us commission. So, basically, in order to take full advantage of this offer, you have to commit $10k in spending during the first 6 months, or $1,666 per month. While not an outrageous amount, it’s definitely significant enough for many people to look the other way. That’s absolutely understandable.
Who should consider applying
There is no precise formula to determine which card is the perfect fit for each specific person, but I will attempt to put together a guide for this particular offer.
1) You’ve never had a business version of Amex SPG card before.
This one is obvious. You can only receive the bonus offer if you’ve never had this product before. If you’ve previously had a personal version of the card, you are fine.
2) You own a business and spend a significant amount on it each month.
Keep in mind, buying cash equivalents will preclude you from getting a sign-up bonus, so ALL of the spending need to be organic. Also, I wouldn’t rely too much on services like Plastiq. Few weeks ago I tried to set up a car payment via Plastiq and wasn’t able to do so. They temporarily blocked American Express, but are currently working on resolving the issue. I’m a bit concerned about Plastiq right now as far as their likelihood of survival goes.
You may want to read my post for ways to meet minimum spending requirements without resorting to manufactured spending.
3) You fall under 5/24 rule with Chase.
The sign-up bonus of 80k UR points on Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is far superior to SPG card, in my opinion. You can read about it here Unfortunately, it’s subject to Chase 5/24 rule. You may want to read my post on all the reasons why starting out with lucrative Chase offers can make a lot of sense for newbies.
As of now, the business version of Amex SPG is not subject to any restrictions. Well, aside from one bonus/per lifetime and a good credit score requirement. There is no telling what Amex may do in a near future as far as approval restrictions are concerned. Banks don’t exactly announce this sort of thing in advance. We were fortunate to have a Chase “mole” who spilled the beans on 5/24 rule extending to co-branded credits in 2016, but that may not be the case going forward.
4) You only intend to apply for one credit card in the next six months and want to make it count.
Obviously, there are many other lucrative offers that could be a better fit for you. Still, as bonuses go, this is a decent one because SPG points are incredibly valuable, as well as versatile (more on that later).
5) You are concerned that Amex may never again raise the sign-up bonus on business version of Amex SPG.
I’m not going to make predictions because I honestly have no clue on this one. But we do know that due to Marriott takeover, the card may be discontinued soon. When? That’s a million dollar question. Remember Citi Hilton cards and how there was almost no warning on them going away? That could happen with SPG cards too. On the other hand, the card may survive the takeover and live happily ever after.
6) You value Sheraton Club access and have solid plans to stay in a property that happens to have one.
This is a perk that is unique to the business version of the card. You can find all the properties that have a Sheraton Club here Sheraton Club access allows you to have free breakfast and snacks in the evening for up to two people staying in the room. It is valid on award rates, which is huge because I almost always use hotel points on stays.
I’m not sure if properties actually enforce two-person limit. If so, each parent can simply go and get food and then just order something via room service for the kids. If you are staying one night or if an employer is reimbursing your expenses, this benefit may be of little significance. But if you go on a 5+ night vacation, the savings will surely add up.
“Sweet spot” redemptions for middle-class family
1) Redeeming SPG points on Amtrak.
You can get close to 3 cents per point, so your 45K points (after you meet the minimum spending) will get you close to $1,350 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 few years ago 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 is a category 2 property. That means it costs 3,000 SPG 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. My blogging partner Nancy 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. You may want to read Nancy’s yesterday’s post on best Marriott/SPG hotels for families of five or more.
4) You are looking to combine SPG and Marriott points, so you can redeem them on a 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 always 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.
Now and again, SPG gives an extra 20%-30% bonus on transfers to AAdvantage, like the promo that expires today. For AA lovers, this could partially take the sting out of recent devaluations and lack of sAAver 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 miles on roundtrip off-peak tickets to South America or Europe on American metal.
While I don’t think everyone with a business should apply for this card right now, the offer is attractive enough that you should at least consider it for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Will there be another opportunity to pick up 35k SPG points? Quite possibly. Will it be as easy to get approved for someone who constantly switches credit cards? Hard to say.
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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.