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The American Express SPG (Starwood) Credit Card

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the MBNA spg credit card.  With SPG and MBNA parting ways, I have been waiting in eager anticipation what the new replacement would feature.  It was speculated that American Express would take over the Canadian portion of the program as they have a similar program in the US.  It appears that our suspicians were correct, and American Express is now an SPG partner.

For the unveiling of the new card, an American Express representative contacted me to attend the formal dinner to give feedback on the new offering.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it, but I did manage to grab the details from their website to share with you.

If you’ve never heard of SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest), it’s a popular hotel rewards program (Sheraton/Westin/Four Points etc) that gives you great bang for your buck.  In fact, the old MBNA card could potentially give you a 6% return on your spending depending on how you use the points.

Here are the features of the new American Express SPG credit card:

  • Receive 10,000 bonus Starpoints® — enough for up to three free nights.
  • Earn 1 Starpoint for every CDN$1 in purchases charged to the Card.
  • Receive a Free Weekend Night Award when you reach CDN$40,000 in purchases on the Card each year.
  • Earn Gold Preferred Guest status when you reach CDN$30,000 in purchases on the Card each year.
  • Extended Warranty, Purchase Assurance, Baggage Lost/Delay Insurance, Car Rental Damage Waiver, Flight Delay Insurance, and Hotel Burglary insurance.
  • Take advantage of many American Express Card membership benefits, including Front Of The Line®* access to some of the hottest events.
  • Enjoy the flexibility to pay balances in full or over time.
  • CDN$120 annual fee.*

The Good

I like how the card gives 1 starwood  point for every dollar spent from the get go.  The old card gave 1 point for every $2 spent, but gave bonuses when reaching spending thresholds.  Another attractive feature is the automatic Gold Status upgrade when reaching $30k in spending.  Gold Status potentially gives you upgrades and late checkout during SPG hotel stays.

As a fan of credit card included insurances, it doesn’t get much better than the offering on this credit card (except perhaps the Visa Infinite Cards).  Flight/baggage delay is a nice addition to the common credit card insurances offered.

The Bad

Unfortunately, there are significant set backs to this new card as well.  As someone who doesn’t believe in paying an annual fee for a credit card, the $120 annual fee on this credit card is relatively high.  As well, even if we try to put every expense through the card, AMEX just isn’t accepted everywhere which lowers the return.  That is unless you do a lot of shopping at Costco.

Final Thoughts

I was really hoping the continuation of a no fee SPG credit card to continue my loyalty to the SPG program.  However, with the $120 annual fee and the reduced AMEX acceptance, I don’t think I’ll be signing up for this card.  I’m going to wait to see what MBNA does with their replacement card, then go over my credit card options from there.

Edit:  I have signed up for this card to continue collecting SPG points and take advantage of the sign up bonus.  I may cancel the card upon renewal.

For those of you already collecting points, note that your SPG points will expire 1 year from your last activity.  For me, I have a substantial amount of points accumulated, so if I don’t collect any SPG points (via hotel stays/dinners) before Feb 2011, I will be transferring them to Aeroplan (20k SPG points = 25k Aeroplan).

For you SPG fans out there, what are your thoughts on the new card offering?

If you’re interested in the bonus offer, you can sign up here.

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Andrew March 3, 2010, 9:13 am

    Disappointing Card.

    MBNA Smart Cash Mastercard is 3% cashback on groceries and gas (5% for the first 6 months), up to a monthly maximum of $600 spent.
    All other purchases and food+gas over $600/month are 1% cashback.
    No annual fee.

  • Nabeel Jafferali March 3, 2010, 11:09 am

    Note 1 year expiry is from last qualifying activity. I don’t believe redemptions or account-to-account transfers count. Must be SPG points earned from hotel activity or SPG credit card.

  • Nabeel Jafferali March 3, 2010, 11:10 am

    Also, see http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/10402782-post1/ for more info on the replacement card.

  • Alexandra March 3, 2010, 11:54 am

    I think we would still sign up for the card – we have out-of-town trips every year, and prefer Starwood hotels. Making preffered status allows us to get upgrades, points, etc., which will equal free stays that easily exceed the $120 fee.

    We use American Express currently as our primary card. There are two places that I frequent that don’t take it – it is accepted everywhere else. And we also shop at Costco which only takes AMEX.

  • guinness416 March 3, 2010, 12:10 pm

    I’m with you, this is really disappointing. I’ve had an SPG rewards card for almost a decade now between the amex in the US and the mastercard here but the fee and the difficulty of getting to $30k with an amex definitely make this far less attractive. Having said that I’m totally acclimatized to not paying full price for hotel rooms at this point so will be a tough decision!

    We went with the Shoppers Optimum card from MBNA in lieu of the one they were automatically offering and it looks like it’ll work out well for us, as we spend a fortune in that place as it is.

  • Brendan March 3, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Waste of money. I use PCF mastercard. It is free, gets me 12 cents a litre off fuel and I build points I can use in a grocery store.
    You want good deals on hotel rooms? It’s called the internet.
    Priceline, westjet vacations, and allegient air in grandforks.
    If you cant afford those prices you really shouldnt be going on a trip.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader March 3, 2010, 2:10 pm

    Brendan, how do you get $0.12 off gas with the pcf mastercard?

  • Ray March 3, 2010, 2:37 pm

    I’m absolutely livid about this crappy new AMEX and then to make it even worse they have the gall to charge $120/year on top of the fact we can’t even use this card as our primary card.

    Anyways, obviously everyone got the MBNA Smart Cash card and we’ll just be booking those $50 checks and staying at Best Westerns for awhile until SPG sees the impact to their Starwood hotels plummet from less overall points issued through non-use of this card. Then maybe they’ll partner with a provider that will take the $40k/year from each of us.

    Until then MBNA continues to get the business with Mastercard.

  • bradr98 March 3, 2010, 3:10 pm

    There are much better strategies than to transfer those SPG points to Aeroplan. That’s just throwing away value. Better to use them on an SPG stay before doing that.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader March 3, 2010, 4:29 pm

      bradr98, you are right. I should have said that IF I don’t get to use them for SPG stays, then i’ll transfer.

  • Ms Save Money March 3, 2010, 3:41 pm

    Brendan – totally agree, I’ve had so many great hotel deals on priceline.

  • Brendan March 3, 2010, 5:35 pm

    Ms savemoney, its not just a money thing but I also found that there is always a catch, i.e. can only book in certain months, and for flights you sometimes had to hop on up to 3 different planes.

    Nothing is for free, and there is a price to be paid for everything.

  • canabiz March 3, 2010, 7:33 pm

    Not going to sign up for this card. I am also content with using Priceline and Hotwire for hotels. AMEX had an opportunity to gain some solid market here in Canada (not sure about its popularity in the States) but it seems they have let them go by.

  • jake March 3, 2010, 8:56 pm

    FrugalTrader – in Winnipeg, you get 12 cents/liter off if you get gas at the Superstore/Extra foods gas bars, as long as you pay with your PCF Mastercard or Debit card. It’s a wicked deal. I don’t think it’s as sweet anywhere else though.. probably cuz us Winnipeggers are cheap. :)

  • Lori March 3, 2010, 9:12 pm

    In Winnipeg, when you buy gas at a Superstore gas bar you get a Superbuck worth 3.5 cents per litre. If you pay for your gas with a PC Financial Mastercard, the amount of the Superbuck is increased to 12 cents per litre (these amounts do fluctuate, but have always been quite good compared to what the competition offers). Superbucks are vouchers for a specific amount of money off your purchase at Superstore. They are like cash in that they can be used to purchase anything in the store (except gas, prescriptions, tobacco) and are redeemable immediately. They have an expiry date that is about 2 months after the date of issue. You do not have to make any kind of minimum purchase to redeem a Superbuck, but your purchase should ideally be at least the amount of the Superbuck as they do not give change back on Superbucks.

    PC Financial Mastercard is awesome. You collect PC Points for every dollar you spend (anywhere) earning the equivalent of 1% of your purchases. You also get bonus PC Points when you purchase PC products at Superstore, and the cashier will give you a PC point for every Superstore bag/bin you use bag your groceries. PC Points are super easy to redeem at Superstore : when you pay with your PC Financial Mastercard, the cashier will ask you if you want to check your points, you say yes, and if you have at least $20 in points, you can redeem them right then and there. I am a household of one, not a big spender, and without even trying I have earned and redeemed $890 worth of PC points in the almost 6 years that I’ve been using the card. I also think that this is one of the best deals around as PC Points can be redeemed for groceries – something everyone needs and shops for regularly – and at Superstore, which tends to have the best grocery prices in Winnipeg.

    http://www.pcmastercard.pcfinancial.ca/rocen/index.htm?refId=sidenav

    http://www.pcpoints.ca/en/redirect_unsecure.asp?URL=about_frm.asp

  • MelissaG March 4, 2010, 1:35 am

    This is the first time I’ve heard of the Amex SPG.. It does look like a decent offer.. I’m going read further into it. Thanks.

  • James March 4, 2010, 1:12 pm

    Sad to see my SPG go, but for what they are offering, I cant justify $120 when I wont be able to use it for all my spending.

  • pappy March 4, 2010, 3:38 pm

    if it was ported straight across to AMEX, i would have considered it, but messing with the program, and then adding a fee for what appears few benefits, was a deal killer.

  • Mark Bisson March 7, 2010, 9:20 pm

    I am totally disappointed and shock with annual fee. What if it took me four years to accumulate four free nights at $120.00 annual fee? Do the math American Express executives. The Imperial Palace at $25.00 a night two weeks ago. Not a Sheraton property but it works. Good buy Starwood

  • R Arora March 8, 2010, 8:13 pm

    the MBNA SPG card got ALL of our business over the last 7 yrs and was very beneficial too since we travel a lot and use sheraton hotels all over the world.
    However this new AMEX with a super crazy high annual fee is definitely not worth it for us. we get spg points with my husband travelling n staying at spg properties , n the points we got with the MBNA mc made us use only that 1 card all the time getting a lot of business for MBNA> however if Im going to be asked to pay for it-and that too such a high fee for a card thats not accepted at so many places, and cab drivers because of their already high merchant fee, then I might as well take my business elsewhere. since they must have signed a contract of atl least 3-4 yrs with AMEX for this card its very sad to say that Im done. very very upset with SPG that they didnt listen to their customers and just went with a business decision that obviously most of their customers were not pleaqsed about—-all forums online focussed towards this express disdain over this AMEX with fee decision! if it was $40 it would be diff—this is crazy! Your loss SPG and AMEX.

  • Kal March 11, 2010, 9:01 pm

    Between my kids and I (4 adults cardholders) we spent an average of 4×35K=
    almost =$140 K annually.

    I have discussed with my children, and nobody is going to Amex because not only the fee is a detterent, but also the card is not welcomed at majority of stores because of the high merchant fees.

    So, goodbye Starwood, u are going to loose millions in business, u just lost over $140 K from one family alone.

  • mdb March 21, 2010, 1:52 pm

    First year free – worth trying it our for the 10k in bonus points IMO

  • Mark March 30, 2010, 6:57 pm

    To 22. mdb

    Your reading the US site not the Canadian. The annual fee is $120.00 10,000 bonus points will give you a free night but you just paid for it with the $120.00
    Come on American Express the room doesn’t really cost you anything. $10,000 increments previously gave you 5,000 bonus points now $30,000 gives you Gold status. I’ve called Starwood twice with minor issue and was given Gold status twice free for a year. Nobody on planet Earth gives something for free and increases to $120.00. I thing your probably going to anger everyone of your card holders and lose me (us).

  • Arora March 31, 2010, 11:15 am

    Ive been travelling in germany and austria these past 2 weeks and unfortunately most places I went to have not accepted an AMEX. I wont be going for it. Not worth the credit hit and managing multiple no. of cards. too inconvenient—and they want me to pay for the inconvenience. not happeneing.

  • coachdave March 31, 2010, 10:21 pm

    E-mail from SPG today (March 31st, 2010)

    “You asked to be the first to know, and you can now apply for our richest Card offer, which includes no annual fee for the first year.
    Apply before 31 May 20101 and you can take advantage of this limited-time offer of 11,000 Bonus Starpoints® — enough for up to 3 free nights.”

    They are waiving the $120 fee for the first year.

    Was anyone offered more than 11, 000 SPG Bonus Points ???

    Overall, a move in the right direction to waive the fee.

  • fantam April 3, 2010, 10:19 pm

    I signed up for the AMEX SPG Card when I found out they are waiving the first year annual fee. Nevertheless, most likely I will cancel the card after getting the 11,000 SPG bonus points to avoid paying the annual fee for the second year. Like Frugal Trader I also don’t believe in paying annual fees for cc’s when there are so many no-fee cards out there.

  • kal April 10, 2010, 1:40 pm

    First year free is really half free, in that Amex says, you are free but your partner, girl friend , spouse is not. So, cough up $50 for each additional card!

    Secondly, if you read the fine print and intend to use the card on international travell , beware, beware,beware.

    Amex fine print says they will convert the foreign currency first into US dollars and then convert US dollars into Canadian dollars, so eact time you use the card, you end up paying twice as much or even more for currency conversions?

    What a novice idea to rip off. This is corporate robbery.

    The only consumers who wouldn’t care, are the ones likely on corporate travel.

    Another reason to make this card least acceptable to individual traveller.

  • Dave April 16, 2010, 3:30 am

    What’s even more ridiculous is that the American version of this card charges $45 a year. Man we get screwed as Canadians! Why do we put up with the inequality?

  • Rollande April 21, 2010, 1:14 am

    I honestly don’t think anyone has considered what you are getting for the 120$ annual fee. Yes your right it seems high but think about how high the prices of starwood hotels around the world cost? The gold membership is something that you must earn by getting 10 stays or 25 nights to maintain. The first year is free and you can make a lot of points in that first year. Even if it did take you 4 years to make enough points which I doubt to stay for free and you did have to pay the 120$ fee that could be one night at a New york or even a montreal location. the W montreal can go for 379$ a night if you don’t have a corporate account. Although I was disappointed with the fee when it first came out the american’s get a lot of points for that card and if Canada really thinks that Starwood will reconsider the card I really don’t think that will happen because they have had great success with the AMEX in the states.

  • coachdave April 21, 2010, 7:09 pm

    Rollande,

    I’m a fan of SPG. My family and I just took a trip last summer to Southern California, Arizona using points and the points+cash options available to SPG members. I received my Amex SPG card yesterday and will be racking up as many points as I can over the next year (the first year is free). There is no question, SPG has a great card, however, I think Dave is right: $45 per year is much more reasonable of an annual fee for a card that many of us have enjoyed for years for FREE. For this reason, I’ll probably cancel my account after collecting the bonus and enjoying the one free year unless Amex drops the fee or cancels it outright. There are too many other deals out there to stick with a product that’s no longer competitive.

    American Express Business Gold Rewards Card – 25,000 bonus points and the first year free for example.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 21, 2010, 9:14 pm

    Like coachdave mentioned, Canadians are used to the no annual fee version. However, if the card user travels a lot, can take advantage of gold status, and use AMEX for most of their spending, then the fee may be justified. However, I suspect that most will take advantage of the free year to keep their account active then cancel in 12 months.

  • EdM July 8, 2010, 1:54 pm

    I don’t understand how American Express in Canada can offer us only 10,000 bonus points when in the U.S. they have a promotion for the same card for 30,000 bonus points. As well the annual fee is only $45 versus $120 here in Canada. All these Canadian businesses and our government rob us blind here!
    I recently got the card. But now I’m thinking of canceling it considering what a cheesy deal this is compared to our US counterpart.

    Here is the offer links:

    Canada’s offer:

    http://www.americanexpress.com/canad…=GS12_01_SP_01

    U.S. Offer
    https://www143.americanexpress.com/a…canexpress.com

    Also found another U.S. offer that beats our hands down:

    http://www201.americanexpress.com/ge…EqkhhlGECbAPnA

  • Kal December 11, 2010, 5:36 pm

    Amex is being thrown out by Canadian businesses. Ikea has severed relations with them and are not accepting any more.most small and medium retailers don,t accept it. I will be canceling it. They have to come to senses and bring it par to other cards for traders to accept and for cardholders to be able to use same.

  • R Arora December 11, 2010, 8:07 pm

    MBNA travel elite offered to SPG customers without the fee is great. you can book any travel related thing-not restricted to SPG properties, so it gives more choice as well. Their site is also pretty easy to use. we already used 2 nights to stay in beautiful Stowe in Vermont and had no problem at all.

    WIll be cancelling SPG Amex when the waived off fee period is over. Too bad.

  • Ray January 31, 2011, 8:40 pm

    Hi all – now that the AMEX SPG free period is coming up to expiry, I’m interested in my options. While it was free my wife and I both got one and loaded up on the points. Now that they will start charging I would like to minimize my costs…

    What options do I have? Can I just cancel hers and add her as an authorized user to my account? And if so, do we get separate bills and/or itemization?

    If not an authorized user, can we get some sort of family account where we have our own card numbers?

    I don’t even want to pay this fee once, nevermind twice.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader January 31, 2011, 11:14 pm

    @Ray, our free period is coming to an end as well. With our limited usage of the AMEX card, we’ll likely cancel.

    If you cancel one card, I believe that you can add authorized users to the card that you keep. All expenses will come in the one bill as it’s one bill per card. I’m not sure about amex, but MBNA does not itemize expenses by user.

  • Chris May 16, 2011, 10:15 pm

    I have had my SPG card now for a year, and intended to cancel the card to avoid paying the fee after first year free.
    I was told by the person at AMEX that I called that if I cancelled, I would lose all the Starwood points gathered on the card……it was such a weird thing to hear, that I got a bit confused, didnt know what to say, and ended the call. But I have just read all the fine print and I see nothing about this cancellation policy.
    ANyone have any idea it its true

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader May 16, 2011, 11:11 pm

    @Chris, I don’t think that is accurate. My understanding is that once spg points are transfered to your SPG account, you own them. It’s a possibility that you’ll lose your SPG points accumulated for that month though prior to transfer.

  • Dixie July 13, 2011, 5:16 pm

    I only pay an annual fee for one credit card BMO airmiles. I was looking at AMEX spg I will not pay the fee the hotel nights are tempting. I will look around there are many reward travel miles to be had.

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