- Live Blog: Follow The Marriott-Starwood Program Merger Announcement!
- 3 Starwood AMEX Cards In The New Marriott Program: A Comparison Chart Of The Good, The Bad, And The Horrific
- Comparison Chart: How Marriott’s August 2018 And February 2019 Award Chart Compares With The Current SPG And Marriott Award Charts
- Marriott Got Almost Everything Perfect, But The Starwood AMEX Cuts Are Just Too Painful
- Rack Up The Starpoints While You Still Can: There Will Be 6 Months Of Amazing Starwood Hotel Bargains!
David Flueck, SVP of Global Loyalty for Marriott, helped launch the Starwood AMEX, so he should know a thing or 2 about creating a valuable card. After all, the Starwood AMEX has endured as a valuable card for well over a decade, no easy feat in the competitive credit card space.
Which is why I was surprised to hear this from Mr. Flueck today about the SPG AMEX card,
Most cardmembers spend under $35,000 and if you spend under $35,000, the card just got richer. Which is amazing news for the vast majority of cardmembers. On your everyday spend it’s true, it’s going to 2 points per dollar. But you also get a free night certificate up to 35,000 points, and that’s why it gets richer for anyone that spends under $35,000.
For those that spend more, that’s why we launched the luxury card, which is fantastic. It comes with a free night up to 50,000 points, a $300 statement credit when you stay in Marriott hotels, a $100 Global Entry credit, and you can spend $75,000 to get Platinum status. For those people who are high spenders, I think they’re going to love being able to get Platinum in our hotels.
That statement has more spin on it than my washing machine.
Mr. Flueck is asserting that the Starwood AMEX cards will give richer rewards for most people despite that as of August they will only award 2 Marriott points (0.67 Starpoints) per dollar instead of 3 Marriott points (1 Starpoint) per dollar. That’s because the card will give a free annual night at hotels that cost up to 35K points.
That would be fine and dandy if the card gave a 35K annual bonus, but it does not. A free night is valuable, but it is not worth 35K points.
- The free night will be awarded regardless if you have any spending at all, so it won’t have any effect on the equation of which card I use for my everyday spending.
- The free night will expire after a year, while 35K points does not.
- If you have 35K points and want to stay at a hotel that costs 40K points that’s perfectly fine. However the 35K anniversary night can’t be used for anything towards a 40K hotel night.
- The most surprising part of his assertion to me, is that Mr. Flueck surely knows that many people use the Starwood card as way to earn extremely versatile and valuable points. It’s an excellent way of earning transferable airline miles or hotel stays. The free night is great, but it does nothing to help the card’s value proposition for earning a versatile currency.
I think it’s great that Marriott managed to keep the redemption side of Starwood intact. But their murder of the Starwood AMEX card as a go-to card for spending shows just how clueless they are about what SPG loyalists fans loved about their credit card.
There are cards that excel for a great signup bonus, cards that excel for their benefits, and cards that excel for spending.
The Starwood AMEX has had a smaller signup bonus than some other cards. It doesn’t have some of the flashy travel benefits that other cards have. But it has always excelled as a card for everyday spending. It has earned 1 Starpoint per dollar (equal to 3 Marriott points) which could be transferred into 1.25 airline miles, used for hotel stays, or used for experiences like playing softball in Wrigley Field or throwing out the first pitch before Game 7 of the World Series.
That will all change in August when the card will only award 2 Marriott points (0.67 Starpoints) per dollar spent. Instead of earning 1.25 airline miles per dollar spent you will only earn 0.84 airline miles per dollar spent. The card will go from a great option for everyday spending to a really crummy one.
The Starwood business card at least gets a small bone. It will earn 4 Marriott points per dollar (1.33 Starpoints per dollar) on US restaurants, US gas stations, US wireless phone services, and US shipping charges. However the only category there that’s mildly compelling is gas stations because other cards give much bigger bonuses for the other categories. Even the gas station category isn’t all that compelling for me as my local Costco gas station is always much cheaper than other stations and they no longer take AMEX cards.
Frankly, I’m surprised that AMEX allowed Marriott to do this. This card will no longer be competitive with other more lucrative everyday spending cards and that will hurt both AMEX and Marriott in the long run due to fewer people using the card and less points being sold by Marriott to AMEX.
Yes, I’ll keep my Starwood cards open for the free annual night and valuable AMEX Offers. But I won’t use the card for everyday purchases after 8/1.
I’m even more surprised that AMEX is launching an ultra-premium $450/year Starwood Luxury card that will still only earn 0.67 Starpoints per dollar spent. Sure, that card has even better benefits that can make this a compelling card to have, including an annual free night with a value up to 50K points, $300 Marriott credit, Global Entry, and Priority Pass. But I’m shocked that even the premium card doesn’t make a compelling case for everyday spending. It’s great for those who need to earn Platinum status via $75K in credit card spend, but doing that means earning 0.84 airline miles per dollar instead of 1.5-2 airline miles per dollar on other cards. That’s a massive sacrifice for a status that gives free breakfast (though surprisingly not at Ritz-Carlton), 4pm late checkout (though not guaranteed at resorts where they are most useful) and potential suite upgrades at checkin, but won’t come with confirmed suite nights as those are only awarded to those who have 50 actual hotel nights.
In other words, it’s easy to recommend having all 3 Starwood AMEX cards for their free nights and other benefits, but very hard to justify putting everyday spend on the cards.
That’s a shocking 180 degree turn from the Starwood AMEX that I’ve loved using for the past 12+ years that has excelled at everyday spending.
In summary, Mr. Flueck is correct about the card becoming more valuable, but only for people that spend nothing on their card. They will enjoy the free annual night that will be worth more than the annual fee as well as benefits like free premium WiFi and silver elite status.
However he’s wrong about adding value for the vast majority of cardmembers. For most people, Marriott has destroyed the incentive to actually take the Starwood AMEX card out of their sock drawer and use it for everyday spending. And that’s a real shame.
How will your spending habits change after the 8/1 SPG AMEX changes?