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Like a lot of readers I hold both the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express as well as the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit card and, with SPG and Marriott Rewards becoming one unified program in August, I’ve been wondering what to do with my credit cards.
The Chase Marriott Visa card isn’t really changing going forward while the SPG Amex will offer a different suite of benefits from August with the full set of changes rolling out in 2019.
Ignoring the few months that are left of 2018 here’s how the two current credit cards will compare come 2019:
As you can see there’s very little point in keeping both cards in their current guise – they’re just too similar – so what should I do?
In favor of the Marriott Premier Visa card is the fact that it costs $10/year less than the SPG Amex and earns 1 elite night per $5,000 spent….but there are downsides too.
The SPG Amex card may cost $10/year more but it offers better earnings at Marriott properties, a better free night certificate and offers a path to Gold status for those willing to spend $35,000 on the card.
My personal circumstances dictate that the ability to earn Gold status is meaningless (I’m about to earn lifetime Platinum status with Marriott) and I rarely spend enough on my Marriott Visa to make the elite night credits all that big of deal so that leaves me with this question:
Do I want to spend an extra $10/year to have better earnings at Marriott properties and the better free night certificate?
Clearly the answer to that question is “yes” so, on the face of things, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express is the one to keep….or is it?
Chase has recently introduced the Marriott Premier PLUS Visa card which offers all the same benefits that the SPG Amex card will offer from 2019 and it offers them for the same annual fee.
The interesting thing is that Chase is currently offering a bonus of up to 50,000 points to anyone who upgrades from the $85/year Marriott Visa to the $95/year Marriott Premier Plus Visa and those points can be useful.
On top of that it’s worth remembering that Visa cards are much more widely accepted (worldwide) than Amex cards so, when traveling abroad, a Visa card may be more useful than an Amex card.
Now the better idea looks to be one where I upgrade to the Marriott Premier Plus Visa card and cancel the SPG Amex instead.
If only that was the end of the debate!
My Amex SPG card is the oldest credit card I hold so it plays a significant role in keeping up the average age of my credit card portfolio (that’s important in helping me maintain my ~800 FICO score) so I’m not all that happy with the idea of giving it up.
As I’ve already established that there’s little point in keeping both the Chase and Amex cards the SPG Amex will either have to be downgraded/product changed or upgraded.
The upgrade option is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card which is due to be released in August.
Here’s how the two Starwood American Express card match up:
The “luxury” card comes with a hefty $450 annual fee but $300 of that can be offset by statement credits from stays at Marriott and Starwood properties so, essentially, the annual fee is $150.
For the added $55 the luxury card offers:
- A better free night certificate
- Better complimentary status
- A path to Platinum status
- better spending at U.S. restaurants
- A Global Entry/TSA credit
- Priority Pass select membership
That’s isn’t a bad suite of benefits if you don’t have other premium credit cards but, as I hold multiple premium credit cards already (which offer benefits #5 & #6 and better benefits than #4) and as I should shortly have Marriott lifetime Platinum status, only benefit #1 is of any added value.
While I probably would pay an extra $55/year to have access to a 50,000 point per night accommodation certificate I’m not going to be upgrading to the SPG Luxury card from American Express.
The problem is that I don’t know if Amex will exclude me from any future sign-up bonuses if I upgrade to the SPG Luxury card, cancel/downgrade it somewhere down the line and the reapply.
Generally speaking Amex only offers one sign-up bonus per card per lifetime and, although I may not get any kind of bonus for upgrading to the luxury card, who knows how Amex will view this going forward.
That leaves me with only one other option – I’ll product change my SPG Amex card to another no annual fee Amex card for which I’ve either already had a sign-up bonus or which generally offers a sign-up bonus I don’t care about.
My plan is as follows:
- Upgrade my Marriott Premier Visa card to the Marriott Premier Plus Visa card
- Product change my Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express to a no-fee Amex card.
This way I end up paying $85/year fewer annual fees (net) and I’ll gain…
- Better earnings at Marriott properties
- A better free night certificate
And I’ll keep….
- A Visa card (more widely accepted than Amex worldwide)
- My credit score age (because I’m not canceling my oldest credit card I’m just product changing it)
- The same number of cards eligible for Amex offers
As far as I can see that’s the best outcome I can hope for.
Anyone else care to venture a different opinion? What are you guys doing if you hold both the Chase Marriott Premier Visa and the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express?