Should You Use Your SPG Amex At Marriott Properties? Possibly Not.

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Marriott & Starwood have announced that, with immediate effect, SPG Amex cardholders will earn bonus Starpoints at Marriott properties and Chase Marriott Visa card holders will earn bonus points at Starwood properties worldwide. While having more options is always good news I’m not sure I agree with a lot of commentators who seem to think that using your SPG Amex at Marriott properties is now the way to go.

New Credit Card Earning Rates At Marriott & Starwood Properties

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  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express – 2 Starpoints/dollar spent at all Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties.

chase-marriott-credit-card

  • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card & the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card – 5 Marriott Rewards points/dollar spent at Starwood properties.

The Math

The argument that I’ve heard put forward for using your Amex SPG card instead of your Chase Marriott Visa card at Marriott properties centres around the math:

1 Starpoint converts to 3 Marriott Rewards points therefore 2 Starpoints/dollar (what the Amex SPG earns at Marriott properties) is essentially the same as 6 Marriott Rewards Points/dollar…..which is 1 point/dollar more than you’d earn with the Marriott Visa card.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

I can think of two reasons why sacrificing the extra 1 points/dollar may be the right way to go.

Reason 1

For every $3,000 a cardholder spends on the Chase Marriott Visa card (anywhere) they get 1 night credit towards elite status in the Marriott Rewards program and, with Marriott having some of the toughest criteria for earning status, every night could count.

Even if you’ve already earned status for the year Marriott allows its Rewards members to roll over any nights over an above the nights needed for the status they’ve earned – the nights earned from the Marriott credit card spend may not be important this year but how about next year?

Reason 2

To put it simply – Marriott lifetime status.

Marriott Lifetime status is based on a combination of the number of Marriott Rewards Points earned and the number of Elite Qualifying nights earned since a guest first joined the Marriott Rewards program:

  • Lifetime Silver – 250 nights & 1,200,000 Marriott Rewards Points
  • Lifetime Gold – 500 nights & 1,600,000 Marriott Rewards Points
  • Lifetime Platinum – 750 nights & 2,000,000 Marriott Rewards Points

Every Marriott Rewards point earned from the Marriott Visa card puts you closer to Marriott Lifetime status (as does every night earned as discussed in reason# 1).

Transfers from Starwood to Marriott don’t count towards Marriott lifetime status so if you use your SPG American Express card for your Marriott stays you may effectively earn marginally more Marriott Rewards points but they won’t be points that will count towards lifetime status.

With all the aspirational Starwood properties about to become part of the Marriott family I’m staring to value Marriott lifetime status higher than I have before – I like the idea of not having to qualify for Platinum every year but still having the benefits to use at my favorite Starwood properties.

Even If You Don’t Have The Marriott Visa The SPG Amex May Still Not Be The Best Option

It’s worth remembering that the Citi Prestige credit card earn 3 points/dollar spent directly with hotels and, for a lot of people, that may be the best card to use.

I value Citi ThankYou points at 1.6 cents each (I can currently get 1.6 cents of value for them when I use them for travel on American) while I value Starpoints at around 2.0 cents each. Based on those valuations I’d earn an effective  4.8% rebate if I used my Citi Prestige card at a Marriott property and an effective 4% rebate if I used my Amex SPG card…so the Citi prestige wins.

Bottom Line

Math is very helpful when it comes to working out which credit cards to use for what transactions but it’s not the be all and end all. Sometimes there are added benefits that come from using a credit card that the math doesn’t take into account and this is one of those cases.

I’m a big fan of the SPG American Express Card but it will be staying firmly in my wallet on my next Marriott stay.