The big news of the past week was the official close of the merger between Marriott & Starwood hotels which occurred yesterday. Quite impressively, you can already transfer points back and forth between the Starwood and Marriott reward programs at a 1:3 ratio (1 Starpoint equals 3 Marriott Point). As a result of this new ability to transfer points, this opens up an indirect offer for a Marriott signup bonus that is NOT subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule and that is the 25,000 point signup bonus on both the American Express Starwood personal and business cards.
As I blogged about earlier this week, the signup bonus changed on the American Express Starwood cards to two free nights valid at a category 1 to 5 hotel but that offer pales in the comparison to the old standard offer of 25k points as the points offer much more versatility, even more so now with the option to transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. In order to get the 25k point signup offer, you need to be referred by someone who is a current cardholder. While you don’t need to use my referral links, I’ve included them below (thanks for your support!).
American Express Starwood Personal Card Link
American Express Starwood Business Card Link
Currently only the personal Marriott personal credit card is subject to 5/24 so you could actually still obtain the business Marriott card which currently has an 80k point offer which is a bit better than this offer. But for those who already have the business version or are unable to apply for one (due to a lack of a business for example), the Starwood card is a great alternative to quickly rack up Marriott points. Of course if you are not subject to 5/24 and you don’t have a business, there is nothing stopping you from picking up a Marriott personal card AND a Starwood personal card so you could double up on the signup bonuses.
As an aside, there has been a lot of digital ink spilled about the merger, the transfer opportunities and new sweet spot redemptions such as now transferring Starpoints to United at a favorable ratio or using Starpoints for the Southwest Companion pass. There have been many great posts on this but my favorite was Frequent Miler’s take who I think did a great summarizing some of the new opportunities that exist – I highly recommend reading his post.
I think highlighting this SPG offer as a way to get around 5/24 on the personal card is pretty noteworthy and while some bloggers mentioned it, I think it got buried with all the other SPG/Marriott news. I have to admit I’m pleasantly surprised by the progress of the merger and how consumer friendly the actions taken thus far are (1:3 ratio, unlimited transfers back & forth between the two programs etc.). I’d imagine this will last until the new rewards program is in place which won’t be till next year and I can only hope the new program combines both the positive elements of the SPG and Marriott programs.
A few weeks ago I posted how there was a strong rumor that the signup bonus on the Starwood American Express cards would be changing and sure enough, the signup bonus has now changed to a brand new and different type of offer. Instead of points, the signup bonus for both the personal and business card is for 2 free nights at any category 1 to 5 SPG hotel. This new offer is valid to 10/19. Here is the direct link to the personal SPG card and a direct link to the business card offer.
This new offer is quite interesting so here are a few things to consider about this new offer as this offer is really worth a maximum of 24k to 32k Starpoints if redeemed at the highest level category allowed, a category 5 hotel.
- American Express limits an individual to only one signup bonus per card in their lifetime. As such, it is imperative to only apply for an Amex card when an offer is at its peak. While this offer does not match the best over ever of 35k points, see points #2 & #3.
- The SPG-Marriott Merger is scheduled to close this week and it is still unclear on what bank will offer the new Marriott credit card. It is probably a safe bet that Amex will be forced to stop issuing new Starwood Amex cards so it is very possible this could be the last time the bonus is increased before the card goes away for good. In fact, there are already rumors of a Chase Starwood card coming out in February…
- There is no doubt that the previous 35k (and the 30k with one specific exception) were stronger offers as per the award chart below a free night at a category 5 hotel would cost between 12k to 16k points. So at best this offer is potentially only better if redeemed for category 5 hotels.
Obviously I don’t know this for sure but I think might be the last time this card has a signup bonus of something other than 25k points. I think to figure out if this offer is better than the standard 25k offer, it comes down to the following:
- Are you sure you will redeem two free nights at a category 5 hotel? If not, take the points offer.
- If you are sure you would redeem at a cateogry 5 property, will it be during the hotel’s high season where it could cost 16k points a night? If so, take this new offer of free nights.
- Do you want flexibility to use points for lower level SPG hotels and/or transfer some points to airline miles? Take the points offer.
In short, I’m disappointed by this offer as in most cases the 25k offer is better and I was really hoping to see a 30k or 35k offer. Interestingly the refer a friend offers only show the old 25k offers for both the personal and business cards. I’m not sure if Amex is still updating those links or if it will be possible to choose between the free nights offer (public link) or points offer (refer a friend links). Additionally this offer is only through 10/19 so you could potentially wait for the public 25k offer to return.
If you would like to support the blog and my efforts as a non-affiliate links blogger, I can refer others for either Starwood card as I am a current cardholder for both the personal and business card versions. I do receive 5,000 Starpoints for referring you but you will receive the 25k offer via email from American Express. If you are interested, here are my referral links.
Personal – Referral Link
Business – Referral Link
Alternatively, you can leave a comment asking for a referral (only I will be able to see your email address) or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will promptly refer you for the card. Thank you in advance for your support!
Update (9/22): So my source was kind of right as the offer did change today but I’m not sure it is a better offer. Here is my analysis of the new offer of two free nights at category 1-5 hotels.
I want to stress the following information is simply a rumor but I believe the signup on the American Express Starwood personal and business cards will increase to either 30k or 35k Starpoints in the next two weeks. I have a friend of a friend who is “connected” at American Express and he claims that the go live date for this offer is the week of September 19th. He didn’t know whether the offer would be for 30k or 35k like it was in March.
The offer from March 2016
Could this information be accurate? Well in years past usually around summertime, though there was a curveball with the 35k offer in March this year, American Express has typically increased the signup bonus on the SPG cards. I went back and put a list together of when over the past few years the publicly available bonus has increased to 30k or 35k Starpoints. Anyone spot a trend?
- March 2016
- August 2015
- June 2014
- August 2013
- August 2012
- August 2011
- July 2010
That is some serious consistency and only further makes me believe the information I received could very well be accurate. The current signup bonus is 25k for both the personal and business cards so I’m sure some of you might be questioning why I’m recommending you should wait a few weeks for an offer that is only 5k-10k points higher. Here are some of my reasons:
- Starpoints are incredibly difficult to earn – the only feasible way to earn them is via the Starwood credit card and staying at SPG hotels. Since it is difficult to earn these points in bulk, an extra 5k Starpoints is a big difference to me. And to the average person who doesn’t manufacture spend that equates to spending an extra $5,000 on your SPG Amex to make up that extra 5k points.
- American Express limits you to one bonus per lifetime on their cards. Basically you only get one shot to signup for this card to earn a bonus so you better make it count. I won’t signup for an American Express card unless I know at that point in time, that is the highest ever known offer on a card.
- Starpoints are one of the most valuable, if not most valuable, points out there. Great flexibility with dozens of airline transfer partners, a transfer bonus of 5k when transferring in 20k increments and some great hotel redemptions in the Starwood chain. You can redeem points for weekend nights at lower tier SPG hotels for 2k or 3k points a night.
My advice is to resist the temptation to signup for the next two weeks just in case the offer is increased unless you have an absolute urgent need for this card. While American Express might very well match you to the new bonus anyway, remember that American Express limits you to one bonus a lifetime, so you always want to get each Amex card at its peak signup bonus offer. Again I do want to stress this is only a rumor (some will argue I shouldn’t even post unconfirmed information like this) but based on past history, there could be some merit to this information.
I’ll be sure to post an update in two weeks if/when the offer is increased. If my information is correct & you plan to apply for this card at that time, I hope you will consider using my referral links for either the personal or business card (for being a current cardmember, not an affiliate link) for possibly earning you an extra 5k to 10k Starpoints by advising you to wait.
Update: Coworker of mine mentioned referral email will say 25,000 points in the body of the email but when you click to apply, it shows the 35,000 point offer.
This is going to be mentioned ad nauseam around the blogosphere (once the bloggers get their affiliate links of course – no wonder why it is quiet thus far this morning) so I’ll make this quick but the offer on both American Express Starwood cards has increased to 35,000 Starpoints. You need to spend $3,000 in 3 months for the personal card and $5,000 in 3 months for the business card. This new offer is valid to March 30, 2016.
This is the new highest ever public offer on this card as part of me wonders if American Express is looking to get as many cardholders as possible before the Marriott-SPG merger. SPG points are among the most valuable (if not most valuable) points out there as these 35,000 points could easily cover a few nights in Starwood hotels or the points could be transferred to many different airlines at a great ratio. In fact you can think of this signup bonus as 50,000+ miles in programs like Alaska, American or Delta as you earn a 5,000 mile bonus for every transfer in increments of 20,000 points. After meeting the spend on the business version (or completing $5k of spending on the personal even though you need spend of just $3k for the signup bonus), you will have 40,000 SPG points which converts to 50,000 miles as mentioned.
If you would like to support the blog and my efforts as a non-affiliate links blogger, I can refer others for both Starwood cards as I am a current cardholder of each version. I do receive 5,000 Starpoints for referring you but you will receive the same 35,000 point offer via email from American Express. If you are interested, please leave a comment asking for a referral (only I will be able to see your email address) or email me directly at email@example.com and I will promptly refer you for the card. Thank you in advance for your support!
I do recommend applying for this card now assuming you never had either card (my wife will be applying for the business version) as you know at the time of application, you are getting the best ever offer on both SPG cards. With the future unclear on how long SPG lasts, I’d rather lock in an easy 35,000 SPG points (or 50,000 airlines miles) before the program goes away. Make sure to reach out to family/friends for a referral link if they have this card or please consider supporting the blog and letting me refer you.
There are several promotions or other noteworthy items that are expiring or changing on March 1st so I put together a quick to do list as you are hopefully enjoying your Sunday.
1) Use your expiring Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades (especially for March 2017 stays) – I don’t need to rehash the changes in full about the Diamond Suite Upgrades – in short, Hyatt is changing the policy that you can’t use them for stays after they expire. However, they are letting you book any remaining suite upgrades (the ones that expire tomorrow 2/29) for stays after they expire. My advice is to first use these expiring suite upgrades for any March 2017 stay first.
Why? When the new 2016 Diamond Suite Upgrades are released in March, I presume they will expire 2/28/17. With the new policy, you will not be able to book any trips for March 2017 using a DSU until the 2017 Suite Upgrades are released on 3/1/17 – that kind of stinks as it forces you to use it last minute (if even available) for a March 2017 stay. But you can book those March 2017 stays now using your 2015 DSU that expire tomorrow. It seems strange but it’s true. Unfortunately, you can only book 13 months in advance on Hyatt otherwise I would recommend this strategy for any possible 2017 stay.
Now I understand many people don’t know about their travel plans ~13 months in advance but if you have any inkling of a trip you’d like to take that would involve a Hyatt Diamond Suite upgrade, I’d book it now knowing you can always cancel it later for free (though you obviously lose the DSU at that time, which isn’t a big loss considering you are losing it tomorrow if you don’t book anything with it).
2) Book Starwood Hotels before the March 1st Devaluation – As part of their annual category changes, Starwood has released the list of hotels that will be either moving up or down a category for 2016. These changes go into effect for bookings made on March 1st so you can lock in the pre-devaluation rate if you book before March 1st, even if your stay is after that date. Some of the noteworthy hotels increasing in categories are:
- The Walt Disney World Swan – Category 4 to Category 5
- Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa – Category 5 to Category 6
- The Westin Maui Resort & Spa – Category 5 to Category 6
- The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort (Cancun) – Category 5 to Category 6
- The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach – Category 5 to Category 6 (particularly bummed about this one)
Westin Grand Cayman
3) Consider Applying for a American Airlines Citibank Credit Card – All of the bloggers who have Citibank affiliate links have been posting non stop this week how the 50,000 mile offers on the Citibank Platinum Select and CitiBusiness AA cards are changing on Monday 2/29. While I don’t doubt they will have to take down their affiliate links for the 50k offer, I’m rather confident there will still be 50k links floating around as Citibank is known to do. It is usually possible to find a working link for many Citibank offers after they supposedly expire so I am not concerned about the change in offers.
I personally don’t think anyone needs to rush out and apply for either card today but if you are risk-adverse and want to guarantee an easy 50,000 AA miles, then I guess go for it. However, I will not be nor I am recommending it to any of my clients. Here is a non-affiliate link for the personal card and business card if you must.