Well, comrades, it’s that time of the year again! No, I’m not talking about kids going back to school (approved!!!) Actually, my son just started pre-school and it has been gut-wrenching. He is crying and begging me not to take him there each morning. I told him he needs a good education so he doesn’t end up an underachiever like his mom. He just rolls his eyes at me…
But the post isn’t about that. No, it’s about American Express increasing the offer on its Amex SPG card, both personal and business versions. The cards pay me referral. Quite a few readers have contacted me about this card within the last few months. My advice has been to hold off applying till the bonus is increased, unless you could get it to pop up on SPG website while making a booking. Well, you don’t have to hold off no more! Of course, if you already have Amex SPG and want to refer a spouse or a friend, you can use this link. Make sure it shows the increased offer.
You are only eligible for sign-up bonus on the personal version if you’ve never received it in the past. The rules are a bit different for business card: You are eligible as long as you haven’t had it in the last 12 months. Also, minimum spending for the personal version is $3,000 in 3 months, while for business card it’s $5,000. Otherwise the offer is identical. It expires on 9/14/2015. The card has undergone some changes as of late. They are:
- It’s purple (I like, I like!)
- No foreign transaction charges (Amex has finally realized it’s 2015, and all premium cards offer this benefit)
- Free internet access for SPG properties (yawn)
- Free BOINGO benefit (I don’t know what that is, but I can’t take anything with a name like this seriously) Do check the comments section, though, for more on this benefit.
- Annual fee is increased to $95, up from $65 (say what? I don’t like)
To be fair, the annual fee is waived for the first year, so you will have plenty of time to figure out if this card is worth it. I value SPG point at 1.8 cents each. That’s a bit conservative, as most hobbyists peg it at 2.2 cents. I definitely think this currency is extremely valuable, in fact, the most valuable point in The Hobby.
When you transfer 20,000 points, you get a 5,000 miles bonus when it comes to most loyalty programs, including AAdvantage. In fact, aside from signing up for their co-branded cards, it’s the only way to get AA miles. Occasionally, there is even a bonus on transfers, like the one that’s going on right now. You get 30,000 AA miles after transferring 20,000 SPG points through the end of August.
Of course, you can also use SPG points for hotel stays. If you redeem them for a Category 1 or 2 properties, you can stretch your stash to get quite a few nights out of the bonus. On weekends, those go for 2,000 and 3,000 points respectively. All of this is to say: Yes, the bonus is worth it. I personally got this card for me and my husband when the offer was increased.
That said, I didn’t renew either one, even when the annual fee was $65. To me, the math just doesn’t make sense. Most of our spending goes toward sign-up bonuses, so I refuse paying fees of any kind unless there is a renewal perk involved. At the moment, my only “keepers” are Chase IHG MasterCard, Wyndham card and US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa.
Of course, not everyone is like me. I’ve written a post before on some instances when it can make sense to collect SPG points instead of other types of flexible currency. Many argue that Amex SPG is a keeper because you can make up for annual fee via various promos. That is true, and I would say that it is reasonable to assume that you can save $95 per year. So, this increase shouldn’t be a deal breaker, should it? Maybe, maybe not.
Let’s assume that instead of Amex SPG you decide to go with Fidelity Amex. It earns 2% cash back on everything and comes with no annual fee. You can actually get an even better value when redeeming for flights, but let’s ignore this assumption in this particular case. You also have access to various Amex promos via Sync on Twitter. But let’s say, you’ll get $45 instead of $95 you could have gotten with Amex SPG (since certain offers only appear in your account). Fidelity card is issued by Bank of America, so some promotions are not accessible.
Anyway, let’s assume you have about $12,000 in non-bonus annual spending. If you stick with SPG card, you will have 12,000 points at the end of the year, unless you stay in SPG hotels. If you go with Fidelity card instead, you will have $240. Which option is better?
Well, SPG has quite a few Category 2 properties in some popular tourist destinations. Assuming you will stay on a weekend, you can get 4 nights out of that amount. But remember, we have $95 annual fee. With Fidelity card, any offers you sign up for will yield pure profit. So, we actually need to add $45 to $240, for a total of $285.
If we divide that by 4, it means you would be paying around $71 per night. Sure, it’s a decent deal. But, we are talking basic hotel room, and many of these places have resort fees on top of award rate. We are also assuming that you’ll be staying on weekends maximizing value. Category 1 redemption obviously looks better by comparison, but there is always a risk of unanounced category changes. For me personally, earning SPG points for hotels via everyday spending just isn’t that compelling.
But what about miles? Well, 12,000 SPG points aren’t going to do much for a family. Of course, there is Avios program (British Airways), where some routes only cost 4,500 miles one-way. If you can make it work, it would probably beat cash back option, especially on international routes like Miami-Nassau and New York-Toronto. You may also consider using Amex SPG for everyday spending if you like the idea of having points to top off AAdvantage account.
Overall, if you are mostly interested in collecting miles (including Avios), you will be much better off getting Amex EveryDay Preferred. Even though the transfer ratio to Avios will be cut by 20% in October, when you factor in grocery and gas bonus, the points’ earning potential far exceeds that of Amex SPG. I’ve written extensively on it in this blog, and consider it a top long-term pick for a traveling family. Just a reminder, check CardMatch tool (affiliate link) to see if you are eligible for a 30,000 points offer on Amex EveryDay Preferred.
So, as always, my point is not to tell you what to do, but rather encourage you to do the math. The bonus on Amex SPG is a very good offer, and can be a decent long-term card for a middle-class family. But it is NOT a no-brainer. I know I’m a bit obsessed with math, and actually, just obsessed, period. You can blame it on my upbringing. This is something a fellow blogger once sent out via Twitter:
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