Yes, it really is. What did you expect me to say? I’m not that much of a contrarian. Both personal and business versions pay me referral, but if you think that’s why I’m raving about them, well, you obviously haven’t been following my blog for very long! In the industry full of superlatives about any card that pays decent commission, Amex SPG 35K offer is a rare unicorn. Sort of like Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus (read about both on this page). If you happen to have Amex SPG card and want to pick up 5K points per approval, use this link to generate a referral for a friend or relative.
I’m sure you’ve heard that the most awesome offer of all time is due to expire this upcoming Wednesday. So, the big question you may have is if it will come back at some point. I have no clue. Amex doesn’t share this sort of information with yours truly. I do think it largely depends on how the merger between SPG and Marriott will play out. Right now, there is some uncertainty whether it will even materialize. If it does, 35K offer on Amex SPG will almost certainly show up again at some point.
American Express will try to acquire as many cardholders as possible before (or if) their co-branded deal is kaput. Will they increase it to 40K points? They might, anything is possible. I don’t think there is a huge chance of it happening. Why? There is a lot of interest in 35K offer. I got at least a few emails about it from readers, and several have applied already. Obviously, Amex will not dangle a carrot bigger than absolutely necessary.
Personal or business version?
You can only receive sign-up bonus once per lifetime on both personal and business versions. The requirements are a bit different. You have to spend $3K in 3 months on personal card in order to collect the bonus and $5K in 3 months on business version. The benefits are almost identical, but there is one notable difference. Business card comes with free Sheraton club access, which is valid for you and one more guest in the room. Free food! It could be extremely valuable if you plan on staying in Sheraton hotels. However, be aware that you have to book a qualifying Starpoint eligible rate (paid or cash+points). Pure award redemptions will not work.
If you plan on going to a popular property during peak season, it’s very unlikely that a cash+points rate will be available. But if you have several future Sheraton redemptions or paid stays in mind, and can easily spend $5K in 3 months, you should definitely look into this option. If you have a business and never had Amex SPG business version, now is the time to consider it. You can only apply for one Amex card per day.
Should you consider it if you have no specific plans for SPG points?
The biggest advantage to SPG program is that points are flexible. Those are the most valuable kind, especially for folks who are not sure about their future travel plans. Also, Starpoints are not tied to a credit card, so you can cancel it after receiving your bonus and keep your stash intact. You have to have some movement in your account every twelve months in order to keep it active. Just send points back and forth between you and your spouse when needed.
I still have about 40K SPG points between my husband and I, and we both cancelled our Amex cards a long time ago. We applied when the bonus was 30K, which is why I think this offer is a no-brainer. BTW, if you recently applied for 30K offer, call Amex and ask for 5K points difference. What do you have to lose?
I do believe that new miles and points hobbyists and those who only get a few new cards per year should think about pulling the trigger. As I’ve said earlier, we have an exceptional set of circumstances in place here. The increased bonus, the possibility of this card being discontinued within a year, flexible nature of points; all of those things add up to a hot deal.
How much is the bonus worth? Only you can answer that. I speculatively value Starpoints at around 1.5 cents each (used to be 1.75 cents) due to some nasty AAdvantage developments. Also, quite a few properties in Florida have gone up on points. When I use the word “value,” that’s how much I would pay for the points if someone offered them to me. So, by that logic, the offer is worth at least $520, nothing to sneeze at. Mind you, that’s very conservative because most folks in the hobby value them at 2 cents each.
You may want to consider this offer if:
1) You need AAdvantage or Alaska Air miles.
SPG is the only program that partners with those. Be aware, transfers are not instant, so this is a huge bummer for families. AA transfer does take around 2-3 days, not bad. So, you can can put your award seats on hold, and hope and pray that the miles will show up in time. You get extra 5K miles on every 20K mile transfer.
For the last two years, SPG gave an extra 20% bonus on transfers to AAdvantage during summer months. For AA lovers, this could partially take the sting out of recent devaluation. Of course, there is also an option to simply use Alaska or Etihad programs (American partners). Miles in both airlines transfer from SPG 1:1 and they happen to have pre-devaluation rates on many of the popular routes, like 40K roundtrip tickets to South America or Europe on American metal. For now. See this post on Milevalue for more on this subject.
2) You are looking to redeem at Category 1 or 2 hotels.
Those are truly no-brainers. I recently suggested this offer to one of my readers who is planning on visiting Niagara Falls with her family (total of five). There is a Sheraton there that is a category 2. That means it costs 3,000 points on weekends, 4,000 points on weekdays. It will fit 5 in one room, and is located close to the Falls. The reader said at this rate they will redeem points on two rooms. And why not?
Let’s say you stay a total of five nights, two on a weekend. It would cost you 18,000 points total. One bonus will take care of two rooms for five nights. Even with conservative estimate of $125 total you would have to pay for vacation rental in high season, you should be getting a value of $625. Squeeze all five in one room, and you would make out like a bandit.
If you are planning on going to Disney and don’t mind a bit of a drive (25 minutes or so), there is a Four Points by Sheraton Studio City that happens to be a category 2, which is a bargain for Orlando area. It’s located close to Universal Studios park, and would provide a good base for exploring the area. Rooms have two queen size beds with a possibility of adding a rollaway.
Update: my reader Nancy also mentioned this Four Points Sheraton in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic that happens to be a category 2. It looks like a very good deal during high season. The resort is not located on the beach, but does offer a free shuttle.
3) You are looking at redeeming points on resorts during peak season.
Another reader is looking at redeeming points on Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater, Fl. It’s a category 4, so the cost is 10,000 points per night. If you stay 5 nights total, the last night is free. The room will fit five with a rollaway. I can tell you for sure that paying 8,000 points per night for this resort during Spring Break is a tremendous bargain. Rooms go for $300 per night at this very popular beach destination. No, I’m not saying they are worth it, but using points makes sense in this case IMHO. I’ll have a post on our recent stay in Clearwater at some point. I think it’s a good choice for an active beach family vacation.
You might also look at this property: The Westin Cape Coral Resort It’s also a category 4, and could be a good deal on points during high season. It’s not on the beach, which is why I hesitate to burn my valuable stash here. But it sure looks nice. Plus, they do have a free boat shuttle to Fort Myers beach. A tip for families with two small kids: You might be able to upgrade to a 1-bedroom suite for extra 1,500 SPG points per night. Unfortunately, there is only one king bed in a separate bedroom and a regular couch in the living room. If you bring an inflatable mattress, it would accommodate the whole family. I spoke to the resort manager and he said it would be fine. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s only an option for those with small kids, but I’m considering splurging for two nights at this place next spring.
What if you have another card in mind?
If you are looking at applying for a co-branded Chase credit card because you are concerned about 5/24 rule, you might want to stick with that. SPG card isn’t going anywhere for now, and even with reduced bonus, it’s likely you will have a chance to pick up at least 30K points in the summer. Losing 5K points isn’t the end of the world. If you have trouble meeting minimum spending requirements, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
I’ve mentioned Chase Sapphire Preferred as another excellent sign-up bonus for family. In fact, I value it higher than the one on Amex SPG. Of course, a lot will depend on your upcoming needs but in general, you can’t go wrong with either one. Both are most definitely “awesome sauce,” so don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Commission or no commission, it doesn’t change the fact that some cards are also extremely lucrative for readers.
If you are new to this hobby, you might also want to read this post on Doctor of Credit for more on this offer and SPG program in general
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