[ANALYSIS] The AMEX SPG Preferred Guest Credit Card

Currently, AMEX is running a 21,000 Starpoints sign up bonus if you have a friend or family member who can refer you the card. Otherwise, the regular sign up bonus is only 10,000. So far, this is the highest sign up bonus seen for this credit card, so if you have been wanting to sign up for this card, this would be a good time. Though I still prefer waiting for the first year annual fee to be waived before signing up for any credit card. I actually prefer having a smaller sign up bonus if it meant that the annual fee was waived. That being said, the annual fee can still be worth it depending on your spending habits.

The important highlights of this credit card is as follows:

  • Earn 21,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of having this card
  • Earn 1 Starpoint for every $1 in all purchases
  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn 10,000 Starpoints for every referral (which your friend or family member will get when you sign up for this card)
  • Earn an automatic upgrade to Starwood Gold Preferred Guest membership when you spend $30,000 per year
  • Earn a Free Weekend Night Award (Friday, Saturday or Sunday night) at Category 1-4 Starwood hotels and resorts when you spend $40,000 per year
  • Note: the “year” is calculated based on when you receive the card

In terms of Starpoints, this is what you need to know:

  • Hotel redemptions range from as low as 2,000 Starpoints for Category 1 hotel to as high as a 35,000 Starpoints for a Category 7 hotel room.
  • Starpoints do not expire as long as there is activity on your account at least once per year. An activity includes earning and redeeming points, so having a credit card would solve any problems of keeping your account active.

So these 21,000 points can be quite valuable depending on how you use your points. In addition to using your points on hotel rooms, Starpoints are transferable to 30 airline partners. For Canadians, only Air Canada is on the list, but if you plan to fly internationally, there are plenty of other airlines to choose from. Most transfer partners exchange at a rate of 1:1. What I find useful is that you can hoard your SPG points for as long as you want, until you know you have an upcoming flight. That’s when you can transfer your SPG points to a specific airline partner and then use your points to book your reward ticket then. What is even more valuable in transferring your points is you earn a bonus 5,000 points for every 20,000 points that you transfer. So be sure to take advantage of this double dipping opportunity. If Aeroplan has another bonus transfer promotion, then you have a triple dipping opportunity.

Even though the $120 annual fee is extremely steep, here is an example of how you can use the points to make the first year worth it. After receiving the 21,000 sign up bonus plus another 1,000 points for meeting the spend requirements, for a total of 22,000 points. you can transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Aeroplan and use the Aeroplan points for any flight within North America (minus Hawaii and Alaska). That should be worth around $525 and be sure to see if you can use your points on US Airways or United Airlines (since they are Star Alliance partners with cheaper surcharges). You will also have another 2,000 Starpoints remaining that you can use for a hotel stay, worth another $75. So these 22,000 points can easily be worth $600 in value, which is not bad considering you paid $120 for it.

Otherwise, if you can spend $40,000 on the first year, the $120 will essentially be paid for when you claim your Free Weekend Night Award, especially if you stay at a Category 4 hotel (usually requires 10,000 points for a free night). If you cannot spend the $40,000 but manage to refer even one friend or family member to sign up for this card, the 10,000 points will also make the $120 annual fee worthwhile.

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