The Starwood, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton programs will be combined into one program on August 1, 2018. I wanted to expand on one of the changes mentioned in my post about what we know so far.
My favorite credit card is devaluing in August
Starwood Preferred Guest has been my favorite hotel loyalty program since the beginning of my award travel obsession. In addition to great redemption opportunities for free hotel stays, the program also has great airline transfer partners to which you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio and with a potential for a bonus.
American Express issues a co-branded credit card with SPG. Since I value Starpoints higher than just about any other currency (until August 1, that is), I use my SPG Amex for almost any purchase that is a non-bonus category. After August 1 when the combined Marriott and SPG program goes live, this will no longer be my credit card of choice.
Currently, American Express issues SPG credit cards and Chase issues Marriott cards. Even after the programs combine on August 1, each bank will continue to issue their respective cards. There will be changes to current SPG credit cards that go into effect on August 1, though.
Also, some new credit card products are going to be available. Chase is now issuing a new Marriott card. American Express is launching a new premium SPG card in August.
Nothing is changing for current SPG Amex cardholders until August 1, so I will continue to use my card until then.*
*For those who do not have an SPG Amex, it is still available for new applications, but the sign up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints is no longer available. For that reason, I do not recommend opening the card at this time. If a good sign up bonus becomes available before August, I will update this! On the other hand, Chase is now issuing a Marriott card with a 100,000 point sign-up bonus! To clarify, these are Marriott points, not Starpoints, but it is still a good sign up bonus. Check the credit card offers list for more details.
While there are still some unknowns about the new program, one thing I’m certain about is that after August 1 I will not use my SPG Amex for everyday spending.
Changes to the SPG Amex effective August 1, 2018 result in a devaluation for points earned from everyday spending on the card
Many times, we think of a devaluation in terms of redeeming. For example, an airline changes its award chart and requires more miles for redemptions. As a result, your miles are less valuable.
With the new Marriott/SPG program, there is certainly a potential for a devaluation on the redeeming side. Remember, we haven’t seen the new category assignments (with the exception of about 100 properties). If current lower and mid-category properties end up in higher categories on the new chart, existing SPG points could become less valuable. On the other hand, some properties could move to lower categories. Instead of speculating, I will wait until we have more information before fully analyzing the redemption potential.
One thing that’s certain is that the earn rate on points earned from everyday spending on the SPG Amex is decreasing.
2 is not always better than 1
Note: the new program still does not have a name, but I’m going to refer to the post-August 1 currency as “New points” in an attempt to make this less confusing.
Currently, the SPG Amex earns 1 Starpoint per dollar on just about everything. The only bonus category is spend at SPG and Marriott properties. On August 1, the earning will change to 2 points per dollar on everything except SPG/Marriott properties which will earn 6 points per dollar.
2 points per dollar sounds great right? Gotta love their attempt at marketing! Remember that not all points are equal in value!
Since SPG points are inflating to better match Marriott, existing SPG points and any SPG points earned until August 1 will automatically be converted to the new currency at a 1:3 ratio.
Think of the current earn rate of 1 Starpoint per dollar on the SPG Amex as 3 New points per dollar. At the same time that 2 points per dollar goes live on August 1, the 1:3 ratio is eliminated. So 2 points is 2 New points. No more multiplying by 3.
As result, instead of earning 3 New points per dollar, we’re going to earn 2 New points per dollar. That’s 33% less!
This is a huge devaluation for those who use SPG points to transfer to air miles
I sometimes think of SPG as an airline mile program rather than a hotel loyalty program. Currently, you can transfer SPG points to several airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Also, you receive a bonus 5,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to an airline.
The good news is, they are pretty much keeping the program as is, but the numbers are inflating to match the 1:3 ratio. So when the new program is implemented, you can transfer to airlines, but at a 3:1 ratio instead of a 1:1 ratio.
They are keeping the bonus, but instead of receiving a bonus at 20,000 points, it will be 15,000 points for every 60,000. This is exactly the same as what SPG has in place currently but multiplied by 3.
- Transfer 20,000 Starpoints to an airline partner
- Receive a bonus 5,000 miles
- Total: 25,000 miles
After August 1:
Remember, any exisiting SPG points will be multiplied by 3 and converted to New points. So if you have 20,000 Starpoints on July 31, they will become 60,000 New points on August 1. In other words, Starpoints earned prior to August 1 do not lose value as airline miles.
- Transfer 60,000 New points to an airline partner
- Receive 15,000 bonus points
- Total:75,000 points
- The catch is, the ratio becomes 3:1
- Net total: 25,000 miles
So on the redemption side, nothing is changing with the airline program. In fact, it’s getting a little better because new airline partners will be added. What is changing is the earning side with respect to credit card spending.
- Spend $20,000 on SPG Amex
- Earn 20,000 SPG points
- Transfer 20,000 to airline miles, receive 5,000 bonus
- This nets 25,000 air miles
- This actually puts your earn rate at 1.25 points per dollar rather than 1 point per dollar
After August 1
- Spend $20,000 on SPG Amex
- Earn 40,000 points in new program (2 New points per dollar)
- Transfer 40,000 to airline miles. No bonus because you must have 60,000 to receive the bonus
- Receive 13,333 miles (40,000/3=13,333) because instead of 1:1, it is 3:1.
- This puts your earn rate at less than 1 point per dollar. It’s more like .67 points per dollar.
With increments of 60,000 the earn rate is a little better due to the bonus:
- Spend $30,000 on SPG Amex
- Earn 60,000 points
- Transfer 60,000 to airline miles, receive 15,000 bonus
- This nets 25,000 air miles (75,000/3=25,000)
- 25,000 miles for $30,000 spend is still less than 1 point per dollar. It’s about .83 points per dollar.
The same amount of spend nets significantly less airline miles than before. I’ve stated before that the 2 best things about the SPG Amex are the flexibility and the earn rate. Well, we’re losing the earn rate value.
A devaluation on the earning side might not affect redemption opportunities if you use SPG points earned from credit card spend for hotel stays rather than air miles
Remember, we still do not know the new category assignments, but we do know that the new chart is favorable to at least the higher end SPG properties.
The St. Regis Florence is a category 7 property. If it remains a category 7 property in the new program, the same amount of credit card spend earns a free night at this property even after the earning changes take effect.
$30,000 in spend prior to August 1st:
- Earn 30,000 SPG points on $30,000 (1 point per dollar)
- 30,000 SPG points is enough for a free night at a category 7 SPG hotel prior to August 1. This is SPG’s highest category.
- If those 30,000 Starpoints earned prior to August 1 are not redeemed before the new programs goes live, they automatically get converted to 90,000 New points. 90,000 New points is more than enough for the highest category in the new program.
$30,000 in spend after August 1st:
- Earn 60,000 New points on $30,000 (2 New points per dollar)
- 60,000 points is enough for a free night at a category 7 hotel in the new program
Until August 1, $30,000 in spend earns 90,000 New points which is 33% MORE than the 60,000 New points that $30,000 will earn after August 1. But the award chart after August 1 for the highest category redemption requires 33% LESS New points. So, the 33% loss in points earned is offset by the award chart requiring 33% less points. I hope that makes sense. I know it’s a lot of math.
Conclusion: After August 1, I will be removing my SPG Amex from my wallet.
The SPG Amex is decreasing the earn rate on points. But there are other changes to the credit card that will go into effect on August 1 that are positive/neutral. Since everyday spending is no longer a reason to keep the SPG Amex, I need to decide if the $95 annual fee is worth paying to keep the card open. In other words, are the benefits worth more than $95? The other option would be to upgrade to the new SPG premium card in August. To keep this concise, I will go over my options in a separate post.
The good news is that I have other credit cards that earn valuable points on everyday spending. Programs such as American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards provide redemption opportunities that are just as valuable as what the current Starwood program provides.