Aug242010

Starwood American Express Card October 14 Changes

Fee increase to $65. No big deal.

Sheraton 3rd night free offer. No big deal.

Five nights elite credit per year. No big deal.

Elimination of SPG50 annual certificate. No big deal.

The July 30 announcement on FlyerTalk by Starwood Lurker (Starwood Hotels employee) of two exciting new benefits pointed out changes coming to the SPG credit card from American Express. To date there have been 28 pages with over 400 responses on the SPG-AMEX changes.

All in all I find the changes to be no big deal and nothing too exciting.

 

Fee Increase

The $20 fee increase is a drag, but this is really only equivalent to about 500 starpoints lost for the year. When you stay at Starwood Hotels you receive 2 points/$1 when you use your SPG American Express card. Points for $250 in hotel room stays is neutralized with the annual fee increase.

Sheraton 3rd Night Free Benefit

The Sheraton 3rd night free offer is not clearly a new benefit as of yet. The restrictions for the ZHA or ZRA are the same as for the current 3rd night free offers. Room is prepaid and you must arrive Thursday through Saturday. The fact that you must use your SPG-AMEX card is even more restrictive than the long available 3rd night free Z3H/Z3R rates.

The 3rd night free benefit will actually be an enhancement only if there is hotel availability using ZHA/ZRA codes for hotels unavailable using the Z3H/Z3R codes. The current 3rd night free offers are available for Sheraton Hotels – as well as Westin, W Hotels, and Four Points.

Starwood Hotels 3rd Night Free link

Starwood Resorts 3rd Night Free link

Five Nights Elite Credit

I am in the camp who sees little personal benefit from this enhancement. I have never qualified for SPG elite status on nights.

Gold elite requires 25 nights at Starwood Hotels in a calendar year. The SPG-AMEX benefit reduces this threshold to just 20 nights.

But you only need 10 stays in a calendar year for Gold status. A person can earn SPG Gold elite with as few as 10 one-night stays in a year, or a total of 10 nights.

How many SPG-AMEX cardmembers stay 20 to 24 nights in a year, with fewer than 10 stays? Cardmembers who finish the year with 20 to 24 paid nights and fewer than 10 hotel stays are the only Gold elite recipients of this SPG-AMEX enhancement.

Platinum elite requires 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year. The five nights elite credit only makes a difference if you are in the subset of SPG-AMEX cardmembers who stay 45 to 49 nights in a calendar year without 25 stays.

The five nights elite benefit affects a small subset of cardmembers.

 

50% off award discontinued as annual benefit.

The SPG50 certificate is 50% off the rack rate for a hotel stay up to five nights. Most of my annual certificates have gone unused. I have only found a lower rate using SPG50 twice and the last time was in 2008. There is almost always a lower rate available. And I avoid prepaid rates whenever possible.

But any SPG member still has the same 50% rack rate option available for just 1,000 starpoints and there is no requirement to use an SPG-AMEX card.

If you regularly used your SPG50 certificate, then the changes are equivalent to losing another 1,000 points per year.

Conclusion:

Some SPG-AMEX cardmembers lost an equivalent value of 1,500 Starpoints with the annual card fee increase and loss of the SPG50 certificate.

For some cardmembers the five nights elite credit may be the difference between general SPG membership and Gold elite. Some frequent guests will find the 20 night threshold will be easier to reach than 10 stays for Gold elite.

For most Platinum elite members I do not see the five nights credit having any impact unless you are in a very select group of cardmembers having 45 to 49 paid nights and less than 25 stays.

October 14, 2010 we will see if the Sheraton 3rd night free ZHA/ZRA offer is actually an enhancement to the SPG American Express card.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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