Credit Card Review: SPG

One card I constantly see being billed as a top credit card, is the SPG card, but I’m not sure what the fuss is all about when it comes to the SPG credit card. I’m not sure if it is pushed hard due to higher referral fees or if it really as good as some bloggers make it sound. Personally, I have given very little thought to this card, but I thought I would look at it, since it could be more valuable that I think. So, does the SPG actually deserve the high praise it receives?

Credit Score Needed:

If you have a credit score less than 700, I advise against playing this game. There are credit cards out there to help build your credit, so you can eventually have a premium credit card.

According to Credit Karma, the average credit score for approval is 738. The typical low is 649 and the typical high is 798.

Card Design:

SPG recently re-designed their credit card and to be honest, I like the way it looks. I think it is a sleek looking card, but looks never made me keep a card.

Annual Fee:

As one of SPG’s recent changes, they have increased their annual fee to $95, but it is waived for the first year. There have been a few data points of some people receiving some sort of retention offer, but it doesn’t seem to be a annual fee waiver into year 2. There is some points offered, but that is not a guarantee!

I think of this more as a hotel credit card than a flexible points card, even though it is. As a hotel credit card, this doesn’t even offer a free night when you pay the $95 fee, so this doesn’t even qualify as a card I would keep for that reason!

Sign Up Bonus:

Bonus isn't bad
Bonus isn’t bad

This was 30,000 points a couple of weeks ago and American Express usually increases the bonus once a year. The current sign up bonus is 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. This was an improvement because it used to be a $5,000 spending requirement in the first 90 days.

Earning Rate:

This is where I begin to have very little interest in the SPG credit card. It earns at such a PATHETIC rate!

Really?
Really?

The SPG credit card earns 2 SPG points per dollar spent, when you use your card on purchases at SPG.

All other transactions earn 1 SPG point per dollar spent.

While other cards “top travel” cards give you bonus points on other transactions, you only earn bonus SPG points at SPG properties. Did I already say pathetic?

Redemption:

Now, this is where I think the SPG card becomes interesting! SPG has a many options to redeem and they have a ton of transfer partners:

So many partners!
So many partners!

There isn’t any other flexible point credit card that transfers points to American Airlines! I have made the argument before that I do not think transferring SPG points is the best option to fly American Airlines. Other notable transfer partners are, Alaskan Airlines, Singapore Airlines (other cards transfer to them, very easy to earn Singapore miles!), British Airways, Emirates and there are other really solid options!

You do want to pay attention, because not all transfers are 1:1.

SPG even gives you an incentive when transferring! If you transfer 20,000 SPG points, they will give you a additional 5,000 points as a bonus. You’ll receive 25,000 points for transferring 20,000, you would essentially earn 1.25 miles per dollar spent. Seems great to get an extra 5,000 miles, until you realize you need to spend $20,000 to do that…

Many reports say that SPG points are very slow in their transfers, so there is no guarantee your award flight will still be available, you’ll want to check the airlines award ticket hold policy. Another negative for this program.

Flight and Nights

A good option
A good option

This is a good way to make the most out of your SPG points. This only is for Category 3 and Category 4 properties, so take a look at these because you could get a good deal.

If you redeem 60,000 SPG points, you will receive 5 nights at a Category 3 property AND 50,000 airlines miles. If you were to find a Category 4 property, this will set you back 70,000 SPG points and again you’ll receive 5 nights AND 50,000 airline miles. This is a pretty solid option. The 5 nights can’t be broken up, so keep that in mind.

Free Nights

Cash and points is a great way to stretch your points
Cash and points is a great way to stretch your points

You can use your points for plenty of options if you stay at a SPG property and I like having options with my points. The 5th night free option does not include category 1 or 2 properties, but those are cheaper properties to begin with. It requires less points to stay at a category 1 or 2 on the weekend versus staying there on a weekday.

You can even use cash and points, which is a great way to get more from your points. Using these at the top tier categories can be a great use, because it would cost $30,000- $35,000 of spending to earn a free night! That is just insane! Instead you can spend 15,000 points plus $275 for a night.  Using points and cash is a great way to make the most of your points.

This chart shows you so many options of what you can do with your SPG points when redeeming for free or cheaper hotel stays. Make sure you use your points wisely because they don’t accumulate very quickly!

Other Redemption Options:

  • SPG Moments- This option could be good for some who would rather special experiences over travel. Chase offers similar program with their Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Gift Cards

Other Perks:

  • American Express finally removed the foreign transaction fee on this card. I think it is ridiculous that you would pay a fee to use this card abroad, even at their own property. With so many options, more and more cards are removing that fee, as they should. Also, did I mention you only earn 1 SPG point per dollar? There are better cards to use broad that earn more points.
  • Free premium wifi internet- Many hotels are offering free wifi to their members, this is nothing special
  • Free Boingo Wifi hotspot use, up to 4 devices. For some, this could be a feature that is beneficial since it is in many airports and even some hotels.
  • American Express purchase protection, which is always top notch.
  • You’ll receive 5 night/ 2 stay credit toward Gold/Platinum status. For Gold, you would need to stay another 20 nights and for Platinum, you would need another 45 nights.
  • Access to Amex Offers

I think SPG properties are very nice and in fact we had an EXCELLENT experience on our anniversary staying at an SPG property. For a card that charges a $95 annual fee, the earning rate is just atrocious. The amount of money you need to spend to have a free night is ridiculous and I don’t think this card is really worth putting that much of a spend on. The transfer partner list is amazingly long, but does that make it better than others? We’ll have to compare it to others travel credit card options to find out. I feel confident that most are not using all of SPG transfer partners.

When I look at all the options, I think using cash and points for hotel stays might be the best option. I don’t see any reason to transfer these to some of the airlines on that list, because you can earn more miles with other cards. I still don’t see what the big deal is about the SPG credit card outside of the sign up bonus.

Does this mean I’ll never get this card? I will probably get this card at some point, because I can use the bonus for hotel stays, but I would never pay this fee and after spending $3,000 it would go right in the drawer until it was time to cancel. I would actually use my Citi Premier to pay for any part of my stay since it earns 3 Thank You points per dollar on travel.

What is your take on the SPG card? Am I alone to think this is possibly one of the more overrated travel credit cards?

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4 thoughts on “Credit Card Review: SPG

  1. Dustin,
    I got it because of all the hype and increased sign-up bonus but don’t know if I will keep it past the first year. Would you advise canceling this card before the end of the first year? I am always leery of doing so, but I may have made a mistake by grabbing this card.

    1. Hi Maria,
      I usually keep a card for about 11 months before canceling, because I don’t want to ruin a relationship with any bank. I haven’t had any issues when doing that.

      The first year is waived, so keep it up until the end of your first year. You can tell the bank you aren’t using as much as you thought. Shouldn’t be an issue. Hope that helps.

        1. I like the way your are thinking. It was a llitte hard when I first started churning to give up my 1% cashback (3% gas) rebate on my Chase Freedom card. But I quickly saw the light that you describe here. Now every month or two it seems I am handing my wife a new credit card and saying Here, use this one for now . I’ve learned to focus on the Amex cards first because they are harder to spend on.

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