Starwood Preferred Guest Credit card review – is it worth it?

15 min Read Published: 17 Jan 2020

American Express has a plethora of different credit card options, which makes it almost impossible to know which one is best. In this article, we’ll be delving into each of the reward cards that American Express offers, as well as one offered by Mastercard, to give you an idea of which one is the best suited to you.

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card might be great for you if you’re a regular at hotels, or if you’re new to points collecting, as it gives you a lot of options for using the points you have earned. But depending on what you’re looking for, it may not be the best.

What is the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card?

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card is linked to the SPG group of hotels (which has recently rebranded to ‘Marriott Bonvoy’). It is likely that the card will change names to reflect this change soon.

You’ll receive a 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy point bonus for signing up to the card, so long as you spend £1,000 in the first three months, which, if you shift normal spending over, shouldn’t be too difficult. (When the card rebrands on 26th February, the bonus reduces to 20,000 and the qualifying spend increases to £3,000 in 90 days)

All points earned on the card will go towards a linked Marriott Bonvoy rewards account, and the points can be claimed at any of its 30+ hotel chains in the brand. The main ones include Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Edition and many more.

Another bonus is that you can exchange your accrued Marriott Bonvoy points to over 40 different airline frequent flyer schemes. So if you don’t collect British Airways Avios or Virgin Miles, you can choose another airline that doesn’t offer a credit card in the UK.

The Starwood Preferred Guest card is rebranding and evolving into the Marriott Bonvoy credit card on February 26th. This will mean a cut in benefits, so if you want the bigger bonuses now, you’ll need to apply before February 26th. 

Benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card

Key benefits include:

30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points sign-up bonus (will be cut to 20,000 after 26th February 2020)

 3 points for every £1 spent (or 6 for every £1 on Marriott property) - This reduces to 2 points to every £1 spent from 26th February

Free silver Marriott Bonvoy status

Spend £15,000 in a year and get gold status

Free night stay if you spend £25,000 in a year

Travel insurance

Welcome Bonus

Bonus points can be used on hotel stays or transferred to airline frequent flyer programs (most convert at 3 Marriott Bonvoy points to 1 air mile). Used on hotels, 30,000 would be worth around £100-£150 and can be used wherever you travel. You can pick up the cheapest hotel rooms for 5,000 points a night, though it can often be hard to find them. A 2-3 night stay at a 10,000-15,000 points per night hotel would be the best value - but don’t expect this to be The Ritz.

Points for every £1 spent

For every full £1 you spend, you’ll earn 3 points with your card. Considering the cheapest hotel redemptions are around 5,000 points, it’ll take £1,667 of spending to get a hotel stay of around £30-40 back (around a 2% return). If you’re staying at a Marriott brand hotel and pay using your credit card, you’ll double your earnings to 6 points on every full £1, meaning only an £883 spend to get £30-40 back (and you can claim points on your stay too).

Automatic silver status

For signing up to the card, you automatically get silver status at Marriott hotels (usually 10 stays needed to unlock). This doesn’t come with many benefits, apart from 10% bonus on points when staying at a hotel, late checkout and member rates.

Spend £15,000 and get upgraded to gold status

Spend £15,000 on the card in a year and you’ll get upgraded to gold status (usually 25 stays needed to unlock). Benefits are better, but it’s a high spend to reach it. You’ll get 25% bonus points on stays, as well as points bonuses when you check-in, late checkout, room upgrades, enhanced room wifi and member rates.

Free night stay

Spend £25,000 on the card within 12 months and you’ll receive a voucher for a free 1-night stay. Unfortunately, you can only use it on rooms costing up to 25,000 points, so the value of this is only around £100.

Travel insurance

Subject to enrollment, you’ll receive ‘travel inconvenience insurance’ which covers flight cancellations and delays as well as problems with delayed or missing baggage too. You’ll also be covered up to £150,000 for accidents on public transport booked with the card.

Who is eligible for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card?

To apply for this card, you’ll need to be 18 or older and have a permanent residence in the United Kingdom. You must hold a UK bank or building society and have no history of bad debt. If you have held a personal AMEX credit card in the past 24 months, you won’t be eligible for the sign-up bonus, but you’ll still be able to apply and use the card. Similarly, if you sign up for a Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, you won’t be able to get any other sign up offers from personal cards for 24 months including the British Airways and Preferred Reward Gold cards. So it’s worth doing your research before you apply and making sure this is the sign-up offer you want, as you’ll only get one.

How much does the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card cost?

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card has an annual fee of £75. You can cancel the card at any time, and you’ll get a pro-rata refund based on how many months you’ve used it. Technically, you can get the card for one month, claim the bonus and cancel straight away, and it’ll only have cost you £6.25 - but be aware of the negative impact this could have on your credit score.

The card has an interest rate at 39.7% APR variable and 22.9% variable for purchases. When taking the card out, you’ll have an assumed credit limit of £1,200, which may be adjusted higher or lower depending on your credit score.

Pros and Cons of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card?

Pros:

Between £100-150 worth of hotel stays for signing up to the card (£1,000 qualifying spend)

Free silver status at Marriott hotels worldwide

 3 points for every £1 spent, which means a higher return than the Platinum Cashback credit card (1.25%)

Option to transfer all of your points to a frequent flyer program of your choice

Cons:

£75 annual fee for taking out the card

Not able to claim any sign-up bonuses from other personal AMEX cards for 24 months after cancelling

Limited choices of hotels at smaller points redemptions

The qualifying spend rises to £3,000 in 90 days when the card rebrands from 26th February 2020

Alternatives to the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card

Card Sign up bonus Minimum spend Annual fee Points earned per £1 spent
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card 10,000 membership reward points (around 10,000 air miles or 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) £3,000 in 3 months £140 (£0 for first year) 1 point per £1
British Airways Premium card 25,000 Avios points £3,000 in 3 months £195 1.5 points per £1
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card 25,000 Virgin miles One card purchase in 90 days £160 1.5 points per £1

 

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card

  • £0 for the first year (£140 thereafter)
  • 10,000 membership rewards points sign up bonus (when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months)
  • Bonus points can be transferred to BA/Virgin at 1:1 (10,000 air miles) or Marriott Bonvoy 2:3 (15,000 points)
  • Points can also be used on other rewards such as Amazon gift cards, experiences and other hotels
  • 1 point earned for every £1 spent, 2 points for every £1 spent in a foreign currency or direct with airlines
  • 10,000 extra membership rewards points if you spend over £15,000 in a year

 

British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

  • £195 annual fee
  • 25,000 Avios points sign up bonus (when you spend £3,000 in 3 months)
  • Bonus points can get you a free return economy flight anywhere in Europe (just pay taxes)
  • 1.5 miles earned per £1 spent, and 3 miles earned for every £1 spent at British Airways
  • Free companion voucher when you spend £10,000 in a year

 

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

  • £160 annual fee
  • 25,000 Virgin miles sign up bonus - enough for an economy flight to the Middle East, India and East Coast USA (flight taxes still need to be paid)
  • No minimum spend to get the bonus
  • 1.5 miles for every £1 spent and 3 miles for every £1 spend on Virgin products
  • Free upgrade to premium economy or a companion voucher when you spend £10,000 in a year
  • Mastercard, not an AMEX

Is the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card worth it?

If you’re an avid traveller or want to do some more travelling, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card might be a good option. If you’re willing to commit to the Marriott group as your choice of hotels, you could rack up a lot of points and become a traveller with status and perks at their 7,000+ hotels worldwide.

The main benefit to this card over airline credit cards, is that with points accrued with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, you’ll never be able to spend them and get a completely free flight. Miles earned will pay off the cost of the actual flight, but you’ll still end up paying taxes and fees on top. If you’re flying long haul, this could be several hundred pounds. With the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, you don’t have to pay taxes when claiming free hotel stay.

You may be better off with another card if you’re more interested in getting air miles, and you can pick up cards that don’t have an annual fee if you just wanted to dip your toe into the world of points collecting. But if you’re willing to commit to get the most out of it as possible - for hotels, the Starwood Preferred credit card is a good bet.

Is a Starwood Preferred Guest credit card right for me and would a cashback card be better?

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card is as a reward credit card, which means you get rewarded for your spending. A cashback credit card works differently as you’ll get actual money back - whereas a reward credit card, you earn membership points, air miles or loyalty scheme points which can be traded for a reward.

There is no cap on how much you earn with reward credit cards, so you can put as much or as little on them as you want - but still get rewarded with points. If you’ve got a big purchase coming up for a holiday or car, then putting it on a reward credit card will mean you can get a nice bonus from your spending.

As these are credit cards, it’s important for you to pay everything off in full at the end of the month, to avoid high rates of interest and damaging your credit score. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do this, then maybe think twice about getting a credit card - as it could plunge you into debt. The signup offers are there for a reason, which is to entice people to sign up and take advantage of them when bills aren’t paid. If you wanted a credit card for additional purchases, a credit card with an introductory 0% interest-free period is probably a better fit for you.

 

Looking for a financial adviser near you?

Do you need financial advice? An independent financial adviser can show you how to make the most
of your money. Find your nearest qualified and regulated adviser using this VouchedFor search tool.

Alternatively, Hargreaves Lansdown, one of the UK’s largest firms providing restricted financial advice, is offering a £200 John Lewis voucher* to new clients.