SPG AMEX with 2 Free Nights at Category 1-5 Hotel: Not Worth It

SPG AMEX with 2 Free Nights at Category 1-5 Hotels: Not Worth It


There's an SPG AMEX 2 Free Night offer, which is frankly disappointing, compared to the usual 35K SPG AMEX offer that typically appears around this time in September. Here are the offer details, and then I'll describe why I think it's not worth it.

  • Earn 2 free nights at Category 1-5 Starwood hotels after spending $3000 on the card in the first 3 months of card membership
  • Earn 2X Starpoints for eligible purchases at Starwood hotels
  • Receive 2 stay credits or 5 night credits toward SPG elite status
  • Free in-room premium Internet access at SPG hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee waived the first year, thereafter $95 per year
Normally there's an increased 35K SPG AMEX offer, for both the personal and business SPG cards, around this time in September. While 35K doesn't sound like much, the usual signup bonus is just 25K for the SPG AMEX, and Starpoints are worth more than any other frequent flyer miles or points, because they can transfer to so many different airline frequent flyer programs (see SPG Airline Partners: Transfer Starwood Points to Miles). 35K SPG points transfers to 40,000 frequent flyer miles with the additional 25% bonus when transferring in increments of 20,000 points (or better yet, with $5000 spend on the card you'll have 40K SPG points, which transfers to 50,000 frequent flyer miles). 
40K points is half of a one way AAdvantage award in JAL First Class from the U.S. to Japan, over $4000 as a percentage of the retail cost of a roundtrip JAL First Class ticket. Similarly, 40K miles is about half of the 80,750 Krisflyer miles + ~EUR 350 for Singapore Business Class from Europe to Australia or New Zealand, or about $1200 in value as a percentage of the retail cost of a roundtrip Singapore Airlines Business Class ticket. This exceeds the value you'll get for a standard room (which is what the free night is valid for) at even most Category 5 Starwood hotels.
In contrast, the 2 free night offer specifically excludes the best Starwood hotels, which are Category 7 and Category 6 hotels, and have to be redeemed within 12 months of issue. This is an inferior offer to the Hyatt Visa, where the 2 free nights may be redeemed at any Hyatt worldwide, including Category 7 Hyatts such as the Park Hyatt Paris, Park Hyatt Zurich and Park Hyatt Sydney, and Category 6 Hyatts such as the Park Hyatt Maldives, Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow, Andaz Maui at Wailea, etc.

Why the 2 Free Night at Category 1-5 Starwood Hotels, Instead of the 35K SPG AMEX Offer?

While I don't know for sure, I'd speculate that AMEX is trying to limit its cost for the signup bonus, since 2 free nights at a Category 5 Starwood property is 24,000-32,000 points (12K-16K per night) which is obviously less costly to provide than 35,000 Starpoints.
Can I Receive the Bonus If I Previously Had the SPG AMEX?
No, not if you had the exact same card. Per the terms: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” If you've only had the SPG AMEX business card, you're eligible for the SPG AMEX personal card, and vice versa. Keep in mind that the SPG Business AMEX requires $5000 spend to earn the two free nights.
When Will the 2 Free Night Credits Post to My SPG Account?
Per the terms, the 2 free night credits will post to your SPG account within 6-8 weeks after meeting minimum spend and you'll receive an email when this happens.
How Do I Redeem the Free Nights?
Redeem your free nights by calling Starwood Customer Service at 800-328-6242.
Do I Pay Taxes on the Free Award Nights?
No, taxes are included, but if the Starwood property charges a resort fee, that is your responsibility and is not covered by the free night award.
Do the Free Award Nights Count Toward Elite Qualification?
Yes, they count toward elite qualification, and can be added on to an existing paid or award stay.
What Are the Best Category 5 SPG Hotels?
Hard to say, since very few of them appeal to me, personally, but I'd suggest the following if you must apply for this card, though I don't consider it a good deal relative to other current offers:
  • Tambo del Inka, Valle Sagrada, Peru
  • Le Meridien Paro, Bhutan
  • The Laguna, Nusa Dua, Bali 
  • The Ballantyne, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Pine Cliffs Residence, Algarve, Portugal
While neither my husband nor I are eligible for the SPG AMEX cards anyway, as we've each had the personal and business versions of the card, judging from the disappointing 2 free Cat. 1-5 night bonus, the best days of this card are over. Even if you're an SPG loyalist, which we are not, in my view you'd be better off booking SPG hotel stays with the Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points and 3X SPG points per dollar of spend (if you're SPG Gold or SPG Platinum elite) at Starwood hotels (total of 6X), instead of the 5X SPG points with the SPG AMEX, again assuming you have SPG elite status.
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