Given the SPG AMEX Changes, Which Credit Cards Should You Use to Earn Award Travel? TravelSort Reader Josh commented on SPG AMEX Retention Bonus Offers “I’ve had the Amex SPG cards for years as it was the best mileage plan for airlines. Now that that is changing, what card(s) do you recommend. We tend to use our mileage only for international flights, mostly to Europe, from the NY area.”
As Josh says, the SPG AMEX, particularly if you were already staying at Starwood hotels and thus able to earn many of the points with a category bonus, was a great way to earn very flexible points that could transfer to over 30 frequent flyer programs. But with the changes, you'll only be earning 2 Marriott points (the equivalent of 2/3 of a Starpoint) per dollar spent, as of August 1, 2018.
Diversify Your Miles and Points
While you can't replicate all of SPG's airline transfer partners, it's possible to at least diversify your miles and points by earning in a couple of different transferable points currencies; I recommend Chase Ultimate Rewards points and AMEX Membership Rewards points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: The Earning Advantage of Category Bonuses
The great aspect of Ultimate Rewards points is the ability to earn quickly, thanks to lucrative category bonuses. I recommend:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3X on all travel and dining
- Ink Cash Business Card: 5X on internet, cell phone services, and office supply store spend (including Whole Foods and Amazon gift cards)
- Chase Freedom: quarterly 5X bonuses on groceries, gas, restaurants, Apple Pay, etc.
For my family, the above cards make it possible for us to earn 3X-5X on the majority of our credit card spend. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Star Alliance (United, Singapore), oneworld (BA, Iberia) and SkyTeam (Korean). Most transfers are instant, although there's now a several day delay for transfers to Korean SkyPass–fortunately, it's possible to hold Korean Air awards, although this won't always work for SkyTeam partners.
AMEX Membership Rewards: 2X on All Spend with the AMEX Blue Business Plus
For many of us, the SPG AMEX was used for otherwise unbonused spend, because of how valuable Starpoints are. For us, the AMEX Blue Business Plus has supplanted the SPG AMEX, since we're able to earn 2X Membership Rewards points on all spend that otherwise wouldn't earn us a category bonus. AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, ANA, British Airways, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Singapore KrisFlyer, Delta SkyMiles, and other programs, and most transfers are instant although some, such as Asia Miles, KrisFlyer and others can take a few days. See AMEX Membership Rewards Points Transfer Times.
Award Travel to Europe
Some of my favorite awards to Europe are Singapore Suites, Austrian Business Class, SWISS Business Class, and Brussels Business Class. These are all Star Alliance awards, which are 55,000 miles one way to most of Western Europe with Aeroplan (which Membership Rewards transfers to) or 65,000 miles one way with Singapore KrisFlyer. It's 50,000 British Airways Avios one way between NYC JFK and Madrid, but there are high taxes and surcharges associated with using Avios.
If you're switching spend from the SPG AMEX come August 1, 2018, which credit cards will you be using to earn award travel?
Become a TravelSort Client and Book 5-Star Hotels with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred Partner Benefits