UPDATE: This deal is now expired.
The big news this past week was the increased sign up bonus for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card. (HT: Doctor of Credit)
For both the personal and business card, you’ll receive a sign up bonus of 35k SPG points. This signup bonus is usually 25k SPG. The first year of the annual fee is waived. I value this sign bonus around $1,000. How in the world is 35k SPG worth $1,000?
First off, SPG allows you to transfer to a variety of airline partners. Furthermore, it offers a 5k bonus when you transfer 20k SPG. This means you can transfer 20k SPG for 25k miles with programs like Alaska Airlines and Singapore Airlines. So 35k SPG will get you roughly 50k Alaska miles (you’ll have to spend a little bit more to get to earn 40k SPG, but it’d be worth it for the 5k transfer bonus). Alaska miles are great and probably worth about 2 cents per point (cpp) depending on how you choose to redeem them. So essentially 40k of SPG becomes 50k of Alaska miles = ~$1,000 (depending on how you redeem them).
Award Hotel Bookings
Secondly, you can obviously redeem SPG points for hotel stays. I absolutely love SPG properties. They are always well kept, staff is friendly, rooms are nice, etc. They also provide great value for award stays. When booking an award stay the fifth night is free. I typically find that you can get anywhere from 2.5 to 4 cpp. So let’s say on average you get about 3 cpp, 35k SPG will get you ~$1,050 of hotel stays. If you utilize the 5th night free, these points could be worth even more. I used my signup bonus of 30k SPG along with 10k of points earned from stays to book the Walt Disney World Swan hotel for five nights. This redemption would have cost me: ~$1,600 had we not used points. We basically got a value of 4 cents per SPG point.
SPG Nights and Flights
Last but not least, if you get a SPG card for both you and your significant other that is 70k SPG points. SPG also allows you to combine points with other household members. SPG has an awesome award option called, Nights and Flights. These bookings can only be made at category 3 and category 4 hotels. It costs 60k SPG for a category 3 and 70k SPG for a category 4. What makes this redemption offer so great? You get 5 nights at a category 3 or 4 hotel plus 50k airline miles. This is basically the best of both worlds. 5 nights at a category 3 and 4 would cost you 28,000 and 40,000 respectively. This means you essentially get 18-20k bonus airline miles instead of the normal 10k you’d get for transferring 40k SPG. That’s 8-10k extra of points.
All of this for meeting a minimum spend of $3k (or $5k with the business card). This is great value and the best sign up bonus that has ever been available for the SPG card. My plan is to apply for the SPG Business Card and the SPG Personal card (for my wife). There are tons of great options for redeeming SPG points. It is one of my favorite loyalty programs out there.
It is worth noting that SPG was recently acquired by Marriott. There is no timetable on when this merger will be complete, but rumors are that it will have no effect on the SPG program until end of 2017. They should give us fair warning of the changes coming to SPG, which give you time to use up the SPG points earned from this credit card bonus. If you decide to apply, you can always use my referral links.
Travel is never completely free, but travel hacking and utilizing bonuses like this definitely make it cheaper to experience the world.