In September 2016, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Marriott Groups announced a merger. Currently, they are being run as two separate programs; but, you can now transfer your SPG points to Marriott Rewards and vice versa for free. According to the Marriott website they “don’t anticipate that the two programs will come together before 2018.” This means that Canadians have less than one year to take advantage of the current best hotel reward card opportunities.
Currently, there are two SPG credit cards and one Marriott credit card available in Canada. Boomer Traveller recommends getting all three cards now.
To get all three, the total cost would be:
- $270 annual fee for the first year [$0 Marriott, $120 SPG, $150 SPG Business ]
- $3001 minimum spend [$1 Marriott, $1500 SPG, $1500 SPG Business]
One SPG point converts to three Marriott points and vice versa. By getting all three cards and putting all the points in one program, you would have 50,000 SPG points or 150,000 Marriott points.
Using the points
Marriott Rewards: You can use Marriott Rewards at a range of hotels, from cheap airport hotels to the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo. Prices range from 6,000 points per night to 70,000 points per night depending on the quality and location of the hotel. The fifth night is always free. Upgrades may be available for extra points. There are no official blackout dates – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to book way ahead for dates.
150,000 Marriott points would get you between two and more than 20 hotel nights.
Hotels include: The Ritz-Carlton, AC Hotels by Marriott, Autograph Collection Hotels, Courtyard, Edition, Fairfield Inn, Gaylord Hotels, JW Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club, Renaissance Hotels, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites.
Starwood Preferred Guest: Prices range from 2,000-39,000 points per night. 50,000 SPG points would get you between one and 25 hotel nights.
Hotels include: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Le Méridien, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Element, and Four Points by Sheraton.
SPG points convert into Aeroplan miles at a 1:1 ratio, plus for every 20,000 points transferred you get 5000 bonus miles. So if you convert SPG points to Aeroplan you will receive an additional 10,000 points for transferring – making 60,000 Aeroplan points. That (plus taxes and fees) will get you to southern South America or Western Europe and back again. Further, a couple times a year, Aeroplan has a transfer bonus, which could increase the value of your SPG points when transferring to Aeroplan.
Getting all three cards is roughly equivalent to getting the $699 American Express Platinum Card (this is a referral), but without most of the travel perks like the $200/year travel credits and lounge access – and of course for $270 instead of $699. You can see more about that card at Best 2017 Canadian Aeroplan Cards, where you will also find a link that gets you 60,000 instead of the usual 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Credit Card (this is not a referral)
- Annual fee of $120 waived for the 1st year
- Earn 30K bonus points after you first use your new card in your first three months – or 50 k bonus if you use this link (not a referral).
- No foreign currency transaction charges in most countries.
- Anniversary free night stay (which can more than wipe out the $120 annual credit card renewal fee).
- Silver Elite Status (gets you extra points on paid stays, some free upgrades).
This is a no-brainer. For the first year the card is FREE and you get up to four free nights at a hotel. By using the card when making foreign purchases you save 2.5% on transaction charges (including when purchasing foreign goods online).
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (this is a referral)
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express (this is a referral)
- SPG Credit Card: Annual fee of $120 – not waived in the first year.
- SPG Business Card: Annual fee of $150 – not waived in the first year. Note that you don’t need to own a business to get the Business card: you can apply as a sole-proprietor by using your name in the ‘business name’ field on the application form.
For the rest, the two cards are the same:
- 20,000 bonus points after spending $1500 on your card in your first three months
- Until November 15, 2017, earn two points for every dollar of eligible purchases charged to the card at participating hotels and one SPG point for every $1 spent in all other purchases charged to the card.
- Get a free weekend night when you reach $40K in purchases on the card each year.
- Upgrade to Starwood Gold Preferred Guest membership when you reach $30K in annual purchases.
- You can get more points by referring friends. For each approved referral, you can get 10K bonus points.
- Transfer points to frequent flyer miles with nearly 30 airlines, usually on a 1:1 basis
For only $120 or $150, you get 20,000 SPG points after spending $1500 in the first three months. You can transfer your points to Marriott and a vast network of airline loyalty programs, including Aeroplan.
Over the last number of years there have been fewer and fewer hotel credit card opportunities. And the sad fact is that, for those that are left, the annual fees and minimum spends have gone up and the sign-up bonuses and perks have gone down. Given the Marriott and SPG merger, this is probably the last year that Canadians will have this opportunity.
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