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Building A New Starwood Card & SPG Giveaway Results

Winner Of 2 SPG Free Night Certificate Giveaway

On Saturday morning using Random.org, I picked a winner for the 2 SPG Free Night Certificates.

This winner was Dana from Denver, who like 95% of you, suggested that the SPG AMEX needs to waive International Transaction Fees.

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I emailed her on Saturday Morning congratulating her on winning and asked if she had any ideas on where she wanted to use the 2 Free Night Certificates.

She emailed me back on Sunday and said she had gotten in on the Alaska First Class deal for $328, so she wanted to use the 2 free nights in Hawaii.

Ultimately she settled on the Westin Moana Surfrider in Honolulu, which is right on Waikiki Beach.

I have never stayed there before, but I have walked by it and strolled through the lobby, and architecturally it is probably one of SPG’s most beautiful properties. 

So congrats to Dana & thanks to everyone that entered!

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SPG AMEX Feedback

A new blog record of 127 people commented on the 2 SPG Free Nights Certificate giveaway and your comments were EXTREMELY CLEAR.

Starwood Preferred Guest and American Express need to remove all International Transaction Fees on the SPG AMEX.

Almost every single comment talked about those fees and how annoying they are.

International Transaction Fees may not sound like a huge issue since most of us only travel internationally a few times a year, but they can add up to 3% onto your Credit Card bill.

When we went to Australia, Emily’s Dad spent $15,000 on his Credit Card. Since the Credit Card he was using did not waive International Transaction Fees, that 3% cost him an extra $450!

While I can understand why AMEX doesn’t waive the International Transaction Fees on some of their other Cards, what is really bizarre about the whole situation is that Starwood has hundreds of properties that are based outside of the United States that Cardholders likely use their SPG Cards at.

With an Airline like United, regardless of where you are flying in the World, you can pay in U.S dollars. That is not the case with Hotels.

Hotels typically charge you in the local currency.

That means if you book a stay at any Starwood Properties in Europe, Asia, Middle East, etc, and use your SPG Card to pay, while you will earn an additional 2 Starpoints per $1 spent, you will also have to pay a 3% International Transaction Fee.

While the 2 extra Starpoints per $1 are nice, they don’t necessarily outweigh the 3% International Transaction Fee.

This is especially true after I pointed out that booking your stay via Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall, you could use your Chase Sapphire Preferred and earn 4 UR Points per $1 spent as well as 2 Starpoints per $1 spent via the SPG Program, all while avoiding the 3% International Transaction Fee!

At a minimum, American Express should waive the 3% International Transaction Fee when you use SPG Card at SPG Properties around the world. I think that is fair. 

The best thing about waiving International Transaction Fees is that it could be done pretty easily since it is all on the backend.

AMEX wouldn’t even have to issue new Cards. They would just have to change their processing system to not charge 3% when the SPG AMEX is used outside of the U.S.

Category Specific Spending Bonuses

From what I read in the comments, it seems that many people like the SPG Program and the flexibility it bring however once they get the SPG AMEX with the initial Sign On Bonus, they get bored with the Card because there aren’t any additional incentives to use the Card after that.

While you “technically” earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent on the SPG Card, a serious dilemma occurs when you have a purchase that falls under either Restaurants or Travel.

Which Card do you use?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is considered a direct competitor to the SPG AMEX, gives you 2 UR Points per $1 on Restaurants & Travel including Airlines, Taxis, Trains, and Hotel stays.

I would be doubtful that SPG or AMEX would ever give 2 Starpoints per $1 spent at all Hotels, since they want people to stay exclusively at Starwood Hotels.

That being said, if I was in charge of designing the next SPG AMEX, I would certainly recommend giving 2 Starpoints per $1 spent on Restaurants & Travel since staying at a Hotel typically also involves either eating out and flying or renting a car.

Spending Thresholds

While Category Specific Spending Bonuses are great, Readers would like to see some sort of incentivized spending bonus for meeting certain spending thresholds.

Basically these incentives falls into 2 categories, Points & Status.

For people that like Points, Starwood could implement some kind of system where for every $25,000 you spend on the SPG AMEX after you complete the Minimum Spend Requirement, you earn 5,000 – 10,000 bonus Starpoints.

This incentive plus doubling the SPG Card Travel & Restaurant Category Bonus, would hopefully be enough to turn the SPG Card into a everyday spending Card for most Cardholders.  

For people that like Status, Starwood could implement some kind of system where for every $2,500 you spend on the SPG AMEX, you earn 1 qualifying night.

Spend enough on the Card and you can earn Elite Status.

SPG actually offers a variation of this perk currently!

Spend $30,000 on the SPG Card in 1 year, and you earn SPG Gold Status for 1 year.

The only issue with this is that there is no way to earn Platinum Status.

So you could spend $300,000 on the SPG Card, which is 10x the amount needed to earn Gold Status, and you would still only have Gold Status.

Free Elite Status

Speaking of Elite Status, one thing I did notice is that many of you thought that just for being a Cardholder, you should get the lowest level Elite Status.

Many of Chase’s Hotel Cards like the Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club Cards all offer this perk and personally I think it is a great Cardholder benefit.

While I would be not be opposed to such a status, the problem with implementing this is that Starwood only has 2 Elite Levels, Gold & Platinum and the range to qualify for them is quite wide. 

To reach Gold, you need to stay 25 Nights.

For Platinum, you need to stay 50 Nights.

Basically if they wanted to give free Elite Status with the SPG Card, Starwood would probably have to change their Elite Tier structure.

Perhaps add a Silver Tier in which it only takes 10 Nights to achieve status or something along those lines.

Annual Free Night Certificate Or 50% Off Coupon

Similar to the free Elite Status, many of Chase’s Hotel Cards now also offer a Free Night Certificate after you pay your annual fee every year.

Basically this is a way to encourage you not to cancel your Card after the first year. I mean come on, who would ever do that ; )

When you analyze the value of the Free Night Certificate that Chase is providing, they are often worth way more than the Annual Fee, so from a Cardholder’s perspective, it is a no-brainer to pay the Annual Fee. 

Since SPG AMEX’s annual fee is only $65, it is doubtful that they would offer an Annual Free Night Certificate however as one reader commented, something like an Annual 50% off the room rate coupon might be useful.

So if the room rate was $300 a night, you would only pay $150 a night.

Not only would this get people into SPG Properties but also Cardholders would still have to spend some money at the SPG Properties, so it is a win-win for both sides.

Additional Hotel Benefits

As of right now, additional Hotel Benefits are reserved primarily for Elite Members.

As a Gold Member, you receive 

  • 4 p.m. late checkout
  • An enhanced room at check-in, when available
  • Special elite customer service telephone line
  • Welcome gift with each stay of either bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access, and a complimentary beverage

As a Platinum Member, you receive

  • Upgrades to best available room at check-in, including Standard Suites
  • Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast (New Option!) and local amenities
  • Club- and Executive-level privileges where available
  • Complimentary in-room Internet access
  • 4 p.m. late checkout, so you can sleep in, relax by the pool or see more of the local area you’re visiting
  • Guaranteed room availability when your room is booked by 3 p.m., 72+ hours prior to arrival
  • Our signature Platinum Concierge service

A lot of you commented that Free Breakfast would be nice but given that isn’t even an amenity that SPG gives to their Gold Members, it is doubtful they would extend that to SPG Cardholders.

This is where I believe another tier of Silver Status might be useful.

SPG could offer some of the lesser benefits like late checkout or complimentary in-room Internet access to Silver Tier members while reserving the better Gold benefits like room upgrades for actual Gold Tier members. 

Final Wish List

Basically the point of this whole exercise was to have a little fun and see if we could “build” a new SPG Card with input from people who actually use the Card on a daily basis!

So if any SPG Executives are reading this, I think this is a fairly comprehensive list of new features that SPG Cardholders would like.

Current Features:

  • 2 Starpoints Per $1 Spent At SPG Properties
  • Gold Status After $30,000 In Annual Spend
  • Ability To Transfer To 31 Airline Partners & 25% Mileage Bonus When Transferring 20,000 Points.

New Features:

  • Chip & Pin Technology
  • 2 Starpoints Per $1 Spent on Restaurants, Airfare, Trains, Taxis, and Car Rentals.
  • Complimentary Elite Status For Duration Of Cardmembership 
  • Complimentary Internet Access
  • Bonus Points or Qualifying Nights After Meeting Spending Thresholds
  • Ability To Spend & Reach Platinum Status
  • Annual Night Certificate Or 50% Off Coupon

Help Me Get These Changes Implemented

The SPG Card is still a great Card to have but given the amazing job Chase has done overhauling their entire portfolio of Credit Cards, it is really time for SPG and AMEX to step up their game.

Like anything in life, nothing gets done until you put the wheels in motion.

While writing on the blog about the changes we would like to see made to the SPG AMEX is a start, I don’t know if anyone from AMEX actually reads this.

Therefore I am going to try and contact someone at AMEX and see what they think about these ideas and if they think any of these ideas are feasible.

If anyone from AMEX is reading this, feel free to email me at FrequentFlyerUniversity@gmail.com

If any Readers know the contact information for anyone at SPG or AMEX, feel free to email me. I won’t share where I got their contact information from. 

Basically as Cardholders, we all agree that the SPG program is awesome, but in recent years the reality is that the SPG AMEX has been passed up by many of the Chase Cards. 

A few simple changes could really help put the SPG Card back on top! 

Anyways I will keep everyone up to date on what happens and again a HUGE thank you to everyone who submitted comments!


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