I’ve always put the Starwood Preferred Guest card on my list of cards I’ll keep long-term. I like the fact that Starwood has decent redemption rates, I can earn airline miles at a rate of 1.25 miles per $1 and the annual fee is only $65, which is easily off-set through various sync offers every year. A lot of folks don’t feel the same because the card imposes foreign transaction fees, doesn’t have any category bonuses, and can no longer be churned. Some of that is about to change because according to Lucky, American Express will be introducing the following changes to the SPG Amex cards on August 11, 2015:
- No more foreign transaction fees (previously 2.7%)
- Free unlimited Boingo wifi (worth at least $40 per month)
- Premium internet access (in-room)
- Complimentary club lounge access for Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Business cardholders at Sheraton hotels
All of these new benefits will come at a cost: The annual fee on both cards is increasing from $65 to $95, which is on par with what most other credit cards charge. The Boingo unlimited wifi plan isn’t even publicly available for purchase, so you’re getting a priceless benefit through this card. With the added benefit of club lounge access at Sheraton Hotels and the savings on foreign transaction fees, paying an extra $30 per year is absolutely worth it if you plan on taking advantage of even one of these benefits. Plus, now that you can use the card to pay for hotel stays abroad without a foreign transaction fee, you’re looking at earning an extra 2 Starpoints per $1. Not a huge amount, but combine that with the points earned from the Starwood Preferred Guest program and you’re earning free award nights even faster.
Since you’re limited to one sign-up bonus per American Express card, you might want to hold off on getting this card until the 35,000 point sign-up bonus makes a comeback. It would make sense for American Express to draw attention to the new card benefits by promoting it alongside a higher sign-up bonus. This is pure speculation on my part but I would still recommend waiting for a better sign-up bonus, since you can only get it once.
Overall, the changes to the Starwood American Express cards are positive and absolutely worth the $95 annual fee. Don’t forget that you can easily off-set this fee through Amex synch promotions as well as Small Business Saturday.
Have the new benefits persuaded you to pick up an Amex SPG card, or hold onto the one you already have long term?
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