Users of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express (Amex) card aren't happy with the changes coming to their cards, which give them one-third fewer reward points for almost every dollar they spend.
The SPG Amex card had paid one Starpoint for each dollar spent on everyday items. However, beginning in August, each dollar spent will get two Marriott points instead of three. And though users previously had to spend $20,000 on the card to get 25,000 airline miles, they’ll now need to spend $30,000 to get the same miles. The changes could reduce loyalty rewards for heavy users by thousands of dollars annually.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the move is the result of Marriott merging Starwood’s rewards program into its own after acquiring the company in 2016.
“It’s a pretty big hit,” said Kevin Parker, a Santa Monica, CA, attorney who uses credit card rewards for free travel around the world. The card he’s pulled out for everyday spending during the past 10 years “just doesn’t make sense anymore,” he added.
Marriott and Starwood's loyalty programs had been operating separately for an interim period, with customers able to transfer points between them at a 3-to-1 ratio: 10,000 Starpoints got 30,000 Marriott points.
It's not all bad news, though. Marriott and Amex said they added a new benefit — a free night at a lower-priced hotel — that makes the card more valuable for consumers who typically don't use the card for everyday spending.
For average consumers not earning big-point totals, “the card actually got richer,” said David Flueck, Marriott’s senior vice president of global loyalty. “If you look at everyday spend and add in the free-night certificate, it’s still one of the best and most-rewarding cards in the market.”
Though Amex has declined to reveal how many SPG consumers and business cards are in circulation, it did say that the portfolio is the second-largest among co-branded cards, after Delta co-branded Amex cards.