Starwood and American Express Canada have released a few more details on the new card after a small pre-launch party last night in Toronto (was invited but unfortunately I could not attend).
Here is what was sent out in an email:
* Receive 10,000 bonus Starpoints® — enough for up to three free nights.
* Earn 1 Starpoint for every CDN$1 in purchases charged to the Card.
* Receive a Free Weekend Night Award (category 1-4) when you reach CDN$40,000 in purchases on the Card each year.
* Earn Gold Preferred Guest status when you reach CDN$30,000 in purchases on the Card each year.
* Take advantage of many American Express Card membership benefits, including Front Of The Line®* access to some of the hottest events,5 plus a host of travel-related insurance benefits.
* Enjoy the flexibility to pay balances in full or over time.
* CDN$120 annual fee.
Before we only knew the sign-up bonus. Now with these details we can compare it with the previous MBNA SPG card. It was expected you would earn 1:1 on the new card, MBNA was 1 Starpoint for $2 but had bonuses to make it 1:1 for your first $30 in spending, so this card will earn more if you spend more the $30,000 per year, and of course at that level it will give you Gold Preferred Guest Status, this is the first elite level in the SPG program, which MBNA did not offer. Normally to reach Gold you need 10 separate qualifying Starwood stays or 25 qualifying nights. This Gold status will also earn you 3 Starpoints per dollar for Starwood stays versus the basic level of 2. It also provides with automatic room upgrades if they are available and 4pm late checkout where available.
The last benefit is the free weekend night award at $40,000 of spending, depending on which hotel you use this at, it can pay for your annual fee a couple times over. It is good for up to a category 4 hotel on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night. Normally a Category 4 hotel runs 10,000 Starpoints for a free weekend night. To see a list of a current Category 4 hotels see here
The $120 annual fee may seem high to some potential cardholders, especially given the fact the the MBNA SPG card was free, but this fee is essentially placing this card in line with most of the premium reward cards in Canada like the Aerogold Visas, the RBC Avion etc.
Overall I think this card is a decent new offering to the Canadian market but for the $120 fee I would have liked to have seen it a bit more lucrative. Why? Well it may be tough for AMEX and SPG to pull people away from their Aerogolds and Avions and other reward cards that aren't tied into one program like the very popular TD Visas and Capital One MasterCards. However for those who can afford it or write it off, having both a Visa and an AMEX (like we always stress you should carry a Visa, a MasterCard and an AMEX) then the new SPG card is a great choice. Remember, you can covert Starpoints to airlines miles including Aeroplan and Starwood even gives 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points you redeem in one transaction, so to the Aeroplan mile lovers this card can even add more to their balances. Many of our readers and the media will ask me if I am going to switch to this card, honestly I don't know yet as I carry the AMEX Blue Sky and enjoy the no-fee option as AMEX is not my primary card for spending, at least at this point.
Where will this card end up in our second annual Top Credit Card ranking? Well since it lands in the hotel category, there still aren't many hotel cards in Canada and the MBNA SPG card was #1 last year and there is a good chance this card will take that spot unless the one other major hotel chain that is potentially looking at launching a card in Canada does so before we release our rankings. I am not a liberty to say which hotel chain it is but I can tell you it is a big one.
Applications for the new SPG card are still not being accepted but you can get on the email list to be notified when it will be available. Sign up here.