Thursday, February 25, 2010

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: A few more details

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.


  1. Please, please tell me that "the other major hotel chain" that is considering launching a credit card in Canada is IHG/Holiday Inn!!! I've been waiting for their cc to come out for so long now...

  2. Can someone explain to me why there is no fee for the same AMEX/Starwood card in the U.S.? All the other benefits are the same.

  3. The US card has a waived annual fee for the first year only, it's $45/year after. I'm with you though... $120 is too much considering the benefits this card is lacking.

  4. I will not switch if there is an annual fee... also considering MBNA MC is offering a great program deal on flights, stays etc... to stay with them. Great benefits NO annual fee

  5. Amex surely is going to loose a lot of potential customers by this excessive fee. My children and I are all gold members, and spend 4x30k plus. so, there is four potential memberships lost,or 120K in business.

    Most canadian retailers don't accept Amex and so we cann't even reach 10 k possibly using Amex . It was a breeze with MBNA as it was accepted everywhere even the small retailers.The card with the fee, may be good for business travellers but not for retirees and seniors which is now a large segment of the travellers.

    With 15k in bonus spending 30 K with MBNA worked to 1 for $1 anyway, so this is no different.

  6. Re: transfer from starwoods to Aeroplan:
    I've tried to transfer from SPG to Aeroplan
    in the past but was denied:(
    has this changed recently?

  7. I'm totally shock and disappointed with the annual fee. I have called SPG more than once with minor concerns and they have given me the Gold status for a year. Previously $30,000 would have compensated me with 15,000 points. The Gold status doesn’t cost SPG anything. A month ago we stayed at the Imperial Palace for $25.00 a night not a Sheraton property but it worked. Now SPG executives do the math $120.00 annually, I’m paying for your free night. I just book the Walt Disney Dolphin; it took years to accumulate the points. If I had a $120.00 annual fee it would have been cheaper to stay at the Disney’s value resorts. Thank you and goodbye Starwood.

  8. Isn't Marriott considered a major hotel chain? Their card in Canada gives you 10k points, a free night (category 1-4), and Silver Elite status at account approval (instead of after $40k in purchases) and then you earn 2 points per $1 spent... only $75 annual fee.

  9. Yes Marriott is another major hotel chain. I guess I should have elaborated a bit more as I was making reference to a hotel chain that does not have a credit card in Canada yet.

  10. I don't understand how American Express in Canada can offer us only 10,000 bonus points when in the U.S. they have a promotion for the same card for 30,000 bonus points. As well the annual fee is only $45 versus $120 here in Canada. All these Canadian businesses and our government rob us blind here!
    I recently got the card. But now I'm thinking of canceling it considering what a cheesy deal this is compared to our US counterpart.

    Here is the offer links:

    Canada's offer:

    U.S. Offer

    Also found another U.S. offer that beats our hands down:

  11. If enough people complain about these indifference's then maybe Amex and these other Large Corporations will eventually change their tune

  12. It's the least accepted and unwelcomed card in Canada. major insurance companies, statefarm,traflgar, sunlife all refused acceptance.They all accepted MBNA.

    Major grocers, Loblaws, no frills, Price chopper don't accept it.Tim Horton declines it too.

    we were spending almost 35 K on MBNA.We can hardly use it for $8k with present setup.

    They make it more unwelcome by slapping additional charge of $55 for the spouse to reduce usage for their own loss.

    Usage is further reduced by their rip off method of currency conversion outside north america.They stipulate that they will first convert other currencies into US dollars and then reconvert it into Canadian dollars so you end up paying something like 6-7% or more for conversio alone on top of the exchange difference. The message is , don't use it, unless you want to get ripped of!

    Certainly we will not renew this unless they smarten up and listed new dealers fast.

    I called Amex yesterday to find out if they have a list of dealers who accepts Amex,waited 15 minutes and even the guy didn't know . After waiting he told me to call starwood.I asked to speak to the manager and was kept on waiting too long after which I hung up.

    They should have a website and update the members when they list new dealers.