RIP, SPG: Starwood Preferred Guest Program Is Checking Out

AmEx's SPG-branded cards will soon be rebranded as Marriott Bonvoy cards, and the SPG name will cease to exist.

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Put a fork in the Starwood Preferred Guest program, because it’s nearly done.

When Marriott International announced it would rebrand its loyalty program as Marriott Bonvoy starting Feb. 13, it heralded several changes to its co-branded credit card portfolios. The rebrand means that soon, American Express' SPG-branded cards will get rebranded as Marriott Bonvoy cards, and the SPG name will cease to exist. At the same time, AmEx will become the sole issuer of the Marriott-branded business and luxury cards, while Chase will become the sole issuer of the Marriott-branded mass-market and soon-to-be-launched no-fee cards.

The imminent demise of the SPG brand name isn’t that big of a deal for existing cardholders, since the program has already changed dramatically. But for potential cardholders, the change matters.

What’s already changed

Marriott already overhauled the popular SPG loyalty program to more closely match the less popular Marriott program last year, after its acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Those changes included:

  • Less-valuable points and a different program: Before last year, SPG points were worth an impressive 2.3 cents each on average, according to NerdWallet’s valuations. With several 1:1 transfer partners, they were easily the most valuable hotel points available, for a time. Marriott points, by contrast, are worth just 0.8 cent per point on average, according to NerdWallet’s most recent valuations. Even though the revamped Marriott rewards program offers more ways to earn points than the SPG program did, it doesn't offer more value overall

  • More restrictions on welcome offers: As the SPG name goes away, consumers will begin seeing new Marriott-branded card offers. But in some respects, new applicants will have fewer choices. When Marriott merged its loyalty programs, it also added restrictions on how many welcome bonuses you could qualify for on SPG, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton cards. That made it significantly harder to earn multiple bonuses across these different brands.

  • For some cards, no new applications: After Chase and AmEx divvy up their portfolios, there will soon be fewer Marriott co-branded cards accepting applications. On Feb. 13, AmEx will stop accepting applications for the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card (currently known as the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express). At the same time, Chase will stop accepting new applications for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Credit Card. That means consumers will have fewer cards to choose from.

  • New card names and designs, plus some new benefits: Fewer co-branded card options for consumers might mean less competition for issuers. Ultimately, that could give issuers less incentive to aggressively improve the cards in the future. For old SPG loyalists, the changes to the Starwood program in the past year might have been difficult to stomach. But it’s not all bad news. The new Bonvoy-branded cards also come with rich limited-time offers, and in some cases, new ongoing benefits. There's also a new no-fee Marriott card coming from Chase in summer 2019, though there are no details on it yet. For Marriott enthusiasts looking for a way to earn more rewards, this year could be a good time to apply for one of these offers.

Information related to the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Credit Card has been collected by and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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