The free night's stay every year can pay for the fee on this card all by itself. The wide array of redemption options makes it the rare hotel credit card that doesn't feel limiting.
Pros & Cons
High rewards rate
Flexible rewards redemption
No foreign transaction fee
Bonus offer for new cardholders
Has annual fee
If flexibility is your top priority in a rewards credit card, consider a cash-back option. This card gives you an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, and you can redeem your cash back in any amount. There's a great sign-up bonus, too. The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
Compare to Other Cards
» This card is no longer available
Following Marriott's merger with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs were combined and rechristened as "Marriott Bonvoy." In February 2019, this card was discontinued. Its successor is the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card. Read our review of that card.
Marriott's acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts kicked off a long process of integrating the two hotel companies' loyalty rewards programs — a process that culminated in 2018 with a combined program and revamped credit cards under both the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest brands. Among them: the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
Longtime SPG loyalists worried that the merger would mean a loss in value for their program's famously high-value points. And that did in fact happen — but SPG cardholders now earn more points per dollar, reducing the impact.
If your business has you staying at Starwood and Marriott properties regularly, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express should be high on your list.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: Basics
Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
6 points per dollar of eligible purchases on the card at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels.
4 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 17.99%-26.99% Variable APR.
Foreign transaction fees: None.
Annual free night award.
Automatic Silver Elite status and accelerated path to Gold.
Points on this card are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for hotel stays, based on NerdWallet valuations. Points on this card are generally less valuable when redeemed for higher-end hotels and more valuable when redeemed for more affordable hotels. Regardless of how you redeem, the free night award on this card still gives it a solid value, and its offerings are in line with other co-branded hotel cards.
Why you might want the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Extremely versatile points
The Marriott-Starwood merger gives members of the combined loyalty program access to a gargantuan portfolio of properties, starting for at as little as 6,000 points a night. You can also transfer your points to one of several airline partners at a 3:1 ratio (3 hotel points for 1 airline mile) or take advantage of other redemption options.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express comes with a fantastic bonus offer for new cardholders: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. That’s worth $750 when redeemed for hotel stays, based on NerdWallet valuations — enough to squeeze several nights out of the hotel network's most affordable rooms.
The ongoing rewards are also quite generous, particularly for spending on eligible purchases at participating Marriott and Starwood hotels. You'll get points:
From the card: 6 points per dollar spent on these qualifying purchases.
From the loyalty program: 5 to 10 points per dollar spent at eligible properties, as well as a 10% bonus from your Silver Elite status (which comes with the card).
Taken together, that could mean an effective rewards rate of 17% back on eligible hotel purchases.
The card also throws in 4 points per dollar on a variety of common business expenses, a nice rewards accelerator that you don't get with the consumer version of this card.
High-value free night benefit
The free night benefit, good for eligible stays that would otherwise cost up to 35,000 points, can easily make up for the annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95.
Say you used that benefit for a room that would have otherwise cost $200. Just by doing that, you’d already come out ahead of the annual fee by $105 after the first year — even before doing any spending with the card. This benefit is awarded every year after your card account anniversary.
Silver elite status
Among the benefits of the automatic Silver Elite status you earn with this card:
Priority late checkout.
10% bonus on Marriott Rewards points.
Compensation for a hotel stay if Marriott can’t honor your reservation.
Dedicated phone lines for reservations.
Big spenders can qualify for Gold Elite status, which gets you even more perks, by spending more than $30,000 in qualifying purchases in a calendar year. (On Jan. 1, 2019, that threshold increases to $35,000.)
Alternatives for more flexibility
Few if any co-branded hotel credit cards offer more redemption options than the ones in the Marriott and SPG portfolios. But if you’re looking for another level of flexibility in travel rewards, consider a general travel credit card. And a cash-back card offers the most flexibility of all, since you can use rewards for anything — travel expenses included.
General travel credit cards for business
The Capital One Spark Miles for Business. It earns an unlimited 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. Miles can be redeemed for statement credit against any travel purchase — hotel stays, airline flights and more. Book however you want, then use miles to pay for it, with no blackout dates or restrictions. Sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card earns 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel and select business categories, and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase. There's a giant sign-up bonus: Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.. Annual fee: $95.
Cash back cards for business
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business. It earns an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, and you can redeem your cash back in any amount. There's a solid sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express offers great rewards, with a degree of customization, for an annual fee of $0. You get 5% cash back on the first $50,000 spent at wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores; 3% cash back on the first $50,000 spent in the category of your choice from a list of eight; and 1% cash back on other purchases. Terms apply. There's no bonus for new cardholders, but you do get an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 21.49% Variable APR.
Is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express right for you?
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a rare bird — a co-branded hotel credit card that doesn't make you feel like you're locked in to a single hotel chain. The combined Marriott-Starwood portfolio includes 29 brands, from budget inns to lavish resorts, so if your business has you checking into hotels regularly, it's among the best cards you can carry.
To view rates and fees of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, please visit this page.
To view rates and fees of the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express, please visit this page.