Here’s Why I Don’t Like The Luxury Starwood Card From Amex


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American Express will be launching its new “Luxury” Starwood credit card on 23 August and, having given it a lot of thought, I’ve decided not to apply for it. I’m sure there are a lot of people counting down the days to the launch of the Luxury Starwood credit card but there’s too much about the card I simply don’t like.

JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

The Starwood Luxury Card From American Express

To explain exactly what it is about the Starwood Luxury card that I don’t like I should first go over the cost and the main benefits associated with the card.

Annual Fee – $450

Benefits:

  • $300 annual statement credit for purchases at Marriott hotels and resorts (includes all former Starwood brands too)
  • Annual free night at any property costing up to 50,000 points/night (Cat. 6 properties)
  • Earn 6 points/dollar spent at Marriott/Starwood properties
  • Earn 3 points/dollar spent on dining in the US
  • Earn 3 points/dollar spent on air fare
  • Earn 2 points/dollar on all other spend
  • Marriott Gold status for as long as the card is active
  • Earn Marriott Platinum status after spending $75,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Priority Pass select membership offering unlimited free visits and a 2 guest allowance per visit.
  • No foreign transaction fees
JW Marriott Desert Springs

Why I Don’t Like The Starwood Luxury Card

Essentially I think that the benefits that come with the card are quite poor considering the $450 annual fee associated with the card.

  • The points earning at Marriott properties is no better than the earning rate on all the other considerably cheaper Marriott/Starwood credit cards
  • It’s nothing short of a joke that an international hotel branded credit card restricts bonus points on dining to US establishments. The joke only gets worse when you remember this is meant to be a “luxury” credit card and that it comes with a $450 annual fee.
  • The 3 points/dollar earned on airfare spend is pure window dressing – there are a number of other credit cards that most readers probably hold where earnings in this category are considerably better.
  • The 2 points/dollar earned on all non-bonused spend is a poor return – I value Marriott points at no more than 0.7 cents each and you can do a lot better than an 1.4% effective rebate by using other credit cards…some that carry no fee at all.
Sheraton On The Park Sydney

How About The Free Night & The Rebate?

I’m very aware that a lot of people will argue that the $450 annual fee is more than covered by the $300 rebate cardholders get on their Marriott spend and the annual free night at a property costing up to 50,000 points…but that’s not enough to make me like this card.

By holding the Starwood Luxury credit card I would be committing myself to a $450 annual fee and, to ensure I get that fee back, I’d also be committing myself to at least $300 spend with Marriott and at least one night at a Category 6 or lower property.

The $300 spend isn’t an issue as it can be made at any Marriott property in the world….but I’m less happy about the annual free night.

I’ve never been a big fan of the annual free night the Chase Marriott Visa card has historically offered because I’ve found it too restrictive and I strongly suspect I would find the free night that comes with the Luxury Card just as bad.

When it comes down to it I don’t like the idea that I’m essentially being forced to stay at a certain type of Marriott property if I’m to get full value out of the Luxury card.

Yes, I spend quite a few nights at Marriott properties every year so you’d think that it would be easy for me to make use of the free night certificate…but consider this:

What happens if my travels take me to locations where there are no Cat 6 (or lower) Marriott properties?

What happens if I don’t like the Cat 6 (or lower) properties in the destinations I visit during the year?

In those circumstances, if I want to get my annual fee back from the Luxury card, I’d either have to stay at a property that I don’t really want to stay at or book a one-night trip I wasn’t planning on making – neither of those is a good idea and both could be a colossal waste of money.

Westin Sydney

How About The Complimentary Marriott Status?

I’m sure some people will point to the complimentary Gold status that comes with the card as a bonus worth having…but there are two issues here.

  • Marriott Gold status isn’t a status to aspire to as it doesn’t come with any particularly great benefits.
  • Most people who will be considering this card will earn Marriott Gold status (or higher) organically anyway.

I, for example, have Marriott Lifetime Platinum status so this isn’t a benefit to me at all.

Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun
Executive lounge at the Marriott Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun

I Prefer A Combination Of Credit Cards To The Starwood Luxury Card

I’m very open about the fact that I love my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and it’s this card, in conjunction with some of my other credit cards, that cements my opinion that I don’t need the Starwood Luxury card….and that others may not either.

The Case Sapphire Reserve credit card (CSR) also comes with a $450 annual fee but the $300 rebate it offers is valid for almost every kind of travel booking imaginable – it’s not restricted to a single hotel chain or airline.

The CSR offers 3 points/dollar spent on most types of travel (conservatively valued at 4.5%) and 3 points/dollar on dining anywhere in the world – there’s no restriction here.

The card also offers the same Priority Pass membership that comes with the Starwood Luxury card and the 1 point/dollar spent in non-bonused categories is worth more than the 2 points/dollar the Starwood Luxury card offers….but I wouldn’t use the CSR for most unbonused spend anyway.

For unbonused spend made in the US I would use a credit card with no annual fee like the Citi Double Cash card, Chase Freedom Unlimited card or any number of cashback cards and, for unbonused spend abroad, I’d use whatever card offers me a currency I like to collect and that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

In all cases I would get a better return than the Starwood Luxury card offers.

For Marriott spend I’m happy with either the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa card ($85/year) or the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus credit card ($95/year) both of which are issued by Chase. I could even choose to keep my regular Starwood credit card issued by Amex ($95/year).

All three credit cards would earn me as many points per dollar as the new Starwood Luxury credit card.

Bottom Line

I genuinely don’t see any reason to sign myself up for yet another premium credit card when most of the benefits it comes with are either already offered by other cards I hold, are offered by cheaper credit cards or are benefits I consider restrictive.

I’m sure there will be quite a few people who will love this card and will feel that it offers them excellent value but I’m not sure that group of people is particularly large.

If you already hold some of the very popular premium cards on the market as well as a Marriott/Starwood credit card (which I suspect covers a lot of Marriott loyalists) the Starwood Luxury card is essentially asking you to pay $450 for a $300 Marriott rebate and a free night a Cat. 6 or lower property.

I don’t see that as being particularly great value at all.

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