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Middle Age Miles

Changes to Amex & Chase Marriott/SPG Cards – All of the Details, and Our Take on All the Changes

New design of Amex Marriott Bonvoy card
(upcoming re-branding of the Amex SPG Personal card)

For several months, we’ve known that Amex and Chase would be modifying their Marriott and SPG cards. We’ve known that SPG branding would be eliminated, and in light of Marriott’s recent announcement that its loyalty program would be renamed “Bonvoy” as of February, we’ve expected re-branding of the credit cards to incorporate the new name.

Yesterday (1/23/19), Amex and Chase issued press releases with details about the re-branding of their various Marriott/SPG cards. We’ll go through the changes card-by-card, in detail and in an easy-to-follow format that I haven’t seen elsewhere, and we’ll give our take on the changes. Then at the end of this article, we’ll provide some overall thoughts and strategy points.

Amex Cards

1. Amex SPG Luxury Card – changing to Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card

Our Take – The only new feature of the Amex SPG Luxury card is the addition of a $100 property credit at St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton hotels. This benefit requires a 2-night stay booked direct through Marriott at a specified “Member” rate (thus, discounted rates such as AAA and corporate rates will not work). The credit applies to on-property incidentals only (such as dining, spa, and other things that can be charged to the room); it doesn’t apply to the room rate.

This duplicates a feature of the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa card (which has long had this feature for Ritz-Carlton reservations and will now be adding St. Regis).

For us, this new feature doesn’t add anything, because we hold the Ritz-Carlton Visa and we’re not letting go of it unless they pry it away from us. And for others, we’re not sure how valuable it is, given the restriction to the specified “Member” rate. Since by definition you’d be staying 2 nights or more, there’s a good chance you’d be able to save more than the $100 credit by booking a discounted rate.

If you’re planning to get this card (and you’re eligible to do so), I’d wait until February 13 or after, to take advantage of the higher offer of 100k Marriott points. To us, the additional 25k points over the current offer is worth the additional $2k in required minimum spend. You would be earning at least 2x Marriott points on the incremental spend from $3k to $5k, which would be 4k points. Thus, you’d earn 29k Marriott points in total for the incremental $2k of spend. At our baseline value of 0.75 cents per Marriott point, the points are worth about $217.50, which would give you a 10.9% return on the $2k of incremental spend.

Long term, our keep-or-cancel decision will turn on whether we can get enough value from the annual free night certificate up to 50k points to justify the $450 annual fee, net of the $300 Marriott credit (also remembering that we would be earning Marriott points on that $300 in spend). Thinking about this also makes me wonder whether we’d be better off product-changing to an Amex SPG Personal card if possible – we might be better off with paying an annual fee of $95 for a 35k-point annual free night, as opposed to paying what’s probably an effective $200 net for a 50k-point free night.

[UPDATE, 1/24/2019, 7:15 pm Central timeFrequent Miler spoke to the Amex Director of Public Affairs and Communications about downgrades. He learned that downgrades from the Amex SPG Luxury card (Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant) to the regular Amex SPG Personal card (Marriott Bonvoy) will be possible and will continue to be possible after the Amex SPG Personal (Marriott Bonvoy) closes for new applications.]

2. Amex SPG Personal Card – changing to Amex Marriott Bonvoy Card and being closed to new applications soon

Our Take – The new feature to earn 25k bonus Marriott points for an additional $25k in spend, up to 4 times, is intriguing to us. If you spend exactly the threshold amount ($25k or an exact multiple), you’d effectively be earning 3x Marriott points per dollar of spend (2.25% at 0.75 cents per Marriott point). That’s the same rate at which the SPG card used to earn in the “good old days.” And there were plenty of people who used the Amex SPG as their everyday driver at that rate. If you hold the Amex SPG Personal card, you’ll want to consider that option.

Thinking of our own situation: We don’t hold the Amex SPG Personal card, so there’s no way to take advantage of the spend bonus. But we do hold an Amex SPG Luxury card. I’ll wonder aloud here whether we could convert our SPG Luxury card into a SPG Personal card now and still be eligible for the spend bonus. We would have held *an* Amex SPG card before the 1/23/19 cutoff date to be eligible for the bonus, but we wouldn’t have held *this* Amex SPG card. I’m guessing we wouldn’t be eligible (even setting aside the question of whether we could downgrade given that we’ve only held the SPG Luxury card for 5 months).

The other important question here is whether you should apply for this card on or before February 12, since it’ll close for new applications at that point. When a card is being discontinued, we always want to take a very close look at whether to get it as the sign-up bonus and card benefits become a now-or-never proposition.

As a starting point, the sign-up bonus of 75k Marriott points would be worth about $562.50. This is worth considering, especially since you won’t be paying a first-year annual fee. Beyond that, this is a very detailed and nuanced question, which includes consideration of at least the following factors:

  • Are you eligible for the sign-up bonus on this card?
    • Not if you’ve received a bonus on this card in the past; and not if you hold a Chase Marriott card or the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa or have held one within the past 30 days
  • What’s the impact on getting a bonus on other cards you may want?
    • As long as you hold the card and for 30 days after you close it, you’d be ineligible to get a sign-up bonus on a Chase Marriott personal or business card (and you’re not going to want to close an Amex card within the first year)
    • But, this card does not prevent you from getting a bonus on the other Amex Marriott/SPG cards (SPG Luxury/Bonvoy Brilliant and SPG Business/Bonvoy Business)
  • What’s the impact on your 5/24 status?
    • If you’re under 5/24, this card would take a slot
    • If you’re over 5/24 and not trying to get under, no problem
  • And, as always, can you meet the spend, use the points, make use of the ongoing benefits, etc.?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But looking at these factors, I can certainly see it being a reasonable choice to pick up this card quickly by February 12 if you’re eligible for the sign-up bonus. You’d be deferring the ability to get a bonus on a Chase Marriott card (presumably for at least 13 months), but you wouldn’t be making yourself permanently ineligible for any other sign-up bonus.

3. Amex SPG Business Card – changing to Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

Our Take – Let’s first look at the new feature of this card – the ability to earn an additional free night up to 35k Marriott points if we spend $60k on the card in a calendar year. We’ll use the same evaluation method as we did with other big-spend bonuses in our recent article.

  • Net cost to earn the 35k free night certificate:
    • Gross cost = $60,000 * 2.5% = $1,500
    • Earnings on spend = 2x Marriott points/dollar * $60k = 120,000 points, times 0.75 cents per Marriott point = $900
    • Net cost = $1,500 – $900 = $600

$600 for a 35k free night certificate where we can probably get $200 and maybe a maximum of $300 worth of value? No thanks.

Thus, we’re left with an increase in the annual fee to $125 (hopefully not until 2020), for a card with no ongoing use for us other than the anniversary 35k free night certificate. We just published an article where we concluded that we’d keep this card for an annual fee of $95. So how about at $125? Maybe … probably … but we really don’t like getting squeezed like this!

Chase Cards

4. Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card – changing to Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

Our Take – Not much to see here. Everything stays the same except that the sign-up bonus increases to 100k Marriott points for an additional $2k of spend on February 28. And as we already covered with respect to the Amex SPG Personal card above, if you’re planning to get this card, the best deal is to wait for the higher bonus.

Our keep-or-cancel decision with respect to this card also remains the same – even though it has no other use for us, we’ll keep the card at a $95 annual fee in order to get the anniversary 35k free night.

5. Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Card – being closed to new applications soon

Our Take – We don’t hold this card, having closed it in April 2018 and unceremoniously denied when we re-applied in August 2018 (much to our disappointment). But let’s start with keep-vs-cancel on this card. For us, this would be the same as for some other cards we’ve already discussed – even though we wouldn’t have any other use for the card, we’d pay the $99 annual fee to get the anniversary 35k free night certificate.

Next, given that this is a discontinued card, should you apply for it now? As with the Amex SPG Personal card we discussed above, this is an individualized analysis that depends on a few factors. However, the factors play out a bit differently with the Chase Marriott Premier Plus Business card than they did with the SPG Personal because there are different restrictions. Let’s take a look:

  • Are you eligible for the sign-up bonus on this card?
    • Not if you:
      • Hold this card or received a sign-up bonus on it within the past 24 months
      • Hold an Amex SPG Personal card or have held one within the past 30 days
      • Hold or held an Amex SPG Business card or an Amex SPG Luxury card, and received a sign-up or upgrade bonus within the past 24 months
      • Applied and were approved for an Amex SPG Business card or an Amex SPG Luxury card within the past 90 days
  • What’s the impact on getting a bonus on other cards you may want?
    • This card would impact your ability to get the bonus on an Amex SPG Business/Bonvoy Business card and an Amex SPG Luxury/Brilliant personal card. If you have this Marriott Premier Plus Business card or have had it within the past 30 days, or if you received a sign-up bonus on this card within the past 24 months, you’d be ineligible to get a sign-up bonus on the Amex SPG Business/Bonvoy Business card or the Amex SPG Luxury/Brilliant personal card.
    • But, this card does not prevent you from getting a bonus on the Chase Marriott Premier Plus personal card or the Amex SPG Personal card (the one that’s being discontinued after 2/12/19)
  • Your 5/24 status
    • If you’re over 5/24, we believe you’ll be ineligible to get this card
      • [UPDATE 1/26/19 – As of today, Doctor of Credit is reporting a few data points of people being approved for this card despite being over 5/24. Given this new data, we’d say that if you’re over 5/24 and interested in this card, definitely give it a shot. As we mention below, we think this presents a good opportunity even though you’d have to forego getting a sign-up bonus on the Amex SPG Business and Luxury cards for 24 months. We’re still ineligible because of other restrictions.]
    • But if you’re under 5/24, this card should have no impact as it will not count against 5/24 going forward
  • And, as always, can you meet the spend, use the points, make use of the ongoing benefits, etc.?

If you’re under 5/24 and otherwise eligible so that you can get this card and its sign-up bonus, I actually think this presents a good opportunity. You’d pay a $99 annual fee, but after meeting the minimum spend you’d get 75k Marriott points worth about $562.50. You’d squeeze yourself out of getting a bonus on the Amex SPG Business and Amex SPG Luxury cards for 24 months – but not forever. And it’s not like there are compelling ongoing benefits on those cards that you’d have to forego.

Unfortunately, I’m extremely ineligible for this card, and Philly is ineligible by virtue of having received a sign-up bonus on the Amex SPG Business card about 13-14 months ago.

6. Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Card – changing to Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa Card

Our Take – This card was previously closed for new applications back in July 2018. There’s only one new feature, which is expanding the $100 property credit benefit to include St. Regis hotels, in addition to Ritz-Carlton where this benefit has always existed. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I’m not sure it adds much value at St. Regis for the reasons we discussed earlier with respect to the Amex SPG Luxury/Bonvoy Brilliant card. At the Ritz-Carlton, the $100 property credit benefit is actually helpful, because it applies to the same rates as this card’s 3 annual club level upgrade certificates. Thus, you can get a club level upgrade and a $100 property credit on the same stay, which is nice.

Beyond that, we’re quite happy that Chase/JP Morgan is leaving this card alone. We’ll be delighted if they never change anything about this card!

7. Chase Marriott Premier legacy card – re-branded to Marriott Bonvoy Premier, but no other changes

According to Sarah Silbert at The Points Guy in a comment to TPG’s article on these changes, Chase has confirmed that the Marriott Premier legacy card will be re-branded as the Marriott Bonvoy Premier card, but there will be no change to the features or annual fee. (This is the card that Marriott phased out in Spring 2018, in favor of the Marriott Premier Plus card.)

Overall Thoughts

Overall, we’re underwhelmed by these announcements. The new features are of very, very limited value, if any. There are no real new opportunities for us. And I suspect that sentiment applies broadly. We were hoping that there would be at least something out of these announcements hat would generate extra value for us.

As we’ve discussed, there’s a potential useful play to get one or both of the discontinued cards, for a very narrow set of people. If you decide that you’d like to get both, be sure to apply for the Chase Marriott Premium Plus Business card first, then the Amex SPG Personal card. This should preserve your ability to get both cards and sign-up bonuses. If you do it the other way around and get the Amex SPG Personal card first, you’ll render yourself ineligible for the Chase Marriott Business card.

Note that the re-branding of the Amex cards will not cause you to regain eligibility for the sign-up bonus on a re-branded card, if you’ve received a sign-up bonus on its predecessor. The one-bonus-per-lifetime rule will still apply to these cards.

And finally, writing this article caused me to focus a bit further on the Marriott program and the changes to award redemptions that are coming soon in March. We’ll have an article soon on planning ahead for the coming changes.

What do you think of the changes to the Amex & Chase Marriott/SPG cards? Will you be able to get a new sign-up bonus or extract any value out of the new features? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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2 thoughts on “Changes to Amex & Chase Marriott/SPG Cards – All of the Details, and Our Take on All the Changes

  1. Brett Hamilton

    Craig,
    I just got my annual fee for the SPG business card. It is $95, as you figured. I have debated if I will keep the card. Your article came at a perfect time!

    1. Craig Post author

      Hi Brett – Good DP on the annual fee. I hope that sticks for everyone throughout 2019. I think keep-or-cancel just comes down to whether you can get enough value from the 35k free night to justify the annual fee. I’m interested to hear what you decide. ~Craig

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