Marriott VS SPG: Which Hotel Card Helps You Earn the Most Free Nights?

With the Starwood – Marriott merger, a lot of people are stocking up on SPG Points and transferring them to Marriott for great value. For those who aren’t familiar with either program, SPG points transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, which makes top-tier Marriott redemptions more accessible than ever. So which cards help you earn the most points in each program?

The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express. The former has an $85 annual fee and the latter $95. So which card should you get if you’re trying to earn lots of Marriott points and elite perks?


Sign-up Bonus

On first sight, the Marriott card’s sign-up bonus seems higher at 75,000 points after $3,000 spent in 3 months. The SPG Business card’s 25,000 points after $5,000 spent in 3 months seems small in comparison. However, the combined 30,000 SPG points can be converted to 90,000 Marriott points. So you end up with 12,000 more Marriott points by getting the SPG Business card.


Category Bonus

Starwood Preferred Guest Business cardholders earn 2 points per $1 spent on SPG and Marriott hotels. Converting these 2 points would get you 6 Marriott points per $1 spent. That’s higher than the Marriott Card’s 5 points per $1 on SPG and Marriott hotel stays. The one advantage the Marriott Rewards Premier has over the SPG Business card is that cardholders also earn 2x points on office supply stores, cable, internet, restaurants, car rental agencies, and airfare booked directly with the airline.

I personally would rather earn 3x on dining and travel with the Sapphire Reserve or 5x on the defunct Chase Ink Plus. There are more rewarding cards for category bonuses, so I’m giving this round to the SPG Business Card.


Earning Elite Status

Marriott and Starwood continue to offer cross-program status matches. That means your free Silver status from the Marriott Rewards Premier Card…is pretty much worthless. On the other hand, SPG Business cardholders get 5 nights/2 stays annually towards elite status. That’s a fifth of the way to SPG Gold…which you can also earn by spending $30,000 on the card. And while SPG Gold status isn’t that great, Marriott Gold elite members get substantial perks like complimentary breakfast and room upgrades (based on availability). When it comes to elite perks, the SPG Business card comes out ahead.


Other Perks

The Marriott Rewards Card offers a benefit the SPG Card doesn’t: An annual free night, which can be redeemed at any Category 1 – 5 hotel. To be fair, while the SPG Business Card doesn’t offer a free night, it does come with a unique perk: Amex Offers. I’ve gotten probably half a dozen SPG and Marriott bonus point and discount deals through Amex Offers over the last year. However, this benefit isn’t unique to the SPG Business card, so I’ll go ahead and give this round to the Marriott Rewards Card.


Overall, the best card for earning rewards and benefits with Marriott is the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express. The sign-up bonus converts to 90,000 Marriott points, you can spend your way to a meaningful elite level, and thanks to Amex Offers, you can earn tons of bonus points and save cash on your Marriott stays.


Which card would you go for?

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