Starwood American Express Introduces New Elite Qualification Benefit

At the end of July, American Express announced changes to the Starwood Amex card — no more ‘50% off rack rate’ reservation certificates, replaced by third night free on paid stays at Sheraton, and five night credits towards elite status annually.

At the time I wished for night credits, not just stay credits.

[T]he five nights towards status will be helpful to some, but I would have loved to have seen the opportunity for more elite credit based on spend volume or the ability to earn stay credits rather than nights.

And now, Loyalty Traveler notes that that’s exactly what they’re going to do — give out not just 5 night credits each year to cardholders, but two stay credits as well.

Plus, if you have the personal Starwood American Express and the small business Starwood Amex you’ve got 4 stays and 10 nights to start out with.

Platinum status takes 25 stays or 50 nights to earn.

The card still gets you Gold after $30,000 in annual spend (or the stay/night credit will help you earn it the old fashioned way). And they haven’t taken the step I’d most like to see (and that lower credit card spend folks dread) – stay/night credits for reaching spending thresholds. In general it surprises me that credit cards don’t do more to incentivize incremental spend on their cards. Most bonuses come simply by virtue of having a card, rather than using it, shifting wallet share to that card over all others.

For this one, I’d love to see 1 stay and 2 night credits for each $10,000 in spend (or something of that order of magnitude). That would mean Platinum status after $250,000 in spend. It’s a high enough amount that the level wouldn’t be especially diluted. $250,000 spenders on the card mean a large chunk of points purchased from Starwood by American Express. Such customers are certainly as valuable to SPG as a typical Platinum. And it underscores the value of the elite tier, when Hilton Surpass American Express cardholders can earn Hilton’s top tier after only $40,000 in spend.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Last October, Starwood began awarding both two stays and five nights to American Express cardholder … (no spend threshold required). Folks who have both the personal and small business card get four stays and ten nights. Now heavy spending American Express card users, earning lots of points, can get a real chunk of the way towards top status by actually using their points. […]


  1. Interesting in that I just (literally) received a 50% off certificate on Friday. I wonder when they’ll put this new program into effect?

  2. Good news, but I agree regarding the spending threshold bonuses. With the Chase Marriott Visa Premier, you can get a elite qualifying night (EQN) for every $3K in spending. Added to the 15 annual EQNs that card earns, it takes $180K spending every other year to maintain Platinum status even if you don’t actually stay a single night. Of course, no one would want status if they don’t use it, so a more realistic scenario is a 30-night user who spends $90K every other year to keep Platinum instead of the Silver they’d have otherwise. Marriott and Chase win because of the nearly pure-profit revenue, as does the loyal customer who contributes. Starwood should be attempting to compete with this vigorously, not with a whimper.

  3. “At the time I wished for night credits, not just stay credits.”

    Wishes do come true much better when you wish for what you already have.

  4. Are these 50% off rack rate coupons any good? I just got one, like what is/when/where is the best use of them? please explain this to me

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