The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is increasing its annual fee and adding four new benefits today in one fell swoop. The news is that the foreign transaction fee is permanently going.
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express is considered one of the best travel cards and things are a'changin. Most noticeably, perhaps its best benefit, free Sheraton Club Lounge access, is going to the business card only though the personal card will also get some decent upgrades itself.
For those not familiar with the card, there is an initial 30,000-point sign-up bonus (equivalent to just over one domestic round-trip on most airlines) with a $3,000 minimum spend in the first 3 months for the personal card. The business card earns the same exact amount of points but distributes the points a bit differently and also requires a $5,000 spend.
Starwood apparently will even sweeten the pot by giving away a 5,000-mile bonus when transferring 20,000 points out of the account. There's seems to be quite a few airlines on the list so it's worth checking out. It's a rather popular card, though I haven't had the chance to check it out myself.
About that annual fee
There is a small catch. The annual fee is increasing from $65 to $95 per year, though this mostly applies to renewals. The first year is waived for new cardholders and that's not changing.
All in all, it’s not a huge increase and is on par with existing annual fees out there — the Chase Sapphire Preferred fee is the same price. The $30 increase, though, seems minimal compared to the additional benefits.
Less money to spend for the bonus
This mostly applies to the personal card. It appears that the minimum spend is being lowered from $5,000 to $3,000 to entice new customers to sign up. But that does come at the cost of ONE benefit...
Sayonara to the the foreign transaction fee
I’m not sure why any travel credit card would charge a foreign transaction feeTK but it's going bye-bye... which is great for earning those points on vacation. Plus, with SPG’s partnership with Uber, even those abroad rides after one too many drinks can earn double points.
Free internet at airports (and more)
Starwood and Amex have teamed up with Boingo to offer cardholders free Internet access at over 1 million hotspots worldwide. Boingo hotspots include major airports—think LAX & JFK—hotels and lounges, so this is a nice bonus for those who aren't connected via phone data/tethering. If it included in-flight Wi-Fi...
Supersonic internet in hotel rooms
Okay not supersonic. But it is getting better. Like Gary Leff from View from the Wing points out, it's already free, but:
Starwood no longer charges SPG members for Internet access and as a result they give ‘premium’ (faster) internet to Gold and Platinum members. This upgraded internet will also be extended to their co-branded American Express card holders.
Just lounging around the hotel
Getting access to Sheraton Club Lounge is definitely the best benefit of having the card. Free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and a quiet place to catch up on work or watch TV… no Platinum status required. Unfortunately, this perk only applies to the business card.