The SPG Amex Canada: One Of The Best Hotel Credit Cards In Canada

May 28, 2019
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Important Note: The SPG Amex Canada card has been refreshed as the Marriott Bonvoy Canada card. The current card promotion is no longer available under its original SPG name.

The SPG Amex Canada card is one of the best travel cards for Canadians, hands-down. It comes with an exceptional welcome bonus of 50,000 points—which we’ll show you how to turn into 15 nights at a 5-star hotel—an additional free hotel night every year, and an impressive travel insurance policy to keep you and your belongings safe and secure.

With an annual fee of just $120, this card pays for itself several times over, even for infrequent travelers. Even if you plan to spend just one night per year in a hotel, the SPG Amex Canada card is a no-brainer.

So why is everyone talking about the SPG American Express Canada card these days?

A few reasons. For starters, its 50,000 welcome points bonus is a seriously impressive one. On top of that, the SPG platform is one of the most flexible travel rewards programs out there, right up there with Amex Membership Rewards Points.

But the card isn’t only good for hotels—it offers plenty of benefits for those who want to fly, too. Whether it’s buying a flight with your points or staying covered with the card’s travel insurance, there’s a lot you’ll learn to love about the SPG Amex Canada card.

This post is broken down into the following 12 sections:

#1 The Basics & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points50,000
Starpoints Earned Per $1 Spent At SPG & Marriott Properties5.5
Starpoints Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases2
Free Night Award
SPG Silver Elite Status
Travel Insurance
Supplementary CardsFree
Annual Fee$120

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

#2 Three More Special Benefits

Special Benefit #1: The SPG Amex Canada Free Night Award

On top of the 50,000 Starpoints that come with your SPG Amex Canada card, you also receive one free hotel night every year with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points (Category 1-5 hotel). (Note: if you don’t know what we mean by Category 1-5, we’ll explain below.) There’s no spending requirement for this free night—you'll get it every year regardless of how often you use your card—making it an exceptional value.

What can you use this award on? How about a night at the swanky Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels?

The stunning pool at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels

Or how about The Lexington in New York?

A spacious guestroom at the Lexington Hotel, New York City

Or the Moxy Amsterdam, a new design hotel in one of Amsterdam’s hippest districts? The Sheraton in Bali, with its infinity pool overlooking the ocean? Where will you choose?

The beautifully-designed Moxy Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The infinity pool at the Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort in Bali, Indonesia

As you can see, the opportunities are truly endless for this benefit. And if you haven’t already clued in, a Category 5 hotel can easily go for $300-500 per night, meaning your $120 annual card fee is worth several times its value through this free night benefit alone.

Are you starting to see why Canadians love the SPG Amex Canada card so much?

Special Benefit #2: SPG Elite Status

As soon as you get your SPG Amex Canada card, you’ll be upgraded to SPG Silver Elite status, which gives you lower hotel rates, late checkout, free internet, a dedicated customer service line, plus 10% more points at SPG & Marriott properties, boosting your earning rate to 5.5 points per $1 spent.

If you manage to spend $30,000 on your card in a year, you’ll be upgraded to Gold Elite Status, where you’ll earn 25% more on $1 spent at SPG & Marriott properties, complimentary room upgrades, and 2 p.m. checkout on your hotel stays.

Special Benefit #3: 5th Night Free

This technically isn’t a benefit exclusive to the SPG Amex Canada card, but it’s so good that it’s worth pointing out here, anyway. It goes like this:

Every time you book a SPG/Marriott hotel for 4 nights, they give you a 5th night for free!

There’s nothing more to explain than that, though I don’t need to tell you how amazing of a benefit this is. As you’ll see below, we’ll use this to our full advantage to get as many as 16 nights in a 5-star hotel with your card.

#3 How To Use Your Starpoints

You have a few options of how to use your Starpoints:

  1. Hotel Stays: The best way to use your Starpoints—hands-down—is on hotel stays. As you’ll see in the case studies below, your card is worth up to 16 nights in a 5-star hotel if you use it wisely. We’ll show you how.
  2. Flights: Flights are the second-best way to use the 50,000 Starpoints that come with your SPG American Express Canada card. We show you below how to get a roundtrip flight anywhere in North America with your points.
  3. Marriott Moments: We won’t talk about Marriott Moments in-depth here, since our focus is on hotels and flights, but you can expect things like VIP Super Bowl parties, private dining with celebrity chefs and more. Here’s the full list of Marriott Moments that you can choose from.

But First…You Need To Understand Redemption Categories

Marriott & SPG have their properties separated into different “Categories,” with each property falling into a category from 1-8. Put simply, lower Categories correspond to cheaper hotels, but as we’ll see, some creativity enables you to find some truly exceptional properties at the low end of the redemption chart, making your points go much, much further.

Booking a hotel in a given category is as simple as consulting Marriott’s redemption chart below. In brackets we’ve included the PointSavers rates, which are promotional prices 10-20% lower than the regular price that you can sometimes take advantage of. SPG hasn’t released their peak and off-peak season dates yet, since this is a new setup for them. Sign up for our email list at the bottom of this post if you want our tips for how to book off-peak dates.

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
15,000 (4,000)7,500 (6,000)10,000 (8,500)
210,000 (8,000)12,500 (11,000)15,000 (13,000)
315,000 (12,000)17,500 (16,000)20,000 (18,000)
420,000 (17,500)25,000 (22,500)30,000 (27,500)
530,000 (27,500)35,000 (32,500)40,000 (37,500)
640,000 (35,000)50,000 (45,000)60,000 (55,000)
750,000 (45,000)60,000 (55,000)70,000 (65,000)
870,000 (65,000)85,000 (80,000)100,000 (90,000)

Now that you understand how Categories work (they’re really simple), let’s look at a few real-world examples of how you could use your points.

Case Study #1: Visiting Family

Suppose you want to visit some family in Calgary, so you do a quick search on Marriott’s website and decide to stay at the Courtyard Calgary South, a Category 1 hotel in the city’s up-and-coming Seton district.

One of the gorgeous rooms at the Courtyard Calgary South.

As the redemption chart above shows, you’ll pay somewhere between 4,000-10,000 points per night for your stay, depending on the season you visit and whether the property is currently a PointSaver.

This means that at the very least, your 50,000 points get you 5 nights (50,000 points / 10,000 points per night), plus 1 additional free night from Marriott’s 5th night free policy and another free night from your SPG Amex annual free night benefit, which all shakes out to a total of 7 nights.

If you go during an off-peak period, though, you could pay as little as 4,000 points per night, which means you could get 12 nights with your points (50,000 points / 4,000 points per night). Add on 3 extra nights from the 5th night free policy (12 nights / 4 = 3 free nights) plus your SPG Amex’s annual free night and all of a sudden you’re at 16 nights—with 2,000 points left over!

This is my kind of card.

Case Study #2: The Big Winner

I’ve recently been planning a trip to Guizhou, China, to take in the natural landscapes there.

You’ve probably never heard of Guizhou—not many Westerners have—but it’s quickly gaining popularity in the East as one of China’s untouched gems. And in the heart of Guizhou sits the brand-new Four Points by Sheraton Bijie, a 5-star marvel of a hotel that’s, amazingly, just a Category 1 on Marriott’s redemption chart.

That’s right—a Category 1 5-star hotel. Here’s what it looks like:

The lounge at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.
The indoor pool at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.

If you visit Guizhou during off-peak season, you’ll pay just 4,000 points per night at the Four Points, which means your 50,000 points will get you 12 nights, just like in the Calgary example above. Combine that with Marriott’s 5th night free policy for your extra 3 free nights and SPG Amex Canada’s annual free night and you’re up to an incredible 16 nights with your card.

16 nights at a 5-star hotel, all thanks to your $120 SPG Amex Canada card.

Not bad, Amex. Not bad at all.

Case Study #3: Balling Out

Of course, you don’t have to stretch your points as far as we are. You can also choose to spend them in a single night, if you’d like.

Spending the weekend in New York? Why not use your points on a Category 6 hotel like the W New York, which sits next to the new World Trade Center.

A typical room at the W New York World Trade Center.

With more than 7,000 SPG and Marriott properties to choose from, the sky is truly the limit with your SPG American Express Canada card.

#4 Redeeming StarPoints For Flights

Your 50,000 Starpoints can also be transferred to 45 different airline partners. Most, but not all, of the airline partners accept Starpoints at a value of 3:1 (eg. 30,000 Starpoints = 10,000 Aeroplan Miles). If you transfer 60,000 Starpoints to any airline partner, you’ll also receive an additional 5,000 miles for free, meaning that 60,000 Starpoints turns into 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, British Airways Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

(Note: We recommend that you use your Starpoints for hotel redemptions, since they’re much more valuable that way. If you’re looking for a card for maximizing flight rewards, we recommend the American Express Platinum and the American Express Business Platinum.)

If you follow our advice on how to redeem your airline points, you’ll find that they’re worth about 2-3 cents apiece, putting the value of 60,000 Starpoints at about $500-$750 when you use them on flights.

Here’s a full list of all the airline partners you can transfer your points to, with their transfer ratios:

  • Aegean Airlines (3:1)
  • Aeroflot Bonus (3:1)
  • AeroMexico ClubPremier (3:1)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (3:1)
  • Air China Phoenix Miles (3:1)
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue (3:1)
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints (200:1)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (3:1)
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia (3:1)
  • ANA Mileage Club (3:1)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Miles (3:1)
  • Asiana Airlines Asiana Club (3:1)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (3:1)
  • British Airways Executive Club Avios (3:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (3:1)
  • China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles (3:1)
  • China Southern Airlines (3:1)
  • Copa Airlines ConnectMiles (3:1)
  • Delta SkyMiles (3:1)
  • Emirates Skywards (3:1)
  • Etihad Guest (3:1)
  • Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns (3:1)
  • Hainan Airlines (3:1)
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles (3:1)
  • Iberia Plus (3:1)
  • Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank (3:1)
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege (3:1)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (6:1)
  • Korean Air SkyPass (3:1)
  • LATAM Airlines LATAMPass/Multiplus (3:1)
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (3:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (3:1)
  • Qatar Privilege Club (3:1)
  • Saudia Airlines Alfursan (3:1)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (3:1)
  • South African Airways Voyager (3:1)
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (3:1)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (3:1)
  • THAI Airways Royal Orchid Plus (3:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (3:1)
  • United MileagePlus (3:1.1—10% bonus)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (3:1)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer (3:1)

You can transfer anywhere between 3,000-240,000 Starpoints to airline partners each day.

#5 How Do I Earn Starpoints?

There are several distinct ways to earn Starpoints:

#1: Card Spending

You’ll earn 5.5 Starpoints per $1 spent at SPG and Marriott properties, which includes the cost of your stay, food and drinks, and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. Normally you’d only earn 5 Starpoints per $1 spent, but since Silver Elite SPG membership also comes complimentary with your SPG Amex Canada card, you earn an extra 10% on SPG and Marriott properties, bringing you to 5.5 Starpoints per $1 spent. You also earn 2 Starpoints per $1 spent on all other purchases.

#2: Work Purchases & Events

If you’re planning a work event, such as a conference or large meeting, you can also earn points on spending done by your guests. As a Silver Elite member, you can earn up to 66,000 points per event (earned at 2 Starpoints per $1 spent by you or your guests). You also earn 10 Elite Qualifying Nights for your first meeting, and 1 Elite Qualifying Night for every 20 room nights booked by you or your guests. Even if you’re planning a small event, these can accumulate very quickly.

This all adds up to one thing: if you’re an event planner, admin assistant or anyone planning a gathering, you need the SPG Amex Canada card.

#3: Special Purchases

Some purchases grant you additional Starpoints when you charge them to your card. For example, you’ll receive 500 Starpoints per day when you rent a rental card with Hertz, up to 2,000 points per rental. You also earn additional points on travel expenditures like cruises and long-distance telephone cards. We recommend calling SPG after you get your card to learn more about all the unique ways you can earn points.

#6 Is The SPG Amex Canada Card Right For Me?

The SPG Amex Canada card is a no-brainer for anyone who plans to spend at least 1 night in a hotel per year.

This sounds oversimplified, but it’s actually not at all.

Think about it. If you ignore everything else—the 50,000 points welcome bonus, the travel insurance, and all of the other extras that come with the card—and look only at the annual free hotel night benefit, that alone is worth at least double the $120 annual fee.

You’re getting one night at a 5-star hotel for $120.

And when you add on all the other benefits, the value of the card becomes overwhelming.

Every Canadian should have this card in their wallet for the next 10+ years.

There are other American Express cards we recommend as well, but the great thing is you can hold several Amex cards at the same time.

#7 The Ultimate Canadian Traveler’s Credit Card Stack

Even the best travel credit cards have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to hold multiple cards so you can capitalize on each of their advantages and downplay their weaknesses. Here’s the triple threat full stack we highly recommend for maximizing your earning and travel benefits:

#1 The SPG Amex Canada Card

As we’ve shown in detail here, this card offers an exceptional welcome bonus, but also provides more than enough benefit to keep it in your wallet year after year.

#2 The Platinum Card

Another card that every Canadian should have in their wallet. We value the current 60,000 points welcome bonus at between $1,200-$1,800, depending on how well you apply the points, plus you get a $200 annual travel credit, which you can actually use twice in your first year. This means that the purely quantitative benefits of the card are worth at least $1,600-$2,200 in the first year, compared to the $699 annual fee.

#3 The Cobalt Card

You’ll fall in love with this everyday spending card. We show you how to get 10% back on your spending (seriously!) when you use this card on coffee, groceries, restaurant and bar spending anywhere in Canada. It’s the card you should be using for your daily spending.

Contrary to what many people believe, having multiple credit cards actually helps your credit score, not hurts it, as long as you pay off your bill every month. This signals to creditors that you’re fully capable of paying off your bills on time, which they reflect by boosting your credit score.

So go ahead and get the full stack—your wanderlust will thank you.

  1. Your hotels card
  2. Your flights card
  3. Your everyday card

#8 Travel Insurance

The SPG Amex Canada card also comes with an impressive travel insurance policy. Here’s what it includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

This is a very good insurance plan, especially since it’s included with your card. If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive insurance plan, though—one that covers emergency medical, emergency dental, trip interruption, personal liability and terrorism—we recommend SafetyWing, the $37/month plan that’s disrupting the travel insurance market in a big, big way.

#9 The One Downside To The SPG Amex Canada: Foreign Transaction Fees

Despite all the amazing benefits and features of the card, there is one noticeable downside to the SPG Amex Canada card: the 2.5% fee on foreign transactions. This fee isn’t unique to this card—no card in Canada offers fee-free foreign transactions—but it is still worth mentioning here. If you’re able to pick up an N26 You card on your next trip to Europe, definitely do so: it’ll make your financial life on the road much, much better. Until then, though, we’ll have to accept that there are no good FX cards in Canada.

#10 The Amex SPG Business Card

This entire review has been about the Amex SPG Canada personal card, though there's also an American Express SPG Business card for Canadians, too. There are a few minor differences between the two cards:

  1. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on gas, dining and travel vs. 2 points per $1 with the personal card.
  2. Supplementary cards cost $50 vs. free for the personal card.
  3. Annual fee of $150 vs. $120 for the personal card.
  4. Includes Employee Card Misuse Protection, which is also included with the American Express Business Platinum card.

If you're a business owner and plan to use this card in a business capacity, go ahead and get the SPG Business card. But if not, since we recommend using the Cobalt card for your everyday spending, you won't really see any additional benefits for the extra $30 in annual fees you pay for the business card.

#11 Is The SPG Amex Canada Card Worth It?

Without a doubt.

The welcome bonus is incredibly generous. The annual benefits far exceed the annual cost of the card. The insurance is a nice bonus, and taking advantage of it all is as easy as a quick search online. If you're a Canadian that plans on spending at least one night in a hotel in the next 12 months, we can't recommend this card highly enough.

#12 FAQs

Why Do I Earn Starpoints At Both SPG And Marriott Properties?

In 2018, Marriott and Starwood—formerly two distinct companies—merged into one. Their points programs joined forces as well, which is why your SPG Amex Canada card gets you so many bonuses and benefits with Marriott as well.

When Do My Starpoints Expire?

Starpoints expire after one year of inactivity. Since you earn Starpoints every time you stay at an SPG or Marriott property, or even just eat at one of their restaurants, it’s very easy to keep your Starpoints balance active. See our section “How Do I Earn Starpoints” above to see just how easy it is to keep your account active.

How Do Starpoints Compare With American Express Membership Reward Points?

They're completely different. We value Amex MR points at 2-3 cents apiece, and we help you to get these values in posts like this one on $75 flights to Asia and this one on $75 flights to Europe.

Still, it's hard to say which are more valuable. One thing we can say is that you should not transfer your Amex MR points to Starpoints. American Express offers a rate of 1,000 MR = 1,200 Starpoints, which is a very poor valuation. This is only a decision you'll face with your other cards, since the SPG Amex Canada card earns Starpoints on its own.

All things considered, we recommend keeping your Starpoints as Starpoints so you can use them on amazing hotel redemptions (see the Case Studies above), and transferring your Amex MR points from your Platinum card to airlines for flights.

When Are The Peak Season & Off-Peak Season For Hotel Redemptions?

The peak/off-peak system is brand new to SPG and Marriott, so they actually haven’t listed which dates will be priced in which way. For now, every date is listed at the standard price, though this will change in the coming months. Join our email list at the bottom of this post so we can update you when that happens and help you maximize your points by planning your travel during off-peak dates.

What About Marriott's Points + Cash Program?

If you prefer to save some of your Starpoints, or if you don't have enough for a particular booking, you can take advantage of the points + cash option. Generally we recommend against this, since this setup values points lower than what they're worth if you apply them smartly (see our Case Studies above), but it’s not terrible either. If you don’t have enough points for your hotel stay, use points + cash, but if you do, just use your points. Here's the points + cash breakdown for each hotel category:

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
150 USD + 2,500 points55 USD + 3,500 points60 USD + 4,500 points
260 USD + 5,000 points65 USD + 6,000 points70 USD + 6,500 points
370 USD + 7,500 points80 USD + 8,500 points90 USD + 9,000 points
490 USD + 10,000 points105 USD + 12,000 points120 USD + 13,500 points
5120 USD + 16,000 points140 USD + 17,000 points165 USD + 19,000 points
6165 USD + 22,000 points190 USD + 25,000 points225 USD + 27,500 points
7225 USD + 27,500 points250 USD + 30,000 points325 USD + 35,000 points
8325 USD + 35,000 points440 USD + 42,500 points635 USD + 50,000 points

You also have another option if you don’t have enough points for a booking: you can book your stay with points and then earn the points later from other hotel stays or credit card spending later. As long as the points reach your account 14 days before your stay, you’re fine. If they don’t, though, your stay will be canceled and you won’t be refunded, so use this strategy with caution.

Where Can I Search For SPG & Marriott Hotels?

You can search for hotels using the Marriott search platform here.

We recommend searching on two parameters: the city you’re visiting and the redemption category you’d like to redeem with, which you can find by clicking “All Filters” in the top-right and then selecting “Rewards Category.” If you’re using your annual free night benefit, go for a Category 5, which will show you the best hotels you can get for the 35,000 annual free night points limit. If you’re using your 50,000 welcome points bonus, you can use them however you’d like (see the Case Studies above for ideas of high-value redemptions).

You can redeem your Starpoints (with zero blackout dates) at any of these hotel brands, anywhere in the world:

  • The Ritz-Carlton
  • St. Regis
  • JW Marriott
  • The Luxury Collection
  • W Hotels
  • Marriott Hotels
  • Sheraton
  • Marriott Vacation Club
  • Delta Hotels by Marriott
  • Le Méridien
  • Westin
  • Autograph Collection
  • Renaissance Hotels
  • Tribute Portfolio
  • Gaylord Hotels
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott
  • Protea Hotels by Marriott
  • Fairfield by Marriott
  • AC Hotels by Marriott
  • Aloft
  • Moxy Hotels
  • Element

How Many Starpoints Will I Earn?

Every SPG member earns 5 points per $1 spent on purchases at SPG and Marriott properties. This includes the cost of your stay plus food and drinks and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. The SPG Amex Canada card comes with complimentary Silver Elite SPG membership, which means you’re automatically boosted to 5.5 points per $1 spent.

This table shows how much each level earns, plus the maximum number of points they can earn from any one event.

Points BonusPoints Earned Per $1 SpentMax Points Earning per Events
Silver Elite10%5.566,000
Gold Elite25%6.2575,000
Platinum Elite50%7.590,000
Platinum Premier Elite75%8.75105,000
Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador75%8.75105,000

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