SPG Amex Card launches in UK

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This topic contains 24 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  VintageKrug 18 Aug 2011
at 17:28
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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 25 total)

  • Anonymous

    ANDREWYOUNG1
    Participant

    Starwood have just emailed to say that they have finally launched UK version of the SPG American Express card – benefits include 10k bonus points on spending £1K in the first 3 months of membership, 1 point per £1 spent (better than per £2 spent if you transfer from Amex Membership Rewards to SPG), Gold SPG status when spending £15k in a year (no mention of upgrade to Platinum status if you’re already Gold) and a free weekend night if you spend £25k a year.

    The card has a £75 annual fee but no mention of this being waived for Platinum or Centurion Amex Chargecard holders as is the case with the Premium BA Amex card. If anyone finds this out I’d be interested to hear.


    continentalclub
    Participant

    Full details on the AmEx site here:

    http://bit.ly/9ebrpD

    After such a long wait, it does seem a shame that the UK version of this card appears a good deal less generous in its rewards than the long-running US card. Perhaps that’s just a reflection of the different times in which the cards have been launched.

    Nevertheless, the great benefit of the SPG programme (and, by default, the card) is the sheer number of airline partners to which it links, and the generous conversion ratios it offers.

    For that reason alone, the card will be of great interest to many frequent travellers who value the flexibility to ‘top up’ their balances across a number of different programmes – and gain a 25% uplift in converted points/miles when 20,000 Starpoints are transferred.


    ANDREWYOUNG1
    Participant

    Yes, not quite as generous as the US card is it, and I’m surprised that there’s no higher earning rate at Starwood properties as is the case with the US card. Nonetheless, the welcome bonus is worth the £75 alone, especially if you wait until you have 20K points and then transfer to an airline with the extra bonus.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    This raises a very interesting question that i was about to start a new thread on:

    I use SPG, Sheraton – Westin etc. In trying to fund ways of reducing our travel budget, the 3% commission charge by Amex on all foreign tranactions his one we are trying to avoid.

    I was wondering if anyone knows whether:

    1. A major hotel brand would accept bank transfers in Sterling to cover room costs
    2. What the cheapest way to transfer sterling into local currency is and to pay for a hotel in cash not via credit card.

    We have noticed that on checking amex commission which shows only on their on line statements at present, we were getting hit for over £500 per month in commission – alone.

    Any ideas to reduce these costs. I am happy to forgo Amex points in favour of reducing costs.


    continentalclub
    Participant

    Martyn: it’s perfectly possible to pay by bank transfer, but you should always settle in the property’s home currency or else you expose yourself to their (often poor) exchange rates.

    Your bank will charge you a commission which will be significantly less than most credit cards, and the conversion should be at interbank rates.

    However, you will have to contract with each hotel individually and you will also have to pay in cash, locally, for any extras charged to account. The hotel industry business model is (even when properties are wholly-owned and directly-managed) almost always for local profit and cost centres. In such circumstances, there is no facility to pay centrally and for the chain to aportion revenue on your behalf to the point of actual service provision. If for no other reason, that could create sales tax issues internally.

    It’s also unlikely that you will benefit from the best available (usually web) rates if you contract directly with the hotel locally, unless you enjoy a negotiated rate at that property.

    And you should not underestimate the administrative burden of making arrangements in this way, and the lack of protection if/when funds go astray.

    I can almost guarantee that, in practice, the fees charged by your credit card provider will be a fraction of the costs that you’ll incur in trying to pay manually – though you may of course be able to find a provider who charges less than your current one.

    While not wishing to rain on the parade, I see companies trying to make savings like this day-in, day-out, and ultimately hiding/kidding themselves about the very real additional costs that they end up facing.

    Proceed with extreme caution!

    We’ve had a look at the small print of the card’s T&Cs, and there is no mention of the annual fee being waived for premium SPG members. The relevant paragraphs are pasted below:

    6. FEES

    6.1 The fees and commissions that apply to your account are set out below. You agree to pay these fees and commissions and you authorise us to charge them to your account when due. A membership
    year starts on the anniversary of card membership and ends on the day before the next anniversary of card membership, (called card anniversary date).

    6.2 A Card Membership Annual Fee of £75 is payable annually at the beginning of each membership year.

    6.3 We reserve the right to change the circumstances in which any of the fees or commissions on your account are charged and the amount of those fees or commissions.

    We will provide notice of any change as set out in the “Changes” section of this Starwood TWQ Page 4 of 24 agreement. You agree that we may impose additional fees and commissions at any time by giving you notice as set out in the “Changes” section of this agreement.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Hi

    Thanks for the warning Continental Club.

    At my regualr hotels, I havebeen able to negotiate an all in cost to cover room, all food as needed, mainly taken in exec lounge, all business meeting rooms, wireless, photocopying, guests drinks, laundry, so i get one ahcrge per day. The hotel know me not to take liberties, i.e. clients dont treat it like a bar and i dont order 3 gourmet meals a day, but i get one fair price to cover all expenses in most hotels. My acounts people love it.

    What i am looking for in my ideal world isto agree a sterling price with hotel in advance, so lets say the XYZ hotel in Tumbukthree agrees a rate of £110 per night, that i can pay that in Sterling, to a UK bank either mid trip or in advan ce., they will always have a credit to secure the booking. I would also be happy to pay say 30 nights in advance if this system works.

    I agree with your comments that this can be expensive, but only if you are using high street banks and dont have a direct line of communications.

    My accounts team were absolutely horrified when they/we saw the commissions which amex are now mandated to show on the online system. Thus far, i bleive that Amex are refusing to show these on paper statements.

    There has to be a way for international hotels to permit easy payment in a home based currency to avoid paying commission charges.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    BT

    What would have been useful in your cut and paste excersie would have been to include the commission charges i.e. 3% of transaction.

    How about an editorial investigation entitled how to cut the cost of travel, whilst maintaining standards, in 10 easy lessons. I would be more than happy to assist and provide data.


    ANDREWYOUNG1
    Participant

    Thanks for the cut and paste of the T&Cs for the card BT – interestingly the BA Premium card’s T&Cs says similar with no mention of waiving the fee, although they do. Maybe I’ll make a call to the friendly people in Brighton and see if they know the definitive answer – it would be strange for Amex to extend this benefit for one FFP card and not another, and unlike say the BMI or Virgin Atlantic card this one is actually offered by AESEL, (as is the BA card) rather than MBNA as the others are.


    continentalclub
    Participant

    Martyn: these days, it’s almost unheard of for a hotel to agree rates (and therefore revenue) in anything but their ‘house’ currency. To do so would transfer all the FX risk to them, and margins are so tight that it could prove commercially suicidal.

    If you are spending significant sums in a limited number of destinations, then you might consider opening accounts with your bankers in local currencies and either effectively hedging your own funds or forward contracting if you like the look of future rates. You would then only pay an IBAN fee to send the money to the hotel.

    However, as someone with extensive PLC experience of managing operational cost-control programmes, I really can’t stress highly enough just how expensive supposedly-cheaper ways of doing things often are. I hope this doesn’t sound impolite, but do calculate exactly how much time you’ll spend on this, how much time your accounts team will spend on it (especially when paperwork goes missing/doesn’t appear) and what surcharge your overseas hotel must realistically load your sterling rate by to protect themselves from FX swings. As an example, the Australian Dollar has moved in a 0.8% range in the last 24 hours alone. They may also load the rate to cover the increased administration at their end too.

    For reference, conversion fees do appear on paper statements too.


    continentalclub
    Participant

    BusinessTraveller: the BA AmEx fee-waiver was an unpublished benefit and it was extended to account holders on an apparently discretionary and individual basis.

    My understanding is that new BA AmEx account holders, even if they are higher-tier charge card bearers, are not offered the waiver.

    The benefit is currently being maintained for those who were originally offered it.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Andrew

    Why would i need 2 Amex cards – what is the real benefit of an Amex branded SPG card.

    I hold one of those metal centurion things which AMex are trying to extract £1800 a year for. Currently that fee has been waived until April 2011. I still cant see any value of 1 Amex card never mind 2!


    continentalclub
    Participant

    Martyn: as an example, the 10,000 Starpoint spend award would effectively take the recipient half way to a transatlantic upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club on British Airways, for the £75 card fee.

    That’s an undoubted benefit to very many potential cardholders.

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