New SPG card benefits: Do they work for award stays? Authorized users?

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Yesterday, I wrote a bit about the new benefits of the Amex SPG cards as of August 11.  As a reminder, the new benefits (and new fee) are:

  • Higher annual fees ($95 vs. the current $65)
  • Complimentary, Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi for up to 4 devices
  • Premium in room internet at all SPG hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Business cardmembers only: Free access to Sheraton club lounges

Full details of the new benefits can be found in this press release: American Express and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Enhance Cobrand Credit Card Benefits.  It takes a bit of digging, though, to answer common questions: Are these benefits available during award stays? Will my authorized users get these benefits?  I’ve dug through the terms & conditions and followed up with American Express to answer these questions.  Read below, or jump to the bottom to view summary tables…

SPG card benefits

Lounge benefit details

Regarding club lounge access, here is what the press release says:

  • Access to Sheraton Club Lounges for SPG American Express OPEN Card Members
    Card Members with a SPG Business Credit Card feel like VIPs with access to Sheraton Club Lounges, which includes a complimentary daily breakfast, evening selection of premium beverages and hors d’oeuvres, and space for hosting a friend or colleague. (4)

And, here are the details (bolding is mine):

Sheraton Lounge:

(4) Available at select Sheraton Hotels® & Resorts for the duration of a Card Member’s stay. Visit www.sheratonclubroom.com/find for a full listing of Sheraton® Club properties. This benefit is for Basic Card Members only on Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations. Exclusions of Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations might include rooms booked through a group rate as part of an event and the SPG Member does not directly pay the SPG Participating Hotel for such room; tour operator; or online travel channel or third party channel, such as expedia.com, hotwire.com, priceline.com, orbitz.com, booking.com, Travelocity.com, ctrip.com, or elong.com. A full description of Starpoint Eligible Rates can be found at www.spg.com/terms. Sheraton Club lounge access is limited to the eligible Card Member and a guest staying in the same room for the duration of the stay, regardless of how many rooms have been reserved.

From the above text, we find a few important limitations to the lounge benefit:

  • Basic Card Members only: With Amex business cards, you have the option of adding employee cards to the account.  Amex usually refers to employee cardholders as “Additional Card Members”.  So, the restriction to “basic card members only” means that the lounge benefit is for the primary cardholder only.
  • Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations only: This means that stays booked through online travel agencies, tour operators, group events, etc. typically won’t qualify.
  • Eligible Card Member and a guest staying in the same room only: Other than one guest staying in your own room, you can’t invite guests in with you.  Whether this is really enforced remains to be seen.

I think it was smart of Amex/SPG to limit the lounge benefit to basic card members only.  Otherwise, one person could sign up for the card and add all of their friends and relatives as “employees” so that everyone could get the benefit.  And, if that happened, those Sheraton lounges would likely become intolerably crowded.

Club Lounge Benefit: What about award stays?

The restriction to “Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations only” seems to indicate that award stays are ineligible.  After all, you don’t earn points on award stays.  That didn’t seem right to me, though.  Starwood counts award stays towards elite status requirements, so why wouldn’t they also provide this benefit during award stays?  I reached out to William Tsang at American Express for clarification.  He replied with great news:

You do get free premium internet and Sheraton Club lounge on award night redemptions and Cash & Points, since those are technically coded as “Starpoint eligible rates”.

William D. Tsang
Director, Corporate Affairs & Communications

Great!

Premium Internet

It turns out that the Premium Internet benefit has similar restrictions to the club lounge benefit: basic card members only; Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations only.  However, the Boingo Wi-Fi benefit is less restrictive: Card Members with eligible cards.  I take this to mean all card members get the benefit, including authorized users and employee cardholders.

Benefits and limitations summarized

Do the SPG card benefits apply to authorized users or employee cardholders?

Authorized Users / Employees
No foreign transaction fees Yes
Boingo Wi-Fi Yes
Premium In-Room Internet No
Sheraton Lounge
(business card only)
No

What types of stays are eligible for premium in-room internet and/or Sheraton lounge access?

Premium In-Room Internet Sheraton Lounge (business card only)
Paid stays booked via SPG.com Yes Yes
Award stays Yes Yes
Cash & Points stays Yes Yes
Stays booked through online travel agents No No
Stays booked through tour operator No No
Stays booked with group rate No No
Stays booked with the Starwood business rate No No
Complimentary stays No No
A voucher or third party award (e.g., Aeroplan room award, Air Miles room award) was redeemed for the guest room No No
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