If you have been diligently reading the site, you will know that there are at least two very good arbitrage opportunities that are currently available to Canadians, both of which I have covered in the two articles below:
- How I Hack – Explaining Arbitrage and How to Take Advantage of the Marriott/SPG Merger
- How I Hack – Arbitrage Through Alaska’s Acquisition of Virgin
Both opportunities present incredible value but both require you to use SPG Points as an intermediary of sorts to make it all happen.
If you’ve read through my series of credit card reviews, you will know that American Express is my card issuer of choice in Canada due to their incredible flexibility through both Membership Reward Points and the SPG Points that I am covering off in this post as well as through my review of the American Express SPG Personal Card.
Can I Sign Up For A Business Card?
The first thing anyone says me when I recommend a business card is: “I don’t have a business … can I get this card?”. The answer here is yes. Literally anyone can have a sole proprietorship which would qualify you for the business card. And while every card issuer is different, American Express does not require you to provide a business licence or any other articles of incorporation. I mean, if you think about it, many sole proprietorships do not officially register their businesses. As many new businesses don’t have a credit rating, AMEX uses your personal credit history as the measuring stick for whether you qualify for the card. I personally have the SPG Business Card using PointsNerd as the business entity but you could certainly open one up under your own personal name.
Sign Up Bonus and Annual Fee
Until October 18, 2017, you will receive 25,000 SPG Points rather than the standard 20,000. Act now as this is a time limited offer!
Currently, the sign-up bonus is 20,000 SPG Points after you make the minimum spend requirement of $1,000 in the first 3 months. There is an annual fee of $150 involved with this card and I have never seen it offered with an annual fee waiver in all the years I have been travel hacking.
This card differs from the SPG Personal Card in two significant ways for travel hackers:
- The minimum spend requirements are higher. $1,000 vs $500 in the first 3 months
- The annual fee is higher. $150 vs $120 per year
As you may already know, American Express instituted a Once in a Lifetime rule when it comes to sign up bonuses so if you already have or have had the SPG Personal Card, this is your only option to get more SPG points quickly.
If you are considering the SPG Business Card and are on the fence, perhaps a look at the CPM calculation for the bonus points might help quell your apprehension.
For this calculation, we will assume you are going to transfer your sign up bonus to an airline partner, in which case you would receive 25,000 miles (more about that in the section labeled Transfer Bonus below).
CPM Earning = Annual Fee / Number of Points x 100
CPM Earning = $150 / 25,000 x 100
CPM = 0.6
This means that you are paying 6/10th of a cent for each point, which is well below my criteria for earning points which is 1¢ per point.
I know that generally, I will be able to turn those points into flights that are worth much more than the 0.6¢ it cost me to earn the points. Typically, an economy flight will save you able 2-4¢ per point and a Business Class flight would save you 8-10¢ or more. If you cashed your points in for a First Class Flight, you are now looking at a value of over 15¢ per point.
Just to make sure you completely understand this concept, it’s like you bought a widget for 0.6¢ and then sold that widget later on for 15¢. If you had that option wouldn’t you want to get as many of those widgets as possible?
The reason I so highly covet SPG points is that they provide sensational flexibility when it comes to redemption. At the time of writing, there are 36 Airline Transfer Partners available to SPG members. Below is the comprehensive list (at the time of writing) of SPGs transfer partners and their transfer ratios.
SPG is generous with their transfers in that when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to an airline, they provide a 25% bonus (5,000 additional airline points). You can do this indefinitely. For example, if you had 100,000 SPG points, they would transfer as 125,000 airline points (assuming the transfer is with a 1:1 transfer partner). Just remember to transfer in 20,000 blocks. If you transferred 19,999 points, you would received 19,999 airline points.
The SPG Business Card offers the same insurance coverages at the personal card but to be honest, there are better cards for insurance.
This card lacks the following “standard” insurances that a travel card typically offers:
- Emergency Medical – this is an insurance you want for your travel, especially if you are travelling outside of Canada. The coverage here will reimburse you in the event that you have an emergency medical situation and you need to go to a doctor/hospital. As Canadians, we rarely think about the cost of medical procedures but trust me, it’s very, very, very expensive. If you travel to the United States and have a heart attack, CBS estimates your costs would be around $760,000! Without this insurance, you could be in for a very bad time.
- Trip Interruption – helps to protect you from the costs that arise when a sickness, an injury or another unexpected covered risk causes you to disrupt your travel plans.
- Trip Cancellation – same as Trip Interruption Insurance except that it covers the costs if you have to cancel your trip outright.
For a full listing of insurances that this and other cards offer, please refer to my labour of love, the Comprehensive List of Credit Card Insurances by Card.
Now this lack of key insurances would not dissuade me from using the card on a daily basis (because I do). It simply means that when I have travel related purchases, I would use something like the American Express Gold Personal because it offers full insurance coverages for trips as well as provides you 2x Membership Reward Points for travel related purchases.
If you would like to help out PointsNerd churn out more content like How to Find Award Availability and Negotiating Your Credit Card Annual Fee, kindly use my link to apply for your card. It really does help me out.
There are a couple of very real arbitrage opportunities that involve the use of SPG points and if you couple that with the fact that SPG points provide extreme flexibility, I think that having this card in your wallet is a no brainer, especially if you already have the SPG Personal card. The per point cost of each SPG point is well under the 1¢/point threshold I use so it makes a lot of sense to get this card.
I have personally taken advantage of the Marriott/SPG Arbitrage Opportunity and even if you don’t I would encourage you to get as many SPG points as you can so that you give yourself options when opportunities arise.
Also published on Medium.