AmEx Upgrades Starwood Perks in Fight to Keep Affluent Clients

American Express Co., the biggest U.S. credit-card issuer by purchases, is adding perks to its Starwood Preferred Guest card as it seeks to retain affluent customers.

AmEx will drop foreign-transaction fees for purchases made abroad, waive in-room Internet charges at participating hotels and offer free Wi-Fi access at more than 1 million Boingo Wireless Inc. hot spots worldwide, the New York-based lender said Wednesday in a statement. The annual fee will rise to $95 from $65 when the changes take effect Aug. 11.

Competition for affluent customers is getting stiffer as rival U.S. card issuers sweeten rewards and wrest partnerships, eroding AmEx’s dominance among big spenders. The lender said in February it was ending its partnership next year with Costco Wholesale Corp., and was also splitting with JetBlue Airways Corp. AmEx renewed a deal with Delta Air Lines Inc. and reached a new one with Charles Schwab Corp.

Cardholders can earn stays at participating Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. properties and points toward free airfare, cultural and sporting events.

In February, AmEx announced it would award double points for spending at U.S. restaurants for holders of its premier gold cards, while adding a personalized travel service and $100 credit to cover incidental airline charges such as baggage costs. The changes took effect this week, with annual fees increasing by $35 to $160 for the regular gold card, and by $20 to $195 for the premier card.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE