Marriott Credit Cards
100,000 Marriott points ($5,000 initial spend).An alternative offer of 3 free nights (up to 35,000 points each) for the Chase Boundless card is more valuable if you have a good opportunity to use them before they expire. $3,000 initial spend. Offer Link (thanks US Credit Card Guide).
75,000 points ($3,000 initial spend) for personal, business, or premium card.Signup Bonus Chart
6x Marriott / SPG Purchases (≈4.2%)
2x Everywhere Else (≈1.4%)
4x Restaurants, Gas, Telecommunications, and Shipping with the business versions (≈2.8%)
No Foreign Transaction Fee
The Marriott cards offer valuable signup bonuses and each one provides a free night certificate every year. They can also greatly reduce the number of nights you need to stay each year to qualify for Marriott's valuable Platinum elite status.
Because it is hard to use credit card travel benefits during the pandemic, Chase and Amex have made some temporary changes to their cards.
- Any Amex personal card that predates the start of 2021 will receive a dining credit each month. The Bonvoy Brilliant receives $20 and the Bonvoy Amex (old SPG card) receives $10 of free restaurant, delivery, or takeout food every month in 2021. You'll need to activate these as Amex Offers on each card.
- Any Amex Bonvoy Business Card that predates the start of 2021 will receive a $15 wireless credit each month. As with the restaurant credits, you'll need to activate these as Amex Offers on each card.
- Both personal and business Amex Marriott cards that predate 2021 should have Amex offers that provide 7,500 bonus points for every $7,500 you spend between activating the offer and the end of the year. Even with this 1x points per dollar boost, it might not be worth switching your spending to these cards.
- 1 Marriott / SPG Credit Card Options
- 2 Marriott Points
- 3 Collecting the Signup Bonus
- 4 Free Night Certificates
- 5 Earning Elite Status Nights
- 6 Other Notable Benefits
- 7 Additional Benefits with the Bonvoy Brilliant Card
- 8 Bonus Categories
- 9 Getting Rid of the Card
Marriott / SPG Credit Card Options
Four Marriott cards are currently available.
Marriott Bonvoy Business. The business version is issued by Amex and is subject to its cap of 4-5 total credit cards at any one time. It has nearly identical features to the personal version, except for not super execiting 4x bonus rewards on US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless telephone service and shipping. $125 annual fee. Amex Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. The premium Marriott card is issued by Amex and is a rebranding of the old "SPG Luxury Card". While this card has a $450 annual fee, it comes with a $300 credit you can use for any spending at Marriott, easily lowering your out-of-pocket expense to $150. Its annual free night certificate is capped at 50,000 points (rather than 35,000) and it comes with a Priority Pass membership as well as other benefits. Amex Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold. Chase also offers a no-annual-fee card with a lower signup bonus and no annual free night certificate. Since you are limited to the number of Chase cards you can get, it makes more sense to start with the regular "Boundless" version. But if you have the Boundless card and you no longer want to pay the annual fee to access the annual free night certificate, you might convert it to this version, rather than cancelling it. You'll retain access to the Marriott 15 elite night credit benefit and can convert it back if you need to. Chase Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Marriott is also continuing to support the Marriott Premier Card, Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card (the old SPG personal card), the Ritz Carlton Card, and several other older Marriott cards, but none of these cards are available for new signups.
Which card to get is complicated.
- If you want to maximize the number of "free" elite night credits you get every year, you'll need a business card and a personal cards. If you are starting from scratch, you can get the Amex Brilliant card at roughly the same time as getting the business card, but you'd have to wait two years to get the Marriott card. On the other hand, holding onto both Amex cards will severely limit the number of other Amex cards you can get.
- Chase's 5/24 rule and Amex's 4-5 card limit may determine which version to get. If you are blocked by Chase, you'll need to get one of the Amex cards. If you can get the Chase card, you'll have room for other cards from Amex.
- All other things being equal, we recommend the Brilliant card to anyone who is comfortable they will spend $300 per year with Marriott. It is worth paying a little more for the 50,000 point certificate.
You should be able to get values of more than .7 cents per point on many Marriott award bookings and you can sometimes get much more on particularly good redemptions (when rates are higher than normal). How Much are Hotel Points Worth?
You can also transfer them to dozens of different frequent flyer programs to use for award tickets. You'll receive 25,000 frequent flyer miles for every 60,000 points you transfer. At a value of .7 cents per point, you are "buying" frequent flyer miles for about 1.7 cents per mile.
Collecting the Signup Bonus
- It is worth signing up for these cards just to collect their signup bonuses. A typical signup bonus for the base cards is 75,000 points, with higher offers sometimes available. 75,000 Marriott points is valued at over $500 and 100,000 Marriott points is valued at $700.
- You can only earn the signup bonus for the Amex cards once per lifetime. If you've had the same card before, Amex will still give you the card, but they won't let you earn the signup bonus. Targeted promotional offers occasionally bypass this limitation, allowing you to earn the bonus for am Amex card you've already had.
- The Chase Marriott cards are affected by the 5/24 rule. You won't be approved if you've gotten 5 or more cards (from all banks combined) in the past 24 months.Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.
- Chase, Marriott, and Amex are working together to limit the total number of signup bonuses you can earn.
- You can only have one of the current Chase cards (Marriott Boundless or Marriott Bold) at any one time. If you are going to signup for one of the Chase cards, the regular Boundless version is more valuable.
- You can't receive a bonus on either of the Chase personal cards if you've received a bonus on either of the Amex cards (business or premium) in the last 24 months, and you can't receive a bonus on either of the Amex cards if you've received a bonus on either of the Chase cards in the last 24 months.
- If you still have the Bonvoy Amex Card (the old SPG personal card), you aren't eligible for the current Chase cards. If you still have the Marriott Business Card (from Chase), you aren't eligible for the signup bonus on the new Bonvoy Business Card from Amex. If you still have the Ritz Carlton card, you aren't eligible for the bonus on Amex's Bonvoy Brilliant (premium) card.
Note that means that you can still get the signup bonuses on both the Amex cards during the same time period.
Free Night Certificates
Every Marriott credit card gives you free night certificate every year, when you renew the card. Marriott Free Night Certificates.
- Marriott certificates can only be used for rooms that don’t exceed a specified points cap. For example, the certificate from the “regular” (Boundless) Marriott Card can only be used for rooms that would require up to 35,000 points fir an award night.
- It is hard to use 35,000 point Marriott Certificates at nicer hotels. On the surface, it might look like 35,000 point certificates should be good enough to book solid hotels in most cities and at least some hotels in expensive cities like New York. However, you are most likely to want to use your certificate when hotel rates are high, and Marriott requires more points during each hotel’s peak days. During peak days, these certificates will only work at Marriott’s category 1-4 hotels, which tends to restrict you to Marriott’s lower tier brands and/or locations on the outskirts of cities.
- 50,000 point certificates can be used at nicer hotels—Category 6 hotels on “standard” days, Category 5 hotels on “peak” days, and Category 7 hotels (out of 8) on “off-peak” days.
- If you are interested in additional certificates, you can sign up for multiple cards. However, if you also want to receive a signup bonus for each new card, you'll need to follow some restrictions that are detailed above. And all the Marriott cards are subject to either Chase's 5/24 limits or Amex's 4-5 total Amex credit cards limit. Dealing with the Amex 4 Credit Card Limit
- You'll receive the certificate a month or two after each year's anniversary date. You don't receive one the first year you have the card (you get the signup bonus instead).
Nevertheless, you should still be able to get more value than the effective cost of the certificates. Just don’t expect to find many opportunities to use your certificates for hotel rooms that cost $200 or more.
|Card||Max Points||Point "Value"||Effective "Cost"|
Earning Elite Status Nights
If you have one of the Marriott personal credit cards, you'll receive 15 elite night credits every year. You can also get 15 elite night credits if you have one of the business cards. With both a personal and a business card, you'll receive a total of 30 elite night credits each year. But you won't earn extra credits from having multiple personal cards or multiple business cards.
These credit card elite nights significantly reduce the number of nights you need to reach Marriott's Platinum status. Platinum status entitles you to Marriott's free breakfast, free lounge access, and potential suite upgrade benefits. With both a personal and a business card, you'd only need to stay 20 nights (instead of 50) to achieve status. This includes both paid and award nights.
If you want the 30 credits and you don't already have one of the discontinued Marriott business cards, you'll need to get the Amex Bonvoy Business Card—it is the only business card available. This means the only personal card you can get, without waiting for two years, is the premium Amex Brilliant Card. If you aren't blocked by the signup rules or are wiling to wait, you might want to get the Chase Boundless Card instead (if you can) to avoid committing 2 of your maximum 4 or 5 Amex credit card slots to Marriott cards.
If you already have the Marriott Premier card (not available for new signups) you can also earn 1 elite night credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card. But this was not something we ever recommended, unless you are very close to a higher level status. The opportunity of every $3,000 worth of each elite night credit is about $30.
Other Notable Benefits
- Marriott Silver elite status. Entitles you to a measly 10% bonus points on stay, and priority late checkout (upon availability).
- An additional free night certificate with $60,000 spend (Business cards only). We would never recommend spending this much on the card. Certificate is capped at 35,000 points.
- Premium in-room Wi-Fi access At participating properties.
If you spend at least $35,000 per year, you'll get Gold status. However this only provides 2pm priority late checkout (upon availability), a 25% bonus on points earned per stay (plus a per-brand point bonus), and an enhanced room upgrade (upon availability).
Since Gold status doesn't provide breakfast, lounge access, or much possibility of a significant room upgrade, we wouldn't get any of these cards for their hotel status benefit. And we wouldn't recommend spending $35,000 to upgrade to Gold status.
In addition, the Amex cards provide the following benefits.
- Access to Amex Offers. Amex continuously provides discount offers to their cardholders. Most of the offers are in the form of "Spend $x, get $y back", but other offers are in the form of "x% off your entire order" or "Earn an extra Membership Reward point on your purchases". To take advantage of the offers, you need to go to the Amex website, find the ones you are interested in, and "add them" to your card. Each offer will then be automatically applied when you use your card to make the corresponding purchase. Amex Offers Website.
- Free ShopRunner membership. As with all Amex cards, you are entitled to a complimentary ShopRunner membership, which provides free two-day and return shipping from around 150 of the largest online retailers. ShopRunner Website
- Exclusive access to entertainment events. Amex sponsors cardmember-only events around the country and also provides early ticket access for some other shows.
Additional Benefits with the Bonvoy Brilliant Card
If you decide to spend $450 per year for the premium Marriott credit card, you'll get a collection of valuable additional benefits.
- Annual $300 Marriott credit.. The first $300 you spend every year at Marriott hotels are offset on your credit card bill. As long as you are spending at least $300 with the program over the course of the year, your out-of-pocket expense of the Brilliant card is only 150. The question then becomes whether the other unique benefits are worth the extra $55 per year (compared to the other cards). This credit is based on your cardholder year, so you can't use two credits during the first year you have the card.
- Annual 50,000 point hotel certificate, rather than a 35,000 point certificate.
- Gold Elite Status, rather than Silver. Unlike the other cards, you'll get Gold status without any spending requirement. Gold status isn't worth that much, but it is better than nothing and it certainly isn't worth putting enough spending on the other cards to earn it.
- $100 credit on Ritz and St. Regis stays of 2 nights. This credit can be used for additional expenses incurred at the hotel, but not for your hotel bill itself. Furthermore, to get the credit, you'll need to book with a special rate code, which could easily result in a higher room rate. We wouldn't count on getting any value out of this benefit, but it is worth checking if you are planning a 2 night stay at one of these hotels.
- Platinum Elite Status, if you spend $75,000 per year. Platinum status comes with free breakfast, lounge access, and the possibility of an upgrade to a suite. Assuming you have some way of generating this much spend, don't have a chance to earn status with 20 nights, still spend a bunch of nights at the program's hotels, and highly value these benefits, it might be worthwhile. You'd probably be giving up about $750 - $1,000 in lost rewards (or payment service fees) to qualify, but well-timed status can last for over two years.
- Airport lounge access. Like the other premium cards, a get a Priority Pass membership that provides free access to over a thousand airport lounges and restaurants. With this card, you can bring in up to two travelling companions. Get Free Airport Lounge Access from a Credit Card
- $100 TSA fee credit. Every 4 years, you can receive an automatic reimbursement of your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee (up to $100).
- 3x points with airlines and US Restaurants. This reward rate is too low to add any value.
Even assuming you don't need the Priority Pass membership or TSA Credit, we think that the minor benefits of Gold status combined with the more valuable free night certificate are probably worth the extra annual fee. For example, we would value 15,000 points at $110. But it isn't by much and there is some chance that you won't get full value from the $300 hotel credit. All things considered, it is a bit of a toss-up whether you'd choose to keep this card, versus (or in addition to) one of the other cards.
If you DO value the Priority Pass membership and spend a few nights a year at Marriott or SPG, the Brilliant card is clearly worthwhile.
- These cards earns more valuable rewards on your Marriott and SPG purchases than almost any other card. 6x points are valued at 4.2 cents per dollar, which is better than any card except the Chase Sapphire Reserve and probably the Citi Premier and Prestige Cards.Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- The business cards earn 4x points in a variety of categories but you can earn more valuable rewards from other cards. You'll earn 4x points (valued at 2.8 cents per dollar) at US Restaurants, US Gas stations and for wireless telephone and shipping purchases. This is probably better than what you can earn from your general purpose reward card, but you can earn more valuable rewards with other cards. Best Credit Cards for Restaurant Spending.
- You don't want to use these cards for your everyday spending. You'll earn higher rewards from a good general-purpose reward card. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
Best Credit Cards for Gas Spending.
Credit Cards that Offer Bonus Rewards on Less Common Categories.
Getting Rid of the Card
You can cancel without worrying about losing your Marriott points. Once you earn them, they are treated like any other points in your Marriott account.. Your free night certificates are also safe and available in your Marriott account.
- We recommend downgrading your Boundless Card rather than cancelling it. Chase's 5/24 rule can make it difficult to get a new Chase card when you want to. Downgrading your card preserves the option of upgrading back in the future. You'll also retain some benefits, such as the 15 elite night credits each year and the minor Marriott Silver status benefits.
- You can wait to cancel your card until after the annual fee shows up on your statement. As long as you cancel within 30 days of the statement closing date, Chase will refund the fee. After 30 days, you can receive a pro-rated refund by downgrading to the no-annual-fee Bold version.
- By waiting and downgrading, you can receive an extra Marriott Free Night Certificate. You usually won't receive your free night certificate until after the cancellation deadline has passed. But you can wait to receive the certificate, downgrade to the Bold version, and get most of your annual fee back.
- Chase doesn't make retention offers. Unless something has changed, you don't need to bother checking.
You can product change between the Bonvoy Boundless ($95), Bonvoy Bold ($0), and the Ritz Carlton ($450) cards.
Amex Brilliant and Business
- Before you cancel or downgrade the premium Brilliant version, try to maximize its benefits. The Marriott Hotel credit resets when you pay your annual fee. You may be able to use it to pay for a stay before the deadline for getting a full annual fee refund. For example, you can use it to book a prepaid resort reservation for later in the year.
- You can wait to cancel these cards until after the annual fee shows up on your statement. As long as you cancel within 30 days of the statement closing date, Amex will refund the fee. After 30 days, you can receive a pro-rated refund on the Brilliant Card by downgrading to the Amex Bonvoy Card (which is no longer available for new signups). There is no downgrade option for the Bonvoy Business card.
You won't receive the free night certificate until after the deadline to cancel the card has passed. If you have an available Amex credit card slot, it is can be worth holding onto the card until you receive the certificate and then downgrading your card to get most of the annual fee back. This also gives you more time to use the new Marriott Hotel credit.
blog comments powered by Disqus