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Marriott International has a huge global footprint as the third-largest hotel chain in the world, with 7,000 properties across its 30 brands. This widespread presence goes far in making Marriott competitive with other chains, with low-budget and premium options to fit your style.
You can get a lot out of a Marriott membership, especially if you level up. But anyone who visits Marriott properties often should consider a co-branded credit card to get more out of every stay.
There are currently four credit cards in the Marriott Bonvoy program:
|Best Overall||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Review)|
|Best for No Annual Fee||Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card|
|Best for Welcome Bonus||Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card (Review)|
|Best for Small Business Owners/Freelancers||Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Review)|
The Marriott Merger
In August 2018, Marriott International merged with Starwood Hotels and Ritz-Carlton. The Marriott Bonvoy program was then announced as the rebranded combined rewards program on February 13, 2019.
Everything was combined into one loyalty program — Marriott Bonvoy. Since Marriott introduced the unified loyalty benefits under Marriott Rewards in August 2018, all Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG members could book stays and earn/redeem points across the entire Marriott portfolio. In February 2019, both the SPG and Ritz mobile apps were retired and the Marriott Rewards app was replaced with the Marriott Bonvoy app. (Ritz-Carlton does still have its own website.)
Marriott Bonvoy: Details of the Marriott Rewards Program
Anyone who signs up for the Marriott Bonvoy program (without applying for one of the Marriott-branded credit cards) is eligible for perks similar to many other hotel rewards programs, such as:
- Special online member-only rates
- Free in-room WiFi
- The ability to pay for hotel rooms with a combination of cash and points
Member Tiers and Benefits
Marriott Bonvoy offers the following tiers and benefits for rewards members, among some others:
|Member||Silver Elite||Gold Elite||Platinum Elite||Titanium Elite||Ambassador Elite|
|Stays needed to earn status (annually)*||N/A||10||25||50||75||100 + $20K annual qualifying spend|
|Late check out||N/A||Yes||Yes, until 2 pm||Yes, until 4 p.m.||Yes, until 4 p.m.||Yes, until 4 p.m.|
|Enhanced room upgrade (based on availability)||No||No||Yes||Yes, including select suites||Yes, including select suites||Yes, including select suites|
*Note: Status can also be earned by Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. Details outlined below with each card.
Some stand-out perks for Marriott Bonvoy members include:
Book rewards travel with Marriott even if you don’t have enough points yet
R.J. Weiss of The Ways to Wealth says, “One nice thing about Marriott is that you can book a hotel before you actually have the points, then accrue points before your stay.”
If you don’t have enough Marriott Bonvoy points for the entire stay, you just select “Use Points” and it will be reserved using the Points Advance offering.
As a Marriott Bonvoy cardholder, you could also do this for the Free Night Award if the points haven’t yet hit your account. The Free Night Award won’t be processed, but you’ll receive an email confirmation of your room reservation.
You just need to make sure to have enough points for the stay 14 days before your arrival. If you don’t, you forfeit the Free Night Award (we assume this just means you forfeit the use of the award in this instance). Once you have enough points for your stay, you can order your Free Night Award online by looking up your reservation and then using the link.
Book houses with points
Marriott recently became the first major hotel brand to announce it will offer vacation homes for rental as part of its portfolio of properties (like Airbnb or VRBO).
This is a valuable benefit because travelers who may normally use Airbnb can now rent vacation properties (homes or condos) while earning or redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points. For people trying to decide which company to rent from, the points may be a deciding factor but you’ll probably get a rather poor value (compared to award stays). The Homes & Villas by Marriott International website was available for bookings as of early May 2019.
Below is a sample booking in Lake Tahoe, NV. Pricing is somewhat comparable to Airbnb, with the Marriott home rental coming in slightly more expensive. But the ability to use points for houses is a cool new perk.
Members with Silver Elite status or above can get Marriott’s Ultimate Reservation Guarantee
The Ultimate Reservation Guarantee states that if for some reason Marriott can’t honor your reservation, it’ll pay for your accommodations at a nearby hotel for the night and compensate you for the inconvenience. Compensation details vary by hotel.
Achieve a new Lifetime Elite status
Points never expire and you get all of your member benefits forever with these Lifetime status levels.
|Lifetime Status Level||How to Get It|
|Lifetime Silver Elite||250 lifetime nights and 5 years Elite status|
|Lifetime Gold Elite||400 lifetime nights and 7 years Gold Elite status or higher|
|Lifetime Platinum Elite||600 lifetime nights and 7 years Platinum Elite status or higher|
All Marriott Bonvoy members earn 10 Base points per dollar spent on qualifying charges (including stays, food, beverages, and some incidental purchases) at most Marriott properties. There are a few exceptions, including:
- 5 Base points per dollar at Element, Residence Inn, and TownePlace Suites hotels
- 2.5 Base points per dollar at Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay properties.
Higher status levels and Marriott Bonvoy cardholders earn more Bonus points on top of those Base points (we’ll cover that later).
Marriott Bonvoy members can earn points on up to three rooms per stay as long as the member is staying in one of the rooms, he or she is paying for the rooms, and the membership number is noted on each room.
There are over 40 international airline partners, so you can earn Marriott points on air travel as well as bookings with Hertz and Cruises Only. Marriott Bonvoy also offers a collection of travel experiences members can earn points on, inclusive of museum admission, tickets to sporting events, and other fun activities in various cities. A guided walking tour of Lisbon runs $21 per person, for instance, and earns 210 Marriott Bonvoy points.
There are three main ways to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for stays:
- Free Night Stays: Book four nights and get the fifth free when redeeming points for hotel stays.
- PointSavers: Members save up to 33% on top destinations around the world.
- Points + Cash: Members can pay with a combination of points and cash.
Standard Point Redemptions
|Hotel Category||Off Peak (Coming Soon)||Standard||Peak (Coming Soon)|
PointSaver Point Redemptions
|Hotel Category||Off Peak (Coming Soon)||Standard||Peak (Coming Soon)|
An Exotic Trip to Singapore
My husband and I took a trip to Singapore last year and used points for a free stay at the J.W. Marriott South Beach in Singapore. It’s a Category 7 hotel, so has some really nice amenities. We redeemed 140,000 points for five nights (used points for four, then got the fifth one free). Unfortunately, this hotel now requires 60,000 points for an award night, post-rewards program updates, so it would cost more points to do this today.
Because my husband travels frequently and has Platinum Elite status, we also got a room upgrade. This property has an Executive Lounge, so we had free afternoon tea along with evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres each night. We got free breakfast at the restaurant connected to the hotel each morning, which was an amazing international buffet with more food than you could ever eat (valued at $45+ per person).
So, the added value was amazing. The rooftop pool and seating areas weren’t too shabby either.
Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card Options
Here’s a quick comparison of the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards available to new applicants. Options include three consumer cards and one business card. These cards all have no foreign transaction fees so they’re handy for international hotel stays.
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card||Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card|
|Signup bonus||50,000 for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months||75,000 for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months||75,000 for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months|
|Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Status||None; 15 Elite Night Credits qualify cardholders for Silver Elite||Silver Elite; Gold Elite with $35K annual spend||Gold Elite; Platinum Elite with $75K annual spend|
1 Free Night Award
(up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary
1 Free Night Award
(up to 50,000 points) every year after your account anniversary
|Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card|
|Signup bonus||75,000 for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months|
|Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Status||Silver Elite; Gold Elite with $35K annual spend|
1 Free Night Award
(up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary; another Free Night Award for spending $60k in a calendar year
This is our pick for the overall best Marriott Bonvoy credit card because, while many frequent SPG travelers and rewards card enthusiasts were sad to see the SPG Amex go away after 20 years, this card offers some premium travel perks and has a solid welcome bonus as well. If you’re looking to make a basic member jealous, this is the card for you.
It’s great for any frequent Marriott travelers — your Gold status will bring a number of perks, helping you collect points more quickly than the Boundless and Business cards. But the Brilliant could still be worthwhile even if you only stay at Marriotts two or three times per year.
The Free Night Award (in this case of 50,000 points, potentially worth $600 at high-end properties) and the $300 annual Marriott credit more than cover the $450 annual fee. There’s a Priority Pass Select membership to look forward to (though it excludes non-lounge experiences), a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and premium internet at eligible hotels as well.
As the only Marriott Bonvoy option with no annual fee, this card is a solid pick for the traveler who prefers the Marriott Bonvoy brand but isn’t ready to fork over $95 or more a year. You won’t earn as many points as you would with its costlier counterparts, but you’re paying nothing to use it, so it’s not a bad trade.
The introductory bonus of 50,000 bonus points for spending $2,000 in 3 months offers quite a bit of value, and it shouldn’t be too hard to get. Plus, you’ll get 15 Elite Night Credits from the get-go, which will qualify you for Silver Elite status. This card doesn’t provide a Free Night Award, but that’s to be expected at the no annual fee tier.
Our pick for the best Marriott Bonvoy signup bonus, this card from Chase offers 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for spending $3,000 in the first three months after account opening. The other cards have the same offer, but the lower annual fee here makes this a great value. Besides that, the perks (especially the Free Night Award of 35,000 points) easily make up for the $95 annual fee (since that night can be worth $400 or more).
You also automatically get Silver Elite status, so you’ll get more points (usually 10%) at any Marriott-brand hotel to help you earn free nights fast. There are some other decent benefits with Silver status, but not too many.
This is the best Marriott Bonvoy card for small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, with a nice welcome bonus and additional points for common business expenses like gas, restaurants, wireless carriers, and airline travel (these extra points are only available at restaurants and gas stations in the U.S.).
Just like the other cards, you should use the Free Night Award (worth 35,000 points) to offset the annual fee — in this case, of $125. We’ve found that 35,000 points can be worth $400 or more, depending on the property and season, so you shouldn’t have much trouble using it well if you travel a few times per year.
This business card is pretty much like the Boundless, but it has more bonus categories and a higher annual fee.
Rebranded Marriott Credit Cards
The merger and combined Marriott Bonvoy rewards program brought quite a few changes to the co-branded credit cards available. Some cards were rebranded, while others were retired (they’re no longer available for new applicants). Essentially, there are no longer any “SPG” or “Marriott Rewards” credit cards available to apply for anymore. Chase and Amex are still the two card issuers for Marriott Bonvoy cards.
The updates to the credit cards include:
|Pre-Merger Card Name||New Card Name|
|Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card||Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card from American Express||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express||Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express (discontinued 2/12/19)|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express||Marriott Bonvoy Business™ Credit Card (discontinued 2/12/19)|
|Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Visa Signature||Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Visa Signature (discontinued 2/12/19)|
Making the Most of the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards
There are a few things to know when it comes to maximizing your earnings with Marriott Bonvoy cards.
Know the Welcome Bonus Rules
The welcome bonus offerings are great, but there are also some guidelines to know since not everyone will be eligible for them. Each card has its own nuanced restrictions.
For example, you can’t get the signup bonuses on the Amex Bonvoy cards (Brilliant and Business cards) if you’ve ever had them or their predecessors. So, a signup bonus for the Brilliant card isn’t available if you’ve ever had that card or the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card (Amex has a once-in-a-lifetime rule for welcome bonuses for many cards).
Check your specific circumstances before applying for a Marriott Bonvoy card. If you can’t get the welcome bonus, another travel or rewards credit card may be a better option, depending on your situation. Or, you may want to wait a bit before getting one of these cards until you’ll qualify for the extra points.
Better bonus offers may come and go, so waiting for a 100,000-point offer if the current one is lower isn’t a bad idea anyways.
Maximize Your Free Night Awards
We’ve mentioned already that the annual fees on the three Marriott Bonvoy cards are easily covered with the free night you get annually on each account anniversary.
You can use these Free Night Awards at any properties up to the redemption limit (35,000 points for the Boundless and Business cards, 50,000 points for the Brilliant), so try to maximize their value each time.
Transfer Points If You Need a Few More
If you’re a little short on points for a free stay, you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy. You can also transfer up to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each year to another Marriott Bonvoy member by contacting Member Support, so you can share with a family member to pool your points.
Picking the Right Marriott Bonvoy Card for You
If you regularly stay at Marriott-brand hotels, one of the Marriott Bonvoy cards may be a good fit for you. However, if you stay at other hotels you may want to check out other hotel credit cards or even generic travel credit cards.
My husband and I actually recently switched to staying at Hyatt-brand hotels and using The World Of Hyatt Credit Card. The value seems a bit better overall with the World of Hyatt rewards program, it’s easier to get top-tier status, and there are more consistently nicer properties compared to Marriott Bonvoy. I previously had a Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card (which I got back in 2011) but closed it earlier this year to avoid the annual fee.
One downside, however, to staying in Hyatt Hotels is that Hyatt’s footprint isn’t as big as Marriott International’s. So in some cities, you may need to find a non-Hyatt hotel and Marriott usually has one available.
You need credit cards that suit your lifestyle and spending habits, and that could mean getting more than one to enhance your travel experience. Some other travel cards worth checking out include:
- Hilton Credit Cards
- The World Of Hyatt Credit Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review)
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card (Review)
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