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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Marriott Premier Rewards Visa is no longer available. View the current offer here.
Chase just rolled out two new enhanced offers for their Marriott co-branded cards and I have to say I’m pretty impressed, even though I’m not a Marriott guy.
Their higher-end card, the Premier, went from 30,000 sign-up points to 50,000 with your first purchase and a free category 1-4 night. The annual fee is waived for the first year ($85 thereafter) and you get a free night at a category 1-5 hotel every year you renew, which more than pays for the card’s annual fee. And as an added bonus, this card does not have foreign transaction fees.
Plus, there’s a pretty steep elite status component too – you get 15 nights toward your next Elite membership level every year upon account anniversary and 1 extra night qualification for every $3,000 in spend. Marriott’s elite levels are as follows:
Silver: 10 nights = 20% point bonus on stays, late checkout, enhanced customer service and discounts
Gold: 50 nights = 25% point bonus on stays, room upgrades, lounge access/free breakfast, free internet and local phone plus all Silver benefits
Platinum: 75 nights = 50% point bonus on stays, welcome amenity, 48 hour guaranteed room availability, Platinum customer service plus all Gold benefits.
So essentially, you get Silver every year guaranteed, and if you spend $105,000 you could get Gold or $180,000 for Platinum. Not quite as lucrative as the Hilton Surpass Amex, which awards Diamond status with $40,000 in spend, but it’s an interesting way to expedite earning elite status.
Additionally, the card has a 5/2/1 points earning structure. 5 points for every dollar spent at Marriott family hotels, 2 points per dollar on dining, airline and car rentals and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
In my opinion, Marriott points are most valuable when used for free nights. Their category 1 free nights start at 7,500 points and category 8 peak at 40,000. Marriott offers the 5th night free and they also have PointSavers, which are rotating hotels that require less points per night (for example 15,000 points for a category 4 vs. 20,000).
Update: Another good redemption is using Hotel + Air rewards, which allow you to earn air miles at a 1:1 ratio. For example, 7 nights at a category 6 hotel and 50,000 airline miles will cost you 230,000 points. 7 nights at a category six normally will cost 180,000 points (5th night is free) so you get 50,000 airline miles for 50,000 extra points.
You can also use Marriott points to redeem for Ritz-Carlton free nights. They are grouped into tiers and start at 30,000 points and go up to 70,000. They also offer 5th night free and PointSavers as well.
Overall, this is a solid all around card – with the first year annual fee waived, increased sign-up bonus, yearly free nights, elite status component and no foreign transaction fees.
If you are looking for a cheaper annual fee card, they also enhanced their regular Marriott Visa Rewards card with a 30,000 point sign-up bonus, 2 free nights at a category 1-4 hotel and no fee for the first year ($45 thereafter).
The key difference, besides the slightly lower annual fee, is that the regular card only earns 3x points on Marriott purchases and 1x on everything else and only 10 nights towards elite status each year. Considering this card does not offer a free night every year, I think the Premier card is a much better deal for only $40 more in annual fees, since the category 1-5 free night will easily outweigh that.
The thing I dislike the most about Marriott vs. Starwood is the ratio at which points transfer to miles. With Marriott, most airlines transfer at a 3:1 ratio, which means 30,000 Marriott points only = 10,000 airline miles. Whereas 30,000 Starwood points = 35,000 airline miles, a huge difference. If you are earning 1 Marriott point for everyday purchases vs. 1 Starwood point, it will take you more than 3 times the spend to get the same airline award. So basically, don’t get this card if you want to convert your hotel points into airline miles.
These are not new cards, so if you’ve applied for them in the past, chances are that you will not be eligible for the sign-up bonuses since Chase has a pretty long memory. It’s also a shame that these cards are issued by Chase, since they have most of the top deals on the market right now. I still think the Sapphire Preferred is the best overall option because it provides a ton of flexibility (mainly with the ability to transfer to partners like Continental/British Airways/Hyatt, etc at instant 1:1 ratios), but if you spend a lot at Marriott and value elite status perks and the 5x points, then this card may make the most sense. Chase may decline you for this card if you’ve gotten others, but as we found out with many people trying to get the Sapphire card (myself included) its easy to turn a decline into an approval by simply calling their reconsideration line.
Overall, September was a pretty quiet month with respect to new, monster deals so I’m hoping this newly sweetened deal is the first of many.