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One Year of Earning & Burning with the Marriott Rewards Visa

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

I often discuss how helpful credit card sign-up bonuses and spending can be for earning award travel, but some readers are intimidated by the idea of opening many new accounts. So today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen demonstrates how much a single card can offer you in travel rewards.

Award travel can be a daunting hobby to take up, especially when it comes to credit cards. If you don’t travel regularly for work, your everyday spending habits play a huge role in earning (and then redeeming) points and miles. However, with so many options, you may not know where to start. In this post, I’ll continue my series looking at how easy it is to earn rewards by opening and using even a single card for one year. In previous posts, I’ve looked at the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, the Chase Ink Plus Business Card, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card and the Wyndham Rewards Visa Card. Today, I’ll focus on another co-branded hotel option: the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card.

Sign-up Bonus and Benefits

Through August 31, 2015, the card is offering an increased sign-up bonus of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months. This bonus alone is worth $560 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, and is in addition to the standard benefits on the card:

  • Limited Time! Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
  • For every $1 spent, earn 5 points at 3,800 Marriott locations, 2 points on airline ticket purchases directly with airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants and 1 point everywhere else
  • The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards points towards free nights
  • No limit to how many points you can earn
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees and enjoy wider acceptance when you travel with your embedded chip card and you make purchases at chip-enabled card readers
  • All for an $85 Annual Fee

You’ll also receive 15 credits toward elite status each year (essentially giving you “automatic” Silver status), and an additional credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card.

You may fall above the national average, leading to even more point-earning ability!
If you spend more than the national average, you’ll earn even more than what I’ve outlined here. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

So if you open the Marriott Rewards Visa, earn the sign-up bonus and use the card exclusively for the first year, where does that leave you? Obviously, the answer depends on your spending patterns, so for this analysis I used consumer-expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2013 and 2014 to estimate what an “average” household would spend (and thus earn) on the Marriott Premier card in one year.

In doing so, I made the following assumptions:

  • 60% of “Housing” expenditures cover mortgages or rent, and thus can’t be paid with a credit card (unless you’re willing to pay fees by using a service like Venmo or ChargeSmart).
  • “Transportation” expenditures are split evenly between car payments (which typically can’t be paid with a credit card), gasoline and other transportation costs (parking, tolls, train/subway/bus tickets, etc.).
  • All “Healthcare” and “Other” expenditures can be paid with a credit card.
  • All “Personal insurance and pensions” expenditures can’t be paid with a credit card.
  • $500 of the “All other expenditures” category is spent on Marriott stays.
  • $750 of the “All other expenditures” category is spent on airfare and car rental purchases.

Again, your situation may differ substantially, so feel free to adjust these assumptions in order to calculate your own earning potential.

Here’s a quick table that shows how these spending patterns in the first year of card membership translate to Marriott Rewards points:



Earning Rate


Sign-up bonus




Food – At home


1 point/$


Food – Away from home


2 points/$




1 point/$


Apparel and services


1 point/$


Transportation (gasoline)


1 points/$


Transportation (other)


1 points/$




1 point/$




1 point/$


Marriott purchases


5 points/$


Airline and car rental purchases


2 points/$


All other expenditures


1 point/$






As you can see, the “average” American consumer would earn 115,822 Marriott Rewards points in the first year. Not too shabby!

What Does This Get You?

Earning points is one thing; knowing the different ways to use them for maximum value is a completely different story. Here’s a sampling of what you can do with the first year’s haul of points from the Marriott Visa:

Scrub Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
Scrub Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

1. Two nights in a Category 9 property

Marriott’s top-tier (Category 9) has only been around since 2013, but it includes 55 of the program’s most luxurious properties around the world. A couple of these resorts made my list of awesome Marriott award redemptions, including the Marriott Paris Champs-Élysées Hotel and the Scrub Island Resort, Spa, and Marina. Free nights will set you back 45,000 points (or 40,000 points if you can find PointSavers availability), so the first year’s haul of points would be more than enough to cover the two nights.

In fact, you could even look at redeeming your points for an upgraded room. While some properties allow you to spend an additional 5,000 points (one upgrade certificate) for a better room, some require double or even quadruple that amount. With this sign-up bonus and one year’s worth of spending, you’d be able to snag two nights of upgraded accommodations like a Premier Room at the JW Marriott Hong Kong (110,000 points total).

You can take advantage of Marriott's fifth night free benefit on award stays and book a five-night stay at properties like the Renaissance Sanya Resort & Spa.
You can take advantage of Marriott’s fifth night free benefit on award stays, and book a five-night stay at properties like the Renaissance Sanya Resort & Spa.

2. Five nights in a Category 5 property (or in a Category 6 property with PointSavers availability). Marriott Rewards is one of the hotel programs that gives you a fifth night free when you redeem for four consecutive award nights. Since both standard Category 5 awards and PointSavers Category 6 awards are 25,000 points per night, you could get a five-night stay for 100,000 points. The majority of these hotels are located in the US and fall into the chain’s lower-end brands (like Fairfield and Springhill). Still, a five-night hotel stay after getting a single credit card is a pretty big payoff.

3. Fifteen nights in a Category 1 property. You won’t find any JW Marriott properties or Renaissance locations in the program’s lowest tier, but if your travel plans will be taking you near one of the 200+ Category 1 hotels, you can save a ton of cash by redeeming these points for up to fifteen free nights at 7,500 points per night (112,500 total points). If you can find PointSavers availability, this jumps to 19 free nights at 6,000 points per night!

I did include three particularly attractive Category 1 options in my post on great low-level Marriott redemptions, so check out that for more information.

Two nights at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, FL could be yours with this card!
Two nights at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, FL could be yours with this card!

4. Two nights in a Tier 3 Ritz-Carlton property (or in a Tier 4 property with PointSavers availability). Since Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards are essentially one and the same, you can use your points flexibly across both programs. This means that two nights in luxurious properties like the Ritz-Carlton Bali or Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples are well within your reach with the sign-up bonus and a year’s worth of spending.

Final Thoughts

The Marriott Rewards Visa and the current sign-up bonus give you some great redemption options, especially when it comes to free nights. However, if you don’t want to burn these points right away, remember that you can always hold back and earn more points to redeem them for a Hotel + Air package. TPG actually did this when he traveled to the Cannes Film Festival last year, and scored a Southwest Companion Pass in the process.

In addition, keep in mind that the above calculations may be too conservative:

  • The calculation assumes that you’re the average consumer. If you typically spend more in some of the bonus categories each year (I definitely do at restaurants), then your earnings will be even higher.
  • The calculation assumes that you only open one card. Other travel rewards credit cards with terrific sign-up bonuses (like the Citi ThankYou Premier Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) can be opened and used alongside the Marriott Rewards Visa for even more earning potential.

These items notwithstanding, I hope I’ve illustrated that one card (especially in the first year) can open up a wealth of redemption possibilities.

How would you redeem one year of points from the Marriott Rewards Visa?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit