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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve

Now that Marriott’s officially acquired Starwood, many of our questions about the future of both programs — at least in the short term — have been answered. Last week, TPG sat down with Marriott’s Thom Kozik and SPG’s David Flueck to talk about how the merger will affect members of both loyalty programs, and what he heard was overwhelmingly positive news. Not only will elite members get status-matched to an equivalent tier in the other program, but all members can also start transferring and redeeming points across both hotel portfolios now.

If you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest or Marriott Rewards loyalist — or if you plan on becoming one in light of this recent news — you’ll want to make sure you’re using the best travel rewards credit card to pay for your stays. Beyond that, if you’re hoping to earn elite status, co-branded Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood cards can help you get there.

I’ll run through seven of the top cards to consider if you’ll be staying at Marriott or Starwood properties in the future, but before getting into the details for each, here’s a look at the cards’ bonuses and how you can earn elite status with each pick. Keep in mind that 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott points, and that with some of these cards you get a sign-up bonus of free nights, in which case the point values are only for reference.

Credit Card Annual Fee Sign-Up Offer Bonus in Starpoints Bonus in Marriott points Elite Status?
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express $95 (waived the first year) 25,000 points after $3,000 in the first three months 25,000 Starpoints Worth up to 75,000 Marriott points (though can’t be transferred or redeemed as points) 2 stay and 5 night credit toward status; earn Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express $95 (waived the first year) 2 free nights at a Category 1-5 Starwood property after you spend $5,000 in the first three months Worth up to 32,000 Starpoints (though can’t be transferred or redeemed as points) Worth up to 96,000 Marriott points (though can’t be transferred or redeemed as points) 2 stay and 5 night credit toward status; earn Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card $85 80,000 Marriott Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months 26,666 Starpoints 80,000 Marriott points 15 credits toward status (enough for Marriott Silver), plus earn 1 additional credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card
Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card $99 80,000 Marriott Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months 26,666 Starpoints 80,000 Marriott points 15 credits toward status (enough for Marriott Silver), plus earn 1 additional credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card $450 3 free nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after you spend $5,000 in the first three months Worth up to 60,000 Starpoints (though can’t be transferred or redeemed as points) Worth up to 180,000 Marriott points (though can’t be transferred or redeemed as points) Automatic Gold status for your first account year, and maintain it when you spend $10,000 on purchases your first account year and each account year thereafter; Platinum status when you spend $75,000 each account year
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months 33,333 Starpoints 100,000 Marriott points N/A
Citi Prestige Card $450 40,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months N/A – Neither Marriott nor Starwood is a Citi transfer partner N/A – Neither Marriott nor Starwood is a Citi transfer partner N/A

1. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

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If you spend $30,000 on a Starwood Amex in a calendar year, you’ll get Gold elite status. Image courtesy of the St. Regis Bahia Beach.

If you’re a long-time Starwood customer, chances are you already have this card (or the business version below). However, if you’re new to the hotel brand, there are plenty of reasons to consider applying. First, Starpoints are the highest-rated loyalty currency in TPG’s monthly valuations, thanks to the variety of redemption options they open up. There aren’t too many ways to earn these valuable points, so the credit card can be a key part of your earning strategy — and according to SPG’s David Flueck, the Starwood cards luckily aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar at Starwood hotels and 1 point per dollar everywhere else, and you’ll also get 2 stay and 5 night credits toward elite status. If you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll get Starwood Preferred Guest Gold elite status — which would mean you could status-match to Marriott Gold. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

This card offers all the same benefits of the personal Starwood Amex, plus Sheraton Club lounge access when you book eligible rates and access to business-related discounts through the Amex OPEN Savings program. If you already have the personal card, you could open the business version to get its sign-up bonus (Amex only lets you earn a sign-up bonus once per card). Now through October 19, 2016, it’s offering two free nights at a Category 1-5 Starwood property after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. The personal version of the card is offering the same sign-up offer, but with a lower minimum spending requirement of $3,000 in the first three months. If the sign-up offer goes back to the standard 25,000 points (with the same spending requirements) after this date, that would equate to 75,000 Marriott points. As with the personal card, there’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.

3. Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

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With a co-branded credit card, you’ll earn 5x points on Marriott stays. Image courtesy of the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora.

This card earns you 5x Marriott points on stays at the hotel brand (also at Ritz-Carlton properties), plus 2x points on airfare purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants, and 1x points on everything else. You’ll also get 15 credits toward elite status — enough to get automatic Marriott Silver — and an additional elite credit for every $3,000 you spend. This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and you can earn another 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months. You’ll also get a free night at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary. There’s an $85 annual fee.

4. Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

As with the Starwood Amex cards, there’s also a business version of the Marriott card, which is currently offering the same sign-up bonus of 80,000 points (also after spending $3,000 in the first three months) as the personal version, along with the annual free night at a Category 1-5 hotel. It also offers the same points-earning structure, but in addition to earning 2x points on airfare purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants, you’ll earn 2x points at office supply stores and for internet, cable and phone services purchases. Interestingly, you can stack the 15 elite credits you’ll earn with both the personal and business card, so if you hold both you’ll have 30 credits — enough for Silver status and 20 credits short of Gold status. This card has a $99 annual fee.

5. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

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Get complimentary Gold status for a year and a generous sign-up bonus with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card.

Since Marriott and Ritz-Carlton points are interchangeable and the respective brands’ statuses confer the exact same benefits, it could be worth considering the recently updated Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. It earns you 5x points on Ritz-Carlton and Marriott stays, 2x points on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants and 1x points on everything else. You’ll also get complimentary Gold elite status your first account year and in subsequent years when you spend at least $10,000 in an account year. If you spend $75,000 in an account year, you’ll get Platinum elite status. The card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of three complimentary nights at a Tier 1-4 property when you spend $5,000 in the first three months, and it has a $450 annual fee.

6. Chase Sapphire Reserve

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You can use the Reserve card’s annual travel credit on hotel stays. Image courtesy of the Gramercy Park Hotel, part of the Starwood Design Hotels portfolio.

This recently launched premium travel rewards card is a great option for all travel-related expenses (including hotels), and it could be an especially strong choice for Marriott and Starwood stays if you already have elite status or don’t care about earning it with either program. You’ll earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points (equal to a 6.3% return based on TPG’s valuations) on hotel stays and other travel purchases and 1x points on everything else. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card also offers a $300 annual travel credit, which you can use toward hotel stays if you’re so inclined. This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points with Marriott, as well as 10 other travel partners. This card has a $450 annual fee.

7. Citi Prestige

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The Citi Prestige card’s 4th Night Free perk can help you save big on Marriott and Starwood stays.

The final card on this list earns its spot thanks to the incredibly lucrative 4th Night Free benefit. When you book a hotel stay through the Citi concierge, you’ll get the fourth night gratis. While this perk will soon be calculated based on the average nightly rate rather than the actual fourth night, at which point it will no longer includes taxes, it can still save you hundreds — if not more. You’ll earn 3x ThankYou points on air travel and hotel purchases, 2x points on dining out and entertainment and 1x points on everything else. This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, and it has a $450 annual fee.

Featured image courtesy of the JW Marriott Los Cabos.

What’s your favorite card to use for Marriott and/or Starwood stays?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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