Which Credit Card Should I Use to Maximize Marriott Stays?

Oct 23, 2016

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TPG reader Sean sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning points for hotel stays:

“I’m a Marriott Platinum member, and I have both the Marriott Rewards card and the new Sapphire Reserve. Which one will get me the most points when staying at a Marriott property?”

It’s important to maximize the points you earn with each purchase, whether you’re shopping for groceries or paying for hotel stays. However, your goal should be to maximize quality and not quantity, and the card that earns the most points isn’t necessarily the one that offers the most value.

Sean’s scenario is a perfect example: The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card earns 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott locations, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on a wide variety of travel purchases. Five is obviously more than three, so the Marriott card comes out ahead in terms of raw numbers. However, in most cases you’d be better off using Sapphire Reserve even if you earn fewer points in the process.

The reality is that Marriott and Ultimate Rewards points don’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison. Marriott Rewards got a major boost in my most recent valuations thanks merger with Starwood Preferred Guest, and I now list them at 0.9 cents apiece. Still, I think Ultimate Rewards are worth more than twice as much (2.1 cents apiece), so overall you’d earn 40% more value by using the Sapphire Reserve card.

This may hold true even if you plan to use points for Marriott stays. There are plenty of Marriott properties that offer great value for award stays, but many others offer a redemption value of less than 0.9 cents per point. Meanwhile, the Sapphire Reserve allows you to redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece when you book airfare, hotels, rental cars and more through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. That’s a great option when prices are low, or when you’re having trouble finding award availability.

You can redeem Ultimate Rewards not only for hotels, but also for flights, car rentals and more.

Your elite status shouldn’t factor into your decision. As a Marriott Platinum member, you’ll earn 15 points per dollar on qualifying charges at most properties (excluding Residence Inn), and that doesn’t account for any promotional bonuses or other points you might be able to tack on. Those points are yours regardless of which card you use to pay.

In other words, you’ll already be earning plenty of Marriott points, so I think you’d again be better off using Sapphire Reserve in order to diversify your travel rewards. Unless you have plans to book an award that uses Marriott points specifically, go for the Ultimate Rewards points.

Last week, Marriott and Starwood also began offering bonus points with both chain’s co-branded cards at any hotel under the (now much larger) Marriott umbrella, so if you aren’t interested in earning Ultimate Rewards points, your best bet for Marriott purchases is actually the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which is currently offering a bonus of up to 35,000 points to new cardholders. With this card, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar at Marriott hotels, but you can transfer Starpoints instantly to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio. So rather than earning 5 points with a Marriott card, you’ll effectively be earning 6 with the SPG Amex.

You’ll still come out ahead with the Sapphire Reserve in terms of return, as you can see in the chart below:

Card Name Points Per Dollar at Marriott/Starwood Hotels Return on Spending
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express 2 5.4%
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express 2 5.4%
Marriott Premier Rewards Credit Card 5 4.5%
Marriott Premier Rewards Business Credit Card 5 4.5%
Marriott Rewards Business Credit Card 3 2.7%
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card 5 4.5%
Citi Prestige Card 3 4.8%
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card 3 6.3%

For more on maximizing Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Rewards, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of the AC Hotel Rio de Janeiro Porto Maravilha


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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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