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How to Strategize and Prioritize Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card Applications

Feb. 06, 2019
8 min read
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Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express here before it closes applications forever on Feb. 12!

An overhaul is in store for legacy Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest cobranded cards. There's a lot to comprehend about the Chase and American Express Marriott Bonvoy cards, from the name changes to some new features to the two credit cards closing to new applicants. Add to that the rules about qualifying for welcome bonuses on these cobranded cards, and you have quite the puzzle to piece together.

Let's try and combine all of this information to come up with a card-acquisition strategy that ensures you can qualify for welcome offers and can enjoy as many card benefits as possible during your Marriott stays.

Foundational Strategy

First and foremost, you'll want to make sure you can qualify for a welcome bonus when applying for a Marriott Bonvoy card. Remember that both Chase and American Express have their own all-encompassing rules for deciding if you're eligible for a welcome bonus on almost any of their cards.

Chase has the 5/24 rule, which the Bonvoy cards fall underneath (along with almost every other Chase card now), and Amex has a once-in-a-lifetime rule for earning a welcome bonus on any card. American Express now has an online tool that determines your eligibility for a welcome bonus at the time of application, so you can rethink your decision to apply before a hard credit pull is initiated.

So this basically means you need a three-tier decision process when looking at which Bonvoy cobranded cards to acquire:

  1. First, try and maximize your Chase 5/24 slots before then moving to American Express. This doesn't necessarily mean you must apply for Chase cards first; it means you need to know your 5/24 standing (how many "slots" you have left for Chase applications) and how further card openings will affect it.
  2. Look at which cards you hold or have recently held and review the list of rules announced in July to see if you're ineligible for any welcome offers based on your current and previous card portfolio.
  3. Look at the recent Marriott Bonvoy card announcements, including welcome bonus changes, two cards closing to applications and card benefit changes.

Those three steps are not independent; you need to combine all three before deciding how to proceed.

This is a pretty complex setup. There are so many idiosyncrasies that could trip you up, and, honestly, Amex, Chase or Marriott could decide to change the rules altogether at any time.

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Entry-Level Bonvoy Card Strategy

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (soon to be rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy Amex) closes to applications on Feb. 12. This leaves the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase (soon to be the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card) as the only entry-level card. The SPG Amex card will maintain a 75,000-point welcome bonus (after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months) until it closes to new applicants. The Chase Bonvoy Boundless card will increase its welcome bonus to 100,000 points after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months on Feb. 28.

That essentially means you can decide to get 75,000 points now if you've never held the personal SPG Amex and then wait two years to see if the 100,000-point bonus offer is around, or, if you're under 5/24 and have not received the SPG Amex welcome bonus in the last 24 months, forget about the SPG Amex card and pick up the 100,000-point elevated welcome bonus for the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card on or after Feb. 28. I imagine most people will not be able to qualify for the SPG personal card and should probably just pass on it anyway in order to get the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Top-Tier Bonvoy Card Strategy

The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card will become the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card, with the same $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), but a new metal design, a welcome bonus of 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, and a $100 luxury credit for dining, spa and more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties (on eligible stays of two nights or more).

The exclusions list for qualifying for this welcome bonus is lengthy:

“You are ineligible for the welcome offer if any of the following are true:

Currently have or have had any of the following Cards in the last 30 days

  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from JP Morgan

OR have acquired any of the following Cards from Chase in the last 90 days

  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase

OR have received a welcome or upgrade offer for any of the following Cards from Chase in the last 24 months

  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase"

Based on all of these exclusions and my confidence that this card will be around for years to come as the premium card in the cobranded portfolio, the SPG Luxury Amex (Bonvoy Brilliant Amex) would probably be my last concern at the current time.

I'd ensure eligibility for the entry-level card and business card I need and put this to the wayside for now. I hold the Ritz-Carlton Card that's no longer open for applications (and which also receives the $100 luxury credit), and I think it's more valuable than the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. However, the soon-to-be Bonvoy Brilliant could make sense for you if you've leveraged your 5/24 slots, want to be very loyal to Marriott, and meet all of the above eligibility criteria.

Bonvoy Business Card Strategy

Chase's Marriott Premier Plus Business Card closes to new applicants after Feb 12. The welcome bonus will remain 75,000 points until Feb. 12, and the annual fee will remain $99.

American Express will maintain the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex (currently the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express), which will increase its welcome bonus to 100,000 points after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months on Feb. 13, the day after the Chase Marriott card closes to new applicants.

Here's how I'd approach this decision if I could qualify for a small business card:

If I'm under 5/24, I get the Chase card now because it's going away entirely. I won't be able to qualify for the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex welcome bonus for 24 months, but that card will in all likelihood still be here 24 months from now if I want it.

If I'm over 5/24, I either hold off to see if this card bonus increases above 100,000 points in the future or pick it up before the Apr. 24 deadline when the bonus will most likely drop.

Bottom Line

I've found that the easiest way to wade through all the rules and eligibility is to break the cards down into the three sections I have above: entry-level, luxury and business. You can look at your previous card account openings and the individual card criteria along with your future travel plans to try and score the best welcome bonuses and the card benefits you need for your individual situation.

By all accounts, Amex, Chase and Marriott have worked well together to arrive at this cobranded card portfolio, and both banks walk away with equitable products. That hasn't, however, exactly translated into easily digestible information for consumers. Bookmark the overhaul announcement post, the FAQ post and the rules post and then reread each multiple times before deciding on your own strategy for Bonvoy card success.

Here's a rundown of the dates to keep in mind:

  • Feb. 12: Last day to sign up for the SPG Amex and the Marriott Premier Plus Business Card
  • Feb. 13: Marriott Bonvoy branding officially live; 100,000-point offers available on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex and Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex
  • Feb. 28: 100,000-point offer available on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase
  • March 28: $100 luxury credit available on Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, free night after $60k in spend available on the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex, Bonvoy Business Amex annual fee increasing to $125
  • April 24: 100,000-point offers end on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex and Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex

For rates and fees of the SPG Luxury card, please click here.

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