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Why I prefer Marriott Bonvoy premium cards

Dec. 18, 2019
10 min read
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Cobranded airline and hotel cards generally have a tough time stacking up against transferable points cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express. One big exception to this is hotel credit cards. I get a truly outsized value from the four different Marriott Bonvoy credit cards in my wallet, and I think they're some of the easiest cobranded cards for a casual traveler to maximize.

While the premium Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and entry-level Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card are great cards for different demographics, there is one exception: The no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card from Chase falls flat on its face, and is one of the only credit cards I actively recommend people avoid. Here are a few reasons why this card falls short in nearly every category that matters, and how you can do better by looking elsewhere in Marriott's extensive cobranded credit card portfolio.

Further Reading: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?

It's restricted by the 5/24 rule

Marriott has credit cards issued by both Chase and Amex, and the Bonvoy Bold is from Chase, meaning it's subjected to the issuer's notorious 5/24 rule. This means that generally speaking, Chase will automatically reject your application if you've opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. Consequently, most award travelers apply for Chase cards first before the 5/24 rule locks them out, and the Bonvoy Bold takes up a valuable spot.

Further Reading: Credit card review: Marriott Bonvoy Bold

This automatically raises the bar in terms of how good a card needs to be before you should apply for it. While you shouldn't randomly apply for cards that don't help your long-term strategy, you have to think even harder about how to use your 5/24 slots. While the Bonvoy Bold gets a lot of attention as a no-annual-fee card, would you really rather have it in your wallet than a Chase Sapphire? Would you pick this welcome bonus over the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (worth $2,000 based on TPG's latest valuations) you could earn with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card? Even the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Chase Freedom Unlimited, which don't offer the largest welcome bonuses, are better long-term picks for your points earning strategy.

The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Further Reading: Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which card is right for you?

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Obviously this alone isn't a reason not to apply for a credit card, but when you combine it with the rest of the Bonvoy Bold's shortcomings, the case against it practically builds itself.

It doesn't offer a free night certificate

You get what you pay for, and the tradeoff for not paying an annual fee is that the Bonvoy Bold is the only credit card in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio not to offer an anniversary free night certificate. Most other cards offer a free night worth up to 35,000 points, with the premium Bonvoy Brilliant offering a free night worth up to 50,000 points.

TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, making those free nights worth $280 and $400, respectively. With the entry-level Bonvoy cards, that $280 free night is worth more than double the annual fee you pay for the credit card. The Bonvoy Brilliant has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), but after subtracting the $300 annual Marriott property credit you can really think of it as paying $150 a year for a $400 free night.

Of course those valuations are meant as a general guide, and it's possible to get much more value if you're selective with when you redeem the certificate. For example, I just redeemed my Bonvoy Brilliant 50,000-point night at the St. Regis Langkawi in Malaysia for a room that would have cost nearly $640. For my $150 out-of-pocket expense on the Bonvoy Brilliant, I'm coming out about $500 ahead.

The next night I'm staying at the Westin Langkawi next door, using a 35,000-point free night certificate instead of paying the $288 cash rate. I got this free night by paying the $125 annual fee (see rates and fees) on my Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, meaning that I'm up $163 before even factoring in the other benefits of the card or the perks I receive as a Marriott Titanium elite.

If you're loyal enough to Marriott to even consider using up a 5/24 slot applying for a Bonvoy card, odds are you're a frequent traveler and probably even have some sort of Marriott elite status. In this case, you should get your hands on as many Bonvoy free night certificates as possible because of the outsized value they offer, and that means steering clear of the Bonvoy Bold.

The sign-up bonus is weak

One of the most immediate ways to get value out of your new credit card is with the welcome bonus, another area where the Bonvoy Bold simply does not measure up. The card is offering new applicants a bonus of 50,000 Marriott points after they spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, worth $400 based on TPG's valuations.

With very few exceptions, I only apply for credit cards offering bonuses worth at least $500. Unless you only stay at very low-category Marriotts, this bonus will be good for one free night at the most, and even so you might struggle to use those points in bigger cities. As a point of comparison, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is offering a bonus of 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening while the rest of the Marriott Bonvoy Cards are offering 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Lower earning rates

Most Marriott Bonvoy credit cards offer identical earning rates, including 6x points per dollar on eligible Marriott purchases and 2x on everyday spending, although some have a few other bonus categories thrown in the middle. This is another notable weak point of the Bonvoy Bold: not only is the sign-up bonus small, but the earning rates are so low that you'll have a hard time ever racking up a meaningful number of points through credit card spending alone.

Bonvoy Bold cardholders earn points at the following rates:

  • 3x points at participating Marriott hotels (50% lower than other Bonvoy cards)
  • 2x points on travel
  • 1x on all other purchases (50% lower than other Bonvoy cards)

While the 2x on travel sounds nice, remember that 2x Marriott points is really the same as a measly 1.6% return based on TPG's valuations. Or to put it another way, you'd be better off using the Citi® Double Cash Card and forgetting about points and miles entirely. While Chase does define its travel bonus category quite broadly, nearly every other credit card it offers would get you a better return on travel spending.

It stops you from getting other better marriott cards

I can certainly understand how the Bonvoy Bold might draw new customers into the Marriott ecosystem, as many no-annual-fee cards do. However, when the Bonvoy Bold inevitably leaves you wanting more, you'll find it harder to get approved for other Marriott cards because of your decision to open this one.

Marriott now restricts your eligibility for new welcome bonuses on the Bonvoy cards across both Chase and Amex, which is why you'll find the following language (emphasis mine) in the terms and conditions for the Bonvoy Brilliant application, a card issued by Amex:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who (i) have or have had The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card from JPMorgan or the J.P. Morgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a new Card Member bonus or upgrade offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 24 months.

That 24-month wait is an eternity in the world of points and miles, but that's exactly how long you'll have to wait after earning a welcome bonus on the Bonvoy Bold before you can apply and earn the welcome bonus for the Bonvoy Brilliant.

Bottom line

People who are considering applying for the Bonvoy Bold generally fall into one of two groups: Those who are already loyal to Marriott and those who are brand agnostic but attracted to a no-annual-fee hotel card. If you fall into the first group, I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to apply for any other card in the Marriott portfolio. The higher earning rates and annual free night certificate will make up for the cost of your annual fee and then some.

If you're not loyal to Marriott, this card doesn't offer a strong enough value proposition to justify wasting a 5/24 slot. If you're not willing to pay an annual fee on a hotel card then you're limiting the return you can expect to get, and you might just be better off sticking entirely to transferable points and airline credit cards instead.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant from Amex, please click  here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business from Amex, please click  here.

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