An easy way to earn Marriott points and perks is by ensuring you have at least one Marriott Bonvoy credit card in your wallet. But choosing the right Marriott card for your situation can be admittedly a tricky situation. Both Chase and American Express issue Marriott Bonvoy cards, with four Marriott cards currently available for your consideration — two from each issuer. And complicating things further is the fact that a non-Marriott cobranded card could be a great option as well. See offers below from our partners.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card — Best for occasional Marriott guests
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — Best for welcome offer and elite status
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — Best for elite status across programs, including Marriott
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card — Best no-annual-fee card
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card — Best for small businesses
- 17X Earn up to 17X total Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Card.
- 2X 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is an entry-level card that can help travelers dip their toes into the Bonvoy program. The card is best for those who stay at Marriotts, but not enough to take full advantage of Marriott’s higher-tier cards
- 6X Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
- 3X 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines.
- 2X 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
Why we chose it
The Bonvoy Brilliant is ideal for travelers who are loyal to the Marriott brand. You’ll get a solid return on Marriott stays and a number of premium perks that can help you upgrade your trips. However, with high-end perks comes a high annual fee.
- 10X Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Why we chose it
The Amex Platinum is unmatched when it comes to travel perks and benefits. If lounge access, hotel elite status and annual statement credits are important to you, this card is well worth the high annual fee.
- 14X Earn up to 14X total Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Card.
- 2X 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains).
- 1X 1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
The Bonvoy Bold card is the no-annual-fee card option in Marriott’s lineup and offers a way to start earning points and a jump start to elite status. However, it lags behind Marriott’s other card options when it comes to earning rates and perks.
- 6X 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
- 4X 4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
- 2X 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
Why we chose it
The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business is a solid pick for small businesses card that want the benefits that come with Bonvoy properties around the world. It comes with a great welcome offer and better rewards and benefits than Marriott’s consumer version.
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|Card||Best for||Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus||Earning Rate||Annual Fee|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||Best for welcome offer and elite status||150,000 points||
|Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card||Best for small businesses||125,000||
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card||Best for occasional Marriott guests||125,000 Bonus Points||
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card||Best no-annual-fee card||60,000 Points||
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||Best for elite status across programs, including Marriott||100,000 points||
The Marriott credit cards range from a no-annual-fee card to one with a $450 annual fee, so it’s fair to say there really is a card (or two) for everyone who is loyal to Marriott.
We’ll walk you through how to choose the best one for your situation, and why choosing one based solely on the annual fee may not be the best strategy.
A closer look at the Best Marriott credit cards
This card is offering a welcome offer of 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus free night award (redemption level worth up to 85,000 Marriott points) after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Resort fees may apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card has the highest annual fee of any of the Marriott cards, but it can actually be the best deal of the bunch for travelers who enjoy staying with Marriott. The $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) quickly becomes much less painful if you use the card’s annual Marriott travel credit of up to $300 (each account year) towards eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
This credit is valid on room rates, as well as property charges such as dining and spa treatments. Using that credit each account year can take the pain of the annual fee effectively down to $150 in a hurry.
On top of that credit, you get an annual award at each anniversary valid for a free night of up to 50,000 Marriott points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees). This encompasses Marriott Category 6 hotels on standard and off-peak days, but also includes Marriott Category 7 properties on off-peak dates. This makes it much more useful than the 35k certificates that are awarded with the two mid-tier Marriott cards, and it opens up some more higher-end options such as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin and even the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Autograph Collection and the Westin Maldives (on off-peak dates).
The Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with Marriott Gold status (just like the Amex Platinum), but it also gives you the option to spend your way to valuable Marriott Platinum Elite status. This would require that you to charge $75,000 per year to the card, so it isn’t an easy task, but it is possible for some.
The Bonvoy Brilliant card also has a slight edge on the earning side over the other Marriott cards. While all three of the Marriott cards that charge annual fees award 6x on eligible Marriott charges made at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program., the Brilliant also has bonus categories of 3x at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airlines — although there are better credit card options for your dining and airfare purchases. Finally, you’ll earn 2x on all other eligible purchases.
Like all of the Marriott credit cards, this card awards 15 nights each year toward earning elite status with Marriott — a Marriott Bonvoy account can earn a max of 30 nights per year from credit card, 15 from a personal card and 15 from a small business card.
Last but not least, the Bonvoy Brilliant offers an up to $100 property credit (not valid on room rates) on select cash bookings of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels. Previous TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg has successfully used this credit at the St. Regis Washington D.C.
When you add these perks all together, the Bonvoy Brilliant can be the best Marriott card for travelers who stay at Marriott properties several times per year and place an increased value on the 50k certificate over the 35k certificate. Read the full card review for more details
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card
Right now, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card bonus is 125,000 bonus points + 1 free night (valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening (total of up to 175,000 bonus points). This sign-up bonus is worth up to $1,400 based on TPG’s valuations of 0.8 cents per point, making room for plenty of award booking options.
Outside of the sign-up bonus, the card awards up to 17 Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2x elsewhere. Using TPG’s most recent valuations, that breaks down to a 1.6% return on non-bonused spending and 4.8% at Marriott properties.
The Bonvoy Boundless card also awards an up to 35,000-point award certificate at each account renewal. While this certificate isn’t as valuable as the up to 50,000-point version available with the Bonvoy Brilliant, it’s still extremely useful. You can use the 35k certificate at Category 5 Marriott hotels such as the Marriott St. Kitts Beach Club, Mira Moon Hong Kong, Sheraton Sydney and beyond — all on standard or off-peak dates.
For occasional Marriott travelers, those who want to keep annual fees at a much lower level or anyone interested in taking advantage of this elevated welcome offer, the Bonvoy Boundless can be a great choice. Read the full card review for more details.
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
If you are a small business owner, the Marriott Bonvoy Business card can be a great way to earn Marriott points. This card has a mid-tier annual fee ($125, see rates and fees) and an annual up to 35,000-point certificate at each anniversary — and you also have the ability to earn a second 35,000-point annual free night certificate after you spend $60,000 in a calendar year on the card (valid at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program).
If you’ve had success redeeming Marriott free night certificates for a good value in the past, the ability to earn a second free night can make the Bonvoy Business card much more appealing.
This card earns 6x at at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program but also has better earning rates in some bonus categories: 4x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. All of these might be highly appealing to a small business owner, giving you a return of 3.2% based on TPG’s valuations. Plus, earn 2x on all other eligible purchases.
The welcome offer is currently 125,000 Marriott bonus points & Two bonus free night awards after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Each bonus free night award has a redemption level up to $50,000 points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021.
Since this is an Amex card, you don’t have to deal with Chase 5/24 limitations, and you’ll have access to money-saving Amex Offers, which can completely offset your annual fee if you use them frequently. Read the full card review for more details.
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
We get it — some people only want credit cards with no annual fees. The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card fits that bill, but be warned: you’ll get exactly what you pay for. This newer option in the Marriott credit card family is issued by Chase and is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, worth $480 based on TPG’s valuations.
While the Bonvoy Bold might be appealing because it doesn’t charge an annual fee, it also doesn’t offer any type of annual award night certificate, meaning you’ll miss out on a perk worth as much as several hundred dollars.
This card awards 3 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels (vs. 6x on every other Bonvoy credit card), 2x on other travel purchases and 1x everywhere else (vs. 2x with other Bonvoy credit cards).
The bottom line with the Bonvoy Bold is that it doesn’t pack a strong enough punch for most serious Marriott travelers, especially given how easy it is to recoup the $95 annual fee on the Bonvoy Boundless. If you stay in Marriott hotels enough to be considering getting a Marriott credit card, you’ll likely come out ahead opting for a mid-tier card with better benefits instead. While this card may be the right match for some, pause and ask yourself whether this is really the best use of one of your valuable Chase 5/24 slots.
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
If you just want some level of Marriott elite status but you don’t stay with Marriott enough to warrant opening a Marriott-branded credit card, getting an Amex Platinum can make a lot of sense.
With the Amex Platinum, you can activate Marriott Gold elite status simply as a perk of having the card. However, the card also gives you Hilton Gold status, access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, and a long list of other travel benefits that can make your trips more rewarding and more comfortable, regardless of where you travel. (Enrollment required)
APPLY HERE: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Who should get a Marriott credit card
If you stay at a Marriott property, even occasionally, it’s likely wise to have a Marriott credit card of some sort. Of course, you want to get as many Marriott points as possible as part of the card’s sign-up bonus, but the reasons to have a Marriott card go well beyond that.
The annual free-night certificates alone can make the math work on the $95 and $125 per year Marriott cards. It’s easy to get several hundred dollars in value from a 35,000-point Marriott certificate. Last year, I used mine at the Westin Snowmass during the ski season when rooms were selling for north of $500 per night, making the annual payment of a $95-$125 annual fee a steal. Sadly that’s now a higher category hotel, but the premise remains the same with hotels that remain a Category 5 property.
Once we all travel again, if you use the $300 annual Marriott credit, the math can even work on the $450-per-year Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card (see rates and fees), as it is easy to get at least $150 in value from a certificate valid for a free night of up to 50k points. So virtually any traveler can come out ahead by having a Marriott card in their wallet.
Which Marriott credit card are you eligible for?
The best Marriott credit card for you might come down to which bonus you can get. Unfortunately, the answer to that is not that simple, with many Marriott card products dating back to legacy Starwood Preferred Guest cards that were available before the SPG/Marriott integration. While SPG cards are a thing of the past, several transitioned into current Marriott cards.
For the two Amex-issued Marriott cards, the rule is one welcome offer per card per lifetime, and while the Bonvoy cards feature a new design, they aren’t technically counted as new products from the old SPG days. That means you won’t be able to earn the 125,000-point bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card from Amex if you ever earned a welcome offer on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which is no longer available.
With Chase, you have to deal with the infamous 5/24 rule, which says that in most cases, if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months across all issuers, you’ll be automatically rejected when applying for new Chase cards.
In addition to these rules that apply to nearly every Amex and Chase credit card, the terms and conditions of Chase’s entry-level Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (previously known as the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card) say the following:
“The bonus is not available to you if you:
- Are a current cardmember, or were a previous cardmember within the last 30 days, of Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express);
- Are a current or previous cardmember of either Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card), and received a new cardmember bonus or upgrade bonus in the last 24 months; or
- Applied and were approved for Marriott Bonvoy BusinessTM American Express Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantTM American Express® Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card) within the last 90 days.
To put that in English … according to the terms, you aren’t eligible for the sign-up bonus on the Chase-issued personal Marriott card if you have what used to be known as the SPG small business card issued by Amex. It’s quite restrictive. So you’ll have to clear several hurdles to make sure you’re eligible before applying for any of the Bonvoy credit cards.
The first step is to make sure you’re on the right side of issuer-specific rules (like 5/24), but then you still need to double-check the terms and conditions of each individual credit card and have a decent understanding of what you have in your wallet.
Here’s a quick refresher on how the old Amex and Chase cards converted to the new Bonvoy branding:
As indicated in the chart above, the Marriott Bonvoy Amex, previously known as the SPG Amex, is no longer available for new sign-ups. The same is true for the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business card.
Which card should I use to pay for Marriott stays?
I personally have multiple Marriott cards (for the annual award night certificates), so I fully understand wondering which one is best to use for Marriott stays. Outside of the Bonvoy Bold, with its lower 3 points per dollar earnings on eligible Marriott purchases, all the other Bonvoy cards offer an identical 6 points per dollar.
If you have the luxury of choice, it can make sense to frequently turn to the Bonvoy Business card to try to earn an additional 35,000-point award night certificate after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year … if you are really a big spender.
TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, meaning that 6x earning is equivalent to a 4.8% return on Marriott charges on all the Marriott cards with an annual fee. That’s very respectable — but if you’re not set on earning Marriott points, you can potentially do much better with your overall return.
The ever-popular Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel, including hotels. Based on TPG’s valuations, this comes out to a nice 6% return on travel spending.
Related: Best credit cards for hotels
If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can earn 5 points per dollar (a 10% return) if you make prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel or Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. The downside is that these bookings may not earn you Marriott points or elite benefits, so you have to weigh that cost against the additional Membership Rewards points and property amenities you might otherwise receive.
At the end of the day, I typically charge Marriott purchases to a Marriott card, even though it isn’t the highest return based solely on point valuations. Marriott points are very valuable for the St. Regis-type, luxury points-fueled vacations we like to take from time to time, so I’ll take all the Marriott points I can get.
What are the best Marriott credit cards?
The best Marriott cards depend very much on you. All have their own perks but essentially, your perfect card will be the one that helps you earn the most benefits for the least amount of personal spending. Compare each card before you rush to sign up and take into account whether or not you’re willing to pay an annual fee, how often you actually stay in Marriott properties and what your individual spending habits are.
As we have outlined, for instance, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is perfect if you’re a beginner to the hotel rewards game and the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is great for Marriott loyalists who are after more points.
There isn’t an overall “best card” – just the card that’s best for you.
There are four different Marriott credit cards currently available to apply for — and another non-Marriott card that could be a great option if you don’t want to commit to any one loyalty program.
These cards offer a wide variety of annual fees, point-earning abilities and built-in perks. But that’s good news, since it means there is likely a best Marriott card for every situation. Be sure to consider the earning rates, stacking of elite night credits, perks and annual fees when evaluating these cards.
- The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy
- Best ways to earn points with the Marriott Bonvoy program
- How to redeem points with the Marriott Bonvoy program
- Best ways to redeem 100,000 Marriott points
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
Featured image by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon, Ethan Steinberg and Chris Dong.