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Marriott Bonvoy Bold vs. Hilton Honors American Express Card

June 07, 2022
11 min read
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Many top rewards credit cards include annual fees. In exchange for this up-front cost, you can unlock higher earning rates, additional travel perks and annual rewards.

That said, many issuers (and their cobranded loyalty program partners) offer no-annual-fee products that can still be decent options for more casual travelers.

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And if you’re looking for a hotel credit card in this category, you should know about the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Card. Both of these cards get you instant low-level status and award you valuable hotel points with every purchase, all without an annual fee (see rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex).

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Here’s a head-to-head comparison of the Hilton Honors Amex and Marriot Bonvoy Bold to help you decide which may be the best choice for your needs.

Comparison overview

Before digging into the details in our Marriott Bonvoy Bold vs. Hilton Honors American Express review, here’s a summary of the most important features each card has to offer:

FeatureMarriott Bonvoy BoldHilton Honors Amex
Current welcome offerEarn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Plus, earn up to $100 in statement credits  on eligible purchases at Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of card membership.
Earning rates
  • 3 points per dollar at Marriott properties.
  • 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases.
  • 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
  • 7 points per dollar at properties within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5 points per dollar at U.S restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3 points per dollar everywhere else.
Value of rewards (based on TPG’s valuations)0.84 cents per point.0.6 cents per point.
Elite statusReceive 15 elite night credits every year, enough for Silver status.Automatic Silver status, with opportunities to spend to earn higher levels.
Other benefitsNo foreign transaction fees; purchase protection; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage reimbursement; trip delay reimbursement.No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
Annual fee$0.$0 (see rates and fees).

Welcome bonus

Both Marriott and Hilton offer these no-annual-fee cards with compelling, limited-time bonus offers. If you’re a big fan of travel and enjoy the comfort of a name-brand hotel, you may want to consider one of these lucrative bonuses.

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold card is currently offering 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. That’s easily enough for a free night (or more) at many Marriott properties — which now number more than 8,000 worldwide across 30 different brands.

At TPG’s current valuation, 60,000 Marriott points are worth about $504. That’s a solid value for a card with no annual fee.

The Hilton Honors Amex comes with a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. In addition, you'll enjoy up to $100 in statement credits for Hilton hotel purchases for the first 12 months. Those points are worth about $600, based on TPG’s valuations — but the addition of statement credits boosts the overall potential value to $700.

Winner: Hilton Honors American Express Card.

Earning

With every swipe, tap, dip or online purchase with either card, you can earn points redeemable for free hotel nights (among other redemption options, which we’ll discuss later). Each one works a little differently here.

With the Marriott Bonvoy Bold, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties, 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. When you factor in the base earning rate at Marriott properties (10 points per dollar) plus the 10% bonus you get from your automatic Silver status, that translates to a total of 14 points per dollar when you use the Bold card — or an 11.8% return.

Meanwhile, the Hilton Amex awards 7 points per dollar when spending at participating Hilton Honors properties — and with the 10 base points per dollar spent (plus the additional 2 points by virtue of your Hilton Honors Silver status), you're looking at a total of 19 points per dollar, or an 11.4% return.

However, the Hilton Amex really shines in comparison to the Bold when it comes to non-hotel spending, since you'll earn 5 points per dollar at U.S restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Then, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar everywhere else.

While the Bold edges out the Hilton Amex for hotel spending, the better earning rates elsewhere with the Hilton card gives it a slight edge.

Winner: Hilton Honors American Express Card.

Redeeming

You Marriott points can get you free nights around the world at properties like the W Melbourne. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The Marriott Bonvoy program awards points that can be used for Marriott stays, transfers to airline partners and other redemptions. However, using your points for free nights at Marriott hotels usually gives you the best value.

With Marriott's recent switch to dynamic pricing for award stays, roughly 200 top-tier properties are now able to charge higher rates outside their old category prices — and come 2023, all hotels under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella will do so. With this in mind, you'll likely want to take advantage of your points sooner rather than later.

Read more: 14 Marriott hotels you should really book before dynamic pricing begins

Hilton Honors redemptions aren’t all that different from Marriott’s. Free stays at Hilton typically cost anywhere from 5,000 to 95,000 points per night — though select properties recently raised their prices. With elite status, your fifth night is free on award stays, which can stretch your points further. Hilton Honors also offers the option to book with points and cash if you prefer — but in any case, you should consult the program’s Points Explorer tool to get a feel for how much your award stays will cost.

You risk getting a much lower value per point when you redeem Marriott or Hilton points for anything other than free nights, so be sure to crunch the numbers to make sure you get the best value per point on every redemption.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Bold — though this could change once full dynamic pricing takes effect in 2023.

Elite status benefits

With the Marriott Bonvoy Bold, you’ll automatically earn 15 elite night credits every year. That’s enough for automatic Silver Elite status.

Silver status isn’t too exciting, but it comes with a few perks, including a 10% bonus on points earned for Marriott stays, late checkout (when available) and an elite-only phone reservation line. Check out our guide to Marriott Bonvoy elite status for more information.

Hilton Honors includes complimentary Silver status for all Hilton Honors Amex cardholders. Like Marriott, Hilton Silver is also somewhat unexciting, giving you a 20% point bonus and two free bottles of water per stay. The fifth night free on award stays is also only available to elite members, which can be valuable if you have enough points (and vacation time) for a stay of at least five nights.

However, both the Bold and Hilton Amex offer pathways to higher tiers. The 15 elite nights on the Marriott card put you just 10 paid nights away from Gold status or 35 from Platinum. However, if you also have a Marriott business card — like the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card — you can stack two sets of 15 nights to reach Gold status (and be just 20 nights away from Platinum).

With the Hilton card, you get automatic Gold status after spending $20,000 on the card in a year. For anyone who plans to use the card frequently, this can be a great option to unlock an elite tier that’s much more lucrative. However, you might be sacrificing value by not making those purchases with a card that’s good for everyday spending.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Bold.

Perks and protections

The Bonvoy Bold is the clear winner when it comes to travel protections when things go wrong. (Photo by Justin Paget/Getty Images)

Both cards come with no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees for the Hilton Honors Amex), so you can use the card when traveling outside the U.S. without incurring fees. Beyond that, the cards come with a short list of travel and purchase benefits — though one is a clear winner.

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold includes purchase protection, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and trip delay reimbursement coverage. This is a solid package of extra perks for a card with no annual fee.

Car rental loss and damage insurance is the only significant protection benefit you get from the Hilton Honors Amex.* However, this is secondary coverage, so it’s not as useful as the protection offered on other cards.

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car rental loss or damage coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

Winner: Marriot Bonvoy Bold.

Which card should you get?

Ultimately, both the Marriott Bonvoy Bold and Hilton Honors Amex can offer solid value for casual travelers. Each of them has no annual fee, and they provide earning opportunities and limited elite perks across two of the largest hotel loyalty programs in the world. However, the Hilton Honors American Express Card’s current limited-time offer may push it to the top — though not by a huge margin.

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold is likely a better choice if you are a Marriott loyalist. However, serious Marriott fans would probably fare better with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card ($95 annual fee) or even the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees). They provide an array of perks that can easily cover the respective annual fees.

Read more: The best Marriott credit cards of 2022

The same is true of Hilton credit cards, where an option like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card can give you a lot more value for a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Of course, if you’re firmly against paying an annual fee, there’s little harm in getting either the Bonvoy Bold or Hilton Amex, enjoying the bonuses and keeping them in your drawer for future Marriott and Hilton stays. With a nice suite of benefits and no ongoing costs, there’s plenty to gain and little to lose — as long as you pay off the cards in full and on time every month.

Bottom line

For no-annual-fee travel rewards cards, both the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Card do a good job of delivering ongoing value through useful benefits and valuable redemption opportunities. The current limited-time offers make them even more lucrative and worth considering for your wallet.

If you’re a fan of one of these loyalty programs but don’t want to pay an out-of-pocket cost for a cobranded card, either of these cards could be a good pick.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox.

Featured image by (Photo by The Points Guy)
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.