Now offering 5 free nights: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card review
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Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card overview
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is an especially great choice now due to its amazing sign-up bonus of five free nights. The Boundless card also offers a solid return on eligible Marriott purchases (6x points) and everyday spending (2x points) as well as an anniversary free-night certificate worth up to 35,000 points. Even if you aren’t a Marriott loyalist, it may be worth seriously considering this card while it offers a sign-up bonus of five free nights worth up to 50,000 points each. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with a new sign-up bonus offer.
After acquiring SPG and launching the new Bonvoy loyalty program, Marriott still offers a diverse credit card portfolio issued by both Chase and American Express. However, now the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase is the only entry-level, mid-market personal Marriott Bonvoy card available to new applicants.
The Bonvoy Boundless’ current sign-up bonus of five free nights after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, can fuel a great vacation. But, the sign-up bonus isn’t the only reason to consider the Bonvoy Boundless card. For example, TPG’s Katie Genter recently added the Bonvoy Boundless card to her wallet in a push to earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status using the card’s 15 elite night credits. So, let’s take a closer look at whether or not the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless deserves a spot in your wallet.
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Who is this card for?
Although the Bonvoy Boundless’ sign-up bonus of five free nights is enticing, it may come at a substantial cost. After all, Chase restricts the Bonvoy Boundless with its 5/24 rule. And, according to Chase’s 5/24 rule, the issuer won’t approve you for the card if you’ve opened five or more credit cards across all issuers in the last 24 months.
So, you aren’t just picking the Bonvoy Boundless card if you decide to apply. Instead, you’re potentially choosing the Bonvoy Boundless over another Chase card. So you should have a plan for how you’re going to use the card and its sign-up before you apply.
If you’re a Bonvoy Platinum Elite or higher, this bonus can get you much more value though. After all, as a high-level elite, your nights will come with elite benefits such as suite upgrades and free breakfast. But, note that some onsite Marriott Bonvoy perks have been suspended or changed due to coronavirus.
Finally, this card can also be an excellent addition to your wallet if you’re looking to transfer Marriott points to valuable airline partners such as Korean Air, Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines. However, if you’d rather earn Marriott Bonvoy points instead of free nights, you may want to hold out for a points-based bonus.
Sign-up bonus: Estimated $2,000 value
Now, let’s consider the most exciting part of any new credit card: the sign-up bonus. Right now, new applicants can earn five free nights after spending $5,000 in the first three months. And, these nights are each worth up to 50,000 points. So, based on TPG’s valuation of Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, this bonus is worth up to $2,000.
But, the actual value of the bonus depends on how you redeem the five free nights. Based on the Marriott Bonvoy award chart, you can redeem your nights for any Category 1 through Category 5 property regardless of dates. You can also redeem for off-peak and standard dates at Category 6 properties and for off-peak nights at Category 7 properties.
Unfortunately, some restrictions will stop many people from earning the Bonvoy Boundless’ sign-up bonus. The first is Chase’s 5/24 rule and the second is that Chase and Amex have cooperated to limit sign-up bonus eligibility across all the Bonvoy credit cards.
Main benefits and perks
The Bonvoy Boundless comes with a $95 annual fee, but it should be easy to get several hundred dollars of value out of the card’s perks. In fact, of all the travel credit cards I carry, it’s easiest for me to justify paying an annual fee on the Bonvoy cards, including the Bonvoy Boundless.
So, let’s take a closer look at the Bonvoy Boundless card perks.
Anniversary free-night award
Each year on account renewal, you’ll receive a free night certificate valid at hotels that cost up to 35,000 points a night. This certificate includes almost any Category 1-5 hotel, although Category 5 hotels at peak pricing won’t be eligible. You’ll find many luxury St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton hotels where you can use this certificate. And, you’ll usually find incredible flexibility in big cities that often have more than a dozen 35,000-point hotel choices.
TPG’s valuations peg the value of 35,000 Marriott points at $280, which is nearly three times the $95 annual fee. But, it’s possible to get much more value if you’re selective about redeeming your free night.
However, even if you redeem your free night certificates for a lower value, you should have no trouble recouping your entire annual fee from this perk alone. For example, I’ve redeemed 35,000-point free night certificates for two nights at the W Atlanta Buckhead ($230 cash value) and three nights at the Westin Savannah ($255). In each case, I managed to cover my annual fee and get more than $100 in excess value from the free night certificate.
Automatic Silver Elite status
Silver Elite status with Marriott won’t get you posh penthouse suites, but it’s better than nothing. Silver Elite members will get a 10% points bonus, late checkout and free Wi-Fi.
The Bonvoy Boundless also offers a path to Gold Elite status by spending $35,000 on purchases each account year. You’ll usually be better off earning higher status organically via the Boundless’ 15 elite night credit as well as some stays booked directly with Marriott, as I’ll discuss in the next section. And, if you want a card that provides Gold Elite status with Marriott automatically, you should consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
15 elite night credits annually
Many Bonvoy credit cards share this benefit. But, this perk can be immensely valuable if you’re aiming for mid or high status with Marriott Bonvoy.
You can get one set of elite night credits from a Marriott personal card and one more set of elite night credits from a Marriott business card. So, with the Bonvoy Boundless, you’d only need to stay 35 nights (instead of 50) to earn Platinum Elite status. And, if you have the Bonvoy Boundless and a Marriott business card like the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, you can get 30 elite night credits each year just from credit cards.
So, with just two cards, you’ll only need to stay 20 nights to earn Platinum Elite status. And, if you earned status with Marriott Bonvoy in 2019, you may need to stay even fewer nights in 2020 to level up.
Together, the above benefits represent a few hundred dollars in value each year and easily outstrip the $95 annual fee. But, the card also offers a few other perks:
- Baggage delay insurance: If a passenger carrier delays your baggage for over six hours, Chase may reimburse you for essential purchases up to $100 a day for five days
- Lost luggage reimbursement: If a passenger carrier damages or loses your check or carry on luggage, Chase may reimburse you up to $3,000 per passenger
- Trip delay reimbursement: If you are delayed by more than 12 hours or required to stay overnight when traveling by common carrier, Chase may reimburse you for select otherwise unreimbursed expenses up to $500 per ticket
- Purchase protection: Chase covers most new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim (capped at $50,000 per account)
- No foreign transaction fees
How to earn points
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card earns 6x points on eligible Marriott purchases and 2x points on all other eligible purchases. Based on TPG’s valuations, this works out to a 4.8% return on Marriott purchases and 1.6% everywhere else.
On paper, you can do better using the Chase Sapphire Reserve for Marriott stays. After all, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points (for a 6% return based on TPG’s valuations) on all travel.
But, you have to consider the value you can get from your Marriott points. As I mentioned before, Platinum and Titanium Elites get a much better return on their award redemptions thanks to a great set of elite benefits. So, I pay for all my Marriott stays with a Bonvoy credit card to earn 6x points.
How to redeem points
When it comes to maximizing your Marriott redemptions, there are a few strategies to keep in mind. First, you’ll want to take advantage of the fifth night free on award stays perk whenever possible. The fifth night free benefit is an easy way to get up to a 20% discount and stretch your points.
I prefer to use my Marriott points for hotel stays, but Marriott also has 40+ airline transfer partners. If you’re going to transfer Marriott points to an airline, you should use this opportunity to top up on some otherwise hard-to-earn mileage currencies.
Alaska Airlines, Korean Air and Japan Airlines are three fantastic examples of highly flexible and valuable miles that are hard to earn any other way. In fact, one of my favorite redemptions to date was transferring 195,000 Marriott points to 80,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles to book a first-class seat in the nose of the Korean Air’s 747-8.
Points transfer to most airlines at a 3:1 ratio with 5,000-mile bonuses for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. Transferring 60,000 Marriott points to Alaska Airlines, for example, would net you 25,000 miles. However, note that most transfers take at least a few days. So, if award availability is scarce, the award you want to book may be gone by the time the transfer completes.
Which cards compete with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless?
The first lesson you learn when you start building a credit card strategy is how sacred your 5/24 slots with Chase are. So, if you don’t have one already, you should strongly consider opting for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card first. You’ll pay the same $95 annual fee as the Bonvoy Boundless and you’ll get a valuable sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. TPG values this bonus at $1,200 thanks to its immense flexibility; you can transfer those points to any of Chase’s hotel and airline transfer partners, including Marriott Bonvoy. And, you’ll continue to rack up points at a fast clip with 2x points on travel and dining.
Even if you decide to add a Marriott Bonvoy card to your wallet, the Boundless might not be the best option. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card carries a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), but it can quickly pay for itself. After all, you’ll get an annual Marriott property credit of up to $300 (each card membership year), which can be used toward room rates, effectively dropping your out-of-pocket cost to $150.
Plus, the anniversary free night with the Brilliant card is valid at hotels costing up to 50,000 points a night, literally one-upping the level of luxury you can experience. Likewise, instead of Silver Elite status, you get complimentary Gold Elite status and the chance to upgrade to Platinum by spending $75,000 a year.
However, the tipping point for me between these two Marriott Bonvoy cards is the bonus. The Bonvoy Brilliant offers a welcome bonus of up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021. Additionally, receive complimentary Platinum Elite status with your Card for the 2021 status year. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.
. But, most travelers will find the Bonvoy Boundless’s sign-up bonus of five free nights after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months much more valuable.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is in a bind. As one of two entry-level consumer credit cards in the Bonvoy program (the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is the other), it’s the logical first choice for many Marriott travelers. But strict bonus restrictions and fierce competition from other Chase cards mean you should think hard before applying.
Still, if you’ve already built out your Chase trifecta and confirmed that you are eligible for this bonus, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is a great addition. I have no trouble getting $250-$300 of value out of my anniversary free night certificate and if I can get that sort of return on a $95 investment each year, it’s an easy win. Plus, the current sign-up bonus of five free nights worth up to 50,000 points each is pretty incredible.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter
Featured image by John Gribben/The Points Guy.
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