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Credit card showdown: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless vs. Hilton Amex Surpass

June 8 2022
11 min read
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If you love the consistency of brand-name resorts or find yourself staying in these hotels regularly for business (or some other reason), it may be a good idea to carry a cobranded hotel credit card. And with the two major hotel loyalty programs — Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy — you have a number of options.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card are two mid-tier products with a variety of perks, including annual free nights, opportunities to earn a plethora of points and automatic status for additional benefits every time you stay at a participating property.

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And right now, both are offering welcome offers that can save you significant money on your upcoming travel.

But does one stand out above the other?

Here’s a closer look at how these cards work so you can decide which is better for you.

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Comparison overview

Here’s a quick summary of the most important features of each card to help you compare features and benefits head-to-head:

FeatureMarriott Bonvoy BoundlessHilton Honors American Express Surpass
Welcome offerEarn five free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.Earn 130,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
Earning rates
  • 6 points per dollar at Marriott properties.
  • 3 points per dollar at grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants (on the first $6,000 in combined purchases each calendar year).
  • 2 points per dollar everywhere else.
  • 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties.
  • 6 points per dollar on dining at U.S. restaurants, groceries at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3 points per dollar everywhere else.
Value per point (based on TPG’s valuations)0.84 cents0.6 cents
Elite status15 elite nights every year, which grants automatic Silver status.Automatic Gold status.
Free nightsFree night award on your card’s annual anniversary, worth up to 35,000 points.Free-night reward after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Other benefitsNo foreign transaction fees; purchase protection; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage reimbursement; trip delay reimbursement.No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees); 10 annual visits to Priority Pass lounges.
Annual fee$95.$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Welcome offers

When you add a new card to your wallet, the initial welcome bonus can be incredibly valuable — and this is a significant perk for both of these hotel credit cards. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card currently comes with a fantastic limited-time offer of five free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening (worth as much as $2,100, based on TPG’s most recent valuations).

With the Hilton Surpass card, you can start with a offer of 130,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. The points here are worth $780 based on TPG’s valuations.

Winner: Bonvoy Boundless.

Earning

If you’re a Marriott or Hilton loyalist, you likely prefer one brand’s points over another. But if you’re not loyal to any specific hotel, here’s a breakdown of what earning looks like on both cards.

With Marriott Boundless, you get 6 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties plus 3 points per dollar spent at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants (up to $6,000 in combined spending each year). In addition, you'll earn 2 points per dollar everywhere else.

Meanwhile, if you hold the Hilton Surpass card, you earn 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 6 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.

For bonus categories, that’s roughly double what you’d get with the Marriott card. Even with a slightly lower value, you’ll probably come out ahead with points if you use the Hilton Surpass card regularly.

It’s also worth pointing out how this would translate to total earnings when you swipe each card at participating properties in each program.

category
Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessHilton Honors American Express Surpass
Base points10 points per dollar.10 points per dollar (excluding True and Home2 stays, which are 5 points per dollar).
Elite bonus10% as a Silver member (1 additional point per dollar).80% as a Gold member (8 additional points per dollar).
Card spend
6 points per dollar.12 points per dollar.
TOTAL17 points per dollar (14.3% return).30 points per dollar (18% return).

As you can see, the Surpass Card also shines above the Boundless when you consider the extra points you earn as an elite member.

Winner: Hilton Surpass.

Redeeming

The best value for Marriott and Hilton points usually comes from redeeming for hotel reward nights. You do have other options, but hotel stays typically give you the highest value per point. Unfortunately, both programs no longer have award charts.

The majority of Marriott stays cost anywhere from 5,000 to 100,000 points per night. However, the program recently began imposing dynamic award pricing, meaning roughly 200 of the most premium properties will be able to price award nights outside of its previously-published categories — and that will expand to the entire portfolio of over 8,000 hotels and resorts in 2023.

On average, you will get about 0.84 cents per point, according to TPG’s calculations, but the value you get depends on the hotel, dates and other factors.

Hilton award stays typically cost anywhere from 5,000 points to 95,000 per night, with an average value of about 0.6 cents per point. However, some specialty properties charge up to 150,000 points per night — while others recently jumped to 120,000. While the program doesn’t have published award charts, you can get a feel for how much your stay will cost with Hilton’s Points Explorer tool.

If you’re running low on points, both programs feature the ability to combine cash and points to book a room. However, if you’re a serious travel points enthusiast, you should calculate the value you’re getting per point for every redemption to make sure these make sense.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless — though that may change in 2023.

Free night awards

Hilton’s free night awards can be used at properties like the Conrad Bora Bora, but you have to spend to earn one. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

When you have the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card, you’ll earn a free night every year on your account anniversary after paying your annual fee. This is valid for a stay up to 35,000 points, though you can now supplement the certificate with up to 15,000 extra points to snag higher-priced rooms. With a $95 annual fee, the free night award alone makes the card worth keeping if you stay at an eligible Marriott property once per year.

Read more: 3 reasons why the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is worth the $95 annual fee

With Hilton Honors Surpass, you can also enjoy a free night, but it’s not automatic. You’ll have to spend at least $15,000 on the card in a calendar year to earn it, which translates to a minimum of $1,250 per month. And since the Surpass isn’t necessarily the best card for everyday spending, you could be sacrificing some rewards on those purchases.

That said, you can use the free night for virtually any property in the Hilton Honors portfolio (with just a few exceptions), potentially giving the award an outsized value. And while this used to be limited to weekend nights (Friday, Saturday or Sunday), all certificates issued through the end of 2022 can be used on any night of the week.

Nevertheless, the automatic certificate on the Boundless gets the nod here, since there’s no spending requirement associated with it.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Elite status benefits

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless cardholders get automatic Silver Elite status by virtue of the 15 elite night credits awarded on the card (if you also have a Marriott business card, you can stack these credits for a total of 30 nights). These 15 nights put you more than half of the way to Gold status, and you can earn an additional credit for every $5,000 you spend on the card. And if your spending on the card hits at least $35,000 in a calendar year, you’ll automatically be upgraded to Marriott Gold status.

As a Hilton Surpass user, you get automatic Hilton Honors Gold status. You are then upgraded to Diamond status if you spend at least $40,000 per year on the card.

Elite status at both hotel brands comes with a list of benefits that improve as you move to higher tiers — but Hilton Gold is significantly more valuable than Marriott Silver.

Winner: Hilton Surpass.

Perks and protections

The Bonvoy Boundless stands out for travel protections when things go awry. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

Credit cards often come with extra perks and protections when making purchases with the card. Both of these cards waive foreign transaction fees, and each comes with additional benefits.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card includes purchase protection, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement coverage and trip delay reimbursement insurance. Users also have access to a free Visa Concierge service.

The Hilton card comes with a much more limited set of protections. However, the biggest perk here is an annual Priority Pass membership that includes 10 complimentary lounge visits each year. This isn’t an unlimited membership — like what you’d enjoy on many premium credit cards — but for a more casual traveler, this can be a solid option. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Which card should you get?

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card are two favorite hotel rewards cards with similar costs and benefits. The best card for you may depend on whether you prefer Marriott or Hilton, or which is more convenient where you travel most — though both programs have massive global footprints that grow even wider every year.

Bottom line

As we head into a busy summer travel season, hotels are working hard to capture your pent-up demand, and Marriott and Hilton both offer compelling credit cards that can fast track your path to free hotel visits. Depending on your travel habits and spending trends, you may benefit from one or even both of these cards. Savvy travelers may not want to leave home without one.

Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card with five free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
Official application link: Hilton Honors Surpass card with 130,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Surpass, click here.

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox.

Featured photo by (Photo by DarioGaona via Getty Images)
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.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees