Credit Card Review: Marriott Rewards Premier Plus
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The merger of Marriott, Starwood and Ritz-Carlton created the world’s largest hotel group, with over 6,500 rooms in all brand categories. It also cause a realignment in the world of rewards credit cards. Chase was tapped to issue the consumer and business Marriott cards, while American Express kept the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and added a Luxury version with a $450 fee.
Chase also fine-tuned its Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, launching a successor named the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. The new card comes with a set of attractive perks such as an annual free award night, along with a strong sign-up bonus and enhanced earning opportunities. Consumers who have the old Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase may either keep that product or upgrade to the new version.
Who Is This Card For?
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus is available as either a personal or business credit card with a low annual fee ($95 for personal and $99 for business, although neither are waived the first year). It’s perfect for the traveler who stays frequently in any of the brand’s 29 hotel categories across 127 countries. Both versions come with automatic Marriott Silver status, along with a path to Gold with additional annual spending. Card holders also receive a free night award on their account anniversary (good at Marriott hotels costing 35,000 points or less per night); accelerated points earning; transfers to more than 40 airlines; 15 elite night credits each year; travel and purchase coverage, no foreign transaction fees, concierge service and premium in-room Wi-Fi when you book through the Marriott website or app.
Remember that this card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months (from all banks, not just Chase), you probably won’t be approved.
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus launched with a hefty bonus of 100,000 Marriott Reward points, while the current bonus is two free night awards that can be used at properties costing 35,000 points or less, after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This is slightly less valuable than the previous offer, and it also limits your ability to use points to redeem at higher categories of hotels.
Regardless of which option you choose, be aware that Marriott recently imposed restrictions on bonus earning and credit card eligibility. If you currently hold either the Marriott Rewards Premier or Premier Plus cards and have received a new card member bonus within the past 24 months, you can’t apply and get the bonus for this one. You’re also ineligible for the bonus if you meet any of these conditions (restrictions are similar for both the personal and business cards):
- If you’ve had the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express within the past 30 days;
- If you’ve acquired either the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card within the past 90 days;
- If you’ve received a welcome offer for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card within the past 24 months.
If you’re currently holding the Marriott Rewards Premier Card and are ineligible for the new card bonus, there’s an alternative path: Log in to the Chase website and see if you qualify for an upgrade bonus on the new card. Bonuses have ranged from nothing to 50,000 points, and the difference in the annual fee is negligible ($89 vs. $95), so it’s worth checking.
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card gives you 6 points per dollar spent at participating Marriott hotels, with 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. Since the card also comes with Marriott Silver elite status, you’ll receive an additional 10% on hotel stays. Points don’t expire as long as you make a purchase with your card every 24 months.
If you’re redeeming Marriott Rewards points for hotel rooms, you may want to do some advance planning. Through the end of 2018, there are seven categories for standard awards ranging from 7,500 to 60,000 points per night. There will be eight tiers starting in 2019, and awards will be broken into off-peak (between 5,000 and 70,000 points) and peak periods (ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 points). Dates for the peak and off-peak periods haven’t yet been specified. However, there’s a silver lining: Marriott gives you the fifth night free on redemptions, thus lowering the nightly point cost by 20%.
You can also transfer points to airline miles. There are currently 45 airline partners, and 42 of them transfer at a 3:1 ratio (equivalent to the 1:1 ratio under the old Starwood program). Even better, you receive a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer to those 42 airlines, reducing the ratio to 2.4:1. Transfer times vary greatly, from instant to nearly one week.
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card offers a strong set of benefits:
Free Award Night — Every year on your account anniversary, you receive a free award night at properties costing 35,000 points or less. You receive a similar benefit if you’re a current holder of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, and those award nights are stackable.
Elite Status: The card comes with automatic Silver status, which provides a 10% bonus on paid stays, priority late checkout, the guarantee of a standard room with no blackout dates, a dedicated reservation line and premium Wi-Fi. It also offers a path to Gold status, which is attained when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
Elite Night Credits: Beginning in 2019, cardholders receive 15 elite night credits per calendar year (this benefit can only be awarded once across the portfolio of Marriott and Starwood cards).
Fifth Night Free on Award Redemptions: As mentioned, card holders who use points to book four award nights receive the fifth night free, reducing the nightly cost by 20%.
Trip Delay Reimbursement: You and your family are covered up to $500 for unreimbursed expenses (such as meals and lodging) when your common carrier is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, provided the trip is paid for with your card.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement: You and an immediate family member are eligible up to $3,000 per passenger for either checked or carry-on luggage that is damaged or lost by a common carrier, provided you paid for your trip with your card.
Auto Rental Damage Collision Waiver: When you decline the rental company’s collision damage insurance and pay for the entire rental with your card, you have secondary coverage (in addition to your personal insurance) for theft and collision damage.
Purchase Protection: When you purchase new items with your card, you’re covered up to 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Extended Warranty: On eligible warranties of three years or less, this benefit extends the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by one year.
Which Cards Compete With the Premier Plus?
The most similar card on the market is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. Many of the key features are similar: the earning rate (6x at Marriott properties, 2x on everything else), automatic Silver status, a free night annually at hotels costing 35,000 points or less and many of the same travel and purchase protections. However, the SPG Amex does have the edge in the annual fee department: While the $95 fee is the same, the Starwood card waives it for the first year. (See Rates & Fees)
Of course, it’s possible to have both cards and stack the two annual free nights. Given the current restrictions, you can only do this if you haven’t applied for one of the cards recently, and if you haven’t collected a welcome bonus for either card in the past 24 months.
Wherever you go in the world, you’re likely to encounter one of Marriott’s 29 hotel brands. This card is ideal for road warriors who stay frequently in Marriott properties: The earning rate is strong, the perks are numerous and there are myriad redemption possibilities. If your focus is airline miles rather than hotel points, you have 45 transfer partners to choose from. Best of all, the annual fee is reasonable for the value received.
For rates and fees of the SPG Amex Card, please click here.
Featured image courtesy of the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa.
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