Does it make sense to hold multiple Marriott Bonvoy credit cards?
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While it’s been quite some time since Marriott-SPG merger was completed, many people still have the same hotel credit cards that they did pre-merger, including the legacy Chase-issued Marriott cards and Amex-issued SPG cards (though all have since been rebranded under the Bonvoy name, at least in your online accounts). Even after the merger, both Chase and Amex continued to issue Marriott cobranded cards. While some, like the Marriott Bonvoy Amex and the Chase Ritz Carlton Card, have since closed to new applicants, the following cards are still accepting new applications:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
While there are slight differences between these cards, there are also a lot of similarities. For example, with the exception of the no-annual-fee Bonvoy Bold card, all the Bonvoy credit cards earn the same 6x points at participating Marriott hotels, whether you have the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless or the premium Bonvoy Brilliant. Each card also offers 15 elite night credits, and in a recent policy change this year, Marriott now allows you to earn up to 30 elite night credits from credit cards a year: one set of 15 credits from any personal card and one set of 15 credits from any business card. Given the heavy overlap and redundancy in benefits, many people might think that they only need one Bonvoy credit card in their wallet — but I disagree. Here’s why I happily pay the annual fee on four different Bonvoy credit cards each year.
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Elevated sign-up bonuses/welcome offers
Before we dive in, I want to point out that all of the Marriott Bonvoy co-branded cards (with the exception of the Bold) are currently offering elevated bonuses for new cardholders. So, now’s an especially good time to add another Marriott card to your wallet. Here’s a quick rundown of each offer:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $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 , 2021). $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first three months of card membership. Earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first six months of card membership for all eligible purchases on your card on U.S. advertising in select media. Plus, receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status for one year, between Feb. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022 (offer expires on Jan. 13, 2021). $125 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card: Earn 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Elite status shortcut
As a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium elite, I plan my travels beginning and ending on Marriott.com. I currently have four Bonvoy credit cards — three from Amex and one from Chase — and I’d happily get more if I was allowed to. Most of these cards sit in my desk and don’t see much sunlight (although I do put a good amount of spending on my Bonvoy Business Amex), but there are two mains reasons that I’m happy to pay the annual fees year after year.
The first reason has to do with the policy change I mentioned above, where you can now earn up to 30 elite night credits from credit cards each year: 15 from any personal Marriott card and 15 from any business Marriott card. 30 elite night credits automatically qualifies you for Marriott Gold elite status (in case you didn’t already have it from holding a card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express).
Better yet, if you’re getting 30 elite night credits each year, that means you only need to stay 20 nights in a hotel (or between one and two each month) to reach Marriott Platinum status. This is where the benefits really start to get good, including a 50% points bonus, suite upgrades at most properties, free breakfast and more. I’ve been very pleased with the way I’ve been treated as a Marriott elite member, and this makes Platinum status and its wonderful world of benefits very accessible to the average traveler.
Free night certificates
Even before Marriott doubled how many elite night credits you could earn from credit cards each year, I was addicted to my Bonvoy cards for the annual free night certificates they offer. Each Bonvoy credit card offers an anniversary free night worth up to 35,000 points, with the exception of the Bonvoy Brilliant, which is worth up to 50,000 points (but we’ll come back to that in a minute) and the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card, which doesn’t offer a free night.
TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, meaning that a 35,000-point free night is roughly worth $280. Compare that to the annual fees on these entry-level cards, which range from $95 to $125. If you ignore every other perk of these cards and only focus on the annual free night, you’re getting twice as much value as you’re spending on your annual fees.
Those 35,000 points roughly maps over to Category 5 on the Marriott award chart (excluding Category 5 peak rates). I think Category 5 is the best sweet spot in the entire award chart, and I have no problem getting $300 or more out of these 35,000-point free nights at some of my favorite properties in the Marriott portfolio, such as the Mira Moon Hong Kong.
When you add in the suite upgrades, bonus points and free breakfast I get as a Titanium elite, my actual value ends up being a few hundred dollars above whatever the cash rate would’ve been. If you’re telling me I can pay ~$100 a year for a $500+ hotel stay, that’s just a no-brainer.
This is also the reason that I concentrate a lot of my spending on my Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card ($125 annual fee; see rates and fees), often choosing to use it for everyday spending even if it’s not the card in my wallet with the highest earning rate. I know that if I spend $60,000 a year on the card I’ll get an extra 35,000 point free night certificate, and while that’s worth $280 based on TPG’s valuations, I’m likely to get $400-500+ in value from it.
The same logic applies to the Bonvoy Brilliant, although there is one extra step involved. That card carries a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) and offers an up to a 50,000-point anniversary free night. You also get up to $300 in Marriott property credits each card membership year, valid on room rates and incidental charges such as food and drinks. This is as good as cash to me, and drops the out-of-pocket cost on the card to $150. In exchange for that, you get a free night, which TPG values at $400, but can potentially be worth a lot more.
Those 50,000 points unlock many more luxury properties, including Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels. One surefire way to max out this free night would be to book the Mykonos Theoxenia, which sells for $750+ during peak season. If you have Marriott elite status, the benefits you get at a high-end property will also be worth more.
I used my 50,000-point free night certificate this year to stay at the St. Regis Langkawi in Malaysia, booking a room that would’ve otherwise cost $650. We were then upgraded to a massive suite with a private pool and cabana and enjoyed one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had — without paying a dime.
To me, the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards are some of the easiest ones to keep open year after year. I’m able to make the case to do so by ignoring 99% of the card, and just focusing on the annual fee, the elite night credits and the free night certificate you receive. When you start to add back in the other perks like bonus categories, Marriott elite status and more, the scales tip even further in favor of holding multiple Bonvoy cards.
Benji Stawski contributed to this post.
Featured photo courtesy of the W Chicago Lakeshore.
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