Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?

Mar 31, 2020

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We know, you’re not traveling right now. We’re not either. However, we are still looking forward to exploring once again in the future when it is safe to do so. While we are home for now, with the recent news that Marriott elite night credits will stack if you have both a small business and personal co-branded Marriott credit card, it’s still a solid time to reconsider your overall Marriott credit card strategy for when the world reopens.

In addition to all the other benefits of the Marriott credit cards, which we’ll get to shortly, being able to have 30 of the 50 needed annual nights toward earning Marriott Platinum status simply by having two different types of credit cards is pretty outstanding.

An easy way to earn Marriott points and perks is by ensuring you have at least one Marriott Bonvoy credit card in your wallet. But choosing the right Marriott card for your situation can be admittedly a tricky situation. Both Chase and American Express issue Marriott Bonvoy cards, with four Marriott cards currently available for your consideration — two from each issuer. And complicating things further is the fact that a non-Marriott cobranded card could be a great option as well.

We’ll get into the details below, but here are our five credit card picks for Marriott guests.

The best Marriott credit cards of 2020

In This Post

The Marriott credit cards range from a no-annual-fee card to one with a $450 annual fee, so it’s fair to say there really is a card (or two) for everyone who visits Marriott properties. We’ll walk you through how to choose the best one for your situation, and why choosing one based solely on the annual fee may not be the best strategy.

Book a dream getaway using Marriott points at the St. Regis Maldives (Image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Book a dream getaway using Marriott points at the St. Regis Maldives. (Image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Comparing the best Marriott credit cards of 2020

Credit Card Bonus Annual Fee Bonus Value Unique Perks
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Earn 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply. $450 (see rates and fees) $800 Annual award night worth up to 50,000 points, $300 annual travel credit at Marriott properties, instant Gold Marriott elite status with the ability to earn Platinum with $75,000 in annual spending on the card. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card Earn 75,000 Marriott points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Terms apply. $125 (see rates and fees) $600 Annual award night worth up to 35,000 points. Earn a second free night worth up to 35,000 points by spending $60,000 in a calendar year on your card. Immediate Silver status, ability to earn Gold status with $35,000 in annual spending on the card. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. $95 $600 Annual award night worth up to 35,000 points. Immediate Silver status, ability to earn Gold status with $35,000 in annual spending on the card.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card Earn 30,000 Marriott points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. N/A $240 Marriott Bonvoy Silver status thanks to the 15 elite night credits awarded by the card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. Terms Apply. $550 (see rates and fees) $1,200 Marriott and Hilton Gold status; up to $200 in annual airline fee credits; up to $200 in annual Uber credits; access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; access to American Express global lounge collection. Terms apply.

 

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Best Marriott credit cards

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

This card is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card issued by American Express has the highest annual fee of any of the Marriott cards, but it can actually be the best deal of the bunch for travelers who enjoy staying with Marriott. The $450 annual fee quickly becomes much less painful if you utilize the annual Marriott travel credit of up to $300. This credit is valid on room rates as well as property charges such as dining and spa treatments. Using that credit each calendar year can take the pain of the annual fee effectively down to $150 in a hurry.

On top of that credit, you get an annual award at each anniversary valid for a free night of up to 50,000 Marriott points. This encompasses Marriott Category 6 hotels on standard and off-peak days, but also includes Marriott Category 7 properties on off-peak dates. This makes it much more useful than the 35k certificates that are awarded with the two mid-tier Marriott cards, and it opens up some more higher-end options such as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin and even the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Autograph Collection and the Westin Maldives (on off-peak dates).

Westin Maldives (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)
Westin Maldives. (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Related: Best places to redeem a Marriott 50k certificate

The Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with Marriott Gold status (just like the Amex Platinum), but it also gives you the option to spend your way to valuable Marriott Platinum Elite status. This would require that you to charge $75,000 per year to the card, so it isn’t an easy task, but it is possible for some.

The Bonvoy Brilliant card also has a slight edge on the earning side over the other Marriott cards. While all three of the Marriott cards that charge annual fees award 6x points on eligible Marriott charges, the Brilliant also has bonus categories of 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airlines — though there are better credit card options for your dining and airfare purchases. Finally, you’ll earn 2x everywhere else. Like all of the Marriott credit cards, this card awards 15 nights each year toward earning elite status with Marriott — a Marriott Bonvoy account can earn a max of 30 nights per year from credit card, 15 from a personal card and 15 from a small business card.

Last but not least, the Bonvoy Brilliant offers a $100 property credit (not valid on room rates) on select cash bookings of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels. TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg has been able to successfully use this credit at the St. Regis Washington D.C.

When you add these perks all together, the Bonvoy Brilliant can be the best Marriott card for travelers who stay at Marriott properties several times per year and place an increased value on the 50k certificate over the 35k certificate. Read the full card review for more details

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Right now, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card bonus is 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Outside of the welcome bonus points, the card awards 6x points per dollar spent at participating Marriott properties, and 2x elsewhere. Using TPG’s most recent valuations, that breaks down to a 1.6% return on non-bonused spending and 4.8% at Marriott properties.

The Bonvoy Boundless card awards an up to 35,000-point award certificate at each account renewal. While this certificate isn’t as valuable as the 50,000-point version available with the Bonvoy Brilliant, it’s still extremely useful. You can use the 35k certificate at Category 5 Marriott hotels such as the Marriott St. Kitts Beach Club, Mira Moon Hong Kong, Westin Langkawi and beyond on standard or off-peak dates.

Related: Best places to redeem a Marriott 35k certificate

For occasional Marriott travelers, or those who simply want to keep annual fees at a much lower level, this card can be a great choice. Read the full card review for more details.

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Stay slopeside at the Westin Snowmass with a Marriott 35k award (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Stay slopeside at the Westin Snowmass with a Marriott 35k award. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

If you are a small business owner, the Marriott Bonvoy Business card can be a great way to earn Marriott points. This card has a mid-tier annual fee ($125, see rates and fees) and an annual up to 35,000-point certificate at each anniversary, but you also have the ability to earn a second 35,000-point annual free night certificate after you spend $60,000 a year on the card.

This card earns 6x points at participating Marriott properties, but also has better earning rates in some bonus categories: 4x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. All of these might be highly appealing to a small business owner, giving you a return of 3.2% based on TPG’s valuations.

The welcome bonus is currently 75,000 bonus Marriott points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Since this is an Amex card, you also don’t have to deal with Chase 5/24 limitations, and you’ll have access to money-saving Amex Offers, which can completely offset your annual fee if you use them frequently. Read the full card review for more details.

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

We get it — some people only want credit cards with no annual fees. If that’s you, then check out the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card. This newer option in the Marriott credit card family is issued by Chase and is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 30,000 bonus Marriott points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, worth $240 based on TPG’s valuations.

While the Bonvoy Bold might be appealing because it doesn’t charge an annual fee, it also doesn’t offer any type of annual award night certificate, meaning you’ll miss out on a perk worth as much as several hundred dollars.

Related: Why I prefer Marriott Bonvoy premium cards over the no-annual-fee one

This card awards 3x points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels (vs. 6x on every other Bonvoy credit card), 2x on other travel purchases and 1x everywhere else (vs. 2x with other Bonvoy credit cards).

The bottom line with the Bonvoy Bold is that it doesn’t pack a strong enough punch for most serious Marriott travelers who are willing to pay $95 a year (or more) to lock in a valuable award night certificate and better bonus categories. While this card may be the right match for some, pause and ask yourself whether this is really the best use of one of your valuable Chase 5/24 slots.

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Platinum Card® from American Express 

If you just want some level of Marriott elite status but you don’t stay with Marriott enough to warrant opening a Marriott-branded credit card, getting an Amex Platinum can make a lot of sense. With the Amex Platinum, you can activate Marriott Gold elite status simply as a perk of having the card. But — the card also gives you Hilton Gold status, access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, and a long list of other travel benefits that can make your trips more rewarding and more comfortable, regardless of where you travel.

Related: 10 things to do when you get an Amex Platinum

APPLY HERE: The Platinum Card® from American Express 

Who should get a Marriott credit card

If you stay at a Marriott property, even occasionally, it’s likely wise to have a Marriott credit card of some sort. Of course, you want to get as many Marriott points as possible as part of the card’s welcome bonus, but the reasons to have a Marriott card go well beyond that.

The annual free-night certificates alone can make the math work on the $95 and $125 per year Marriott cards. It’s easy to get several hundred dollars in value from a 35,000-point Marriott certificate. This year, I used mine at the Westin Snowmass during the ski season when rooms were selling for north of $500 per night, making the annual payment of a $95 – $125 annual fee a steal. Sadly that’s now a higher category hotel, but the premise remains the same with hotels that remain a Category 5 property.

Once we all travel again, if you use the $300 annual Marriott credit, the math can even work on the $450-per-year Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, as it is easy to get at least $150 in value from a certificate valid for a free night of up to 50k points. So virtually any traveler can come out ahead by having a Marriott card in his or her wallet.

(Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)
Use a 50k certificate at the JW Marriott Cancun. (Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

Which Marriott credit card are you eligible for?

The best Marriott credit card for you might come down to which bonus you can get. Unfortunately, the answer to that is not that simple, with many Marriott card products dating back to legacy Starwood Preferred Guest cards that were available before the SPG/Marriott integration. While SPG cards are a thing of the past, several transitioned into current Marriott cards.

For the two Amex-issued Marriott cards, the rule is one welcome bonus per card per lifetime, and while the Bonvoy cards feature a new design, they aren’t technically counted as new products from the old SPG days. That means you won’t be able to earn the 75,000-point bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card from Amex if you ever earned a welcome bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which is no longer available.

With Chase, you have to deal with the infamous “5/24” rule, which says that in most cases, if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months across all issuers, you’ll be automatically rejected when applying for new Chase cards.

In addition to these rules that apply to nearly every Amex and Chase credit card, the terms and conditions of Chase’s entry-level Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (previously known as the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card) say the following:

“The bonus is not available to you if you:

  1. Are a current cardmember, or were a previous cardmember within the last 30 days, of Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express);
  2. Are a current or previous cardmember of either Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card), and received a new cardmember bonus or upgrade bonus in the last 24 months; or
  3. Applied and were approved for Marriott Bonvoy BusinessTM American Express Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantTM American Express® Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card) within the last 90 days.

To put that in English … according to the terms, you aren’t eligible for the welcome bonus on the Chase-issued personal Marriott card if you have what used to be known as the SPG small business card issued by Amex. It’s quite restrictive. So, you’ll have to clear several hurdles to make sure you’re eligible before applying for any of the Bonvoy credit cards.

The first step is to make sure you’re on the right side of issuer-specific rules (like 5/24), but then you still need to double-check the terms and conditions of each individual credit card and have a decent understanding of what you have in your wallet.

Here’s a quick refresher on how the old Amex and Chase cards converted to the new Bonvoy branding:

As indicated in the chart above, the Marriott Bonvoy Amex, previously known as the SPG Amex, is no longer available for new sign-ups. The same is true for the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business card.

Which card should I use to pay for Marriott stays?

I personally have multiple Marriott cards (for the annual award night certificates), so I fully understand wondering which one is best to use for Marriott stays. Outside of the Bonvoy Bold, with its lower 3x points per dollar earnings on eligible Marriott purchases, all the other Bonvoy cards offer an identical 6x points per dollar.

If you have the luxury of choice, it can make sense to frequently turn to the Bonvoy Business card to try to earn an additional 35,000-point award night certificate after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year … if you are really a big spender.

TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, meaning that 6x earning is equivalent to a 4.8% return on Marriott charges on all the Marriott cards with an annual fee. That’s very respectable — but if you’re not set on earning Marriott points, you can potentially do much better with your overall return. The ever-popular Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel, including hotels. Based on TPG’s valuations, this comes out to a nice 6% return on travel spending.

RELATED: Best credit cards for hotels

If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can earn 5x points per dollar (a 10% return) if you make prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel or Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. The downside is that these bookings may not earn you Marriott points or elite benefits, so you have to weigh that cost against the additional Membership Rewards points and property amenities you might otherwise receive.

At the end of the day, I typically charge Marriott purchases to a Marriott card, even though it isn’t the highest return based solely on point valuations. Marriott points are very valuable for the St. Regis-type, luxury points-fueled vacations we like to take from time to time, so I’ll take all the Marriott points I can get.

St. Regis New York (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
St. Regis New York. (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

There are four different Marriott credit cards currently available to apply for — and another non-Marriott card that could be a great option if you don’t want to commit to any one loyalty program. These cards offer a wide variety of annual fees, point-earning abilities and built-in perks. But that’s good news, since it means there is likely a best Marriott card for every situation. Be sure to consider the earning rates, stacking of elite night credits, perks and annual fees when evaluating these cards.

Which Marriott card is right for you?

RELATED GUIDES:

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.

Featured image by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Earn 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. TPG values 75K Bonvoy points to be worth around $600. Aside from the huge welcome offer you'll earn up to $300 in statement credits each year and 1 free night every year after cardmember anniversary. Terms apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.