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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express,  Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Marriott and its associated co-brand credit card issuers have announced that on August 26 — eight days after the official merger of the Starwood and Marriott loyalty programs — new rules will go into effect governing whether you’re eligible for the welcome bonuses on SPG and Marriott co-branded cards. In addition to the usual application restrictions from each card issuer, there are additional rules specifically covering credit cards connected to the new combined Marriott program. Before we go further, I’ll warn you to brace yourself, because these new rules are complicated, not intuitive and not in our favor.

Let’s start with a close look at the revised rules for each card, and then cover some suggested strategies on what to do pre- and post-August 26.

Basics Rules of the Card Issuers

The combined Marriott portfolio will contain three American Express-issued SPG co-branded cards and two Chase-issued Marriott Rewards cards:

From American Express:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Credit Card from American Express

From Chase:

  • Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Credit Card (this name change is in effect starting on August 26)

If you missed the news, late on Thursday night Chase closed The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card to all new applicants, so if you don’t already have that card, you no longer have the option to get it. Existing cardholders can keep the card and will get some enhanced benefits starting on August 26, but there’s no longer a way to get a sign-up bonus on the card.

Currently, American Express-issued cards are subject to a rule that says you can only receive the bonus on them once in a lifetime per product. To make it easier to know if you’re eligible, the new Amex welcome bonus qualification tool on the issuer’s website will tell you whether you’ve had the product before and whether or not you’re eligible for the bonus.

For Chase, you can generally receive a sign-up bonus if it’s been at least 24 months since you last received the bonus for that product or a product in that specific card family. But of course, the more restrictive rule for Chase is whether you can even be approved for the card at all based on your 5/24 standing, and whether or not the card itself is subject to 5/24 for approval.

Welcome Offer Restrictions By Card

With those basic issuer rules in mind, here are the new additional welcome offer restrictions on each card in the Marriott/SPG portfolio.

Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card

The new rules on the SPG Luxury card state that…

“You are ineligible for the welcome offer if any of the following are true:

Currently have or have had any of the following Cards in the last 30 days

  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from JP Morgan

OR have acquired any of the following Cards from Chase in the last 90 days

  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase

OR have received a welcome or upgrade offer for any of the following Cards from Chase in the last 24 months

  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase”

Starwood Preferred Guest Card

On the basic personal SPG Amex card, the new rules state…

“You are ineligible for the welcome offer if any of the following are true:

Currently have or have had any of the following Cards in the last 30 days:

  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase ($85)
  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase ($95)
  • Marriott Rewards Credit Card from Chase ($45)
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card from JP Morgan ($450)”

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card

And on the SPG business card, you’ll find the following rules:

“You are ineligible for the welcome offer if any of the following are true:

Currently have or have had any of the following Cards in the last 30 days

  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card from Chase* ($99)
  • The Marriott Rewards Business Credit Card from Chase ($45)

OR have acquired any of the following Cards from Chase in the last 90 days

  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase ($95)
  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase ($85)

OR have received a welcome offer for any of the following Cards from Chase in the last 24 months

  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase ($95)
  • The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase ($85)”

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card

For the basic personal Marriott card issued by Chase, the new rules note that…

“You are ineligible for the welcome offer if any of the following are true:

Currently have or have had any of the following Cards in the last 30 days

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express ($95)

OR have acquired any of the following Cards from American Express in the last 90 days

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card ($450)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express ($95)

OR have received a welcome offer or upgrade bonus for any of the following Cards from American Express in the last 24 months

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card ($450)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express ($95)”

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Card

And finally, the business version of Chase’s Marriott card lists these rules…

“You are ineligible for the welcome offer if any of the following are true:

Currently have or have had any of the following Cards in the last 30 days

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express ($95)

OR have acquired any of the following Cards from American Express in the last 90 days

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card ($450)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express ($95)

OR have received a welcome offer or upgrade bonus for any of the following Cards from American Express in the last 24 months

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card ($450)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express ($95)”

Marriott has emphasized to The Points Guy that it will be determining new cardholder welcome bonus eligibility and passing that information to Chase and American Express. In other words, the two banks will not be sharing any personal data with each other and have no formal agreement. A Marriott spokesman confirmed to me that there would be an automated tool for Marriott to communicate between Chase and Amex, and customers will be notified during the application process if they’re eligible for a welcome offer.

Application Strategy

Wallet with credit cards
(Photo by Image Source/Getty Images)

Given all of these new restrictions, compounded with Amex’s once-in-a-lifetime bonus and Chase’s 5/24 rule, you have to be pretty strategic on your application plan for the combined programs. Here are my recommendations on how to proceed…

  1. Prioritize the new SPG Luxury Card — While we have no confirmed information on the welcome bonus that will be available on this card, it seems likely to have at least a 100,000-point welcome offer, if not higher. Why? Because the old SPG card and its standard 25,000-point bonus (75,000 new Marriott points) was enough to entice most of us, and this should be higher than that since it’s an expensive premium card with many more benefits. It’s also a new Amex product, meaning everyone should be eligible to get it under Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule. If you’re a Ritz-Carlton cardholder, you can quickly become eligible by closing that card, then waiting 30 days. Just remember if you get this card when it becomes available, you’ll be ineligible for 24 months to receive a Marriott Premier Plus or Marriott Premier Plus Business Card welcome offer.
  2. Bypass 5/24 with the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Card — If you aren’t interested in the SPG Luxury card and its $450 annual fee, the Chase business card — which is currently not subject to 5/24 — could be your play. Most readers should be eligible because they’ve held the Amex SPG Business card for more than 90 days, and I wouldn’t be opposed to closing the SPG personal card after it loses 33% of its earning power on non-bonus spend as of August 1. But if you want to maintain your personal SPG card, you should apply for this card before August 26.
  3. Below 5/24? Still skip Marriott — If you’re below 5/24 you may be eligible for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus personal card, but I don’t think you should be tempted. Applying for this card would make you ineligible for the SPG Luxury card for 24 months, and there are other Chase cards subject to 5/24 that, in my opinion, should take one of your slots.

It’s tough to play out every single situation you might face, but my eye is set on applying for the SPG Luxury card and then sitting tight for six months. I want to see how the welcome offers increase or decrease and get a sense of pricing and award night availability in the new program. I also have a partial seven-night package and two Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton nights in my account from a recent Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card application. The value of those after August 18, I can only guestimate. All of that makes me content to sit and watch the new program at first rather than jumping further into the melee.

Questions Still to Be Answered

While many details have now been filled out, there are obviously still a number of questions to be answered on the merger as a whole. For now, here are our remaining questions in relation to these newly announced welcome bonus restrictions and the SPG/Marriott co-branded cards:

  • How long will the two brands live separately in the credit card space?
  • When will the welcome bonus offer amounts be announced?
  • Will Marriott tell Chase and Amex when you close a card?
  • Is there a new Marriott luxury card planned?

Bottom Line

Quite frankly, some of these new rules are absurd and illogical. It doesn’t really make any sense that a small business owner could open a Marriott business card, and then later if he or she notices the new SPG Luxury card and its higher points offerings and benefits, he or she will still have to wait a full 24 months before being eligible for the welcome offer on that SPG card. Those are two completely different brands, different issuers, different types of card (personal versus business) and different card levels (mid-tier versus high-tier). There’s absolutely no reason getting one should affect your ability to get the other.

The rules themselves are a dense mass and almost impossible to follow, so they’re likely to impact not just those who apply for a fair amount of new cards, but also a large number of Average Joes. Whether the new restrictions have enough of an impact on the bottom line of these issuers to require future revisions remains to be seen, but in the meantime, stay ahead of the complexity, do your homework and you can come out another 75,000-125,000 Marriott points ahead.

Know before you go.

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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.

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