MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.
Please note: the offers mentioned below are subject to change at any time and may not be available.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
While some of us may not be considering a hotel stay right now, it’s still a solid time to think about your overall Marriott credit card strategy for when you’re comfortable traveling again.
In addition to all the other benefits of the Marriott credit cards, which we’ll get to shortly, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is currently offering a bonus of five free nights after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s worth at up to an amazing 250,000 Bonvoy points — valued at $2,000, according to TPG valuations.
Interested in more credit card news and advice from The Points Guy? Sign up for our daily newsletter.
Then, the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is also offering a bonus of 30,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
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 is loyal to Marriott.
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.
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 & fees)||$600||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 & 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 5 free nights after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (worth up to 250,000 bonus points)||$95||up to $2,000||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 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from 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 & 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.|
*Bonus values are based on TPG valuations and not provided by the issuers
Best Marriott credit cards
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
This card is offering a welcome offer 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 (see rates and fees) quickly becomes much less painful if you use the card’s annual Marriott travel credit of up to $300 (each account year).
This credit is valid on room rates, as well as property charges such as dining and spa treatments. Using that credit each account 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).
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 — although 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
Right now, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card bonus is five free nights after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Outside of the sign-up bonus, 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 also awards an up to 35,000-point award certificate at each account renewal. While this certificate isn’t as valuable as the up to 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, Sheraton Sydney and beyond — all on standard or off-peak dates.
Related: Best places to redeem a Marriott 35k certificate
For occasional Marriott travelers, those who want to keep annual fees at a much lower level or anyone interested in taking advantage of this elevated welcome offer, the Bonvoy Boundless can be a great choice. Read the full card review for more details.
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
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 — and 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.
If you’ve had success redeeming Marriott free night certificates for a good value in the past, the ability to earn a second free night can make the Bonvoy Business card much more appealing.
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 sign-up bonus is currently 75,000 Marriott points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Since this is an Amex card, you 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. The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card fits that bill, but be warned: you’ll get exactly what you pay for. This newer option in the Marriott credit card family is issued by Chase and is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, 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, especially given how easy it is to recoup the $95 annual fee on the Bonvoy Boundless. If you stay in Marriott hotels enough to be considering getting a Marriott credit card, you’ll likely come out ahead opting for a mid-tier card with better benefits instead. 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
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. However, 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. Last 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 (see rates and fees), 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 their wallet.
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 offer 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 offer 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:
- 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);
- 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
- 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 sign-up 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.
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.
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 and Chris Dong.
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.