The Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards

When it comes to dispensing travel rewards, competing banks make strange bedfellows. Credit card issuers will always prefer to have an exclusive arrangement with an airline or hotel chain. Sometimes, though, circumstances force two different banks to issue cards for the same reward program—and when that happens, the situation can be a boon for consumers.

Prior to the merger of Marriott and Starwood into Marriott Bonvoy, American Express issued Starwood cards while Chase handled the Marriott side. After prolonged negotiation, Marriott ended up signing an agreement with both banks: Chase would issue the mass market and premium consumer cards, while Amex would get the super-premium and small business segment of the market.

For the points and miles collector, there are pluses and minuses to this arrangement. On the positive side, it’s possible to hold cards from both banks and some attractive card benefits (such as the free anniversary nights) can be stacked. Among the negatives are the fact that the signup bonuses offered by both banks will tend to mirror each other, and there are complicated restrictions involved with getting the bonuses.

Before we look at the benefits of each card, let’s examine those restrictions. Amex has a once-in-a-lifetime policy on collecting bonuses for specific cards; although these are technically “new” cards, Amex regards them as rebranded and subject to their policy. All cards with Chase are subject to the 5/24 rule, which means anyone who has opened five or more bank cards in the past two years (from anyone, not just Chase) is ineligible to apply.

Chase is also denying bonuses to consumers under the following circumstances: if you’re a current cardmember of the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express (or have been within the past 30 days); if you’ve applied and been approved for either the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card within the past 90 days; if you’ve had any of the Amex cards in the past 24 months and received either a new member or upgrade bonus.

All these cards come with 15 nights of elite credit, enough to earn you Silver Status in the Marriott Bonvoy program. Here’s a quick guide to the new lineup:

Marriott Bonvoy Bold from Chase: This is a completely new card product with no annual fee. The current signup bonus is 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The card earns three points per dollar on Marriott stays, two points for all other travel purchases and one point for everything else.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase (formerly the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus): The annual fee is $95, and the current bonus is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You get six points per dollar on Marriott stays and two points for all other purchases. Cardholders receive a free anniversary night at hotels up to Category 5 (35,000 points or less). There are no foreign transaction fees, and the card comes with other travel benefits such as baggage delay insurance and trip delay and lost luggage reimbursement.

The Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Visa from Chase (formerly the Premier Plus Business Visa) is closed to new applicants.

Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express (formerly the Starwood Preferred Guest Card) is also closed to new applicants.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from American Express (formerly the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card): The annual fee is $450. You earn six points per dollar on Marriott stays, three points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and two points on everything else; the anniversary free night is good at hotels charging 50,000 points or less. The current bonus is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card comes with Marriott Gold status, as well as some hefty statement credits: $300 each year at Marriott hotels, and an additional $100 when you book a minimum two-night stay at a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis. The card also comes with a credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

If you’re a Marriott enthusiast, these can be valuable cards to have—particularly the Amex Brilliant, where $300 of the $450 annual fee would be quickly offset by hotel stays. As previously mentioned, features such as the free anniversary nights are stackable if you hold cards from both banks (but not the 15-night elite credit, which is important to remember).

For the average points and miles enthusiast, however, the real value of these cards goes beyond their benefits at Marriott hotels. Marriott points transfer to an unprecedented 44 airline partners, more than twice as many as American Express and four times as many as Chase.

The further good news is that Marriott Bonvoy kept the transfer ratios previously used by the Starwood program. Almost all of the 44 carriers transfer at a 3:1 ratio; for every 60,000 points you transfer, you also get a bonus of 15,000 points or 5,000 miles. Thus, the formula is: 60,000 Marriott points equals 20,000 airline miles plus 5,000 bonus miles.

One of the important things to remember in this hobby is that transferable points tend to be the most valuable of all. If you want the ability to rack up miles in a variety of airline programs and take advantage of special award opportunities, consider earning the bonus on one of these cards and using it for selected everyday spending.

Source: frugal travel guy

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