CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value, but does not review all financial companies or all available financial offers. We may receive compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com, and this compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired.
Our quick take: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card offers a generous sign-up bonus and a high earning rate on Marriott stays, along with a free night as part of the bonus and another one at each anniversary starting with the second year you have the card, which can easily make the card pay for itself.
- Earn 6 points on every dollar you spend at Marriott properties.
- Earn 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
- Complimentary Marriott Silver elite status for being a card holder.
- Earn Gold elite status when you spend $35,000 in purchases on the card in a card holder year.
- Receive an annual Free Night Award that can be used at any Marriott property worth up to 35,000 points starting with the second year you have the card.
- Marriott Bonvoy points aren’t as valuable as some other hotel points.
- Marriott Silver is the lower tier of elite status.
- $95 annual fee.
Current sign-up bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points and a Free Night Award when you spend $5,000 on the card within three months of opening the account.
Best for: Marriott loyalists who are willing to pay a $95 annual fee to earn a large sign-up bonus and get a free hotel night each year starting with the second year in exchange for the cost.
Digging into the Marriott Boundless credit card
When it comes to Marriott credit cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is generally considered the primary choice for people looking for a mix of standard Marriott perks and decent earning rates. A $95 annual fee is required, but the card’s bonus offer is generous, and Marriott fans will find the card’s annual Free Night Award starting in the second year to be well worth the cost.
Even better, right now new Marriott Boundless card holders can get an early Free Night Award as part of the card’s sign-up bonus, and this free night can be used at even more Marriott properties than the annual one that comes with the card starting in the second year.
The Free Night Award that’s part of the bonus is redeemable at any Marriott with an award level of up to 50,000 points based on Marriott’s award chart. That means you can use it at any Category 1 to 5 hotel, any Category 6 Marriott when off-peak or standard rates are in effect and even at a Category 7 property during off-peak dates.
You’ll also earn more points on paid Marriott stays with this card. General Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program members earn 10 points for every dollar spent at a Marriott just for being a member, but with the Marriott Boundless card, you’ll then earn an additional 6 points per dollar for paying with the card, and another 1 point per dollar for having the Marriott Silver elite status that comes with the card.
You’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on all other purchases you make with your card, which makes this hotel credit card more rewarding than some other hotel card options, including the no-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.
Advantages of the Marriott Boundless credit card
The biggest advantage of the Marriott Boundless card actually comes at the start of the second year you have the card, and every year thereafter. It’s the Free Night Award that can be used at any Marriott property that costs up to 35,000 points based on Marriott’s award chart.
While that’s not as generous as the Free Night Award that’s part of the card’s current sign-up bonus, the annual free night can still be used at any Category 5 property on standard travel dates, such as the JW Marriott Hotel Grand Rapids in Michigan, though only at up to a Category 4 property like the Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran in Indonesia if you want to travel during peak travel dates.
The Marriott Boundless card also gives you a pathway to Gold elite status just from spending on your credit card, which can make sense if you want some elite perks for a specific stay but you don’t have time to earn them through traditional means.
To earn Gold status, you’ll need to spend $35,000 on your card within an account year. That’s a high threshold to meet, and if you’re spending that much on your credit card, there may be better credit card options. But it’s not insurmountable if Gold status is important to you.
With the Marriott Silver elite status that comes with the card, you’ll get the previously mentioned bonus points on Marriott stays as well as late checkout when available and free Wi-Fi at Marriott properties. But with Marriott Gold status, you’ll see better benefits, such as 25% more points on Marriott stays, enhanced room upgrades and late checkout up to 2 p.m.
Also, the travel and consumer protections you get with the Marriott Boundless card include purchase protection against damage or theft, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement.
Disadvantages of the Marriott Boundless credit card
If you’re looking for reasons not to love the Marriott Boundless card, you don’t have to look too hard. The most noticeable disappointment is the fact that this card only gives the card holder Silver elite status, which is the same tier of status you get automatically when you sign up for the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card.
Also, keep in mind that Marriott Bonvoy points just aren’t as valuable as some other hotel programs, and definitely not when you compare to flexible point programs. For example, according to frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Marriott Bonvoy points are worth 0.8 cents apiece. Compare that to World of Hyatt points, which are worth 1.7 cents each according to The Points Guy, or the 2 cents per point valuation for the site’s Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
By and large, this means that points earned with other rewards and travel credit cards may be worth more than the Marriott points you’ll earn with the Marriott Boundless card — even if you don’t earn them quite as fast.
Finally, it’s important to note that both the annual Free Night Award and the one that comes with the card’s sign-up bonus are only valid for 12 months after you receive them. While Marriott has been extending expiration dates during the pandemic, that trend won’t continue forever, so make sure you have a plan to use the certificates if you’re going to sign-up for the card.
Stacking up the Marriott Boundless card against our benchmark
CNN Underscored uses the Citi® Double Cash Card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.
Here’s how the Marriott Boundless card scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that’s better than our benchmark, red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.
The chart above demonstrates how the Marriott Boundless card definitely comes out ahead in some categories, but it also shows just how difficult it can be to compare travel credit cards to cash back credit cards. Not only do different types of rewards have their own unique qualities, but some perks like elite status can be worth more to some people than others.
Just keep in mind that the Marriott Boundless is geared toward people who want to earn hotel rewards and stay with Marriott brands. If you prefer to earn more flexible rewards or basic cash back for all your spending, then you’ll want to consider a different rewards credit card.
Other credit cards similar to the Marriott Boundless card
If you want a Marriott credit card without an annual fee, you should check out the Marriott Bold card. Just keep in mind that this card has a less lucrative rewards scheme, and the sign-up bonus is a lot less generous to boot at 60,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.
On the other hand, if you want lots of benefits when you travel, you can also look at the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. This card currently offers new card members 150,000 bonus points and a Free Night Award after you spend $5,000 in purchases within three months of opening the account. The Free Night Award is good at any Marriott property with an award level of up to 85,000 points.
You’ll pay a $450 annual fee for this card (see rates and fees), but you’ll get perks like up to $300 in annual statement credits for eligible purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels. up to $100 in credits for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and more. This luxury travel credit card also gives you automatic Gold elite status with Marriott.
Also, keep in mind that Chase credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® can help you earn rewards for Marriott stays. Since Marriott is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, you can transfer Chase points at any time to your Marriott account at a 1-to-1 ratio.
Should you get the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card?
It never hurts to compare all the best rewards credit cards before you apply, and to think about what credit card benefits and features would be most useful to you. If you don’t travel much, or if Marriott isn’t your usual hotel chain, this card probably isn’t right for you. You’ll be better off looking at other credit cards with different perks, or perhaps even a credit card that earns cash back.
But overall, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is a decent choice if you want to earn rewards with the Marriott Bonvoy program and get a few perks along the way. This is especially true if you’re willing to pay an annual fee for some hotel perks but you prefer to pay less than $100 per year, and you travel enough to take advantage of the card’s free annual award night each year.
Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.