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If you’re angling for a points-fueled vacation, the Marriott Bonvoy program should be on your radar. As one of the largest hotel brands in the world, Marriott boasts more than 7,000 properties in 131 different countries and territories, from smaller hotels like Fairfield Inn & Suites and Courtyard by Marriott to luxury brands like St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton.
But when you’re staying at a Marriott hotel, which credit card is the best to use? We’ve gone through all the options and put together our list of the best credit cards that can help you earn more points and even score some elite travel perks to make your stay at a Marriott a little bit nicer.
The best cards for Marriott hotels in 2021
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Best for infrequent travelers
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Best no-annual-fee Marriott card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for luxury perks
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Best for business travelers
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for flexibility
How do these Marriott credit cards compare with one another, and why is the Chase Sapphire Preferred on our list? Let’s dive into each of these cards and also explore how this alternate card could potentially maximize the number of Marriott points you earn on your everyday purchases.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless: Best for infrequent travelers
First up is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is geared toward people who are loyal to Marriott but don’t necessarily need elite travel perks. This card charges an annual fee of $95, but it comes with a substantial sign-up bonus, some basic benefits and bonus rewards for each dollar you spend at Marriott.
New Marriott Boundless card holders can currently earn three free nights after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account. These three free nights can be used at any Marriott property that normally costs 50,000 points per night based on Marriott’s award chart.
You’ll also earn 10 points for every dollar you spend on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores within the first six months of opening the account. While that isn’t a huge haul of points, it’s a nice add-on when you first get the card.
Once you have the Marriott Boundless card, you’ll earn 6 points for every dollar you spend on Marriott purchases, and 2 points per dollar on everything else you buy with the card. Additional perks include no foreign transaction fees, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection against damage or theft and Visa concierge service.
Other benefits of the Marriott Boundless card include automatic Marriott Silver elite status and 15 elite night credits each year, which can help you earn even higher levels of Marriott status. You can also reach Gold status by spending $35,000 in purchases on your card within a calendar year.
But perhaps the best feature of the Marriott Boundless card starts with the second year you have the card. On your card anniversary each year — meaning the date you originally opened the card — you’ll receive a Free Night Award that can be used at any Marriott that normally costs up to 35,000 points per night. If you use this award each year, it can easily offset the cost of the card’s annual fee. Just keep in mind that Marriott recently announced it’s moving to a dynamic pricing system in March 2022, so at that point, properties will begin to change their point values on an ongoing basis.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold: Best no-annual-fee Marriott card
The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is the only Marriott credit card that never charges an annual fee. Its rewards and benefits are lighter as a result, yet it’s still worth considering if you want to earn Marriott points but don’t want to pay an annual fee.
Right now, new Marriott Bold card holders can earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months after opening the account. Then, once you have the card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on Marriott purchases, 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else you buy.
Another notable benefit are the card’s 15 elite night credits you receive, which gets you Marriott Silver elite status without any travel required on your part, and which you can build on for even higher levels of status. The Marriott Bold also has perks like no foreign transaction fees, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection against damage or theft and Visa concierge service.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Best for luxury perks
If you want a Marriott credit card with as many VIP perks as possible, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is your best bet. You’ll pay a hefty $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) so you’ll only get enough value out of this card if you stay in Marriott hotels at least a few times per year. But if you do, the perks can be robust.
The card starts with a solid welcome bonus. Right now, new Marriott Brilliant Amex card members can earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months after opening the account, plus up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months. (Terms apply.)
You’ll then earn 6 points per dollar with the card on purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and flights booked with airlines and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
The Marriott Brilliant Amex comes with the richest set of perks among all Marriott credit cards, starting with automatic Marriott Gold elite status, as well as 15 elite night credits each year you’re a card member. You also get up to $300 in annual statement credits for Marriott purchases, a $100 credit on eligible stays at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis, a Priority Pass Select airport lounge access membership and up to $100 in credits toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.
You’ll find several upgraded travel benefits on the Marriott Brilliant Amex, including a few insurance protections you don’t get with other Marriott card options. The card’s perks include secondary auto rental coverage, a baggage insurance plan, trip cancellation and interruption insurance and trip delay coverage.
Finally, starting with the second year you have the Marriott Brilliant Amex, you’ll receive a Free Night Award on your card member anniversary each year, which can be used at any Marriott property that normally costs up to 50,000 points per night. That perk, combined with the up to $300 in Marriott credits each year, can make the annual fee on the card worth paying if you can consistently take advantage of them.
However, again, remember that Marriott will move to a dynamic pricing system starting in March 2022, so hotels that are currently valued at 50,000 points per night could cost more or less after that point, and may also change on a regular basis.
Marriott Bonvoy Business: Best for business travelers
If you’re a small-business owner who wants a credit card with some hotel perks for your business travel, the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card should be on your radar. This business credit card offers a pretty nice suite of benefits and a fantastic welcome bonus, all for a reasonable annual fee of $125 (see rates and fees).
Right now, new Marriott Business card members can earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on your card within the first three months after opening the account, plus up to $150 in statement credits on eligible purchases made with the card within the first three months (Terms apply.)
Small-business owners will also earn 6 points per dollar on purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program with the Marriott Business card, 4 points per dollar 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, and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
A handful of benefits can also make business travel more rewarding. For example, the Marriott Business card gives you automatic Marriott Silver elite status, as well as 15 elite night credits so you can aim for higher levels of status. Other benefits include premium internet service at Marriott properties and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
Finally, starting with the second year you have the Marriott Business card, on every card member anniversary, you’ll receive a Free Night Award that can be used at any Marriott worth up to 35,000 points. If you can use that free night at a Marriott that would otherwise cost at least $125 per night in cash, you’ll offset the cost of the card’s annual fee just with this one perk alone.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for flexibility
Are you hesitant to commit to a Marriott credit card? If so, you might consider a slew of other flexible travel credit cards that let you earn rewards that transfer into Marriott Bonvoy points, as well as other loyalty programs.
One of the best cards in this realm is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The points you’ll earn with this card are Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred into Marriott points at a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning you’ll get 1,000 Marriott points for each 1,000 Chase points you transfer.
The good news about the Chase Sapphire Preferred and other flexible cards like it is that you don’t have to transfer your rewards to Marriott if you don’t want to. Chase has a total of 14 airline and hotel transfer partners, or you can use your points to book travel through the Chase portal, redeem for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and more.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, it also comes with a nice selection of travel insurance protections, and it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You also get a free DashPass membership with $0 delivery fees on orders of $12 or more for one year as long as you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021, and up to $60 in credits toward Peloton purchases through the end of 2021.
If you don’t already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, new card holders can currently earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on the card within three months of opening the account. You’ll also earn 3 points per dollar on dining with the card, 2 points per dollar on travel (or 5 points total when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards), 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Remember that Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve® aren’t the only ones that let you transfer points to Marriott. Customers with cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points can also transfer points to the Marriott Bonvoy program at a 1-to-1 ratio.
Watch out for sign-up restrictions on Marriott credit cards
While it’d be great if you could sign up for all the Marriott credit cards on our list, Marriott’s rules mean you need to have a strategy in mind. That’s because not only will you face approval rules from Chase and American Express — the issuers of these Marriott cards — but there are other bonus rules for Marriott credit cards to be aware of.
For starters, Chase limits the number of new cards you can have based on its infamous “5/24” rule. This rule states that you can’t get approved for a new Chase credit card if you’ve opened five or more other credit cards — including cards from other issuers — in the last 24 months.
Second, Chase limits Marriott card bonuses for people who have a previous version of one of their cards or another currently available card in the same family, as well as people who earned a bonus on a Marriott card within the last 24 months. For example, you aren’t eligible to earn the bonus on the Marriott Bold card if you currently have it or the Marriott Boundless card, or if you have the older Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier credit card (which is no longer open for new applications), or if you’ve earned a bonus on any Chase Marriott card in the last 24 months.
Interestingly, you’re also barred from earning the sign-up bonus on this card if you have or have had the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card (previously known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express) in the last 30 days, if you have or have earned a bonus on any Marriott business credit card from Chase or American Express in the last 24 months or if you applied and were approved for any Marriott business card in the last 90 days.
Complicating matters even more is the fact that American Express has a “once-per-lifetime” rule on all its cards. This rule states you can only receive the welcome bonus on each individual Amex card once during your lifetime, though you can still get the bonus for two different cards in the same family of cards.
That’s a lot to keep track of, and the rules for all Chase and Amex Marriott cards work similarly. So before you sign up for a Marriott credit card, read the card’s terms and conditions carefully to make sure you’re eligible for the bonus offer.
Which Marriott credit card is best for you?
The right Marriott credit card for you depends on how often you travel, whether you plan to travel more in 2022 and which benefits you want the most. You’ll also want to look closely at each card’s annual fee and see how much you’re willing to pay each year to secure the elite perks you want.
But if you’re a Marriott fan and you want to start earning Marriott points when you use your credit card — or points that can transfer to Marriott — then it’s time to take a look at getting a Marriott credit card, since you can score a nice haul of points from the welcome bonus right from the start and then get the perks of the card for the long haul.
Looking for a credit card but you’re not interested in travel? Check out CNN Underscored’s guide to the best credit cards of 2021.
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.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.