Comparing Marriott Bonvoy credit cards: Which one is right for you?

At the moment, Marriott offers four of the best hotel credit cards, with every card except the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card offering an anniversary free night certificate (which are potentially worth several hundred dollars).

If you want to know how to earn Marriott points quickly, earning credit card welcome bonuses is key. With three of the four cards offering the exact same bonus, the intro offers alone won’t be enough to sway you one way or another. What you need to consider here is the application rules each issuer has, including the Chase 5/24 rule (which means you won’t be approved for Chase travel cards if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards in the last 24 months) and Amex’s rule that you can only get the bonus on each credit card once per lifetime.

Unfortunately, the complications don’t stop there. Chase and Amex have teamed up to share customer data and restrict new applications even further. For example, you aren’t eligible to apply for the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex if you’ve held the Chase Ritz-Carlton card (issued by Chase) in the last 30 days, have acquired the Bonvoy Boundless (from Chase) in the last 90 days, or received a welcome bonus on the Bonvoy Boundless in the last 24 months (note that these terms and conditions have been edited for clarity, please make sure to double check the terms of the application yourself before applying).

Let’s take a look at the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, as well as some of the best ways to use Marriott points.

Best Marriott credit card

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card Welcome bonus Credit card review
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card Limited Time Offer: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months Read our review of the Marriott Bonvoy Bold
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card  Limited Time Offer: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Read our review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms Apply. Read our review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms Apply. Read our review of the Marriott Bonvoy Business card

I love using my free night from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card to stay at luxury hotels like the St. Regis Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/Million Mile Secrets)

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

Bonus

The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold comes with a limited time offer of 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. We estimate Marriott points value to be generally 1 cent per point.

The Marriott award chart prices its hotels between 7,500 and 85,000 points per night (though they can be higher or lower, dictated by the high and low seasons). This bonus won’t earn you a five-star hotel experience, but it’s a solid springboard for Marriott Bonvoy points collectors. If you encounter any 7,500 point hotels (there are tons in Europe), you’ll get at least four nights from this bonus. Plus, Marriott gives you the fifth night free on award stays of five or more nights!

Ongoing earnings

  • 3 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 2 points per dollar on other eliglible travel purchases (including airfare, trains, taxis, etc.)
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

Annual fee

$0

Bottom line

This is a decent starter card if you’re new to the hobby, but just know that the card bonus and its ongoing perks aren’t going to net you a free night in a fancy hotel with potential room upgrades like the rest of the cards on this list. There’s no risk to this card since there’s no annual fee, so if you’re a newbie, you should feel comfortable dipping your toe into this hobby with the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Bonus

For a limited time, the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless comes with 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Again, you can usually expect to receive at least 1 cent per Marriott point, which makes this bonus worth at least $1,000. That’s a fantastic bonus, and more than enough for a memorable stay at top-notch hotels like the JW Marriott Chicago. Rooms can cost $400+ per night after taxes, or 35,000 points per night. For 105,000 Marriott points, you could save $1,200 on a luxurious long weekend getaway.

Ongoing earnings

  • 6 points per dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases

Annual fee

$95

Bottom line

This card has a very manageable annual fee, and it comes with a free night worth 35,000 points each year you renew the card. That perk alone makes the card’s annual fee worth paying, as you can get hundreds of dollars in value from it. Read our review of the Marriott Boundless card for all the details.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Bonus

The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant offers 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. It’s the same bonus as the card above, and not difficult to receive a value of at least $750 (though it’s possible to receive much more). Joseph and his wife opened this card to earn the remaining points we needed for a stay at the St. Regis Maldives, and we ended up receiving a value of 2.3 cents per point for that redemption. In other words, this bonus — to them — was worth $1,765 in free hotel stays.

The St Regis Maldives cost $1,400 per night before taxes. We saved ~$8,000 by using points. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Ongoing earnings

  • 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Annual fee

$450 (see rates and fees)

Bottom line

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant does have a large annual fee. However, it offers a $300 annual Marriott statement credit, effectively dropping your out-of-pocket cost in annual fees to just $150 for this card (so long as you’d organically spend $300 per year at Marriott). This credit is valid on room rates and eligible property charges (like dining or drinks at the bar), and it’s as good as cash to me.

The Bonvoy Brilliant also offers an annual free night worth 50,000 points, which can offset the remaining $150 fee by hundreds of dollars. Also read our Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant review to see the laundry list of worthwhile benefits.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

Bonus

The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card earns 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Same offer as the above two cards, with an estimated median value of $750. Again, this is enough for multiple nights at a low-category hotel, a couple nights at a solid four-star hotel, or one night at a five-star stunner, like Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini, which costs 60,000 points per night.

Ongoing earnings

  • 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and on wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. service providers and on U.S. shipping purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Annual fee

$125 (see rates and fees)

Bottom line

This is the only small business card on the list. If you have a for-profit venture, like freelance writing, selling items on eBay, or dog-walking, you qualify for a small business card. Opening this card won’t count against the Chase 5/24 rule, which makes it perhaps the most enticing card on this list for many. The card also comes with a free night worth 35,000 points per year — but it also comes with another annual free night after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. That’s one of the amazing Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business credit card benefits for those who have a lot of business expenses. Be sure to read our review of the Marriott Bonvoy Business card.

Annual free night certificates

Free night certificates are the easiest way to justify paying the annual fee on a hotel credit card, and the Bonvoy family of cards is no exception. While the no-annual-fee Bonvoy Bold doesn’t offer a free night, the other three cards do.

The entry-level Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business each offer an anniversary free night worth up to 35,000 points, which maps over to a Category 5 hotel or lower (during standard award dates). I have no problem getting $300 or more in value out of these free nights, which makes it a no-brainer to keep paying the $95 or $125 annual fees, respectively. In the past year alone, here are some of the 35,000 point redemptions I’ve made and how much they would have cost in cash:

With 35,000 points you’ll have enough to book some luxury Marriott hotel brands, including many JW Marriott/Westin/W Hotels, and occasionally a cheaper Ritz Carlton and St. Regis hotel. If you pick and choose when to use your free night certificate, even the most casual traveler should be able to get $250 or more in value from it.

As you would hope from a premium credit card, the Bonvoy Brilliant free night certificate is much more valuable, worth up to 50,000 points, which covers most Category 6 hotels. For me, that’s meant the following redemptions:

Again, the average traveler should be able to recoup the entire $450 annual fee just by using this free night certificate, not even accounting for the card’s other perks.

The math stops here. If the free night certificate, on its own, wipes out the annual fee you’re paying (and then some), then every other benefit these cards offer is just icing on the cake. Keep in mind that you won’t earn the free night certificate your first year, but you will get it on your first cardmember anniversary.

Elite status

Every Bonvoy credit card comes with 15 annual elite night credits, which is enough to get you automatic Marriott Silver elite status. You’re limited to one set of credits per Bonvoy account, so you can’t stack these together if you have multiple cards.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and Marriott Bonvoy Business cardholders can upgrade to Gold Marriott Bonvoy elite status by spending $35,000 in a calendar year on the card. Gold status in the new program doesn’t offer all that much, so you should strongly consider whether this is the best use of your limited spending power.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card offers automatic Gold status to all cardholders with the ability to earn Platinum status by spending $75,000 in a calendar year. Gold is a nice step above Silver, but I don’t put too much weight into this perk since you can also earn automatic Marriott (and Hilton) Gold status with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Qualifying for Marriott Platinum status normally requires 50 elite nights a year, or 35 once you subtract the 15 nights you get with a card. That’s not that much traveling in the grand scheme of things, and if you aren’t actually spending 35 nights a year in Marriott hotels, the benefits of Platinum status may be lost on you. In other words, Platinum status is very easy to earn if you travel even semi-frequently.

One thing to note is that you won’t get your choice benefit (i.e. suite night awards) if you earn Platinum status by credit card spending instead of through actual hotel nights.

Bottom line: Which card is right for you?

I’m a firm believer that the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant offers the most compelling value of any of these cards, between its $300 annual Marriott property credit and 50,000 point free night. However, if you aren’t looking to pick up another premium card with a hefty annual fee, that’s okay. I think most people would be best off getting the Amex Bonvoy Business, even though it has a marginally higher fee than the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless. There are two reasons for this:

  1. You have the option to earn an additional free night each year along with helpful bonus categories that the Bonvoy Boundless doesn’t have
  2. Opening this credit card won’t count against your Chase 5/24 status. You can keep applying for valuable cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

But what about the Marriott Bonvoy Bold? While I appreciate Marriott offering this option, I think this is the wrong choice for most people. The 30,000 point bonus isn’t worth wasting a 5/24 spot, the card’s earning rates are simply mediocre and while you won’t pay an annual fee, you miss out on a ton of value year after year by not getting that free night certificate.

Let me know which card appeals most to you in the comments.

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For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please click here.

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