Why I no longer like the Marriott credit card

A number of hotel loyalty programs have recently suffered major devaluations.  Here is a summary borrowed from One Mile at a Time:

All of the above changes have made your points less valuable.  But, in most cases, there are still arguments to be made to keep the associated credit cards.  With the Marriott card, I’m no longer so sure.

In my post, “To have and to hold,” I described a few hotel credit cards that I like to keep around, not to use for spend, but for their annual free night benefits.  In that post, I listed the Marriott Premier Visa card right after the Priority Club Visa.  At the time I felt that the annual free category 1 through 5 hotel night more than made up for the $85 annual fee.  Now, I’m not so sure.

In May, Marriott will introduce a new top tier category 9 and reassign many existing hotels to different categories.  According to Loyalty Traveler, of the current 344 category 5 hotels, more than half will increase to a higher category.  This means that those hotels will no longer be available for the annual free night benefit of the Marriott Premier card.

Expiring certificates

The downside of getting free nights rather than points is that free night certificates expire.  If you don’t use them, they’re worthless.  With most hotel credit cards, the associated free night certificates are good for a year.  With the Marriott card, though, the free nights are only valid for 6 months.

Now that there will be fewer nice properties to use the free nights on, the chance of the certificates going unused increases.

The $85 annual fee is not worth it to me

I used to be able to count on staying in a nice property with Marriott’s free night certificate.  Now, though, I think chances are good that the certificate will go unused.  I don’t plan to renew my Marriott card when the annual fee comes due later this year.

Better Options

I still love the Priority Club card.  For only $49 per year, you get a free night certificate (after your first year) for any Priority Club property in the world regardless of what category it is in.  It also offers other great perks like automatic Platinum status and 10% point rebates on awards.

An even better option for some is the new Club Carlson Premier Rewards card and its twin business card.  In addition to fantastic perks, these cards give 40,000 points each year upon card renewal.  For $75 for the personal card or $60 for the business card, you automatically earn almost enough points each year for a free night at any of their properties.  Even better, the bonus award night feature (Note: The Bonus Award Night feature was discontinued as of 6/1/2015.) means that you earn almost enough for two nights!  And, unlike free night certificates, Club Carlson points don’t expire as long as you have activity in your account every two years (which happens automatically by keeping the card).

Summary of annual costs and benefits

Here is a summary of hotel credit card costs & benefits (ignoring signup bonuses).  The point here is to look at hotel cards that offer sign-up-like bonuses every year after the first year simply by paying the annual fee.  These are roughly sorted in the order starting with the card I like most to the one I like least:

  • Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa: $75 per year.  40,000 bonus points each year upon card renewal.  Automatic Gold status.  Bonus Award Nights practically double the value of your points. (Note: The Bonus Award Night feature was discontinued as of 6/1/2015.)
  • Priority Club Select Visa: $49 per year.  Free night at any Priority Club hotel. Automatic Priority Club Platinum Status.  10% rebate on point redemptions.
  • Hyatt Visa Signature: $75 per year.  Free night at any category 1 through 4 Hyatt. Automatic Platinum status (free internet!).
  • Fairmont Visa Signature: $95 per year.  Free night at any Fairmont after $12K annual spend.  Two free lounge visits per year.  Automatic Premier status.
  • Hilton HHonors Reserve: $95 per year.  Free weekend night at almost any Hilton property after $10K annual spend.  Automatic Hilton Gold status (free internet, and free breakfast and room upgrades at many properties).  This card is notable as the only one on the list that is not a Chase card (this one is from Citibank).
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Visa: $85 per year. Free night at any category 1 through 5 Marriott. Free night expires after 6 months. 15 nights elite status credit (enough for Silver status which isn’t worth much).


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Comments

    • Piecerate: I don’t have the CC card yet, but my wife does. No, I don’t plan to run up spend on it since I have a huge number of points left over from the mega promotions last year. Is it worth running up spend? Maybe if you have lots of opportunities to stay at CC properties for 2 nights at a time. I wouldn’t do it for the transfer to airline miles since 5X CC becomes just under 1X airline miles.

  1. I’ll be staying tonight at a Best Western Plus in Banff, Alberta with Best Western Rewards. Still my favorite rewards program and I can’t get Platinum Elite in any other hotel chain as easily as I can with BW.

    • Michael N: Interesting. I haven’t stayed in a Best Western in 20 years so I can’t really comment one way or another about that. Its great that you found a program that works for you. Should I be exploring that one more?

  2. The Club Carlson card is great, I think. My mom just got it. I don’t have it yet as I have the FlexPerks card from US Bank and I am waiting for some time between applications.

    Meeting the spending requirement for the signup bonus and spending an additional $500 gets you 100,000 points. Enough for a 3 night vacation or two two night vacation.

    I personally plan to use the points in St. Martin for Radisson Blu there on a 3 night vacation. But it’s also good for, say, two nights in Paris and two nights in London at the top Radisson Blu hotels. All with one credit card signup :)

  3. If you call Marriott, and let them know nicely that you need more time to use your free night certificate, they usually will extend it. I have had to do this twice. It is also nice that $3000 monthly spending now adds 1 night toward elite status. I was surprised with gold status this year.

  4. Holding the marriott card is worth it to me. I stay at the category 5 Santa Barbara 2-3 times a year and I use the cat 4 certain for airport hotels. However the card is not that great spending wise. The signup bonus is awesome, 70K and free cat 4 right now on flyertalk. I value that at a minimum of $900.

  5. I feel the same way FM. I actually just applied (and got approved) for the Hyatt card yesterday, and put my Marriott card on the chopping block for the next time I need to call reconsideration.

  6. While the certificates are worth less, when my fee came up The retention specialist offered me another category 1-4 certificate after 1k spend. Not a great offer given the devaluation but it is better than nothing.

  7. FM: When you eventually apply for the CC card, will it be the personal or business version? Due to the issuer, I’m assuming that you won’t apply for 1 of each at the same time.

    • Ron: I am going to try for one of each at the same time! Rapid Travel Chai did so successfully, so there’s a chance…
      TravelBloggerBuzz: George, thanks. I’ve updated the post with that info.
      Jane: Yes, good point.
      Josh: Yes, an incentive like that might be enough to get me to keep the card another year if I know that I’ll use both certs.

  8. Even at $85 after the adjustment of levels, it’s still a net positive deal. Tough one to pass up on. I’ll keep this in my wallet for years.

    • Brendan: If you know that you’ll use the cert I agree that its still a net positive. In my case, I’m not sure I’ll use it.
      Ricardo: Thanks. Great tip about extending the life of the cert for 6 months! Yes, the Renaissance at Bay Harbor is the one :(
      Chris: Good question. I don’t know

  9. Like Ann says, I have extended the life of the certificate twice in the last two years. They let you do this only once. The trick is to do it as close to the deadline as posible so the extension is for 6 months.

    Lets say your certificate expires in july, but you call in march, they will only extended until september.(6 months from when you call).

  10. I also have the Marriott Visa card, thinking of cancelling soon. When does the annual free night post in your account. May have to wait for free night to post prior to cancelling!

  11. I got a targeted offer for a cat 1-5 cert if spend $2250 in next 2 months, which is of course when my annual fee comes due at my 1st anniv. Says it will post 6-8 weeks later (ie after my annual fee). I will do this and keep the card for another year as two cat 1-5 certs for $85 fee is worth it to me. Without the targeted offer I would have probably canceled as well.

  12. while fully understand your concerns, i feel i still have to keep marriott card. i spend about 120 nights annually (for work). i already gave up my hilton diamond status. i am maintaining spg platinum (and aims at life time elite in a coule of years). if i gave up marriott platinum, are there better alternatives?

    if i have to keep marriott platinum, marriott card helps me reach my goal much easier. also, i am building a marriott lifetime elite status in the coming years. please advise what other hotel chains are better than marriott?

  13. Andy: If you’re getting value from the card, then by all means keep it! As to alternatives, many people prefer the Hyatt and SPG elite programs. With 120 nights on the road, you could potentially get top tier status in both of those programs!

  14. One region where the certs still hold value is the Middle East, many hotels are quite expensive yet Marriott has many properties that are low category, like the typically $200+ Marriott Doha that is category 2. In the US the only value I have gotten is on holidays visiting relatives in small towns where the rates may all be high because of a football game or something. Otherwise, they are are dubious value.

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