Sending the Marriott and SPG cards off into the sunset

Over the past couple of years, when someone would ask me for advice on hotel credit cards, I would almost unequivocally say that one shouldn’t get a hotel credit card to use it (for spend outside of the chain anyway), but rather just for its welcome bonus…with the addendum that some hotel cards are worth keeping long-term for ongoing benefits (like an annual free night, status, etc). Reflecting on that, I’ve personally gathered too many hotel credit cards for their ongoing benefits, and I need to thin the herd. I’ve decided that the Marriott and SPG cards have got to go. Here’s why.

Current portfolio needs thinning

I’ll admit that I have become a bit of a pack rat when it comes to hotel credit cards. As noted above, the time has come for a purge. At the moment, between my wife and I, we have the following hotel credit cards:

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (x2)
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card (x2)
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (consumer version)
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Infinite
Hilton Honors Aspire (x2)
Hilton Honors Ascend
Radisson Rewards Premier
Wyndham Rewards
IHG Rewards Club Select

 As you can see, we need to do something about that situation as that represents far too much to pay out in annual fees. Maybe I could justify each card on a case-by-case basis, but I definitely can’t justify the collective whole by any stretch.

Why the Marriott-heavy collection?

The main reason for sitting so Marriott-heavy at the moment was in order to find out what would happen with all of these credit cards as the programs merged.  Last March, long before we knew what the new program would look like, Greg wrote about the fact that there could be hidden opportunities in having a number of the cards (See: Investing in change: Marriott / SPG / Ritz new program opportunities). We held on to the collection above in order to see what might be in store.

At this point, we know a lot about how the credit card landscape is shaping up (See our Marriott SPG Ritz Transition guide for full details). Assuming we upgraded our Marriott Rewards Premier cards to the Premier Plus versions, we would end up with five annual free night certificates good at hotels that charge up to 35,000 points per night between our two Marriott cards and three SPG cards. That would come at a total cost of $475 in annual fees over those five cards (not including the Ritz card).

That doesn’t seem like an altogether bad price for 5 hotel nights. It started to sound even better when I started looking at some of the properties where those certificates will be valid as per the new award chart. As Greg noted in his analysis, there are 1,126 properties in the 35K category alone (out of 6,341 costing 35K or fewer points).

Many of the 35K properties are in destinations where I can imagine room rates eclipsing $95 per night. Further, there are enough hotels in locations closer to home — including New York City and other cities where I commonly travel — that I know I could come out ahead versus the cash cost of paying for a room. Heck, part of me is tempted to keep a couple of these for a free weekend in New York City every year. But I’m not going to keep my Marriott/SPG portfolio of cards for three reasons.

Reason #1 for axing my Marriott cards: Free isn’t free

Marriott charges resort and destination fees on award stays. Hilton and Hyatt do not. IHG charges those fees sometimes (and other times they do not). Resort / destination fees can vary from $25-$50 per night (or even reach higher in some locations). That’s before taxes are added to those fees. What’s more, while Hyatt waives parking fees for Globalist members, Marriott does not waive parking fees for elite members. That “free” weekend in New York City would become not-so-free pretty fast.

While free parking isn’t a common elite benefit with most chains, the tacky fee for choosing a Marriott hotel is something they could easily eliminate. I categorically hate these “resort” and “destination” fees and the fact that hotels are not required to include them in the price of the room. It bothers me all the more when they take away from the joy of free.

Reason #2 for axing my Marriott cards: Top tier elite status is harder with Marriott

I enjoy having hotel status. It’s definitely not something I need — my wife and I traveled for years without even knowing what hotel status was. But I’ve come to enjoy a nice hotel breakfast, occasional room upgrade, theoretically better service, etc. Top-tier elite status with Hilton is easy: pay $450 per year for the Hilton Honors Aspire card, get top-tier Diamond status as one of the many benefits of the card. Top-tier status with Hyatt is now easier to achieve as I previously laid out in our post about the new World of Hyatt Credit Card. Even if you don’t have top-tier elite status with Hyatt, it is easy enough to borrow it (See: How to get top-tier Hyatt elite benefits without status).

Borrow Hyatt elite status for free breakfast like the buffet at the Andaz Amsterdam

The new Marriott program will have three “Platinum” levels: Platinum Elite (50 nights), Platinum Premier Elite 75 (75 nights), and Platinum Premier Elite 100 (100 nights + $20K spend). Even considering the 15 shortcuts to Marriott Platinum Elite status, I’m never going to reach Platinum Premier Elite 100 because I’ll never spend $20K with Marriott hotels. The highest I can hope for is Marriott Platinum Premier 75. Subtracting the 15 nights of elite credit I would get next year with one of the credit cards (since that’s the max you’ll get no matter how many of the credit cards you hold starting next year), I’d need 60 nights to reach Platinum 75K. That’s not going to happen for me, either.

And so the highest I can hope for is 50-night Platinum status. After 15 nights of elite credit from any of the credit cards, I’ll need another 35 nights to get that status. This isn’t an unreasonable number for me if I dedicated all of my stays to Marriott.

However, I’m unlikely to do that because of….

Reason #3 for axing my Marriott cards: It will be harder to collect additional free nights

After the programs merge in August, it will be harder to collect Marriott points from credit card spend. This is because the SPG cards will go from earning an effective 3x Marriott points everywhere to just 2x everywhere. That means it will require $17,500 in spend on one of those cards in order to earn one additional 35K night (to go with my certificates above). If I instead spent that $17,500 on a no-fee 2% cash back card, I’d earn $350 cash back. Trading $350 cash back for 1 free night at a 35K property isn’t a good value proposition in most instances.

Since Marriott is also transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, I could alternatively use cards like the Chase Ink Cash or Ink Business Preferred or the CSR to generate points in bonus categories that are greater than 2x. But here’s the thing: Greg did a comprehensive analysis of the amount of spend required to earn free nights with Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton (based on the new Marriott chart) — see: Manufacturing free nights (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott). Under almost every condition Greg considered — from unbonused spend to grocery store spend to office supply store spend and more — Marriott required more spend to generate low category free nights, “average” free nights, and top-tier free nights when compared against either Hyatt or Hilton. And that’s without considering Marriott’s resort and destination fees tacked on.

In fact, if you look at that post on manufacturing free nights and do some math considering the options for MS in the various categories, it will likely become apparent that one could MS free nights in “average” Hyatt and Hilton properties for less than the $95 annual fee on the Marriott cards.

The bottom line is that it won’t make much sense to manufacture free Marriott nights as compared to free Hyatt or Hilton nights — which makes that chase for elite status all the more elusive as I definitely won’t pay for 35 nights out of pocket.

But I’m still going to spend my way to new Marriott Platinum status

All that said, I am going to qualify for the “new” Marriott Platinum (50-night status) for 2019 via the Ritz-Carlton credit card. I recently realized that I had done about $4,600 in spend on the card earlier this calendar year and I had about $3,000 in upcoming legitimate expenses that could easily be paid with my Ritz card (before August). That leaves me somewhere around $2400 short of reaching the $10K annual spend for Ritz Gold status, which will convert to new Marriott Platinum status in August. I’ve decided that since I can be that close without much effort or huge opportunity cost, I’ll meet that additional spend this year in order to get 1 year of new Platinum status (i.e. free breakfast / lounge access at many — though certainly not all — Marriott properties). My Ritz card will then follow the other SPG and Marriott cards out the door when its fee posts later this year unless there is some incredible unexpected new benefit announced on that card next month.

With the potential huge win in Marriott Travel Packages and the incredible opportunities with the SPG off-the-charts properties come August, I do intend to make a couple of stays at Marriott properties next year. Particularly considering a 7-night stay certificate, having Platinum status and therefore scoring free breakfast / lounge access for a week could certainly come in handy.

That said, I don’t see myself continuing on with Marriott beyond 2019 since Hilton and Hyatt make elite status much simpler and I can manufacture free nights with those chains more cheaply.

Bottom line

Hotel credit cards can certainly be worth keeping for ongoing benefits like an annual free night if you know you’ll put that free night to good use and for outsized value. That said, I just don’t see myself continuing on with Marriott after 2019 considering how easy it is to procure status with Hyatt and Hilton. Further, Marriott’s free nights aren’t really free if you end up at one of the many properties where they now charge a resort or destination fee, further reducing my interest in the program versus the alternatives. I’ll enjoy a year of Platinum status and burn a 7-night certificate and (hopefully) some nights at top-tier former SPG properties next year, but as the fees post on my Marriott and SPG cards, they will drop out of my wallet in favor of cheaper free nights and easier elite status. Glancing back at my stable of hotel credit cards, they probably won’t be the only ones riding off into the sunset this year.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Tim Smith
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Tim Smith

Good article Nick and very valid points. I find I get outsized value out of my certs and it’s at places without resort fees, so I will be keeping all of them. If this changes, they will go but I’ve had great value so far.

Bob
Guest
Bob

Tim – my two cents worth – get a 5-nite cat 7 travel package. It’s worth 132k United miles (or 120k for a host of other airlines), and you get a free extended stay at a “great” hotel of your choice. There’s some tricks to getting the 5-nite (vs. 7-nite) package, but Marriott seems to be letting up on restricting issuance of 5-nite certs (or at least that’s my impression over the last week or so).

Bob
Guest
Bob

Sorry, Tim: above post was meant for S.G.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I obtained SPG Gold due to $35k+ spend on my SPG Amex. This matched to Marriott Gold. So when the new program hits in August will I get the new Platinum Elite (matched from Marriott Gold) or will I only get the new Gold Elite (matched from SPG Gold)?

S.G
Guest
S.G

HI Nick,
I have 270K Marriott points, can you tell me if it´s possible to re-sell them ( with this Iberia promotion i think i don´t need them ), and how i can do that ? Thanks

Bob
Guest
Bob

S.G. – my two cents worth – get a 5-nite cat 7 travel package. It’s worth 132k United miles (or 120k for a host of other airlines), and you get a free extended stay at a “great” hotel of your choice. There’s some tricks to getting the 5-nite (vs. 7-nite) package, but Marriott seems to be letting up on restricting issuance of 5-nite certs (or at least that’s my impression over the last week or so).

G W
Guest
G W

By “free extended stay” are you saying there’s a method to get an additional night with a 5 night cert?

Bob
Guest
Bob

My mistake. I simply meant you get up to a 5 night stay based on the certificate. It really depends on your perspective about the value of the certs. I did my redemptions based on getting the airline miles, and was happy I could limit the certs to 5, instead of 7, nights. I never stay at any hotel over 3-4 nights. And, other than exec lounge access (which reduces my food/drink costs), I don’t get too jazzed about luxury hotels. Even then, the travel packages are great value for the points used. Part of my strategy with these certs is to see whether Greg’s “low probability” option about how Marriott will re-issue the certificates after August plays out. I’d much rather have the points than the certificates, and there’s a possibility that will happen (along with a slight possibility of a windfall of extra points) come August..Finally, I’m also looking at options to extend the certs beyond an extra year. If needed, I could downgrade my cat 7 certs (which probably will become cat 5 or 6 under the new Marriott scheme in August), to cat 1-4 or cat 5 and get an extra year to use the revised cert.

S.G
Guest
S.G

Thanks Bob. That´s my original plan the 120K and a 7 night certificate but i think if i can, i want to sell the 270K. Is that possible ?

Bob
Guest
Bob

S.G. I don’t think so. In fact, if I remember correctly, Marriott (and all other hotels/airlines, etc.) have language in their small print t&c about such things with penalties for those caught selling points/miles on a secondary market. But I defer to Nick on that one. Alternatively, to the 7-nite cert, is the 5-nite cert – which may be easier to use (and you get a higher category of hotel – i.e., cat 7, vs. cat 1-5).

Bob
Guest
Bob

Nick, thanks for a thoughtful article on a topic I’ve spent some time thinking about. I do agree that long-term, unless Marriott makes some changes, their value offering is less than Hilton or Hyatt. That said, I think you are about one year off as to when the weak value proposition comes home to roost for Marriott – IF one takes some key actions right now. I say this based upon Greg’s excellent analysis on how to generate Plat 75 status this year (i.e., by stacking elite nights from cards, actual stays, card spend, and hosting meetings) and (hopefully) rely on a “soft landing” to maintain at least Plat 50 status during Feb 2020-Feb 2021. Also, the free nite certs (like you, my wife’s and my cards give us 5 nites a year) – as you state – are an important consideration. Finally, as long as Marriott continues to allow a 1-year extension on 5-nite and 7-nite certs from their travel packages, and you grab 1-2 before August, those certs will be useful through July 2020 (or beyond, if one uses some of the strategies Greg has suggested to extend them beyond one year). This is especially relevant, given that Marriott over the last week or so seems to have loosened up quite a bit on issuing 5-nite packages (I grabbed 2 cat 7 5-nite packages just yesterday). So, I agree with your fundamental point about Marriott, but I question the timing of when to “let go” of the cards and, by extension, Marriott loyalty. And 2 years is a long time – Marriott can either make adjustments or Hilton and/or Hyatt could devalue in the meantime.

Bob
Guest
Bob

Nick. One other key factor in Marriott’s favor in terms of its value proposition, is their extensive worldwide footprint. Only Hilton comes close and Hyatt simply does not have a sustainable footprint (IMHO) – which is why there are near-continuous rumors of Hyatt being bought out (bring it on, I say, and we can try to arbitrage the merger opportunities like we’ve been doing the last couple of years with the Marriott/SPG combination). In my case, with bucket list trips planned to Australia and South Africa in 2019 and 2020, Marriott still makes sense – especially in South Africa where their footprint (via African Pride and Protea hotels) simply dwarfs all the others.

Blue
Guest
Blue

Does Marriott do a soft landing? I’m two or three “meetings” away from Plat 75 if so.

Bob
Guest
Bob

I’m in the same boat. I’ve already done one (my first) meeting at a Fairfield Inn. I’m waiting for the elite nights to post (trust but verify) before I schedule a second meeting. Those twenty elite night credits (coupled with stays, card spend and holding credits) will get me over 75 elite nites by the end of 2018.

Blue
Guest
Blue

I’m exactly at 50 on August 1. So I can either do 2 meetings and MS 5 nights before December or do 3 meetings.

Beth
Guest
Beth

Good information. Spouse and I plan to keep our 4 SPG Amex cards for their AMEX offers. We have earned enough through these rebates to more than offset the fees, so I see no reason to cancel them.

Sophia
Guest
Sophia

With the recent new offers in Hyatt and IHG cc I think it may be worth it to close current Hyatt and IHG cards older than 2 years old to get the new sign up bonus.

dave
Guest
dave

This is my plan as well.

Bob
Guest
Bob

I see a trio of factors here. First, the old Hyatt card AF is $20 less than the new one. Second, Chase has gotten pretty tight in granting new approvals to those of us who have a number of their cards – the rumor mill is strong that they will soon impose the 5/24 rule on ALL of their cards (and they have a special website to upgrade the old Hyatt card to the new one for 2k points). Third, I may be confused with another bank, but does Chase not allow new bonuses for these cards until after two years from the date of closing the previous edition (or is that Citi)?

fll
Guest
fll

24 months from the bonus is earned. In all reality it would be 25 months the earliest from the card approval as you would not earn the bonus UNTIL the first statement is closed even if you meet the spend on Day One.

Also be very careful on the date of IHG bonus earned – IHG does scrutinize the bonus posting date – it goes by when IHG posted it.

Many people noticed that since last year IHG did not post the sign up bonus the same time as the spend points / 5K AU bonus, but a few days later – this is purposely done – to check if the date they received the bonus from Chase is indeed 24 months from last time IHG posted same bonus.

There are real DPs that people were too impatient to count their dates to the exact 24 months by Chase’s date – IHG denied their bonuses when the bonuses were sent to IHG which of course would be a couple days earlier than previous bonus IHG posted on the previous card.

Hyatt used to post the 2 FNs soon after you fulfilled the spend, regardless whether the statement is closed. No idea how it is done now that the bonus is in points.

OR97
Guest
OR97

Nick (and Bob) , can you verify or refute what Bob is proposing? The 5 nite category 7 for 270K? Is this the 5 nite packages that were only given to vacation club members?

Blue
Guest
Blue

I’ve got 3–SPG Biz, Chase Personal and Biz–mainly to stock up points on the transition and to help get to 50 nights for Plat in 2019. Since their anniversary dates are in December, January, and May I’ll turn off two of the three after I get the certs and keep Marriott Biz for some MS on the 4x gas category.

Turning off the SPG Biz also means a free Amex slot, which is not insignificant.

Ralph
Guest
Ralph

Hey Nick–Can you please tell me what Marriott status level my Amex Platinum will get me after August 1st?

P- nope
Guest
P- nope

I’m definitely canceling my Chase Marriott Biz card – $99 annual fee for Cat 5 anniversary night (up to 25k). It’s not worth it unless they refund the annual fee difference and somehow up the anniversary night for us who have already paid the annual fee or who will pay it before the release of the Chase Biz card that only has $95 annual fee. Come August 1, there will be one hotel in Hawaii that this free night can be used.

As for our SPG cards, I’m not sure yet since we won’t get our anniversary until next year and who knows what Marriott will do with their categories by then. If they go by what they’ve done in the past, then the anniversary night could end up useless in a lot of major cities in the US. We might just cancel anyway to free up more slots for other Amex cards. I know there will be a lot of hotels in Hawaii I can use this for, but a lot of them also are Courtyards and charge resort fees. Paying $95 annual fee for a hotel plus ~$30 in resort fees is just not worth it sometimes. for these hotels.

quasimodo
Guest
quasimodo

recently stayed at a Kimpton with the free cert. They charged me the RESORT FEE – which I thought was only valid if one took advantage of their valet parking – which I did not… as I thought it was a PARKING FEE. I chose to park across the street (Not difficult). I called to complain after I had already left and they removed it and refunded my CC. It was like $35….

Their booking page did / does not mention the fee. I only learned about it from calling earlier, but again I thought it was just a PARKING FEE.

These fees are ridiculous. Personally…I would pay extra to have a room with NO Wi-FI RADIATION though. But…none of the rooms are like that as far as I know.

These resort fees are so ridiculous…

GregR
Guest
GregR

Great points, Nick! Has Marriott stated if they will continue to let us upgrade certificates (esp. from credit cards or travel package) by paying 5k points per category per night? This might be the deciding point for me since I see good value in point upgrades. Booking a 2BR villa at a cat. 8 MVC resort for 7 nights during next ski season by paying an extra 160k points plus a 7-nt cat. 5 cert. got us $3k in value.

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

Thanks, Nick, for the unique perspective, which I quite agree.

Even axing Marriott/SPG cards, you still have many other hotel cards. Which one would you keep for long term compared to the rest? I currently have Amex HIlton Ascend, Chase IHG and Club Carlson (called Radisson rewards now) card, and have been debating which one to cancel. Many cards have been changing their benefits, I would like to get your updated opinion.

Also, for those who don’t need or can’t easily get the top-tier status, which card gives you the easiest path to get/earn middle level elite? For me, I define “middle leve” as “free breakfast” and hopefully lounge access. From your wording, it looks like Amex Ascend? Have few chances to try Hyatt (due to limited locations).

Farnorthtrader
Guest
Farnorthtrader

Well, don’t I feel silly?!
We have 7 Marriott/SPG cards, 2 IHG, 4 Radisson, and still have 5 Hilton’s (we had 9 at conversion). We got rid of our Wyndham cards after the first year and our Hyatt cards a couple of years ago (although I just applied for the new hyatt card again!).
We will likely continue cancelling Hilton cards (other than at least one aspire) as fees come due because we can’t justify spending $15K for a free night, but might keep the marriotts. We travel as a family of 6 most of the time so we need at least two and sometimes three rooms, so the marriotts actually give us a critical mass of free nights to use for the whole family. Still haven’t decided though.

Marc
Guest
Marc

I received an email from the Marriott credit card saying that the annual night was only good for points up to 25,000. 🙁

“Beginning August 1, 2018, the Free Night Award you receive every year after account anniversary, will be valid for a one-night hotel stay at a property with a redemption level up to 25,000 points. This replaces the category 1-5 certificate you previously earned each account anniversary.”

I thought it was 35,000.

UAPhil
Guest
UAPhil

Looks like if one has/gets the two existing SPG Amex cards (personal and biz), the new premium SPG card, and the two new Chase cards (personal and biz), one would get certs good for 5 free nights for a net total of $530 in annual fees. Four of the certs would be worth 35,000 points each; the fifth 50,000 points – total 190,000 points – equivalent to $95,000 in un-bonused credit card spend. (Admittedly the certs are not as flexible as points, and one would need to have the anniversary dates on the 5 cards line up fairly closely to be able to – for example – use them once a year for 5 nights in Manhattan.)

Julian
Guest
Julian

I’d love a post on FM regarding the evaluation of actual spend on the AMEX SPG cards. I’ve been spending about $300k/year on my SPG Biz card, and have been loving all the SPG points. But with the 33% earning reduction in August, I’m unsure how to best earn SPG/Marriott points moving forward. It would be great to have Nick or Greg do an evaluation of where/if to move AMEX SPG spend to.

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[…] I wrote about getting rid of my Marriott and SPG cards despite the annual free night award (See: Sending the Marriott and SPG cards off into the sunset). A couple of reasons why the annual free night award doesn’t appeal to me are that the free […]

Pam
Guest
Pam

Nick, is it still the case with Chase that you can’t PC among hotel cards? Thx

trackback

[…] week, I wrote about plans to dump all of my Marriot and SPG credit cards (See: Sending the Marriott and SPG cards off into the sunset). This morning, in my post about why I think there is no hurry to sign up for the Marriott Premier […]

trackback

[…] with an $85 annual fee that now comes with a free night worth up to 25K points. Ironically, after talking about cancelling all of our Marriott and SPG cards, I’m second-guessing the decision. With both of us having Platinum status post-merger (mine […]