The American Express Marriott Bonvoy cards are featuring new offers today and both cards now come with free Platinum elite status for membership year 2021. While the new offers include more points than before, whether or not it makes sense to consider these over the offer for five free night certificates from Chase likely comes down to how much use you can get from Platinum benefits in 2021.
The Offers & Key Card Details
Greg and I have been predicting for the past couple of weeks that Amex would have to release a response to Chase’s increased offers on their Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card. I think we both expected Amex to follow suit with some sort of free night certificate offer. We were wrong about that, but clearly right about seeing increased offers from Amex.
In this case, the cards get mild bumps in the number of points in the welcome offers (the Brilliant including a chunk of points after your first anniversary), but the unique and interesting thing Amex is bringing to the table is status: both of the Amex Bonvoy cards will offer complimentary Platinum status for the 2021 membership year. That’s awesome for someone with no status currently as it means they can set themselves up for a year of free breakfast / lounge access (assuming those things return more widely), 4pm late checkout, and the chance at an upgrade now and then. That is clearly worth something and can be worth a ton for stays at very high end properties.
That said, I am baffled by one conusing detail of the status: while the landing page for these offers simply advertises it as Platinum status “for the 2021 membership year”, the fine print in the offer terms indicates that Platinum status will run from February 1, 2021 until January 31, 2022. That’s downright weird. They’re advertising a benefit that won’t exist for the next 3.5 months (and in fact won’t exist until after the offer is scheduled to end). What?
Add on top of that the explanation that they’re going to need to give as to why January 2021 is not part of the 2021 membership year for Marriott benefits and I think they have a recipe for angry phone calls from customers. I just don’t see the average customer understanding it. Heck, I don’t get it. I understand that loyalty programs typically end their year in February or March, but January 2021 is not part of the 2020 membership year. If I have 48 elite nights on December 31st and then I complete two more on January 10th, I don’t have “2021 membership year Platinum status”. January 2021 counts as part of 2021. At least, it should. With this offer, Amex is effectively saying that you’ll get complimentary Platinum status for 12 months starting on February 1st. Why don’t they just word it that way? It would still be all sorts of confusing for people who apply in October after seeing “Complimentary Platinum Status” in large letters only to be told they don’t get that until February, but at least we wouldn’t be left trying to make sense of which months in 2021 are part of 2021.
Still, if they’re only going to offer 12 months of status, better to have that clock start later rather than sooner I guess given the state of travel?
If you are tempted by this offer, be sure to see the post Are you eligible for a new Marriott card? before applying. The rules for new Marriott credit card sare complex; the short of it is if you have received a bonus on either of the Chase cards in the past 24 months or you have acquired either of the Chase cards in the past 90 days, you are not eligible for these offers. On the flip side, I believe that if you have not earned a bonus on the Chase cards in the past 24 months and you haven’t had a Ritz card in the past 30 days, you should be eligible for the bonus on both Amex cards (provided you’ve never had these cards or the SPG Luxury card before). Is that clear? I assume it isn’t, so you should read that most about whether you’re eligible for a new Marriott card because that post is the only easy way to keep it straight.
Overall, these new offers are potentially very good for those who wouldn’t otherwise reach status. Of course I have to wonder how many Marriott customers who aren’t already a good chunk of the way to Platinum status are considering a credit card with a $450 annual fee or a Marriott business credit card. Keep in mind that Platinum choice benefits, like suite night awards, don’t come with free status but rather have to be earned with 50 nights.