Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best?

With the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) into a single Marriott Bonvoy program, there are now a boatload of cards that earn the same type of rewards.  Whether you already have some of these cards or are thinking of getting one, you might be curious about which is best.  Here’s everything you need to know…

 

The table above shows all of the Marriott cards that I know of.  With each card you’ll see first the new Marriott Bonvoy card name and the original card name in parentheses.

The column labelled “Avail New?” indicates whether or not the card is available for sign-ups today.  Others are kept on the list either because it may be possible to product change to them, or because you may have one of those cards and may be wondering whether to keep it.

Bonvoy Brilliant (AKA SPG Luxury) vs. Ritz

This table summarizes the benefits for these ultra-premium cards:

Bonvoy Brilliant (SPG Luxury) Ritz-Carlton
Annual Fee $450 $450
Annual free night upon renewal 50K free night award 50K free night award
Elite Status Gold status. Platinum status with $75K calendar year spend. Gold status. Platinum status with $75K membership year spend.
Statement Credits $300 SPG/Marriott
(can be used for hotel bill)
$300 airline incidental fees
$100 Global Entry Credit Yes Yes
Priority Pass Select 2 free guests Unlimited free guests
Travel Protections Mediocre Awesome: Primary rental, trip cancellation & delay, emergency medical & dental, etc.
Other meaningful perks
  • $100 property credit for each 2 night or longer paid stay at Ritz or St. Regis. Must book with member rate named “$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate”
  • Visa Infinite Discount Airfare $100 discount on multi-passenger ticket purchases
  • 3 club level upgrades for paid Ritz stays
  • $100 property credit for each 2 night or longer paid stay at Ritz or St. Regis. Must book with member rate named “$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate”

The Bonvoy Brilliant card and Ritz-Carlton card aren’t as expensive as they appear to be.  Yes, they cost $450 per year, but if you get the full $300 in hotel rebates from the Brilliant card, or the full $300 in airline incidental fees from the Ritz card, then your net cost comes to just $150.  That’s still more than the next level down cards which cost $95 to $125 pear year, but the extra may be worth paying if you value the card’s other benefits.

And that brings us back to the main question…

Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best?

If you’re looking for a rewarding card for general spend, you’ve come to the wrong place.  Marriott Bonvoy points are worth approximately 0.7 cents each [See: Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs)].  So, since most cards here offer 2 points per dollar for most spend, they offer only about 1.4% back in rewards.  You can do much better than that.  See these posts, for ideas: Best Rewards for Everyday Spend and Best Category Bonuses.  That said, if you still want to use these cards for everyday spend, the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Plus offers the best 4X categories (with the SPG Business card close behind).

In my mind, there are only two good reasons (for most people) to keep these cards: annual free nights, and elite status.

Annual Free Nights

Most of the cards on the list offer annual free night certificates each year upon renewal (but not first year) for hotels costing up to 35K points per night or up to 50K points per night.  Obviously, the 50K free nights are worth more, but the cards that provide the 50K nights also cost much more ($450 per year) than the cards that provide 35K free nights ($95 to $125 per year).

The Residence Inn New York Central Park now costs 35K points per night standard.  35K Free night certificates will work here except during peak pricing.

To give you an idea of what to expect: There are many very nice hotels in the Marriott portfolio that cost 35K points per night.  And, even in the most expensive cities, there are decent hotels that cost 35K points per night (such as the Residence Inn New York Central Park shown above).  The problem with these will start when peak pricing is introduced sometime in 2019.  When that happens, the same hotels that cost 35K points per night standard will cost 40K points during peak pricing, and you won’t be able to use your 35K free nights for those hotels during peak dates.

St. Pancras Renaissance London now costs 50K points per night, standard.  50K Free night certificates will work here except during peak pricing.

At the 50K level, you’ll find outstanding properties even in the most expensive cities.  For example, I’m a big fan of the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel in London, which is now priced at 50K points per night.

Obviously 50K free nights are better than 35K free nights, but how much you value them will depend upon your travel preferences.  In general, my guess is that most people will be able to get great value from the 35K free night certificates.  These certificates do need to be used each year before they expire.  If you’re coming to the end of your certificate year and haven’t yet used the certificate to offset a super expensive stay, at least it won’t be that much of a waste to use the 35K certificate to cover an otherwise cheap hotel night (maybe you need a night at a near-airport hotel that would have cost about $120, for example).  I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty upset with myself if I used a 50K certificate in that way.

If you value the certificates more than the annual fee, consider getting/keeping more than one card

If you already have more than one of the $95 – $125 Marriott cards and you’re pretty confident that you’ll get much more than that value from the free night certificates, then keep the cards.

If you’d like to get more cards so that you’ll have more certificates, things get complicated.  There are strict rules about whether or not you can qualify for a welcome bonus based on what other Marriott cards you have or have earned bonuses on (see: Navigating Marriott’s Byzantine Credit Card Rules).  Also note that the Chase cards are subject to 5/24.

Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months.

To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status. An even easier option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.

If you want more cards just for the free nights, then check out that post to see which cards can offer you a signup bonus.

If you want more cards, but can’t qualify for a signup bonus, then the best option is the Bonvoy Business (SPG Business) Card since it does not add to your 5/24 count.  Even though the annual fee on this card is going up to $125, if you apply before 3/28/19 your first annual fee will be waived and the next one will be only $95 (then $125 after that).  If you have multiple businesses, you should be able to get a card for each business in order to secure multiple 35K free night certificates each year (Keep in mind though that Amex won’t approve a new application if you already have 5 or more Amex credit cards). Since you won’t qualify for a welcome bonus for each of these business cards, consider offering a friend or family member to refer you so that they’ll get points (or use our link, found here, to support this blog with our thanks!).

Elite Status

Other than the free night certificates, another reason to get or keep these cards is to help you acquire elite status.  In my mind, Platinum status is worth striving for if you stay often at Marriott hotels.  Platinum status offers free breakfast (at most hotels), lounge access, upgrade to a suite (when available), 50% point bonus, etc.  Gold status, though, is more of a nice to have if you get it automatically.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.  So, let’s look at how the different cards can help you get meaningful elite status (Platinum or higher)…

Elite Nights

Almost all Marriott cards offer automatic 15 elite nights towards status, but those nights are not stackable if you have multiple cards.  Members need to earn 50 elite nights per year to get to Platinum status, so this will get you 30% of the way there.

If you typically stay 35 or more nights per year at Marriott properties, then keeping one of these cards is a no-brainer.  You’ll get to Platinum status, or maybe even to a higher level of status that you wouldn’t have attained without the card.  And when you use the free night that comes with the card, you’ll earn another elite night that way.

Automatic Elite Status

The $95 – $125 cards offer automatic Silver status.  Silver status isn’t worth much: you get 10% bonus points on paid stays, plus the chance to ask for a late checkout.

The $450 cards offer automatic Gold status.  Gold status adds 25% bonus points on paid stays; guaranteed 2pm late checkout, and the possibility of a room upgrade.  Neither status level is worth all that much, but obviously Gold is better than Silver.  But I wouldn’t pay the higher annual fee on these cards just to get to Gold status.  No way.

Status through spend

The $95 – $125 cards offer Gold status with $35K spend, and the ultra-premium cards offer Platinum status with $75K spend. $75K spend is an awful lot, but it may be worth doing for some.

Interestingly, the Chase cards base the spend on card membership year whereas the Amex cards go by calendar year.  Depending on when your card anniversary falls, the Chase cards may have a significant advantage.

Suppose, for example, you want to earn Platinum status via $75K spend.  With the Bonvoy Brilliant (SPG Luxury) Card, it is theoretically possible to do this once every two years in order to keep Platinum status continuously.  Status lasts the rest of the year in which you earn it, through all of the next year, and through February of the year after that.  So, if you could spend $75K in January and February every other year, you could keep Platinum status without a break.

With Chase cards, this could be much easier.  Suppose your account year starts in September.  In that case, you could spend $75K on the Ritz card between September and the end of February in order to earn Platinum status for two years.  This gives you much more time to complete the spend.

Chase would have the same advantage for spending your way to Gold status, but I just don’t think it’s worth doing, so I’m going to ignore that option.

In summary, if you want to earn Platinum status with spend, then keep the Ritz card if you have it (or product change to it from another Chase Marriott consumer card).  Otherwise, your only option is the Bonvoy Brilliant (SPG Luxury) Card since the Ritz card is no longer available to new applicants.  Do keep in mind that if you earn Platinum status this way, you won’t earn the Choice Benefits that come when you achieve 50 elite nights each year (and again at 75 nights).

Bottom Line

There’s no single best Marriott Bonvoy card for each person.

If you highly value 50K free nights over 35K free nights, and/or you value the ability to earn Platinum status with $75K spend, then I’d argue that the Ritz card is best.  Unfortunately the Ritz card is no longer available to new applicants, but Chase may let you product change to it from another Chase Marriott consumer card.

If you know that you’ll make good use of the 35K free nights each year, then all of the $95 – $125 per year cards are arguably a good bet.  I wouldn’t use them for spend, but just to have and to hold in order to get a nice hotel stay each year.  If that’s you, consider getting or keeping more than one of these cards so that you can stay more than one night per year for “free” (really for $95 to $125 per night if you account for the card’s annual fee).  Keep in mind, though, that you won’t get your first free night until you’ve had the card for a year.

If you’re not sure that you’ll use the free night each year, and you don’t need the 15 elite nights that come with these cards, then don’t carry any of them.  As I wrote early in this post, none of these cards is a good choice for everyday spend. There are many better alternatives.  See: Best Rewards for Everyday Spend and Best Category Bonuses.

Last updated on February 9th, 2019

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

50
Leave a Reply

avatar
27 Comment threads
23 Thread replies
22 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
Jonathan SGreg The Frequent MilerBy chaseKathyDan Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Linda Marin Lant
Guest
Linda Marin Lant

What about the transfer to airline partners with the SPG card?

MDDCFlyer
Guest
MDDCFlyer

One additional benefit to the Ritz card which could be VERY valuable is that it provides free authorized users. The AUs gets their own unlimited guests Priority Pass, and can use the $100 Visa Infinite benefit without the primary user traveling.

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

What is the $100 Visa Infiinite benefit?

Sam
Guest
Sam

@Greg- other advantage with Ritz is that some have the annual fee still at $395. Thanks!

Mike
Guest
Mike

Just a comment about the $100 credit at Ritz during 2 day paid stay. We are currently staying at the Ritz in Philadelphia. The only way to use that credit is valet parking. The spa and restaurant are third party vendor! We don’t have a car so no credit. Such a wonderful benefit…

Tom
Guest
Tom

Unless I missed it, I don’t see any mention of the elite night credit for every $3000 in spending on the legacy Chase Marriott card… users are NOT being forced to upgrade yet, and I believe this has not gone away on the personal card yet, right? I know it’s gone on the Chase Marriott Business card, but at least for now, it’s still an option on the personal card… and considering this gives you actual elite night credits, I’m pretty certain that you WOULD still receive your choice benefits if you hit Platinum/PP this way, right?

Jonathan S
Guest
Jonathan S

For accumulating platinum status through spend on these cards, why does the spend need to be completed in february? In your example of the ritz card member year ending in september, what if you completed your 75k spend in january instead? Does that only give you platinum status for one year rather than two?

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

To answer your first question, the reason is to spend 75K every other year instead of every year and to have platinum status uninterrupted. For example, you spent 75K on your spg lux in 2018, so you will have platinum status until the end of February in 2020. If you finish the 75K spend in the first two months in 2020, platinum status will be extended until the end of February in 2022. If you do not finish your spend requirement until August 2020, you will not have platinum status between March and August in 2020. If you do not mind the gap, you can finish your spend when you need it.

To answer your second question, you should still get 2 years. In Greg’s example, the person finished the spend in February (or in January in your example), the person should have platinum status from March (or February in your example) of 2019 until the end of February in 2021.

FlyingNinja
Guest
FlyingNinja

Thank you, I was just looking for this comparison.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Did anybody else read the headline and think of The Office? haha

Jim: Question, what kind of bear is best?

carl
Guest
carl

I received 100K lux upgrade offer. If I accept will I still be eligible for a sign-up bonus later on? Or is the upgrade bonus considered same as sign up once lifetime bonus? Do you know if the $300 travel credit is available right away or after first year., seeing various opinions. Looking for facts.

P-nope
Guest
P-nope

I think the question is not which card is the best but which is the least bad

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

I agree, and to make things worse the devaluation will put a lot of properties out of reach once peak pricing goes live…in order to keep up, without raising earning rates on the cards, the welcome bonuses will have to be jacked quite a bit…I think 100k offers on the $95 and $99 cards will become the norm….and in order to get the big AF they will have to sweeten that welcome bonus as well…expecially if the new language is once lifetime for spg and 2-4 years on chase cards…I jumped on the spg business and Marriott business cards recently, just because I could… I will probably regret doing it before all my travel packages are used….the Ritz card has its unique perks, but unless you plan on a Ritz stay to take advantage of them, you might be better off waiting for the next big offer.

Robert
Guest
Robert

Greg: I just upgraded my regular SPG card to the Luxury card. I was given an offer for 100k points after $5k spend. I was disappointed to discover however that the $300 spend credit at SPG/Marriott properties is not awarded until my one year anniversary after the upgrade. They also confirmed that this benefit also does not take effect until one year later for NEW applicants as well. That is a BIG difference compared to the CHASE RC card which offers the $300 right from the get go. I will still keep the card since the 100k bonus is worthwhile plus the one free night worth 50k points after the one year anniversary. But in the first year, you are not getting much for the $450 fee.

ivan
Guest
ivan

@ Greg – have you been able to get a definitive answer on when $300 credit starts for upgraded cards – upon upgrading / after prorated annual fee is charged / when first full annual fee is charged?

FWIW, upgraded immediately but no card yet.

Boonie
Guest
Boonie

If both my husband and I have the Marriott is it with keeping both? I have the Ritz and value the upgrade certificates and lounge access and have the SPG Amex

trackback

[…] Which Marriott or SPG card is best? […]

trackback

[…] Which Marriott or SPG Card is best?:  Now that the dust is beginning to settle from combining loyalty programs, many of us are rethinking our credit card strategy.  Which card is best to earn Marriott/SPG points? Here’s a great article breaking down each card. […]

Mary Jane
Guest
Mary Jane

Greg, your analysis and thoroughness is remarkable, as well as timely. Thank you for sharing your insights and providing a valuable service.

Henry
Guest
Henry

Totally agree. Greg is the best. And I am never giving up my Ritz card. Have had it for over 5 years and never miss the chance for the Club upgrades which can go for up to 7 nights per stay and the $100 hotel benefit as well.

WR2
Guest
WR2

For most of your readers, the best choice will either be none or the artist formerly known as SPG personal. To go Lux (I refuse to use their stupid new names) you are basically prepaying face value for an SPG gift card that expires in a year, and paying $55 to upgrade a free night voucher from 35k to 50k. That’s a horrible deal. Even prepaying $95 for a 35k free night voucher is not a slam dunk, so personal vs. none rests on how much you value 15 elite status nights. SPG business is trash, and Chase cards are not available to most ppl who read this blog. It’s hard to justify keeping more than one Marriott/SPG card given that the elite night credits don’t stack.

I currently have SPG personal and Lux. I plan to cancel personal to free up a CC slot, since I already got the free night, and will then downgrade the Lux to a personal after that free night posts

Blue
Guest
Blue

I’m beating the drum for the Marriott Biz Premier Plus. 4x gas is the only decent MS possibility, it’s cheaper than the SPG Biz and it doesn’t take an Amex slot.

James
Guest
James

Is MS $75K to Plat Ok on Amex Lux? I ms $15K on hilton for free night. It doesnot move at all

trackback

[…] Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best? […]

Rob B
Guest
Rob B

This whole Marriott, Starwood, Bonvoy thing is such a confused mess. I’m done with these knuckleheads and have signed up and have all my business heading to Hilton. They may or may not be better, but after being a loyal Marriott client for decades I feel they have left me behind. The good news is that I recently signed up for the SPG business card and received 100k in points. I will use those points and get a few free nights, and then say adios to Marriott forever.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Is there any way to get the Ritz without upgrading my Marriott Premier (NOT PLUS)? I like the option of $3k for one elite night in pinch-years, and so didn’t take the 50k upgrade offer, and don’t want to give it up now to upgrade. Now kicking myself as if I had taken the offer, I’d have no qualms upgrading to the Ritz.

Ben
Guest
Ben

I wonder regarding the Free Night certificate.
Do I have to stay in a hotel before the expiry date, or I can book a stay before the expiery date for a date in the future?

trackback

[…] Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best? […]

By chase
Guest
By chase

Is the “1 elite night per 3k spending” of Marriott Bonvoy stackable upon the 15 elite nights of my Ritz card?

Jonathan S
Guest
Jonathan S

What does it take to product change to a Marriott card that is no longer available for new applications, but is still floating around in the Chase universe? (i.e., $85 Bonvoy Premier)

I’ve been trying to PC my Marriott Premier Biz Plus to the $45 Bonvoy Business version since that one has the 1 elite night for every $3k spend, which is convenient for topping off status. Whenever I call in, the Chase rep has always told me that this card isn’t available to PC “at the moment” but may be available if I just call back “next month.” I’ve followed their directions for 4 months now, but still get the same canned response. Often times, they will just tell me to apply for that card on the Chase website, though obviously that card isn’t available for new applications. When that happens, I just hang up and call again since that rep isn’t up to speed on things.

My best guess is that A) there is either a hard “no-PC to the old cards” rule that applies to everyone or B) product change availability is dynamic and Chase has some algorithm that determines all of that. If scenario A is true, then there is nothing that I can do. If scenario B is true, then it would be great to uncover the ins and outs of the factors that allow for product changing to the older Marriott cards.

Any recent data points (particularly instances where people have successfully product changed to an older Marriott card) would be appreciated!

P.S. I have had the card for many years so the 12 months waiting period for Chase product changes doesn’t apply.
P.P.S. I had my wife call in to see what PC options existed for her Ritz card (though she wants to keep that) and they only offered her the Bonvoy Boundless.

trackback

[…] Marriott Bonvoy, and then swap out for a second Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Personal. According to Greg at the Frequent Miler, It would be possible to get both AmEx bonuses, as long as you waited out the time with the Chase […]