My Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card Strategy – Amex Edition


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UPDATE: Some or All of the offer(s) mentioned in this post have now expired

I hold two Marriott co-branded cards (one issued by Chase and one issued by American Express) but despite the fact that most of my hotel spending goes Marriott’s way neither of my Marriott cards is the best Marriott card that the banks issue…but that may be about to change.

The two Marriott cards that I currently hold are the Chase Marriott Premier Card (which is no longer open to new applicants) and the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card (which is what my Starwood Preferred Guest credit card was converted to following the Marriott/Starwood merger) and, up until now, I’ve not felt any great need to upgrade either of these cards.

Here’s why:

  1. No other card earns more points at Marriott properties than my Marriott Bonvoy American Express card (so why pay a higher annual fee to earn the same number of points?)
  2. I haven’t been convinced that I’d always be able to make use of the free night award (up to 35,000 points/night) that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Card from Chase
  3. I haven’t been convinced that I’d always be able to make use of the free night award (up to 50,000 points/night) that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express Card.
  4. Despite the fact that I know that could almost certainly make it pay for itself, I didn’t really want another $450/year premium card in my wallet (Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express Card) – I’ve held three Premium cards in my wallet for a few years and even though I know I get more out of them than their combined annual fees cost me, it’s still a little bit of a shock when I see the annual fees come in.

However, a few things have now changed and I’m seriously re-evaluating what Marriott cards I should be holding…both from Chase and American Express.

Today I’ll take a look at what the plan for my Amex Marriott Bonvoy card looks like and tomorrow I’ll examine my plan for my Chase card (and show how the two plans should dovetail quite nicely).

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express Card (the card ranked above my existing Amex Bonvoy card) is now considerably more attractive to me than it has been in the past, but before I go on to explain why here’s an overview of what the card offers:

Annual Fee

Welcome Bonus (OFFER EXPIRED)

  • Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of holding the card.*

*You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus if…

  • You have or have had this product or the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card at any time in the past.
  • In the last 30 days, you have had the Ritz-Carlton credit card or the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card.
  • In the last 90 days, you have opened any Chase personal or business Marriott co-branded card
  • In the last 24 months, you have received a welcome bonus or an upgrade bonus on any Chase personal or business Marriott co-branded card

Earning Rates

  • 6 Bonvoy points/dollar at all Marriott properties worldwide
  • 3 Bonvoy points/dollar at flights booked directly with airlines
  • 3 Bonvoy points/dollar at US restaurants
  • 2 Bonvoy points/dollar on all other purchases

Key Benefits

  • Up to $300 in statement credits per year for spending at Marriott properties worldwide
  • A free night award (up to 50,000 points/night) on each account anniversary
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as the cardholder holds the card
  • $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit when using a special rate for a 2-night minimum stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis
  • 15 elite night credits per year (cannot be combined with elite nights earned from holding other Marriott Bonvoy cards)
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • $100 credit towards Global Entry membership (every 4 years) or $85 towards TSA PreCheck (every 4.5 years)
  • No foreign transaction fees

So, as you should be able to see, a frequent guest at Marriott properties should have no trouble getting back $300 of the annual fee (courtesy of the statement credit) and they probably wouldn’t have any trouble clawing back the remaining $150 of the annual fee through the annual free night.

What’s Changed For Me

As I’ve already admitted, despite the rather obvious strengths of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card I’ve never really felt the need to add it to my wallet…but the following two things have helped to change my mind:

Firstly, I’m giving up my Citi Prestige Card so that will leave me with just two big annual fees that I have to deal with (my Amex Platinum and my Chase Sapphire Reserve fees) and that makes the idea of picking up the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card a lot less scary.

Secondly, I recently reviewed (and really liked) a Marriott property that’s not too far from where I live when I’m over in the UK (the Langley) and which currently costs between 30,000 and 40,000 points per night. With award availability being easy to find it should be straightforward to use the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card’s free night award at this property if I don’t find a use for it elsewhere.

The Langley – View of the Main Building

Considering room rates at the Langley start at around $450/night this would be a fantastic use of the card’s free night award (not bad for a fall-back position!) and takes away any previous concerns that I had about how easily I’d be able to use the free night award.

Effectively, this guarantees that I’ll more than cover the annual fee by using the benefits that come with the card. 

With one less big annual fee to pay and with a lot more assurance that I’ll easily cover the annual fee, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is more interesting to me now than it has ever been before.

The Plan

So what now?

Well, despite the very strict terms and conditions that surround getting the welcome bonus on this card I am eligible to earn the 75,000 bonus points that are on offer…but I won’t be making a new application.

I plan to upgrade my existing card.

Yes, I know that upgrading a card instead of feasting on an easy welcome bonus is tantamount to sacrilege in the miles & points world, but I have a solid reason for my chosen course of action.

75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points would be a very nice bonus to get (it would get me 2 nights at the Langley with very little trouble at all) but managing a credit card portfolio is about more than just accumulating welcome bonuses (at least that how I view it). It’s also about making sure that I’m holding all the cards that I need and, right now, there are a number of other credit cards that I’d like to get before I’ll be happy that my portfolio fully covers my spending patterns.

The main issue here surrounds Chase and how, in recent years, it has become noticeably stricter with its application criteria.

If I was to apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card (rather than simply upgrade), not only would my credit score take a small hit (albeit a temporary one) but the application would show up on my credit report and would count towards Chase’s 5/24 rule.

As I have a number of Chase cards on my “want to get” list, I’m prepared to sacrifice 75,000 Bonvoy points in return for a smoother ride with my Chase applications (most of which will earn me welcome bonuses that I value more than 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points anyway).

One Small Risk

Clearly, I cannot assume that the Langley will remain a Marriott Bonvoy Category 5 property costing between 30,000 and 40,000 points per night…but I can’t see Marriott pushing it higher than Category 6 (costing 40,000 – 60,000 points per night) because it’s location isn’t ideal.

With off-peak and standard awards easy to pick up at this property and with Category 6 off-peak and standard awards costing 40,000 and 50,000 points per night respectively, I feel confident that still be able to redeem the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card’s free night certificate at the Langley even if it moves up a Bonvoy tier.

The Langley’s Brew House Building

Bottom Line

A lot of people will probably think that, despite my reservations, I should have picked up the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card some time ago but, I had my reasons why I didn’t want to get it, and I’m comfortable with why it has taken me this long to get around to viewing the card as a potential positive addition to my portfolio.

Now, with an easy path to recovering the full annual fee (and possibly more) every year, this is a card whose benefits are a lot more attractive to me than they have been in the past and, as soon as I’ve made sure that I haven’t overlooked anything, I’m be adding it to my collection.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I totally get the Chase 5/24 reason for not applying. But, FYI, in my experience, Amex hasn’t pulled credit for the past few cards I got with them (as recent as 6 months ago and thru 2 years ago). Seems like they use the credit score they show me on the mobile app and my past performance with them to make a decision.

  2. You should register either in Marriott Bonvoy eat around town and double your points at partner restaurants, regardless which cc you decide on.

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