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At a moment when so few people are traveling, there sure are a lot of phenomenal travel rewards credit card offers coming along. Just last week, Chase’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card posted an unprecedented sign-up bonus of five free nights worth up to 50,000 points each after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Now, American Express is answering back with incredible offers on two of its own Marriott Bonvoy cobranded cards.
If you apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card between today and January 13, 2021, you can earn up to 125,000 bonus points. You earn 100,000 after making $5,000 in eligible purchases on your card in the first three months of card membership, and an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary, along with Platinum elite status for a year beginning February 2021. In all, that’s 50,000 more points than this card typically offers to new applicants.
During that same time frame, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card is extending its own all-time-high offer of up to 100,000 bonus points after making $5,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership, plus up to $150 in statement credits toward eligible purchases on U.S. advertising in select media within the first six months. Cardholders will also get Platinum elite status for a year beginning in February. This card usually only offers 75,000 bonus points to new applicants for spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Even if you’re not traveling for the time being, if you plan on getting out on the road again anytime in 2021, this is probably the best time ever to apply for a Marriott cobranded card thanks to these incredible offers. The only difficult part will be deciding which card’s benefits you can maximize for your needs.
Here are the details on each, and then a quick look at whether you might be better off with one of them, or with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless instead.
This is the top-shelf Marriott Bonvoy credit card, and it comes with the annual fee and benefits to match.
Current welcome offer: Now through January 13, 2021, new cardholders can earn up to 125,000 bonus points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you make $5,000 in eligible purchases on your card within the first three months of card membership. Earn 25,000 more bonus points after your first anniversary, plus get Platinum elite status with your card for a year beginning February 2021. Normally, you have to spend $75,000 on purchases in a calendar year with this card to bump up to Platinum.
Annual fee: $450
Earning: This card earns six points per dollar on eligible purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, three points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and two points per dollar on everything else.
Other benefits: Although its annual fee is high, this card is loaded with value-added perks to compensate. Cardholders get up to $300 in statement credits each year of card membership to put toward purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, plus a free night award every year after their account anniversary worth up to 50,000 points. They receive complimentary Gold elite status (but Platinum for the year beginning in February 2021) and 15 elite night credits each year toward a higher tier. Those who spend $75,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year get a boost up to Platinum. When using their card to book stays of two nights or more using a special rate at the Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotels, they receive up to $100 in credit for on-property purchases like restaurant charges or spa bills. They are also eligible for either a $100 statement credit for Global Entry once every four years, or up to $85 toward a TSA PreCheck application once every 4.5 years. Finally, card members can enroll in Priority Pass Select for access to airport lounges around the world, and foreign transaction fees are waived.
Quick take: This card is an excellent choice for folks who spend a lot of time traveling and stay at Marriott hotels on a regular basis—but perhaps not enough to hit the higher echelons of elite status on their own. Its annual fee is high, but if you can earn its best-ever bonus, maximize its statement credit perks each year, and take advantage of the Platinum elite status—with perks like room upgrades, bonus points, and welcome amenities–in 2021 specifically, it’s probably worth paying for.
Don’t forget about this business credit card, which could be a great way to earn a lot of Marriott points without a hefty annual fee.
Current welcome offer: Now through January 13, 2021, earn 100,000 bonus points after you make $5,000 in purchases on your card within the first three months of card membership plus $150 in statement credits toward eligible purchases on U.S. advertising in select media (this includes television and radio, but also online through merchants like Google and Facebook). New card members will also enjoy Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status for a year starting February 2021. This card usually offers only 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in three months and no statement credits.
Annual fee: $125
Earning: This card earns six points per dollar on eligible purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels and four points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. It earns two points per dollar on everything else.
Other benefits: In addition to the year of Platinum status starting in February, cardholders receive 15 elite night credits each calendar year, which is enough for Silver status on its own and a nice boost toward the 25 nights you need for Gold. Cardholders get a free night award each year after their account anniversary worth up to 35,000 points and can earn an additional one after spending $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Quick take: If the Brilliant’s annual fee is too high, and you’d rather up your earning on work-related purchases and everyday spending instead of trying to capitalize upon specific statement credits, this card might be a better choice for you.
As with many American Express credit cards, certain exclusions apply. These current offers are only available to new Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant or Marriott Bonvoy Business cardholders. So if you’ve had one of these cards before, or even certain discontinued Starwood Preferred Guest cards, you are precluded. Likewise, if you opened the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase within the last 90 days or received a new bonus or upgrade offer for that card (or several others in the Chase stable) within the past 24 months, you are also ineligible. So check your account history and make sure that you haven’t ruled yourself out.
How the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless fits in
The question a lot of folks probably have right now is whether to apply for one of these cards, or to go with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless instead. For a limited time, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is offering new cardholders five free nights worth up to 50,000 points apiece after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. So its bonus is worth as many as 250,000 points. The card earns six points per dollar on purchases made at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and two points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders get 15 elite night credits per calendar year (though they can hit Gold after spending $35,000 on purchases in a calendar year). Its annual fee is $95, and foreign transaction fees are waived.
On the surface, it might seem like a potential 250,000 points is much better than either the 100,000 you can earn with the Marriott Bonvoy Business or the 125,000 the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is offering. But there’s more to it than that. Here’s how to decide whether the Boundless, the Brilliant, or the Business version is the best fit for you.
Points versus nights
Your decision will probably come down to which one’s welcome offer you can leverage best for your needs. Marriott Bonvoy hotels are split into eight categories with reward nights costing between 5,000–100,000 points apiece depending on the time of year (or even just how busy a hotel is on a certain night).
The five free nights available with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless are worth up to 50,000 points apiece. That puts hotels in categories 1–5 within reach pretty much anytime and those in categories 6–7 during off-peak times. Plus, you must redeem these certificates within 12 months of the date of issue (your stay can be after that, though), which limits the time frame in which they’re useful.
By contrast, as long as your Marriott Bonvoy account is active—and keeping your credit card open ensures this—you can use the points from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant or Marriott Bonvoy Business further into the future. Plus, since there are no redemption caps, you could also use them toward stays at top-tier category 8 hotels where nights range from 70,000–100,000 points per night, like the luxurious St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, or the tony Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Colorado. So though you’re earning a bonus that’s worth fewer points, you’ll have more flexibility when it comes time to use it. On the other hand, you’ve got to wait a year and pay the annual fee twice to score the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s full bonus, which makes it less attractive.
Will you actually be traveling in 2021?
This is the other main question to ask yourself, but the answer can also be complicated. On the one hand, if you know you will be able to use those five free night certificates in 2021 and early 2022 at midrange properties, then the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is probably your card—especially considering its annual fee is much lower than that of the other two cards.
However, if you are planning to travel a decent amount in 2021 and stay at Marriott Bonvoy properties (of which there are nearly 8,000 around the world), then you might want to take advantage of enjoying that Platinum elite status with either the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant or Marriott Bonvoy Business. Platinum status, which normally requires staying at least 50 nights per calendar year, includes benefits like earning 50 percent bonus points on stays (so 15 per dollar spent versus just 10 for regular members), priority for room upgrades, a choice of welcome gift at check-in such as a breakfast offer or bonus points, access to club lounges at some hotels, and 4:00 p.m. late checkout. With Silver status like the Boundless confers, you get just a 10 percent points bonus and the possibility of late checkout as the main perks.
If you’re considering the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, specifically, you’ll want to think about whether you’ll be able to use those statement credit benefits, including the $300 toward Marriott purchases, the $100 on-property credits during eligible Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis stays, and the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit in the coming year. If you’re in doubt, you might not want to take on the card’s $450 annual fee.
While it’s difficult to make a choice between these three great hotel rewards cards, that’s because their current welcome offers are all truly extraordinary, so you probably can’t go wrong with any of them. Think about how you would use the points or free nights, what other perks you can take advantage of in the coming year, and whether a lower annual fee is better for your budget, and then make your selection from there.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.
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