The Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is a new card with a familiar feel. This card used to be the American Express SPG Card but has since taken on Marriott Bonvoy branding. When SPG and Marriott merged in the summer of 2018, the combined points “currency” has been heavily devalued.

Is Marriott’s mid-tier hotel card worth the annual fee?

Earning

The Marriott Bonvoy card has a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus is a limited time offer that expires on April 24. It also has an annual fee of $95 (waived the first year).

This card earns 6x points per $1 spent on Marriott purchases and 2x points on all other purchases.

Existing Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers can register to earn 25,000 points for every $25,000 in eligible purchases on the card. This can be done up to four times per year. But I don’t recommend registering given the value of Marriott points. Registration begins on February 24.

Burning

Hotel Redemptions

This is the most obvious and basic way to redeem Marriott points. To determine how much a night is worth in points, you can use the table below:

Category Standard Off-Peak Peak
1 7,500 5,000 10,000
2 12,500 10,000 15,000
3 17,500 15,000 20,000
4 25,000 20,000 30,000
5 35,000 30,000 40,000
6 50,000 40,000 60,000
7 60,000 50,000 70,000
8 85,000 70,000 100,000

Transfer Partners

Transfer partners are a lesser known redemption option for this card. More than 40 airlines are partners with Marriott, including United, Emirates, Delta, China Eastern, and Lufthansa. The transfer ratio is three Marriott points per one airline mile.

Perks

As a mid-tier travel card, the Marriott Bonvoy card includes some benefits that can make life easier when away from home. Some of them can even pay for the annual fee with enough use.

Annual Free Night

This benefit is where the Marriott Card’s value lies. Because most rooms at Marriott hotels cost more than $95 per night, you will likely receive positive expected value from this benefit alone. The annual free night can be redeemed for rooms costing up to 35,000 points (Categories 1-5). Most properties are between Categories 1 and 5, so the free night is quite accessible.

The free night can only be earned and redeemed after holding the card for 12 months. Luckily, the card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

Complimentary Silver Status

Marriott Silver Status is not worth much. All you’re getting is a 10% points bonus for Marriott purchases. Room rates and gift shop purchases are included. Marriott Gold Status can be obtained by spending $35,000 per year on the card. Gold Status can also be obtained automatically through the Amex Platinum Card and its business counterpart.

Secondary Car Rental Insurance

This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental after your regular insurance’s policy kicks in. American Express cards only provide secondary coverage. Secondary coverage means that you must go through your own car insurance company first before calling Amex to activate this benefit.

No Foreign Exchange Fees

You will save 3% on all purchases made outside the United States with the card.

Return Protection

If you’re unhappy with a purchase, this benefit enables you to get your money back with the backing of Amex. American Express is the best in the credit card industry in helping cardholders with returns. This card comes standard with all American Express cards.

Rules & Regulations

Like all American Express cards, this card is subject to Amex’s Once Per Lifetime Rule. This rule states that you can only receive a sign-up bonus on any card once. The key is to apply for this card when a balance is struck between maximum points and minimum spend. If you cannot afford the spend to hit the bonus, apply when the threshold is lower.

This card is NOT considered a new product, despite and because of the re-branding. Therefore, you will not be able to receive a sign-up bonus if you have already done so for the former SPG Card.

Similar Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

The Brilliant Card basically offers complimentary Gold Status and a more accessible free night over its “little sibling”. Marriott Gold Status lets you upgrade your room for no extra cost if there are nicer rooms available.

Like it’s “little sibling”, the Brilliant Card offers a 100,000-point bonus after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. You will also receive the following perks:

  • $300 annual statement credit
  • A free night after (spending $60,000 per year on the card)
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access
  • 10 Boingo airport Wi-Fi passes
  • Global Entry or Pre-TSA membership fee waiver

This card will offer you way more for your money than the regular Marriott Bonvoy Card despite having a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year),

World of Hyatt Card

This card from Chase and Hyatt offers an annual free night and complimentary Discoverist Status.

This card has a $95 annual fee. But it also has a two-part sign-up bonus. First you can earn 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Then, you can earn 20,000 more points after spending $6,000 total in the first 6 months.

For earning, you get 4x Hyatt points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels. You also earn 2x points on Dining, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, local transit and commuting, and gym memberships.

Hyatt loyalists and those who spend within the card’s categories are better off with this card.

Nearly Identical Card: Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

This Chase card has the same sign-up bonus, earning structure, redemption methods, and Marriott-related perks as its Amex counterpart. I will not be doing an individual review on this card for these reasons. You will receive Visa Signature-related perks because of the card’s network. The Amex card comes with Amex’s standard perks.

The only differences between these cards are the network and issuer. If you are above 5/24, the Marriott Card from Amex is your only option. However, the Chase Marriott Card is a good alternative if you are below 5/24.

Final Draw

I’m not impressed by the changes Marriott has made to its branding and this card is no exception. Despite the points, the “free” night could make this card a long-term keeper card for some people. This card is offering an increased sign-up bonus, giving people incentive to pull the trigger. But the higher bonus comes with higher minimum spend, which could be dissuading for some people.

Like its predecessor, I have no use for this card. My Business Platinum Card gives me Marriott Gold Status and more ways to derive value than the free night the Marriott Card offers.