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Marriott has made many changes over the last six months. They merged their loyalty programs with SPG in August 2018. The credit card relationships with Chase and American Express were also redefined later that month. Then, they renamed their loyalty program from Marriott Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy in February 2019.
With so many changes to the Marriott loyalty program and banking relationships, is it time to say Bonvoy-age to Marriott’s credit cards?
It all changed in August 2018
For many months, Marriott and SPG members found additional value in their points. Members of both programs could transfer points back and forth to book sweet spot awards. The American Express SPG card continued to offer extraordinary value by earning an effective 3x Marriott points per dollar.
But then things started to change.
The earning power of the American Express SPG card was reduced to 2x points on August 1, 2018. On the bright side, the addition of an annual free night upon renewal provided an incentive to keep the credit card.
On August 18, 2018, all SPG balances were tripled and converted in Marriott points.
A few days later, the SPG Luxury Card was introduced with some pretty impressive benefits. However, the introduction came with a new wrinkle. Existing cardholders of other Marriott or SPG credit cards were subject to new application guidelines. In some instances, if you own (or recently closed) an American Express card, you couldn’t apply for a Chase card and vice versa.
To top it all off, Marriott had problems merging data from Starwood. These computer issues may have led to the data breach that resulted in 500 million compromised accounts.
A new future with Marriott Bonvoy
With so many issues, it was time for Marriott to rebrand and unify their messaging. If you are a current Marriott cardholder, you’ve received an email notifying you of the upcoming name change. The email would have included an animated image.
Every Chase, American Express, Marriott, and Starwood card in the family will be or has been reissued with the new branding. This is how the old cards are mapping over to the new versions.
|Bank||Old Card||New Card|
|Chase||Marriott Rewards Premier Plus||Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card|
|Chase||Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business||Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Visa Signature|
|American Express||Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card||Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express|
|American Express||Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from American Express|
|American Express||Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card||Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card|
Should you say Bonvoy-age to your Marriott cards?
Before you make any hasty decisions, remember that both Chase and American Express have rules preventing you from earning the signup/welcome bonuses again.
Chase recently applied their infamous 5/24 Rule to all of their credit cards. American Express still has its once per lifetime rule. And applications within the Marriott credit card family are even more tricky now. People who have received a signup or upgrade bonus within the last two years may be prohibited from applying for other cards in the Marriott family.
Free nights are less valuable
Free nights at Marriott properties are a great perk for cardholders. However, this benefit is becoming less valuable every year.
Hotel category changes
For 2019, Marriott made two big changes to hotel award availability. First of all, there are 323 properties that changed categories. Of these changes, about 286 are increasing in category, while only 37 are decreasing. I counted 72 properties that are increasing from a Category 5 to Category 6. This means that there are now far fewer properties that you can redeem your free night certificate at.
Click here for the complete list of Marriott category changes. If you want to reserve a room under the current price structure, you’ll need to book before March 5, 2019.
Introduction of Category 8
Marriott is making some hotels even more expensive with the introduction of another category of hotels. There are eight hotels increasing from Category 7 to Category 8, including:
- Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, Autograph Collection
- The London EDITION
- Pine Cliffs Residence, a Luxury Collection Resort, Algarve
- Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley
- The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai
- The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach
- W Hong Kong
- The Westin Europa & Regina, Venice
Category 8 redemptions have a baseline price of 85,000 points per night. With the introduction of peak and off-peak award pricing, Category 8 properties will range from a low of 70,000 to a high of 100,000 points per night.
Peak and Off-Peak pricing
At some point in 2019, peak pricing will be introduced to the Marriott award chart. This will work in your favor if you like to travel during off-peak periods. However, for those of us with kids who must travel during the holidays, spring break, and summer, vacations will be more expensive.
Credit card free nights
In the past, the annual free night benefit with your credit card was based on the category. You could redeem your free night for any hotel up to that level as long as there was award availability.
However, recent changes converted this benefit from a specific category to based on a maximum number of points. With the introduction of peak pricing, your annual free night that is worth up to 35,000 points may max out with a Category 4 property if you travel during busy times of the year.
Why you should keep your Marriott Bonvoy credit cards
Although there are a few negative changes in award redemptions, if you favor this hotel chain, there is value to be had in keeping or applying for a Marriott Bonvoy credit card. Peak pricing and category changes are eroding some of the sweet spots in the award chart, but savvy travelers can still find value, including in the free night redemptions.
Are these changes making you reconsider your Marriott credit card? Let us know in the comments below.
The Capital One Venture card may be the better option in the long run compared to any hotel branded cards. To a large degree the free night is paid for by the annual card fee. What we are left with is bonus and ongoing earnings. Rather than be held hostage by a hotel brand why not use an OTA such as http://www.hotels.com/venture to earn 10x points on that card for all types of bookings – including the ever popular vacation rentals (similar to timeshares). Not to mention the cards ability to transfer points to airline partners and the generous bonus. Both cards do a good job with bonus and ongoing earnings but Chase has their work cut out for them! I think the clear winner is Venture.