8 Things to Know Before Getting a Marriott Credit Card

Understand your spending and travel habits so you can pick the card that will deliver the most value for you.
June Casagrande
By June Casagrande 
Edited by Meg Lee

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A Marriott credit card can help you earn free hotel nights at more than 7,000 properties in exciting destinations around the globe — from the budget-friendly TownePlace Suites Houston Northwest to the spectacular overwater bungalows of the The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.

There are four Marriott Bonvoy credit cards currently available to new cardmembers — three for consumers and one for businesses. All of the cards come with a chance to earn a welcome bonus, and the three card options with an annual fee also offer free nights. Plus, you earn Marriott Bonvoy points on every purchase, with some cards paying additional bonus points for certain types of spending.

But don’t start filling out your application just yet. There are things to know before getting a Marriott credit card. Questions you should ask include: What credit score is needed for a Marriott rewards card? Does a Marriott Bonvoy credit card cover rental car insurance? Can I have two Marriott credit cards? And, perhaps most importantly: Is a Marriott Bonvoy credit card worth it?

Here’s an overview of Marriott’s credit cards so you can make a confident decision about which card, if any, to get.

What to know before getting a Marriott credit card

1. Annual fees are optional — but sometimes worthwhile

Marriott offers cards with and without an annual fee. The annual-fee cards come with amped-up rewards that, for some users, make them lucrative options despite the cost.

For example, the $0-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card comes with a chance to earn the following welcome bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.

However, the $95-per-year Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card offers the following welcome bonus: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card costs a whopping $650 annually, but offers a shot at earning a welcome bonus, plus one Free Night Award, a $300 statement credit for spending at eligible restaurants, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry reimbursement and more. Terms apply.

Get to know the value of the benefits each card offers to determine which price point best fits your budget and your current/expected spending habits.

2. Bonvoy points are more valuable at some hotels than at others

Dreaming of Hawaii? Depending when you go, you might find a room at the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort on Oahu for 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Or you could head to the Big Island and stay at the stunning Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection for 50,000 points. Those rates seem comparable — until you check the cash prices.

That Royal Hawaiian room is worth $379 in cash, which means you’re getting about 0.6 cent per point in value: ($379 / 60,000 points) x 100 = 0.6 cent. But that Mauna Kea room costs $979, meaning you get 1.9 cents of value for every point you redeem: ($979 / 50,000 points) x 100 = 1.9 cents.

Search for rooms at places you might want to stay in the future and compare the cash price to the points price. This will help you decide how valuable Marriott Bonvoy points will be to you. Use the NerdWallet average of 0.8 cent per Bonvoy point as your benchmark for whether you're getting a great, average or bad deal.

3. Resort fees aren’t included in “free” hotel nights

Resort fees, unfortunately, have cropped up everywhere. These charges let hotels advertise seemingly great room rates because the properties can pad their profits by tacking on fees sometimes exceeding $40 per night.

Hyatt and Hilton waive resort fees when you book your room using points. Marriott does not. So your “free” award stay at a Marriott family property could actually still cost you quite a bit out of pocket.

4. Marriott points transfer to 40 airline loyalty programs

Sometimes you really need a few extra American Airlines AAdvantage miles for a ticket home for the holidays. Other times, you may find yourself just shy of enough Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles to get to Paris, or maybe you need just a few more Qantas Frequent Flyer miles to explore the Australian outback.

A stash of Marriott Bonvoy points could be your salvation. Marriott points can be converted into the points or miles of these airline loyalty programs and others, in most cases at a 3:1 ratio. That means every 3 Bonvoy points will get you 1 airline mile.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can earn a 5,000-mile bonus for every multiple of 60,000 Bonvoy points you transfer to a frequent flyer program. Note that this transfer bonus does not apply to American, Delta, Avianca or Korean Air.

5. You can have more than one Marriott credit card

Not one but two financial institutions offer Marriott Bonvoy credit cards: Chase bank and American Express. This makes it easy to take out more than one card to earn even more bonus points and perks. But if you go this route, be strategic. Annual fees, and the opportunity costs of using multiple Marriott cards instead of, say, an airline card, can mean diminishing returns.

Also note that AmEx has a “once per lifetime” rule. This means you can only earn the welcome bonus of a specific card once — ever.

6. Marriott credit card perks go beyond mere points

Extra perks can make or break the value you extract from the card — especially if you’re paying upfront for an annual fee. Consider which benefits you’ll use before choosing a Marriott credit card. Examples include:

Rental car coverage

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card comes with rental car insurance if you use it to pay for your rental; however, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card does not. Terms apply.

Automatic elite status

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card gets you automatic Gold status in the Marriott elite status program, whereas the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card get you free Silver status. Terms apply.

Free night award certificates

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card comes with a free night award every year worth up to 35,000 points. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card gets you a free night every year after your card renewal month worth up to 50,000 points. Terms apply.

7. You’ll need high credit to improve your chances of approval

Marriott credit cards are designed for people with good to excellent credit, usually requiring a FICO score of at least 690.

8. Your shopping habits can decide the best card for you

All of the Marriott credit cards are designed to reward you for spending money at Marriott-family hotels, but some will give you bonus points for other types of purchases. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card pays 3X points for every dollar you spend at U.S. restaurants and on flights purchased directly from an airline. On the other hand, the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card pays 4 points per dollar charged at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Terms apply.

If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy member, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card pays you up to 17 points per night charged at participating Marriott hotels, while the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card pays up to 14 points per night at Marriott properties.

Think about the kinds of charges you’ll be making to help decide which card is best for you.

If you’re considering a Marriott credit card ...

Wondering how to get a Marriott credit card? First, compare the perks of each against your unique spending and travel habits. It’s important to like staying at Marriott properties if you’re going to pick up one of the hotels’ co-branded credit cards. If you tend to spend little on credit cards, aim for a card with low or no annual fee. If you feel confident that you will make a lot of charges, compare the various Marriott cards to see which one will get the best value for you.

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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