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For travelers who stay at hotels often, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is worth every penny — even at $0 for the first year, then $85 a year.
It comes stacked with top-shelf benefits: a free hotel night once a year, automatic elite status and access to three loyalty programs — Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs — for the price of one.
This card isn’t a good choice if you rarely travel. But if you’re already a Marriott devotee, this card should be at the top of your list. It’s also a fine pick if you’re looking for a hotel loyalty program with a huge portfolio of properties to choose from.
Why you might want the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
You want a large sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards
The sign-up bonus on the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is one of the most valuable available: Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Stretched as far as possible, that’s enough to eke out several nights at hotels.
The card also offers robust ongoing rewards in certain categories:
- 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott Rewards or SPG hotels
- 2 points per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, and at car rental agencies and restaurants
- 1 point per dollar spent anywhere else
That’s in addition to the rewards you earn just by being a Marriott member: 5 to 10 points per dollar spent on qualifying charges, depending on the location. With the Silver Elite status the card provides, you’ll also qualify for a 20% bonus on points earned through your Marriott membership. More on that later.
All told, that could ratchet up the effective rewards rate on this card to an impressive 17% on certain Marriott purchases.
You love Marriott but also value flexibility
Marriott acquired Starwood properties in 2016, making it the largest hotel chain in the world, according to The Associated Press. It boasts over 6,000 locations in 122 countries. By contrast, the Hyatt has about 700 properties internationally, while Hilton has about 570.
Marriott’s website says it doesn’t expect to combine its loyalty programs with Starwood’s program until 2018. But for the time being, you can still:
- Get matching elite status. Link your Marriott account with your Starwood and Ritz-Carlton accounts to get a matching elite status.
- Transfer points. You can trade 3 points from the Marriott or Ritz-Carlton programs for 1 point from SPG, or vice versa. As you can see below, trading 1 SPG point for 3 Marriott points would generally be more valuable than trading 3 Marriott points for 1 SPG point.
|Average value per point in cents, according to NerdWallet valuations|
You want to earn a free night every anniversary
This is perhaps the most valuable benefit on this card, period. Every year, the card gets you a free stay at a hotel in Category 1 (the least expensive) to Category 5 (more expensive). If you redeem that perk for a Category 5 hotel — that is, one that costs around $200 per night — that more than makes up for the annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $85.
Let our calculator crunch the numbers on that for you:
This free night expires after 12 months. If you travel less frequently but always stay at Marriott, this benefit alone might give you reason enough to get this card.
Status is important to you
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card gives you 15 Elite-qualifying credits each year, automatically qualifying you for Silver Elite status, which requires 10 credits. That status, which is one step up from basic membership, gets you a laundry list of goodies, including:
- Priority late checkout
- 20% bonus on Marriott points
- 10% discount at participating Marriott gift shops
- 10% off standard weekend rates at some Marriott brands
- Access to exclusive phone lines for booking reservations
- Compensation if Marriott can’t honor your reservation
Keep in mind that the 20% bonus on Marriott points applies to points earned through the hotel, not through your credit card. Say you spent $200 on a hotel stay and earned 2,000 base points through Marriott and 1,000 points through the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. The 20% boost would add 400 points to the points earned through Marriott, so you’d earn 3,400 points in total.
Why you might want to go with another card
You’re not ready to pledge loyalty to Marriott
If you frequent several hotel brands, not just Marriott brands, a travel card that lets you transfer points to multiple loyalty programs might be a better fit.
Try the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It offers 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Those points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to several airlines and hotel companies, including Marriott. Like the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. It also features a valuable sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.
You don’t want to keep track of bonus categories
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card makes an excellent sidekick to the cards in your wallet that offer flat-rate 1.5% or 2% rewards. But if you’re a one-credit-card type of person, you might want plastic that offers a top-notch rewards rate on all purchases — not just on purchases in bonus categories.
Consider the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You’ll get 2 miles per dollar spent everywhere, which you can use to redeem for credit toward several types of travel purchases, including hotel stays. Its annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95, and it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get a generous sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel.
You can see how these cards stack up to others in their category by checking out our roundup of the best credit cards.
Is the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card isn’t a good pick for people who are trying to trim spending or aren’t loyal to just one hotel brand. But it’s a perfect fit for travelers who prefer Marriott or want to join a hotel loyalty program that offers abundant choice.