Advertiser Disclosure

Is the New Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card Sign-Up Bonus a Good Deal?

Nov. 4, 2018
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

If you’re considering signing up for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, you should know that the welcome bonus offer has changed. You are no longer offered 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Instead, cardholders are granted a new welcome bonus offer: Earn 2 Free Night Awards (each valued up to 35,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the new Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card!

But is this welcome bonus a good deal?

It depends on your travel style and how you value your points when you use them.

The upside of getting Marriott free night awards

Rewards are no good unless you are able to use them. For those who don’t use their Marriott Rewards points because they don’t understand their value, this changed benefit simplifies the process.

The two free night awards are valued up to 35,000 points each, good at hotels in categories 1 through 5 through the end of 2018. But when Marriott Rewards introduces peak and off-peak award categories, the value of those award values will change. During peak award times, the awards will only be good for hotels in categories 1 through 4.

The free night awards are perfect for those who want easy rewards and don’t care about staying at luxury hotels. With a relatively low spend to earn the awards, the new benefit on the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card is a simple way to get free nights – even on weekends – at Marriott hotels.

The downside of awards instead of points

With every change comes a downside, and this shift to awards instead of points comes with plenty of downsides. No matter how you travel, losing points for awards is a devaluation for new cardholders.

Compared to the previous bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in purchases from the first three months from account opening, the awards are a loss of 5,000 points in bonuses. In addition, the awards prevent travelers from having flexibility in using their Marriott Rewards points wherever they want. Instead, you are forced to use the certificate in specific categories that may shift based on the season.

To make things even worse, the free night awards generally have an expiration date of one year after they are issued. This means if you can’t use your two free night awards within 12 months of getting them, you will lose them entirely. Meanwhile, points only expire after 24 months with no qualifying activity.

Is the new sign-up bonus right for me?

Even though the new sign-up bonus on Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card is a devaluation, it can still work for certain travelers. If you find yourself in one of these situations, you may be able to get good value from the two free night awards.

  • You have specific travel dates in mind: If you are planning to spend at least two consecutive nights at a Marriott hotel on specific dates, the awards can work to your benefit. Start by searching early to see if there is availability at your desired destinations, then make your plans for a getaway.
  • You are planning an off-peak weekend stay in 2019: It’s no secret that weekend nights at hotels are the most expensive. But if you are planning to use your awards for an off-peak weekend stay in 2019, you can maximize the value of those free nights by staying in a category 5 hotel.
  • You are planning an international trip: Free night awards are also good for international trips as well. Those planning to travel abroad and don’t want to spend time converting cash prices may be best served using the two free night awards from the sign-up promotion.

If these situations don’t apply to you, then the sign-up bonus may not be best for you. Instead, you may want to consider other options.

Are there other ways to earn free nights?

For those who would rather earn points toward free nights at luxury hotels, there are still plenty of options available. Some alternatives include:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: With Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, you can book hotels directly through the Chase Travel Center, or transfer those points to Marriott Rewards for award nights.
  • Discover it® Miles: On top of earning 1.5X miles with every purchase, Discover will double all the miles new cardholders earn in their first year – giving double the booking power after 12 months.
  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: If you aren’t loyal to one hotel brand and book primarily through Hotels.com, you can earn up to 10X rewards per booking – on top of 2% cash back everywhere else.

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 2018, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Travel rewards bucket list: Showering on a plane
Don’t let hidden hotel fees spoil your stay
This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards

About the author