[LAST CALL] Chase Adds Earning Accelerator And More Elite Nights To Marriott Card Plus 100K Bonus

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Marriott credit cards have long made sense to apply for with rich acquisition bonuses. And they’ve made sense to keep for annual free nights and elite nights towards status. Their area of challenge has been whether they’re rewarding enough for ongoing spend to keep top of wallet. Two new features of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card look to change that. And a limited-time initial bonus offer aims to get you to give the card a fresh look.

UPDATE: Offers at these links will be removed before the end of the day, on 4/6/2022.

When the Bonvoy program launched Chase’s primary consumer card doubled the number of Marriott earned per dollar spent from one to two on most spend. However that was less than equivalent earn from the old Starwood American Express, representing a rebate value of perhaps 1.5%.

Chase and Marriott are introducing two new additions to earning that make the card more rewarding. They aren’t taking away any benefits, and they aren’t raising the card’s annual fee. And they’ve launched a new bigger bonus offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card too.

  • New category accelerators: In addition to existing earn of 6 points per dollar on Marriott spend and 2 points per dollar on other spend, Chase is introducing 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations and dining. These are great categories for an accelerator. However,

    • Earning 50% more Marriott points than before doesn’t make the card close to top of market in these categories (or even clearly better than the best base-earning cards, like a 2% cash back card).

    • Capping bonus earn in these categories at $6000 annual spend – an average of $500 per month – is something many cardmembers will run up against quickly.

    I have to think that Chase is spending quite a lot on these Marriott points to be unable to award more points at a higher spend level, needing to push the card top of wallet and get consumers quickly back down to earning two points per dollar.

  • Earn elite nights for ongoing spend: In addition to a minimum of Silver status, and 15 elite nights towards higher levels of status (and towards lifetime status), the card will earn one Elite Night Credit towards status for every $5,000 spent.

    Those spending on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card will earn more towards status than before, but it’s less credit than Marriott offered on a promotional basis last year, it’s less credit than Chase Hyatt cardholders receive (2 nights per $5000 spend), and it’s less than Hilton and IHG will be doing (since IHG is joining Hilton is offering top tier status at $40,000 spend, and Hilton’s premium card comes with top tier).

I spoke with Chase’s President of Co-Brand Cards Ed Olebe and Marriott Senior Vice President of Global Loyalty David Flueck about changes to the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.


St. Regis Abu Dhabi

A New Initial Bonus Offer To Promote These Improvements

Chase has launched a limited time offer coinciding with the introduction of new card benefits where new Marriott Bonvoy Boundless cardmembers can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Additional Key Card Features

The card comes with Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year; 15 Elite Night Credits toward next level of Elite Status each calendar year; Gold Elite Status when cardmember spends $35,000 per calendar year; and a Free Night Award every year after account anniversary (redemption level up to 35,000 points).

There’s little question that once you have the card, enticed by a generous up front acquisition offer, it’s more than worth a $95 annual fee for travelers to hang onto into future years.

Will Increased Card Earn Keep Up With Redemption Costs?

Marriott has added a new higher award redemption category (8) and recategorized properties on average upward into higher tiers since the Bonvoy program launched and this card was last refreshed. In March Marriott will eliminate its award charts and more to a more dynamic pricing system, though Flueck reassured me when first sharing the change that the first year’s impact would be more limited.

He offered that it’s worth focusing on the accelerators, and rewards for Marriott spend, and argues that just having the card and using it at Marriott means a 14% rebate on Marriott stays – that 10 points per dollar as a base member of the program, plus an additional point because you’re at a minimum Silver, plus 6 points per dollar on the card is generous. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone at Marriott offer a firm value for a Bonvoy point.

Flueck is suggesting a valuation of Marriott points of around 80 basis points. I value Marriott points at around 60 basis points. I suspect that much of the difference in how David Flueck and I value Marriott points comes to down looking at the all-in room rates you can redeem points against will systematically overvalue those points.

He seemed to push back on a pure math approach, too, saying the reason this is “great is because members are using points for unforgettable stays” so consider the overall scale of their portfolio, which continues to grow with new properties. Marriott is adding properties, and he’s finding himself in new places all the time. He specifically highlighted the W Rome and Edition Reykjavik.

And he maintains that the “intention [in dynamic pricing is] more rationale given the prices that hotels charge, it’s not to raise prices” but to make prices more rationally reflect what a hotel is charging for paid stays and that if prices rise that’s a function of “hotels [that] have increased demand.”


St. Regis Bangkok

Are The New Category Accelerators Enough To Encourage Spending?

I have longed viewed Marriott cards as worth getting (generous initial bonus offer) and worth keeping (annual free night worth more than annual fee, plus annual elite nights). The challenge has been actually using them for ongoing spend. If a Marriott point is worth $0.006 and you’re earning two of them, that’s just a 1.2% rebate. That’s not a competitive return.

Chase’s President of Co-Brands Ed Olebe offered a different framing. In my conversation with him he didn’t portray the accelerators as game-changers. Instead he suggsested that the “intent here is how do we take a world class card and make it better, not fix something broken but improve something people love.”

In other words cardmembers who already use the Marriott card are getting more value, more reason to spend on the card and use it more. It’s not going to convert people from spend on high accelerator-earning products or move people over from 2% cash back.

Olebe offered that they talked to customers who offered the takeaway, “I love Marriott, love Bonvoy, I want to travel more and experience these great assets – so earning more faster is what I most want.” These changes accomplish that goal, for sure.

Is Marriott Generous Enough Counting Card Spend For Status?

The Chase Marriott co-brand used to offer an elite night for every $5000 spent, so this restores a card feature that was changed with the Bonvoy program launch. Over the summer they offered an elite night for every $3000 spent.

By comparison Chase’s Hyatt consumer card offers two elite nights for every $5000 spent (5 nights per $10,000 spent on the business card). And Hilton and IHG allow earning their top status at $40,000 spend (and Hilton’s premium card just comes with the status).

People who love Marriott though, and are working towards status, may be incentivized to spend on the card in through the status quest. The card remains less rewarding for spend as a contributor to status than other hotel chain co-brands, however:

  • If Hyatt’s footprint works for you then you’ve probably moved your business to Hyatt for the better elite program.

  • And if you’re comparing Marriott to Hilton and IHG, you understand that for all of Marriott’s flaws Bonvoy is the more generous elite program of the three – so it takes more spend to make progress towards status. Remember that a Hilton Diamond doesn’t even get guaranteed late checkout.

I think it’s a lot of spend at potentially lower return to get incremental status credits, but $5000 in the new accelerator categories gives up less and gets an elite night on top. So that’s a sweet spot here for those on a quest towards status.

Still, earning elite nights doesn’t help at all towards Ambassador for most since the spend threshold ($20,000) will be harder for many to reach than 100 elite nights, and the card doesn’t wave or contribute towards required minimum spend for the top level of Bonvoy status.

Ultimately whether it’s worth going for the status via spend is the same question, in a sense, as whether it’s worth going for via nights. Marriott offers a rich program but has many hotels which aren’t compliant, and it’s a game of whack-a-mole once those hotels are called out in social media to try to get them aligned at the same time there are corporate objectives to reduce the cost for hotels. It’s a challenge to try to deliver more for the guest at a lower cost to hotels at the same time.

And David Flueck pointed out something that is very true, and Marriott and Chase deserve a lot of credit for. He said “it’s rare today that companies add value to a product and not change the price.” So holding the card’s $95 annual fee constant while adding more points-earning and status-earning potential is, in his words “a breath of fresh air.” That I absolutely agree with.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. This isn’t anything new. The older Marriott cards pre-Bonvoy used to offer one night for every $5,000 in spend. It’s disappointing that Marriott has grossly inflated the value of an elite-qualifying night by giving away so many nights to the point where basically every guest smart enough to get a credit card and sign-up for bonus night promotions is a 50-night platinum. Then again, it’s in line with Marriott’s goal of reducing costs. If every guest is a platinum, there’s no upgrades, etc.

  2. Upon further reflection, it’s worth noting that Marriott–Chase is giving something at the current annual fee of $95.

    When you think about it that’s noteworthy. Marriott recognizes it needs to give customers something since Bonvoy is being fundamentally changed with the impending elimination of award-redemption charts.

    Marriott can’t give us better elite status benefits because it can’t force its owners and operators (over 70% of Marriott’s hotels are not managed by Marriott) to implement said benefits. So, Marriott is at least improving something it can actually control: the co-branded credit card with Chase.

  3. Another glaring reason my Chase Marriott Bonvoy is not top of wallet is that the APR is 10% higher than my Chase BA, Chase IHG and Chase Mileage Plus cards. I suspect I’m more in the mainstream of folks who occasionally carry a balance and if I’m going to carry a balance I will use a card with a rate much lower than Chase Bonvoy.

  4. If you can fit into the geographical footprint, ditch the Marriott cards for the Hyatt. These benefits poorly compare to the Hyatt card, and Marriott’s points value and redemption levels are a dumpster fire compared to Hyatt’s.

  5. I am not going to spend a penny on Marriott. All my money goes to Hyatt. Or Hilton if there is not a hyatt available.

  6. @Gary – Would it have been a breach of protocol to ask Flueck if these credit card changes were simply fighting against the vast tide of customer-detrimental changes that Marriott has been pursuing? Repeated devaluations, reduction of elite benefits, removing the award chart, not holding hotels to consistent standards, etc. I suppose that any positive change is good but compared to the vast array of negative changes that Marriott very intentionally instituted, the Chase changes are weak sauce.

  7. @Christian: They may be “weak sauce” but from Marriott’s standpoint this is probably the only improvement it can directly control. When you don’t manage over 70% of your hotels across all brands, it’s impossible to deliver any elite-status benefits in a truly consistent manner. Just ask Starbucks. There is a reason why they don’t franchise. Even the licensed Starbucks inside grocery stores and airports are highly controlled by Starbucks; much more so than Marriott franchisees.

  8. I think 4x is the minimum multiplier to be competitive for gas spending, or even 5x given how many people have 3% cash back on gas.

    As far as competition for food spending, not worth it unless they offer 8x

  9. Will category accelerators for grocery and gas purchases at Costco? That’s the only reason one needs a Visa-branded card, right?

  10. And if you’re comparing Marriott to Hilton and IHG, you understand that for all of Marriott’s flaws Bonvoy is the more generous elite program of the three – so it takes more spend to make progress towards status. Remember that a Hilton Diamond doesn’t even get guaranteed late checkout.

    Can’t make up this stuff…only in travel blogophere!

    A few questions come to mind to mind, oh dear ‘thought leader’, who likes to call winners and losers based on nothing more than self-serving and invariably bogus standards of ‘excellence’…

    1.How exactly is Marriott “more generous” than Hilton?

    2. Is it not manifestly self-contradictory and confused to characterize a program as “generous” and then to turn around and claim in the same breath that the evidence for the purported generosity is that “it takes more spend to make progress towards status” in that same is program, when Hilton Honors, one of the lesser “generous” programs, gives its top elite status practically for free in comparison? In fact, not only is IT self-contradictory and confused, it may be way up there as a non sequitur of the century!

    3. What is the meaning of “guaranteed” late checkout to a 12-year Hilton Diamond who has never been denied a late checkout request, and has had requests for checkout as late as 6pm approved?

    4. If Hilton not ‘guaranteeing’ late checkout — a perk that ranks very low for some of us that always get it — what is one to say of the fact that Hyatt Globalist does not get the 4th or 5th award night free, demonstrably the single most valuable perk in hotel loyalty?

    While inquiring minds would wanna know for sure, I’d say that it’s checkmate. Don’t you agree, dear “thought leader”?

    G’day.

  11. @FNT Delta Diamond – Marriott managed to control their hotels quite well until a couple of years ago and other chains still manage just fine. How come others can pull this off but not Marriott? It’s not the “asset-light” business model since that’s common among the larger players. While I often disagree with him, @DCS has been emphatic about how Hilton has been great at delivering elite benefits and I see no reason to second guess him on that. Marriott could do the same but just chooses not to.

  12. This actually amuses me . Marriott wants to give 1 elite night for $5000 spend on credit card BUT spend that $5000 at Marriott and , other than the 1 extra elite night it does nothing to increase status . This is because Marriott remains the ONLY major hotel chain that does not allow program spend to count towards status. Spending $20,000 at Hyatt and you will be Globalist – perhaps the best top tier hotel program . More importantly, I have never had to argue for program benefits at any Hyatt. @Gary – hopefully one day you can get Flueck to explain why they don’t allow spend to count toward tier advancement.

  13. Not to kick a gift horse, but it is difficult to see how the “accelerator” will incentivize much marginal spend any more than IHG 5 points/$1. I would much rather use Amex Gold which offers 4 points/$1 or Hilton which offers 6 points/$1 on gas and grocery everyday. Not to mention Chase is currently offering a (targeted?) 5 Hyatt points/$1 grocery spend which is a much better incentive.

    Further it will be hard to justify keeping this card and paying the $95 AF once room rates return to normal and the 35k nights become useless again (at current rates they have been useful in 2021 and into 2022).

    If Chase wants to incent customers to keep this card in wallet they need to offer 3 points/$1 as Amex did when Bonvoy was implemented. I’m betting most only keep the card for the 15 EQN and/or the free night. There is also no travel insurance which is a disincentive when CSR and Amex both provide coverage for prepaid hotels.

  14. Sounds like they are backing up on giving the free night 35k point cert for flexibility. The card is still a loser in that respect. Even those in the right category are often 40k points.

  15. I’m unclear if these new benefits will accrue to someone who already has this card and to what extent. I assume the $5k spend will but will it add the category bonus spend as well?

  16. @Christian: Not really. Before SPG, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Marriott Rewards were merged into one unnamed program in August 2018 (the merged program became Bonvoy in 2019), legacy Marriott Rewards did not promise much in the way of deliverables to elite status customers beyond lounge access at certain properties. For example, legacy Marriott did not have the breakfast benefit of legacy SPG. Since then, legacy Marriott properties have consistently failed to offer the expanded range of benefits that were never offered by legacy Marriott Rewards.

    Moreover, this isn’t a question of asset light; that is to say, not owning your hotels. It’s a question of management. Over 70% of Marriott’s properties are NOT managed by Marriott. By contrast, Hyatt manages the majority of its hotels. Hilton also manages a considerably higher number of upper-end full-service properties than Marriott. IHG, by contrast, manages almost none of its properties but doesn’t really promise anything to elites.

  17. The old Marriott card, which I still have, gave one elite night credit for every $3,000 of spend. Not $5,000.

  18. These benefits poorly compare to the Hyatt card, and Marriott’s points value and redemption levels are a dumpster fire compared to Hyatt’s

    — Babblespeak

    Slight clarification: (b) nominally, a BonVoy point and a Hyatt point have exactly the same purchasing power , and (b) points currencies do not have redemption values until redeemed — two concepts that are universally lumped together but should not be because one is objective (nominal or “face” values of points are fixed) and the other subjective (redemption values of points depend on what one redeems them for and how, which is highly subjective).

    On the other hand, it is true that the earn rate of this Chase BonVoy card for hotel spend (6x) is lower than that of the Chase WoH card (4x). To be comparable, the BonVoy card would have to award 9x on hotel spend. Speaking of ‘generosity’, and the forum host’s claims about which programs are more “generous” than others notwithstanding, the card that matches exactly with the Chase WoH card on points earned for hotel spend (12x) and other categories (6x down to 3x) is the Hilton AMEX Surpass, while HH AMEX Aspire (14x) towers over the rest.

    However, whereas Hyatt Globalists earn 30% bonus on base points from revenue stays, Marriott top elites earn 75% bonus on their revenue stay base points, so that the relative earn rates even out when co-branded CC bonuses and programmatic base earn rates are combined – in fact, that is true across the major hotel loyalty programs, which is why associated nominal points currency values are worth exactly the same, but I am repeating myself…

  19. Hyatt Biz card offers 5 elite nights/milestones with $10k spend along with plenty of 2x accelerators at double the single point value of Marriott…no comparison if this is how you want to earn status!

  20. Hyatt Biz card offers 5 elite nights/milestones with $10k spend along with plenty of 2x accelerators at double the single point value of Marriott…no comparison if this is how you want to earn status!

    Still sounds expensive to me when the name of the “game” is to travel and vacation in relative “luxury”, while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses as much as possible !

    Sooner or later other programs will catch on to what Hilton Honors has understood for years and even explicitly expresses as an economic philosophy in a way that explains to me why the program, yes, so generously gives away elite status at all levels and has steadfastly ensured that no member loses status because of the pandemic:

    [Hilton Honors, our award-winning guest loyalty program,] provides targeted marketing, promotions and customized guest experiences to more than 112 million members. Affiliation with our loyalty programs encourages members to allocate more of their travel spending to our hotels. The percentage of travel spending we capture from loyalty members increases as they move up the tiers of our program.

    Source:
    Hilton Worldwide Holdings Annual Report 2021
    Form 10-K (NYSE:HLT)
    Published: February 17th, 2021

    In other words, “give them status and they’ll come!”

    Like I was saying, when other programs catch on to that philosophy, we’ll see the end of the hamster wheel of constant status chasing and the start of true loyalty: you stay exclusively with a hotel chain (and its frequent guest program) simply because you like what it does for you and not because you need to retain elite status.

    Case in point: I have been a HH ‘Aspire’ Diamond since 2018 and, yet, I have also continued to earned HH Diamond the “hard way” by directing my business almost exclusively to Hilton when I did not have or need to, often accomplishing a trifecta by earning status through the Aspire, base points or spend, and number nights.

    In fact, what started me in hotel loyalty was getting both Hilton Gold and SPG Gold through an AMEX card and then after trying both programs deciding that the HH Gold status was much more rewarding and I have not looked back.

    G’day.

  21. Wanted to bold this key part but may have messed the html tag:

    “The percentage of travel spending we capture from loyalty members increases as they move up the tiers of our program, i.e., “give them status and they’ll come!”….”

  22. Only idiots get top-tier Hilton status for free via a credit card, yet still go out of their way to spend with them and acquire (mediocre) top-tier status the hard way.

  23. That anyone who patronized, SPG, a loyalty program that went belly-up because it was absolutely non-competitive — unless you subscribe to the “Demise of the Fittest” theory — would call a top-tier Hilton Honors member an “idiot”, when the program is alive and thriving with over 100M members, is so stupid that it could only come from, well, an real idiot and a troll, considering the medium.

  24. Just examined my first Chase Bonvoy bill since the “category accelerator” points were announced…

    Costco gas purchases qualify for the additional point.
    Costco in-store purchases do not, even if they are groceries.

  25. Olebe offered that they talked to customers who offered the takeaway, “I love Marriott, love Bonvoy, I want to travel more and experience these great assets – so earning more faster is what I most want.”

    Said no one, at least no one who came from SPG

  26. After two years of staying exclusively at Marriotts to keep my Platinum status, I got tired of being denied suite nights, late checkouts, and every other promised benefit. “Because Covid” was the frequent excuse. Starting in October, I decided to try an approach that is heresy to travel bloggers: Stay where I’m treated well and forget about chasing status.

    So far, Hilton seems to be working well for me on all fronts. I only have Gold status through my Amex card. But I’ve been able to get good rooms at well-maintained properties and rack up a decent stash of points along the way. A program is only as “generous “ as your opportunities to use the benefits it promises. Hilton gets a lot of shade on this blog and elsewhere. My own experience has been that they may underpromise, but they tend to overdeliver. If you’re frustrated with Marriott, you may find them worth a try.

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