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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.