If you’re the type of person who rarely (or never) carries a credit card balance, then it makes perfect sense to use a rewards credit card. By paying off your balance in full every month, you can rack up rewards such as cash back or gift cards without paying a cent in interest. However, if you travel frequently, you may benefit more from credit cards that offer travel benefits, such as airline miles or hotel stays, rather than merchandise or cash back.
Chase offers those who frequent Marriott hotels the option to choose between two cards: the Chase Marriott Rewards Card and the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card. Hotel credit cards are designed to appeal to travelers who either have separate rewards cards for different purposes, or prefer to just focus on hotel stays, rather than accruing airline miles. This review covers the Chase Marriott Rewards® Credit Card.
- Sign-up Bonus. You earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account. This is enough points for one night in a Tier 1 property with Ritz-Carlton, or four nights at a category 1 hotel with Marriott properties. When your account is approved, you also receive two free nights in a hotel with Marriott rated anywhere from category 1 through category 4. If you combine the points plus the free nights, you will have enough for six nights at a category 1 Marriott property.
- Fees. The annual fee for the Chase Marriott Rewards card is waived the first year and costs $45 each year thereafter. Balance transfers are 3% or $5, whichever is greater. There is a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
- APR. The APR on balance transfers and purchases is 15.24%, which may vary with the market based on the prime rate, and is dependent upon your credit rating.
- Marriott Rewards. As a cardholder of the Chase Marriott Rewards credit card, you earn three points per dollar spent at Marriott locations, and one point per dollar spent on everything else.
- Redeeming Points. In addition to stays at Marriott properties, points earned with Marriott Rewards can be redeemed for hotel stays at Ritz-Carlton properties for as little as 30,000 for a Tier 1 hotel and up to 70,000 for a Tier 5 hotel, or for as little as 7,500 for a category 1 Hotel stay with Marriott properties. The fifth night is complimentary after redeeming four nights with either Marriott or Ritz-Carlton properties. Points may also be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and airline miles.
- Elite Status Memberships. The Marriott Rewards program is divided into elite statuses referred to as Silver, Gold, and Platinum, and statuses are earned according to your number of stays. Each level earns a bonus on points for stays: Silver members receive a 20% bonus, Gold members receive a 25% bonus, and Platinum members receive a 50% bonus. The benefits increase with each level and include free Internet, complimentary room upgrades, and even a guaranteed arrival gift for Platinum members, which may be up to 500 bonus points (depending on the location) or a food or drink amenity. You earn 10 Elite Credits toward the next Elite membership level each year on your account anniversary, and one Elite Credit for every $3,000 that you spend with the card. If you are interested in escalating the rewards and benefits of elite statuses, the added credits help quite a bit.
- Great Bonus for New Cardholders. With more than 3,600 Marriott locations worldwide, there is a good chance that you will be able to use the points awarded just for signing up for the card. Very few credit cards offer new cardholders six free nights at hotels. If you prefer to use your bonus on hotel stays at category 2 through 4 properties, you will receive fewer free nights (for example, five with category 2 properties), but still more than other hotel cards offer new cardholders. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers two free night certificates, and the Chase Hyatt Card also offers two free nights to new cardholders.
- Many Opportunities for Redeeming Points. Although redeeming rewards for gift cards or merchandise is not always the best way to spend points, it is still an option that isn’t always available with hotel cards. This is beneficial if you are not able to redeem your points for hotel stays, because you can still use the points accumulated for some kind of reward.
- Earn Elite Status Faster. The ability to earn elite status credits by spending on the card and on each anniversary enables less-frequent travelers to enjoy the perks of elite status.
- Annual Fee. The annual fee is $45 per year, which is waived the first year. You need to earn enough points for at least one free night (or 7,500 points in a category 1 property) each year to make up for this expense.
- Points Are Best Redeemed for Marriott Stays. While you do have the opportunity to redeem your points for merchandise, gift cards, or airline miles, these options are often not the best ways to spend your points. For example, an iPod Classic is currently available for 80,000 points, which sells on the Apple website for $249. This means each point you redeem for the iPod is worth approximately less than half a cent. However, 80,000 points can also be redeemed for 10 days at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott in Florida, which means the points are worth significantly more when used for travel. Gift cards may also be purchased with points from more than 50 top retailers, but also provide a low return on points. For example, a $50 Nike gift card requires 15,000 points, which can be redeemed for two free nights in a category 1 hotel. There are occasionally various sales and deals available through rewards, but you need to keep checking if you want to find something worth spending your points on.
- Foreign Transaction Fee. Foreign transaction fees generally range from 1% to 3%, and the Chase Marriott Rewards card is at the top, charging the highest foreign transaction fee available of 3%. There are travel rewards cards available that do not apply a foreign transaction fee. For example, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card (which is a very similar card) has eliminated this fee, as has the Chase Hyatt card.
- Penalty APR. There is a penalty APR of 29.99% on most of the Chase credit cards. This fee is applied in addition to any late fees or over-limit fees, and can be affected by other Chase accounts or loans. In other words, if you make a late payment on your Chase loan (or any other Chase credit card), you could be charged the penalty APR of 29.99% on your Chase Marriott Rewards credit card.
- High APR. There is no introductory APR, and while 15.24% and higher interest rates are standard with rewards and miles credit cards, if you often carry a balance, you will not be able to maximize the rewards opportunities as much as those who pay their balance in full each month.
You will get the most from the Chase Marriott Rewards card if you frequent Marriott properties, do not travel frequently outside of the United States, and plan to take advantage of the points earned for hotel stays. The opportunity to earn six free nights is one of the best offers currently provided by hotel rewards credit cards. If you are looking for a credit card that provides points that may be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, miles, or cash, you will find better cards that provide the rewards you need.
Keep in mind that although the annual fee is lower than what you may find with most other rewards cards, the APR is fairly high. As with many rewards credit cards, you must pay your balance in full in order to fully maximize the earning potential with the Chase Marriott Rewards card.
Although the Chase Marriott Rewards® Credit Card includes an annual fee and high interest rate, the bonus hotel stays awarded to new cardholders is one of the best bonuses being offered. However, this card should not be used if you plan to carry a balance – and once you’ve taken advantage of the bonus hotel stays, the reasons to stay with the card aren’t as compelling.
4.0 stars out of 5: Great introductory bonus, but considering the annual fee, there are reward cards with other hotel properties that provide better sign-up bonuses and opportunities to earn and redeem rewards.