The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase is a popular hotel credit card that carries an $85 annual fee after the first year. It earns rewards that can be redeemed for stays at more than 4,000 Marriott-owned hotel and resort properties worldwide. Points accumulate fastest on purchases made at Marriott properties and partner hotels, but also grow nicely on airfare, car rental, and restaurant spending. The Marriott Rewards Premier card also has an attractive sign-up bonus that’s potentially worth more than $500.
Marriott Rewards Premier’s main competitors are other hotel-specific rewards credit cards, including IHG Rewards Club Select, Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card, which is closely associated with the Marriott brand. It also competes less directly with general purpose travel credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards, and airline rewards credit cards, some of which have reciprocal relationships and point transfer agreements with hotel cards.
- Sign-up Bonus. When you spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you get 80,000 bonus points. You get an additional 7,500 bonus points when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase, for a total sign-up bonus of 87,500 points. This is equal to as many as 11 free nights at budget-friendly Marriott hotels.
- Rewards & Redemption. The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card earns an unlimited 5 points per $1 spent at all Marriott and partner hotels (including The Ritz-Carlton); 2 points per $1 spent on airfare booked directly with the airline, car rentals, and restaurant meals; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. There’s no limit to the number of points you can earn. If you don’t earn or redeem points within any rolling 24-month period, your entire point balance expires. Points can be redeemed for free nights at participating Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and partner hotels, starting at 7,500 points per night for Category 1 Marriott hotels and 30,000 points per night for Tier 1 Ritz-Carlton hotels. Per-night redemption rates range up to 45,000 points for Category 9 Marriott hotels and 70,000 points for Tier 5 Ritz-Carlton hotels. If you don’t have enough points to redeem for a full free night, you can use Marriott’s Cash + Points option, which requires a minimum investment of 3,000 points and $45 to book a free Category 1 night (ranging up to 28,000 points and $220 to book a free Category 9 night). Aside from certain high-end Marriott resort properties, there are no blackout dates.
- Anniversary Free Night. Every year you remain a cardholder in good standing, you get 1 free hotel night. The free night accrues on your card membership anniversary date, and can be redeemed at any time within the following 12 months. Free nights are good at Category 1 through 5 properties only.
- Qualifying Nights Toward Elite Status. As a Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card holder, you earn 15 qualifying nights toward Elite status each year. This means that you’re guaranteed Marriott Silver Elite status, which requires 10 qualifying nights per year, as long as you’re a cardmember in good standing. Silver Elite Status entitles you to numerous benefits, including a 20% bonus on all points earned for paid stays. It also entitles you to flexible check-in/check-out hours, a 10% discount on weekend stays, and a 10% discount on hotel gift shop purchases. For every $3,000 you spend with your card, you earn 1 additional qualifying night toward higher Elite status levels, with no limit on the number of nights you can earn. You also earn qualifying nights for paid stays at Marriott properties. The next status up, Gold Elite, requires 50 qualifying nights in a calendar year. Platinum Elite, the highest status, requires 75 qualifying nights per year. Higher statuses confer additional benefits, such as faster point earnings and complimentary room upgrades when available.
- Regular APR. The purchase and balance transfer APR varies between 16.49% and 23.49% (based on prevailing interest rates and creditworthiness), and the cash advance APR is 25.49%. There is no penalty APR.
- Important Fees. The $85 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there is never a foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3%, cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%, late payments range from $15 to $37 (depending on late balance size), and returned payments cost $37 each.
- Credit Required. This card requires excellent credit. Any notable credit blemishes are likely to be disqualifying.
- Lots of Ways to Earn Points. The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card offers plenty of ways to earn rewards points. The 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott and partner properties is par for the course, but the 2 points per $1 spent for airfare, car rentals, and restaurant meals is a huge perk, since frequent travelers spend heavily in all three of those categories.
- Annual Fee Waived in First Year. The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card gets customers off on the right foot by waiving the $85 annual fee for the first year. By contrast, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card charge annual fees from the get-go.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. This card doesn’t come with a foreign transaction fee – a nice perk for international travelers, especially in light of Marriott’s extensive overseas presence. Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature and Expedia+ both charge foreign transaction fees.
- Can Combine Points and Cash at Redemption. If you don’t have enough points to qualify for a free night, Marriott’s Cash + Points option has your back. You can get a Category 1 room with as few as 3,000 points and $45, an investment worth roughly $75 (assuming an average per-point value of $0.01). Likewise, Cash + Points can get you into nicer hotels faster and with a smaller financial outlay than would otherwise be required.
- Fewer Redemption Options Than Some Competitors. The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card’s redemption options are great for cardholders who like to stay at Marriott hotels and partner properties, but not great for those who wish to redeem elsewhere. If you prefer a credit card that lets you redeem for virtually any travel purchases, or even general merchandise and cash equivalents that have nothing to do with travel, opt for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®.
- Costly to Attain Higher Elite Status Levels. Though this card automatically confers Marriott Silver Elite status, you have to work hard – and spend a lot – to achieve Gold (35 additional qualifying nights) and Platinum Elite (60 additional qualifying nights) status. By contrast, IHG Rewards Club Select cardholders automatically get Platinum Elite status, IHG’s second-highest membership tier, at no additional cost.
Hotel- and airline-specific credit cards often accelerate users toward coveted elite or preferred statuses, which typically offer financial benefits, exclusive conveniences, and creature comforts at hotels, in airports, and in the air. If you regularly stay at Marriott or partner properties, you’re likely to appreciate the fact that your Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card automatically qualifies you for Silver Elite status.
If you don’t often stay at Marriott hotels, or any hotels at all, this benefit isn’t likely to excite you. Budget-conscious or hotel-agnostic travelers often do better with general-purpose travel cards, such as Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Chase Sapphire Preferred, than cards that fit them into a particular brand’s box. Make sure you know where you fall before applying for this or any other travel rewards credit card.