If you’re a frequent traveler seeking a credit card that offers hotel rewards rather than cash back or airline miles, you may have noticed that the options are limited. However, the Chase Marriott Rewards and Chase Marriott Rewards Premier are two cards offering some of the best benefits out there.
Although similar in many ways, the Chase Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card provides a number of perks that boost it above its counterpart, as well as many other hotel credit cards.
- Sign-up Bonus. As a new cardholder, you earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening. Since one night at a category 1 property starts at 7,500 points, you could redeem your bonus points for up to six free nights. However, if you do not keep the account open for at least six months, the bonus points may be deducted from your rewards.
- Fees. The $85 annual fee for the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card is waived the first year. Balance transfers are 3% or $5, whichever is greater. There are no foreign transaction fees.
- APR. The APR on balance transfers and purchases is 15.24%, which may vary with the prime rate, and is dependent upon your credit rating.
- Free Night Stay. You receive an e-certificate valid for a one night stay in any category 1 to 4 property when your account is approved.
- Anniversary Free Night. Each year on your account anniversary you receive an e-certificate for a free night stay in any category 1 to 5 property.
- Marriott Rewards. Using the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card, you earn five points per dollar spent at Marriott locations worldwide, two points per dollar spent at restaurants, on car rentals, or on airline tickets purchased directly from an airline, and one point per dollar on everything else.
- Redeeming Points. You have the option of redeeming Marriott Rewards points for stays in Marriott properties (starting at 7,500 points) or Ritz-Carlton properties (starting at 30,000 points). After redeeming four nights with either hotel, the fifth night is free.
- Elite Status Memberships. The Marriott Rewards program is divided into elite statuses referred to as Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Statuses are cumulative and can be built up over the life of your account. While Silver membership typically requires 10 qualifying night stays, it’s automatically rewarded to Chase Marriott Rewards Premier cardholders. Gold Membership requires 50 qualifying night stays, while Platinum Membership requires 75 qualifying night stays. Each year on your account anniversary you receive 15 Elite Credits toward your status membership, and you earn one Elite Credit for every $3,000 spent with the card. Elite statuses confer additional rewards and perks including free Wi-Fi, complimentary room upgrades, and arrival gifts for Platinum members.
- Smart Chip Technology. The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card includes smart chip technology. Credit cards with smart chips are designed to be safer, providing better protection from credit card fraud. They’re also more likely to be accepted by retailers in some areas of Europe.
- Free Week Stay. For signing up and spending $1,000 in the first three months, you’ll receive the equivalent of a seven-night stay in a category 1 hotel, or a three night stay in a category 4 hotel. Even if you don’t spend $1,000 in the first three months (causing you to miss out on the 50,000 bonus points), you will still receive at least one free night in a category 1 to 4 hotel, just for being approved for the card. Members are also eligible to receive a fifth night free after redeeming four nights at any category 1 to 9 hotel.
- Free Night on Card Anniversary. Every year on your cardholder anniversary, you receive a free night’s stay in a category 1 to 5 hotel. Category 5 hotels include the Miami Airport Marriott, which starts at $149, and the Munich Airport Marriott, which starts at $129. The value of the anniversary bonus essentially covers the credit card’s annual fee of $85. This bonus is not offered with the regular Chase Marriott Rewards credit card.
- Earn Points at Restaurants, on Car Rentals, and With Airlines. The Premier card rewards program is similar to that of the regular Chase Marriott Rewards card, except for a few key differences. First, Premier cardholders earn five points per dollar spent on purchases at Marriott locations – the standard card only offers three points per dollar. Second, Premier cardholders also earn two points per dollar spent at restaurants, on car rentals, or for airline tickets purchased directly from an airline. This option is not available with the standard Marriott Rewards card or most other hotel rewards cards. For example, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card awards cardholders points for purchases spent at Hilton hotels, with airlines and on car rentals, but not at restaurants, while the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express awards points for purchases made only at participating hotels and resorts. With the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card, you can earn bonus points on practically any travel-related purchase.
- Many Opportunities for Redeeming Points. Unlike many hotel cards, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card gives you the option to redeem points for gift cards or merchandise. While this isn’t always the most advantageous way to spend points, they’re nice options to have if you’re unable to redeem your points for hotel stays. That said, because cardholders can redeem points for stays at Marriott or Ritz-Carlton properties, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use your points for travel.
- Earn Elite Status Faster. You receive 15 Elite Credits on your cardholder anniversary, making it possible to achieve elite statuses even without frequent hotel stays (Silver status is automatic for Premier cardholders). This is compounded by each Elite Credit earned for every $3,000 spent on the card.
- Generous Benefits for Elite Statuses. Each elite status level earns a bonus on points for hotel stays – Silver members receive a 20% bonus, Gold members receive a 25% bonus, and Platinum members receive a 50% bonus. The benefits don’t end there – additional perks such as free Internet, complimentary room upgrades, and even a guaranteed arrival gift for Platinum members are available for cardholders with elite status.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees. If you frequently travel internationally, it’s important to find a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. These fees can range from 1% to 3%, and while the standard Chase Marriott Rewards card includes a foreign transaction fee of 3%, the Premier credit card eliminates this fee altogether.
- Annual Fee. If you’re unable to maximize your rewards to cover the annual fee, the extra $85 becomes an unnecessary expense just for the privilege of carrying the card. Although annual fees are typical of travel rewards cards, some cards do have lower fees, or sometimes, no fee at all. For example, the standard Chase Marriott Rewards credit card has an annual fee of only $45 per year, while the American Express Hilton HHonors card has no annual fee.
- Free Nights Require More Points. In the Marriott Rewards system, a free night’s stay can be redeemed for as few as 7,500 points for a category 1 hotel. However, there are other credit cards, such as the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card, that offer free nights for fewer points. Free nights through Starwood start at 3,000 points, while award nights through Hilton HHonors start at 5,000 points.
- Penalty APR. There is a penalty APR of 29.99% on most Chase credit cards, including Marriott Rewards cards. This fee is incurred on top of any late fees or overlimit 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 card. The penalty APR affects credit cards indefinitely, so it’s especially important to pay your bill on time. While most Chase cards carry this penalty APR, there are rewards cards that do not, such as the Discover it Card and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card.
- High APR. There is no introductory APR, and while 15.24% is a standard APR for rewards cards, carrying a balance will cause interest payments to add up, preventing you from maximizing your rewards. If you plan to carry a balance, you may want to consider a card with few or no rewards, but lower fees and interest rates.
Although the standard Chase Marriott Rewards card provides a lower annual fee and a great sign-up bonus, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card provides a better deal for travelers who frequent Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties. Additionally, the Premier card has eliminated the foreign transaction fee and added smart chip technology. If you travel abroad frequently, the Premier card’s benefits outweigh most other hotel rewards cards.
The Chase Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers a great sign-up bonus, the opportunity to earn many free nights at Marriott hotels, and valuable perks for international travelers. For these reasons, it’s a solid choice for avid travelers who frequent Marriott hotels.
4.5 stars out of 5: This card offers a larger sign-up bonus than most other hotel cards and provides more opportunities to earn and redeem points. Although uncommon for rewards cards, it also includes smart chip technology and no foreign transaction fees, both of which are useful features for international travelers.
Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided or commissioned by any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, or airline. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.