Which Marriott credit card is best for you?

Marriott has added new co-branded credit cards, offering more earning categories and more options for introductory bonuses

Marriott Rewards cards

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Since the merger between Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton and Starwood Preferred Guest concluded in August of 2018, hotel loyalists with these brands have more ways to earn and use points than ever before.

One major benefit of the merger is the fact that, for now, you can choose among more than a handful of co-branded hotel credit cards, each of which comes with a generous introductory bonus. Chase offers its share of cards within the Marriott Rewards program, while American Express continues to offer co-branded cards with Starwood Preferred Guest.

There are personal credit cards to consider alongside business credit cards that can make earning rewards on your business-related expenses a profitable endeavor. The benefits, rewards and fees for these cards vary, however, which is why it’s important to explore and compare all your options.

Here’s a rundown of the Marriott Rewards credit cards to consider this year:

Marriott Rewards credit cards

  Rewards rate Introductory bonus Annual fee

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

  • 6 points per dollar on Marriott and SPG hotel stays
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
2 free night awards if you spend $3,000 in 3 months
$95

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business credit card

  • 6 points per dollar on Marriott and SPG hotel stays
  • 4 points per dollar on gas station, restaurant, shipping, internet, cable and phone spending
75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in 3 months
$99

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

  • 6 points per dollar on Marriott and SPG hotel stays
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in 3 months
$95, waived first year (See rates & fees)

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

  • 6 points per dollar on Marriott and SPG hotel stays
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, U.S. shipping, internet, and U.S. wireless phone spending
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in 3 months

$95, waived first year (See rates and fees)

Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card

  • 6 points per dollar on Marriott and SPG hotel stays
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
100,000 points if you spend $5,000 in 3 months

$450

Entry-level cards

If you’re just jumping into to the hotel rewards game, it’s smart to start off small with an entry-level card. Fortunately, Marriott Rewards now has two cards that fall into that category – the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.

The cards are very similar, offering the same earning rate and benefits:

  • Six points per dollar on purchases within the hotel brand
  • Two points per dollar on all other purchases
  • A free night each year on your cardmember anniversary, bookable at properties that cost 35,000 points or less

One big difference to consider if you’re trying to decide between these two cards is the fact that the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express waives the annual fee for the first 12 months while the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card does not. Also, the introductory offers on the two cards are currently drastically different – the Starwood Preferred Guest card offers 75,000 points for spending $3,000 in the first three months card membership, while the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card offers two free night certificates for the same spending threshold. If you’re against paying annual fees for rewards cards during the first year and you'd rather earn bonus points than free night certificates, the Starwood Preferred Guest card is a safer bet.

Business credit cards

The newly combined Marriott brand also offers two business credit cards now. The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business credit card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business credit card from American Express come with the same earning rate:

  • Six points per dollar on purchases within the hotel brand
  • Four points per dollar spent on a handful of business-related categories

Still, you may want to consider the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card for its introductory bonus and the fact that the annual fee is waived the first year.

Remember that the Marriott business card may offer a similar welcome offer but you’ll also have to pay the $99 annual fee on the Marriott card during the first year and every year thereafter.

Luxury credit card

If you’re in the market for a luxury hotel credit card, you’ll also want to consider the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card from American Express. This unique card offering boasts an array of benefits, including:

  • An introductory bonus of 75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • A $300 hotel credit each year
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Up to a $100 credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry
  • A free night worth up to 50,000 points on your cardmember anniversary

While these perks are worth considering, you should also note this card’s $450 annual fee. This fee can be offset with the $300 annual hotel credit but only if you stay in Marriott and Starwood hotels. If you’re not planning any hotel stays within a year, the annual fee may eclipse the value of the card’s other benefits.

Cards that help you earn elite status

Several Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards can help you climb the ladder toward elite status much faster. While this may not matter to you if you’re not a hotel loyalist, the little boosts you get toward status with a hotel card can make a huge difference if you’re a frequent traveler or a business traveler who loves the perks that status brings.

Fortunately, all Marriott and Starwood cards currently offer some help with elite status:

  • The personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest card offer Silver status to cardholders. Cardholders can also get an upgrade to Gold status by spending $30,000 on one of these cards in a year. Plus, starting in 2019, the personal card will also offer 15 Elite night credits.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card holders are granted Gold Elite status when they sign up. Card members can earn Platinum status by spending $75,000 on the card in a year.
  • The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus credit card offers automatic Silver status and a path to Gold status when you spend $35,000 in a year. Starting in 2019, the card will also offer 15 Elite night credits toward status.
  • The business version of the Marriott card offers automatic Silver Elite status to cardholders and a boost to Gold status when you spend $35,000 on the card in a year.

Restrictions on introductory bonuses

Note that Marriott has placed restrictions on its introductory offers to prevent cardholders from opening and earning the bonus on more than one Marriott card at a time. If you currently own a Ritz-Carlton, Marriott or Starwood card (including business cards), you probably won’t be able to earn the introductory bonus on another Marriott card without closing your current card and waiting a few months to apply for the new card. Also, if you’ve recently earned a bonus on one of these cards, you’ll probably need to wait 24 months to be eligible to earn the bonus on another Marriott card.

You’ll need to check the terms and conditions for each offer to see which cards are included in the list of restricted cards for a particular card.

Which Marriott credit card is best for you?

Each of the Marriott card offerings has benefits, but the right card for you is the one that helps you earn the most benefits for the least out-of-pocket cost. Compare the cards and options above before you dive in, and you can start earning points and booking free hotel stays in no time.

Before you rush out to sign up for a hotel credit card, also make sure to compare all your options. The merger between Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards made this hotel brand stronger and larger than ever before, but you should also explore credit cards that co-brand with Hilton, IHG Rewards and other hotel programs.

See Related: What are Marriott points worth?, How to earn the most Marriott points, Best ways to redeem Marriott points, Marriott elite benefits, Transferring Marriott points


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Updated: 12-18-2018