Guide to the Marriott Bonvoy program

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Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guests are two of the most prestigious rewards card programs out there, and they’ve combined with The Ritz Carlton Rewards to make one mega-program that is reshaping the hotel rewards landscape: Marriott Bonvoy. And if you play it right, there’s a luxury penthouse suite in your (possibly very near) future. Here’s the breakdown on the cards available, the rewards that make them so attractive, and what you can expect from each.

An overview of the changes

The merger of the programs brings with it a collection of updates and changes for cardholders, both new and existing. Most noticeable is the ease of redeeming benefits and transferring points between the programs as three separate systems have now been brought together as one. Your Starwood, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton points can now be combined and redeemed at any property under the brand flagships. Across the 29 hotel brands operating under these three names, this gives you access to 6,700 hotels in nearly 130 countries.

If you’re already a member of Marriott Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guests, most of the updates and changes will happen automatically for you. For starters, the Marriott app will update automatically to the Marriott Bonvoy app — it already has if you’re set up for automatic updates on your phone — and you are immediately able to begin earning and using rewards under the new programs. There is one piece of action needed on your part, however. To merge points from the three programs, you must log into your account at any of the three and follow prompts to do so. The tiered status levels of Marriott’s prior program will be implemented in Bonvoy — Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

There are multiple credit card options.

The next thing to know about this new mega-program is that it’s far from one-size-fits-all. Separate cards are issued by Chase and American Express, and as is common with travel rewards credit cards, both individual and business cards are available. Here’s what’s in effect as of February 13.

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Marriott Bonvoy Boundless (personal card)

  • Formerly Marriott Rewards Premiere Plus credit card
  • Six points per dollar at Marriott hotels
  • Two points per dollar on other purchases
  • 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • $95 annual fee
  • This is the most basic card on offer, suitable for most individual applicants.

Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Credit Card

  • Formerly Marriott Rewards Premiere Plus Business
  • Six points per dollar at Marriott hotels
  • Four points per dollar on gas and restaurants
  • Four points per dollar on shipping, internet, cable and phone service costs
  • Two points per dollar on other purchases
  • A second free night credited to your account after you spend $60,000 in a year (one free night is included automatically)
  • This card is not currently available to new applicants.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

  • Formerly Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Six points per dollar at Marriott hotels
  • Four points per dollar on gas and restaurants
  • Four points per dollar on shipping, internet, cable and phone service costs
  • Two points per dollar on other purchases
  • $125 annual fee, though it’s only $95 if you apply before March 28, 2019

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

  • Formerly “Starwood Preferred Guest” card from American Express
  • Six points per dollar at Marriott hotels
  • Three points per dollar at restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • Two points per dollar on other purchases
  • $300 annual statement credit
  • Complimentary Gold Elite Status
  • $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit
  • $450 annual fee
  • The current special, including the 100,000 welcome points, runs through April 24

All approved applicants for each of the above cards also enjoy these perks:

  • 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months if you apply by April 24
  • Annual free night at an eligible property worth up to 35,000 points, awarded each year after your card anniversary
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Silver Elite status
  • 15 Elite Night credits toward your next upgrade in Elite status

There are five status levels.

Beyond the credit cards themselves, Bonvoy continues the elite status levels previously offered by Marriott, with some new twists. There are five levels, and you’re already at Silver Elite by the time your card arrives in the mail. Each status level builds on the one below it, offering a “get all that plus this” perk to being loyal to their brand.

Silver Elite

  • Stay 10 or more nights though all cardholders receive Silver Elite status, at a minimum
  • Priority late checkout
  • Book through a private Elite reservation line
  • 10 percent bonus points on each stay
  • Free WiFi

Gold Elite

  • Stay 25 eligible nights in a calendar year
  • Checkout as late as 2:00 PM
  • Complimentary room upgrades
  • 25 percent bonus points on each stay and a “gift” of additional points at check-in
  • Access to special rates when available and booking through a private Elite reservation line

Platinum Elite

  • Stay 50 eligible nights in a calendar year
  • Complimentary room upgrades and choice of a “Platinum Welcome Gift,” which varies from points to free breakfast to other options, depending on hotel
  • Airport lounge access
  • Enhanced in-room internet so you can binge-watch Game of Thrones
  • Checkout as late as 4:00 PM

Titanium Elite

  • Stay 75 nights in a calendar year
  • Complimentary access to United MileagePlus rewards
  • Annual Choice Benefit of free nights, a great deal on a new mattress for the home you rarely sleep in or a charity donation in your name
  • 75 percent bonus points on stays

Ambassador Elite

  • At this point, you basically live in Bonvoy hotels — you’ve spent 100 nights and spent $20,000 in their properties in a calendar year.
  • You can choose the time of your stay. For example, say your flight arrives late and you don’t get into the hotel until 3:00 AM. Your stay covers you for the following 24 hours.

The welcome bonus is stellar.

The biggest draw to the Bonvoy Brilliant and Bonvoy Business cards from both American Express and Chase is the welcome package, designed to quell any desire for immediate gratification. The limited time offer for 100,000 bonus points — that’s equivalent to about $1000 in spending power — is among the most lucrative specials ever offered by a travel rewards credit card. This offer is available to those who apply on or before April 24, 2019, so don’t sit around waiting. The bad news is that if you’re already a cardholder in one of the former programs, you’re technically already at the party and, as such, are excluded from eligibility for this massive welcome gift. But all new cardholders are eligible, as long as you get that application in on time.

Which card should I apply for?

If your credit, or that of your business, is on par with eligibility requirements, you can apply for all but the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Visa Signature Card. The right card for you depends on how often you travel and how likely you are to stay at an affiliated property when you do. The Bonvoy program is different than standard travel rewards cards in that the perks are only redeemable at Bonvoy properties. If you’re the type who looks at lodging as an afterthought, or who tends to book a cheap hotel option over sticking with one brand for the long-term rewards benefit, none of these cards will do you much good. You’ll have a hard time accumulating enough points to see any real benefit beyond the annual free night, and the annual fee will go a long way towards offsetting even that.

But if you’re a fan of loyalty, luxury, and perks, you should definitely consider applying to at least the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card. The low annual fee couples with the massive welcome package to make a solid deal, especially if you’re going to spend upwards of a dozen nights per year in their properties. If you’re on the road constantly, the Bonvoy Brilliant card will do you well with its on-site perks, more than enough to offset that $450 annual fest, and is one the best travel rewards cards you can have in your wallet this year.

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