The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is no more. In its place is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, which is now the only official Marriott co-branded credit card in Canada. This change shouldn’t be a surprise: Marriott Rewards/Starwood Preferred Guest merged their loyalty programs last year, and this January, Marriott Bonvoy became the name of the joint venture.
Getting a name was the last official thing for the new loyalty program to take care of, so you could say the merger is now complete. This is a good thing for consumers since Marriott Bonvoy now gives you access to more than 6,500 properties in more than 120 countries. But is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card itself any good? Here, we’ll take a detailed look.
Since this is a Marriott-branded credit card, most of the features are aimed at people who stay at Marriott properties on a regular basis. If you’re one of those people, this is obviously a good thing since it allows you to earn points much faster and gives you additional benefits. Even people who only stay at Marriott properties on occasion may want to consider this card, though, since the benefits are substantial. With the card, you’ll:
- Get 60,000 bonus Marrott Bonvoy points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your card in your first three months.
- Earn five Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties.
- Earn two Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 spent anywhere else.
- Get one annual free night award on your card anniversary that can be redeemed at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties, with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points.
- Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- Get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
- Get automatically upgraded to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status when you charge $30,000 or more to the card each year.
- Have free in-room, premium internet access at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
- Enjoy no annual fee on supplementary cards.
- Have a 2.5% foreign transaction fee.
How it stacks up
The new Marriott Bonvoy card is almost identical to the old Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express, but one major difference is that you now get 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points instead of 50,000 as a welcome bonus when you charge $1,500 to your card within the first three months of card membership.
Since it’ll cost you anywhere from 7,500 to 85,000 points to claim a free night, that 60,000 points welcome bonus can go a long way. (When the program introduces peak pricing later this year, that range will expand to 5,000 to 100,000. More on that later.) For example, 60,000 points can get you one night at a category seven hotel such as the W Barcelona in Spain, at the standard rate. If you weren’t using your points, , a night at the hotel could easily cost you $400 to $500 instead.
Alternatively, you could stretch out your 60,000 points and get five nights at a category two hotel. While those 60,000 points will technically only cover four nights, Marriott has a policy where you get the fifth night free when you book four nights using your points. That’s why there’s a lot of value when booking lower category hotels.
As with the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card, which was one of our favourite travel rewards cards on the market, the earn rate on the Marriot Bonvoy card is incredible: you’ll get five points for every dollar spent at participating properties. All other purchases earn you two points per dollar spent.
You also get Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status instantly with this card so when you spend on eligible hotel purchases, you’ll be earning 10% more points than non-Elite members. Silver status also gets you priority late checkout which can come in handy.
The card does have an annual fee of $120, but the perks might outweigh the cost. For example, you get a free night certificate on the anniversary of your card membership that can be redeemed for a room worth up to 35,000 points. That’s enough for one night at a category five hotel, which is easily worth more than $120 fee.
Finally, you can also transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to many airlines (including Air Canada) at a 3:1 ratio. When you transfer a minimum of 60,000 points, you’ll even get an additional 5,000 airline miles as a bonus.
One could argue that the card’s main drawback is also its main benefit. Since you’re earning Marriott Bonvoy points, you can only use them at participating properties. Marriott has a ton of hotels, but there are times where a destination you’re visiting may not have any hotels in their portfolio.
Marriott also recently introduced peak pricing for redemption. Although they’re not in play yet, Marriott did say they will become active later in 2019. This can present a huge problem, since a hotel that you were expecting to cost you 25,000 points a night may end up costing 30,000 points instead. At least there’s off-peak pricing too, when prices will be lower, so you may actually end up benefiting from these changes. A chart on how peak and non-peak pricing compares to standard pricing can be found on Marriott’s website.
The travel insurance included is not bad, but there’s no travel emergency medical insurance.
It’s also worth mentioning that your Marriott Bonvoy points will expire if there isn’t activity on your account for two years, but if you’re using this card on a regular basis, you won’t have to worry about that.
Who is this card for?
As a co-branded Marriott credit card, this is clearly aimed at people who like to stay at Marriott hotels. Marriott has 29 brands and more than 6,500 properties located across more than 120 countries, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find a room to use your points on.
Even people who don’t normally stay at hotels may enjoy this card since it’s a way to earn free hotel nights. Think about it: you may enjoy hostels or prefer Airbnb, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could spend a night or two at the end of your trip in a hotel?
The Marriott Bonvoy card is a winner. When Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest merged, travellers were expecting a lot. The new merged program has delivered mostly positive changes and the new credit card is an easy way to earn points.
There’s no doubt that if you love hotels and travel, the Marriott Bonvoy card needs to be in your wallet.
Disclosure: This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.