We are being told that there’s new Marriott/Starwood cobranded credit cards in the pipeline later in the year, and they will be issued by both Chase and American Express (including new premium products); that’s exciting news that we’re all anxiously waiting to hear more details about.
Why I Have Both
With the Starwood/Marriott merger underway, both cobranded credit cards still remain as is and are worth keeping for their own separate reasons.
For instance, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has been a staple hotel credit card in my wallet for years, and I find it worth it to pay the annual fee just for the annual free night certificate. The card recently got even more valuable with its new introduction of Chase Visa Offers, too (unfortunately, these are going away 3/31/18).
As for the Starwood Card, I consider Starpoints to be one of the most valuable points programs out there. I love them because of their flexibility and ability to redeem for hotel nights without blackout dates, and their transferability into airline miles with a nice bonus. 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 airline miles.
There are only a few ways to earn Starpoints – staying at any of the SPG properties, with an SPG AmEx card (right now the business version of the card is offering its highest sign-up bonus ever), or by transferring Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio.
Why It’s Better to Use Other Cards at Marriott Properties
I recently visited several Marriott properties and made sure to pay my final bill using my SPG AmEx, because believe it or not, you actually can earn more Marriott points that way than by using Marriott’s own credit card.
As you know, cardmembers can now earn points across the board at Starwood, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton properties:
- Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card earns 5 Marriott Rewards points for each dollar spent using the Card on qualifying purchases made at participating SPG properties globally.
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card earns 5 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points for each dollar spent using the Card on qualifying purchases made at participating SPG properties globally.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 2 Starpoints per dollar using the Card directly at hotels participating in Marriott Rewards globally.
Since 1 Starpoint equals 3 Marriott points, earning 2 Starpoints per dollar spent actually works out to earning 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott properties. Of course, these points are in addition to the points you’d be earning based on your elite level.
Using the SPG AmEx nets you an extra Marriott point per dollar after converting your Starpoints to Marriott points.
Of course not all points are created equally, and there are some other cards that allow you to earn even more points than either of the two.
For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per dollar on travel purchases. Some might argue that the 3x you’d earn with the Chase Sapphire Reserve is better than 2x you’d earn in Starpoints since 3 is greater than 2, but I disagree.
I value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each, and Ultimate Rewards points at around 1.9 cents each. Starpoints are also much harder to come by than Ultimate Rewards points, especially since there isn’t even a way to earn them with online purchases through shopping portals. Given those circumstances, I prefer earning 2x Starpoints.
Then there’s also the Citi Prestige that earns 3x per dollar spent on travel purchases. I value Citi ThankYou Points lower then Ultimate Rewards points, but there’s one specific instance where paying for my Marriott stay using the Citi Prestige makes sense- and it’s not only because of the generous travel protection benefits that the card offers.
Citi Prestige offers a 4th night free hotel benefit, but in order for the 4th night free rebate to post, the terms state that the reservation must be made through Citi and paid for with the Citi Prestige. Of course, the cash savings on the 4th night free is a much better deal than earning Starpoints in place of ThankYou Points.
Aside from just hotel spend, the SPG AmEx out-earns the Marriott Premier Credit Card in every other category, too.
The Marriott Rewards Premier earns 2x Marriott points on airfare, car rentals, and dining, but even at 1x for all purchases, the SPG AmEx cards effectively earn 3x Marriott points on literally every dollar you spend, knocking the Marriott Premier Credit Card’s 2x category spend out of the water.
In terms of annual fees, they’re pretty similar as well. The Marriott Premier Credit Card is $85, and the Starwood American Express is $95. I also got pretty lucky with a generous retention bonus last year.
One Thing The Marriott Credit Card is Good For
Unlike the SPG AmEx cards, the Marriott Premier Credit Card does offer is the ability to earn Marriott Rewards elite status just by spending.
For those who spend and travel a lot, you can secure elite status faster this way. You’ll get 1 elite credit for every $3,000 you spend, which is beneficial if you need to bump from Gold to Platinum, or if you’re such a big spender that you obtain status entirely this way ;).
The SPG AmEx does not offer a way to obtain elite status by spending. Instead, you’ll receive 5 nights and 2 stays each year towards elite status just by being a card member.
Also keep in mind that your status benefits between both programs are reciprocal, so if you earn status one way in one program, you automatically will have it in the other.
It’s interesting to outline that one can earn more Marriott points by paying with other cards. Other than the annual $85 fee, I really don’t put much spend on my Marriott Premier Credit Card because I feel it’s worth it to keep the card solely for the free night each year.
What are your thoughts? What credit cards do you use for Marriott or any hotel stays?