Credit card review: The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
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Marriott Bonvoy is the world’s largest hotel loyalty programme, covering more than one million rooms across more than 6,000 properties globally in the Marriott hotel group, with more than 30 different hotel brands from basic properties like Aloft and Moxy through to truly aspirational, five-star brands like St Regis and Ritz-Carlton.
American Express U.K. offers a Marriott cobranded credit card to help you maximise your travel with the new Bonvoy credit card. This card replaces The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card From American Express U.K., following the merger of the Marriott and Starwood hotel groups and their loyalty programmes.
Who is this card for?
As Marriott is the world’s largest property group, this can be a great option for someone serious about earning and redeeming globally useful hotel points. If you find yourself regularly staying in properties belonging to the Bonvoy programme (such as for business travel), having a cobranded card can be a great way to maximise your travel by topping up your Bonvoy account with the welcome bonus and the ongoing earning rate for purchases you make, both with Marriott and those everyday purchases.
There is no minimum income requirement to be approved for this card.
Welcome bonus and annual fee
This card has a low annual fee of £75 and a welcome bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending £3,000 in the first three months of card membership. While the 20,000 points sound impressive, remember that TPG U.K. considers Bonvoy points to be worth less than, say, Membership Rewards points. Based on TPG U.K.’s current valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points, that welcome bonus is worth around £140, which would offset the annual fee in the first year.
Note the restrictions on welcome bonuses issued by American Express U.K. that have been in place since 2019.
Representative example: This card has an APR of 38.8% (variable) and a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
You will earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent on everyday purchases. This increases to a great 6 Bonvoy points per £1 spent with participating Marriott group hotels typically. However, for a limited time through 31 January 2021, you’ll earn 10 points per £1 spent at Marriott properties. Note, however, this bonus earning is capped at 20,000 Bonvoy points.
While you will still receive these amounts for purchases spent in foreign currencies, you will also be hit with a 2.99% foreign transaction fee. Based on TPG’s valuation of Bonvoy points, the cost of the foreign transaction fee is higher than the value of the points you’d earn for making the transaction. Because of that, you may wish to instead put international spend on a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
This is not ideal for a card designed to be used globally with the world’s largest hotel group.
Once you’ve earned enough Bonvoy points, you can use them to redeem at thousands of Marriott properties. Each property is assigned a category number — the higher the category, the more points required, while the lower the category, the fewer points you’ll need.
If you redeem points for five or more consecutive nights, you’ll receive the fifth night free. On a rotating basis, Marriott identifies certain properties to place in its PointsSavers promotion, where award stays cost fewer points for a limited amount of time. Finally, you can use the programme’s Points Advance functionality to reserve an award stay when you’re short on points, which is a great way to confirm a room at a property before you earn enough points to cover the stay.
There are also other ways to use Bonvoy points including:
- Upgrade a paid or award night for 5,000 points to a higher room category, although some hotels struggle to process these upgrades
- Reduce your hotel bill by redeeming Bonvoy points, though the value you receive will be less than half the TPG U.K. valuation
- Book air travel or rental cars directly with your points, although again, the value you receive will be less than half the TPG U.K. valuation.
You will automatically receive Silver Elite status (so 15 Elite Nights credit) in the Bonvoy programme just for having the card. This status will upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend £15,000 on this card each year.
You will also receive a free night award each year when you spend £25,000 on the card, which can be redeemed for a Marriott stay of less than 35,000 points per night. There’s also the following benefits just for having the card, though some of which are subject to enrollment:
- Generous travel inconvenience insurance when paying for travel with the card, including £150 for flight delays, overbooking or missed connections, £600 if your baggage is delayed by an airline for six hours and an additional £850 for extended baggage delays.
- Refund protection for eligible items for 90 days up to £250, where the retailer you bought the items from won’t refund.
- Purchase protection for eligible items stolen or damaged, up to £2,500 per item.
- Travel accident insurance up to £150,000.
You can also opt to have free supplementary cards for any close family and friends in order to maximise your Bonvoy points earning, but remember that you, as the primary cardholder, will still be responsible for paying the balance each month.
Which cards compete with this card?
This is a unique card, as it earns hotel points directly. A comparable card might be the Preferred Rewards Gold Card from American Express UK, as while that card earns Membership Rewards points rather than Bonvoy points, these can be converted to Bonvoy at a rate of 2:3. That card comes with a 20,000 Membership Rewards point welcome bonus, which would convert to 30,000 Bonvoy points.
If you regularly stay at Marriott properties and therefore spend a good deal directly with them, this can be a great way to really maximise your Bonvoy points earning ability. It is, however, frustrating that there is a foreign transaction fee charged for a hotel cobranded credit card whose vast majority of properties are outside the U.K.
If you don’t already stay regularly, the automatic Silver status will give you a step up towards reaching Gold status, which is where the benefits really start to kick in.
Featured photo courtesy of Marriott Hotels.
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