The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card is the flagship card for earning Marriott Rewards, and we only give it 3 stars because for many people, other cards that earn Marriott points may be better choices, and we talk about those below. But if you need help earning Marriott elite status, or spend thousands of dollars a year at Marriott properties, then the fee and benefits can be worth it, including:
Fast earning at Marriott. You earn 5x points on all Marriott purchases, and 2x points at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and car rental agencies. No other card earns Marriott points more quickly when you’re spending money at Marriott hotels.
A boost in elite night credits. You get 15 credits toward Elite status every year. And for every $3,000 you spend on the card, you earn 1 more Elite credit. To earn Gold Elite status with Marriott you need 50 elite credits or nights a year, and that gets you free breakfast or lounge access, better internet access, and select room upgrades. Earning 75 elite nights or credits in a year earns you Platinum status which offers you a higher bonus on your stays and a guaranteed gift on arrival.
A free night that’s not for the best hotels. The card does give you a free night certificate each year, but it’s only good at Category 1 – 5 hotels, and with all of the reshuffling of categories, most of the better hotels are no longer in the Category 1 – 5 band. But there are still over 3,000 to choose from, and if a free night at a decent hotel that’s not in the most popular destinations is of value to you, then keep it in mind.
No fees on foreign transactions. There’s also an EMV chip built in, but it’s basic chip and signature, not full chip + PIN technology.
Where can you use Marriott points?
You can use your Marriott Rewards points to book free nights at a mouthful of hotel chains, including the obvious – Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, and JW Marriott. And others you might not associate with Marriott like Moxy, Renaissance, AC, Springhill Suites, Fairfield Inn, Towneplace Suites, Gaylord, and Edition.
The value you get from your points can vary quite a bit depending on how expensive the hotel you want to book is in cash. But generally we think they’re worth about a half a cent each. There are 9 categories of hotels, with a free night ranging from 7,500 points to 45,000 points a night.
You can also transfer Marriott points into real airline miles with many airlines. The transfer rates aren’t outstanding, so you’ll generally get more value using the points for free hotel nights.
But Marriott does have a generous partnership with United MileagePlus, and 112,000 Marriott points will get you 50,000 MileagePlus miles, among other options. There’s a full list of them here.
An alternative card that earns Marriott points
While the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card gets most of the attention, there are other cards that will earn you Marriott Rewards points.
The big reason to hold the Marriott Premier card over others is the 5x points on Marriott hotel spending. If you’re spending thousands of dollars a year at Marriott hotels, it’s a no brainer to hold this card. It’s also worth it if you’re really borderline on hitting elite status and will need the 15 credits toward elite status each year.
But if you don’t, but still value earning Marriott Rewards points, consider this alternative.
If you’re not sure you always want Marriott points, and want more flexibility, then the Chase Sapphire preferred could be a good option for you.
It earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points which you can transfer 1:1 to your Marriott Rewards account as well as your accounts with many other travel providers like United Airlines, Southwest, Amtrak, Hyatt, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more.
That helps diversify you in case you decide Marriott points are no longer good for your travel needs. You decide which programs you want to transfer into when you’re ready to move your points.
What’s the catch of the free night certificate ?
With the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card you get a free night certificate each year you renew the card good for a stay at any Category 1 – 5 hotel.
There are 9 categories of Marriott hotels, so these are the low to mid level properties in the Marriott chain, but there are over 3,000 of them that are eligible. Most of them tend to be Courtyard and Residence Inn type properties away from the big cities, but sometimes you’ll find a decent major Marriott in the mix.
You can get a sense of the hotels you can book with the certificate using this online directory.
Some of the better Category 5 hotels include:
The Long Beach Marriott in California
The AC hotel in Madrid
The Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista near Walt Disney World
The certificate is deposited to your online Marriott Rewards account but it expires 6 months afterward, which is easy to forget. You can use it to book dates beyond 6 months, but you just have to make sure you use the certificate to book a reservation within 6 months of receiving it.
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Foreign Transaction Fee Waived
Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?
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Or, consider other cards for 50,000 or more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$750 for air / hotel / car bookings. Or transfer points to United, Southwest, Hyatt, and more.
No annual fee.