As Marriott moves to combine the Starwood and Marriott Rewards programs, it is taking a necessary first step and rolling out its credit cards. Initial bonuses are often the best you’ll see for a while, so it’s worth taking a look.
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus
The new card that caught my attention was the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card, similar to the previous iteration of the standard personal card. The biggest benefit is the 100,000 point sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 in your first three months as a cardholder. Under the new rewards system, it will be good enough for at least a free night anywhere in the Marriott system. The card also comes with a free night (topping out at a Category Five standard night) and automatic Silver elite status. Spend $35,000 on the card and you’ll get upgraded to Gold. And finally, starting in 2019, you’ll get a credit for 15 elite nights toward status. Keep in mind that Gold starts at 25 nights.
The New Card: Mind The Gap
Having said that, the new Premier Plus card is clearly a step down from the best combination of benefits from the old card and the Starwood card.
- Marriott notes that you will earn six points per dollar spent at Marriott properties and two points per dollar for everything else. While that exceeds the prior card’s benefit (5/1), it is actually worse that Starwood’s card, which was 2/1. Why is that? Because Marriott values one SPG point as three Marriott Rewards points, meaning that the equivalent would be six points per dollar spent at Marriott properties (which it is), but three points, not two, on regular spend. Is it a big deal? No. Is it a decrease? Absolutely.
- No more elite nights based on spending. Under the current card, you receive one night credit toward elite status for every $3,000 that you spend, so if you were right on the cusp of the next tier, you could spend on your credit card and generate those night credits. The new card, however, doesn’t carry that benefit. Sure, they’ll give you Gold status if you spend $35,000, but you would have gotten it anyway under the old card, and at $30,000 in spend: 15 nights for being a cardholder, and ten elite nights for $30,000 in spend, getting you to the necessary 25.
- You are limited to 15 elite nights credit per person. Under the previous regime, it was per card, meaning that multiple cards got you 30 nights.
The combined programs aren’t as bad as they could have been, but the credit cards do show some benefit erosion. Keep your eyes open.
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