Marriott-SPG merger: which hotel credit card offers best value now


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On August 18, 2018 Marriott pulled the switch to merge its three major property portfolios into a unified system. This included a merging of the Marriot, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton rewards programs into one.

The combined Marriott rewards program gives you access to more than 6,500 hotels in 127 countries and territories. With 1.2 million rooms, it’s easy to find a Marriott property nearly anywhere you travel. But if you want to get the best of stays at the Marriott portfolio of properties, you may want to add a Marriott credit card to your wallet.

With the combination of the Marriot, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton rewards programs, the credit cards you use to earn points for free nights, status, room upgrades, and other benefits might have changed. Follow along to learn about the best Marriott credit cards in the new universe of Marriott cards.

The new Marriot-Starwood-Ritz Carlton credit card lineup

Here is a list of the branded credit cards you can apply for today. The old Marriott Rewards Premier card is no longer available, and the Ritz-Carlton card has been eliminated for new applicants as well. Between personal and business cards, there are five credit cards available today under the Marriott and Starwood brands.

Marriott cards currently come from Chase while the Starwood cards come from American Express. All cards below offer 15 nights of credit toward earning a higher status level than the Silver or Gold you get automatically from the credit card.

Marriott

Marriott

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

This credit card offers cardholders 6 points per dollar spent a Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton hotels and 2 points per dollar everywhere else. That is better than the old card that offered 5 points per dollar at Marriott family properties and 1 point elsewhere.

With this card, you get an annual free night credit worth up to 35,000 points and automatic Silver Elite status. This card charges a $95 annual fee.

Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

The business version of the Marriott credit card is better than the personal. It comes with a $99 annual fee, but gives you better rewards bonus categories. You earn the same 6x points per dollar at Marriott and 2x on standard purchases. But you get some lucrative bonus categories as well.

Bonus categories include 4x points per dollar at restaurants, gas stations, shipping services, and internet/cable/phone providers in the United States. Depending on what your business purchases look like, that could be a very valuable bonus.

Like the personal version, this card gives you Silver Elite status and an annual free night worth up to 35,000 points.

Starwood

American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

For many years, this credit card was a favorite of miles and points enthusiasts due to the high value and transfer options you would get with everyday spend. These days, the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card is more on-par with the Marriott card, as it earns the same points for a merged rewards program.

With a $95 annual fee, this card gives you 6x points per dollar at Marriott and 2x everywhere else. Cardholders get Silver Elite status and a free night on a room up to 35,000 points. Does this look familiar?

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

The business version of the SPG Amex looks a lot like the Marriott Premier Plus Business. It offers 6x points at Marriot, 4x points at US restaurants, US gas stations, US wireless phone companies, and US shipping providers. Not exactly the same as the Marriott business card, but very close. You also get the same 2x points everywhere else.

Other benefits include Silver Elite status and a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points. While many of these cards offer 15 night credits towards elite status, keep in mind that you can’t combine those credits if you have more than one of the cards. 15 nights is the maximum amount of free credits you can get from holding a credit card.

This card charges a $95 annual fee.

Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card

For big spenders and seriously dedicated Marriott/Starwood/Ritz loyalists, the elite Starwood American Express card gives you more interesting and valuable benefits. However, the card does charge a higher $450 annual fee.

This card gives cardholders 6x points for stays at Marriott portfolio properties, 3x points per dollar at restaurants, car rental companies, and airline ticket purchases directly from the airline, and 2x everywhere else.

The card gives you instant Gold Elite status, which comes with some valuable perks over the Silver Elite status, including better access to lounges and free breakfasts where available. You also get a free night worth up to 50,000 points.

To offset the annual fee, you get $300 in travel credits for the first $300 you spend at Marriott portfolio properties per year. Between the free night, $300 credit, and Gold status, you can easily get $450 in value or more.

The card also gives you a free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, Boingo WiFi passes, and a Priority Pass membership for access to premium lounges at airports around the world.

Do you need a Marriott credit card at all?

While the free night certificates are a valuable benefit, you may be able to earn more points per dollar or get better value using a premium miles or points card from Chase or American Express like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Platinum Card® from American Express.

Depending on the one you pick, these cards give you an ability to earn points, get lounge access, and even elite status at Marriott without holding a Marriott- or Starwood-branded card. Consider those as well before choosing a new card, if that’s what you’re looking to do.

Which Marriott card makes sense for you?

In the new world of Marriott credit cards, you may not want to keep a thick stack of personal and business cards. You should zero in on the cards that align with your needs and annual fee tolerance.

Elite travelers with high credit scores may appreciate the premium benefits like lounge access and Gold Elite status you get with the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card. If that card is too much for your tastes, even taking the annual $300 credit into account, the other cards are still a great deal.

The four cards with a $95 to $99 annual fees offer a free night worth up to 35,000 points. That is easily worth more than $100, so if you stay at a qualifying Marriott property at least once per year, holding onto at least one of these cards makes sense.

Do the math to get the best value

Everyone has unique hotel and spending habits, so the card that makes the most sense for your personal or business use may not be the same as everyone else. If you do the math to figure out how much you’ll get back in points and rewards based on your habits, you can confidently pick the card that makes the most sense for you.

Click here to learn more about the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Card.

Click here to learn more about the SPG Credit Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the SPG Business Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the SPG Luxury Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.



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