Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card Review
Branded hotel credit cards offer points or miles towards free hotel stays, status upgrades, and other perks, but usually they only make sense if you're loyal to that one hotel brand. The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, however, could appeal to both casual and frequent travelers, including those who might sometimes stay at other hotels. The reason? A free one-night hotel stay every year, plus a killer sign-up bonus.
The main Marriott Rewards® Premier card features:
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Free night stay at a category 1-5 hotel after your account anniversary
- Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at over 4,000 Marriott locations worldwide, including The Ritz-Carlton locations
- Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies & restaurants
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- $85 annual fee
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card's Best Feature: Free Hotel Night Each Year
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is one of only a handful of credit cards that give you a free hotel night every year just for keeping the card. (The others are the Fairmont Visa Signature, IHG Rewards Club Select Visa, Hyatt Visa, and Citi® Hilton HHonors™.) With Marriott's credit card, you can use your annual free night certificate at any of its hotel brands. The catch is the free night is only good at the lower to mid Category 1-5 hotels, but you still have a choice of over 2,900 hotels worldwide.
Depending on your destination, this free night could be worth $100 to almost $250.
For example, the free night certificate works at these locations:
- Residence Inn Arlington Pentagon City (value of $159 or 25,000 points)
- Courtyard San Diego Sorrento Valley (value of $151 or 25,000 points)
- Courtyard Chicago Midway Airport (value of $237 or 20,000 points)
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Atlanta Downtown (value of $109 or 25,000 points)
If you use the certificate for a hotel stay that would normally cost you more than $85 a night, the free night certificate makes up for the card's $85 annual fee. However, that fee isn't waived the first year and you only get the free night certificate a year after you get the card -- so you'll have to wait to enjoy this perk.
Marriott Rewards® Premier offers a program is rewarding for cardmembers who regularly stay Marriott locations, where they’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent. And, you earn the same rewards rate at The Ritz-Carlton locations, a hotel partner of Marriott.
Meanwhile, the Marriott Rewards® Premier card also allows you to earn 2 points per dollar spent on airfare purchased directly with an airline, car rentals and dining. Few branded credit cards allow cardmembers to earn more than 1 point per dollar on purchases that don’t fall under that brand. This means that you can use the card for travel and dining to earn more points toward free hotel nights.
Finally, you earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchase, which is the base reward rate for most rewards credit cards.
That said, the hotels you can redeem the free night for are limited, and it takes significant spending to earn additional free nights at Marriott. For example, you'll need 7,500 points for a one night stay at a Marriott category 1 hotel; that's the equivalent of $1,500 in spending at Marriott (5X points) or $3,750 in spending on restaurants, car rentals, or airfare (2X points). If you want to book a nicer hotel or stay closer to a city center, you'll need to spend accordingly.
Other Reasons to Choose the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Besides the free night on your card anniversary, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers these benefits:
Guaranteed Elite Status each year: You get 15 credits towards elite status each year with the card, which qualifies you for Silver benefits and can apply towards Gold elite status (which requires 50 elite night credits). Silver benefits include reservation guarantee, priority late checkout, and a 20% bonus on points for stays.
Hefty sign-up bonus: More often than not the Marriott Rewards® Premier card comes with a significant sign-up bonus. The actual number of bonus points may vary from time to time, but it is usually enough for several hotel nights. Like many credit card sign-up bonuses, you’ll be required to spend a certain amount on the card during the initial months of owning the card.
No foreign transaction fees: If you travel internationally, you won't be subject to extra fees when shopping abroad. The card also comes with an embedded chip for more secure transactions in the US and elsewhere.
Purchase protection: The card also offers standard credit card protections including theft or damage to new purchases for up to 120 days, extended warranty protection, auto rental collision damage insurance, and fraud protection. Visa Signature cardholders also get trip cancellation/interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, and emergency assistance services.
Final Verdict: Is the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card Right for You?
This travel rewards credit card is obviously best for travelers who prefer staying at Marriott hotels. The more you use your card, particularly at Marriott properties, the more points you'll earn toward free hotel stays.
You might consider the card just for the free night, however, or the sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus could cover a week's hotel stay and the free night certificate makes up for the $85 annual fee.
If you're the type of traveler who doesn't want to be limited to a specific brand, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card probably isn't for you. TheBarclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® or Capital One® Venture® Rewards would meet your flexibility needs more.
If you don't care for the annual fee, Chase also offers a non-premier version of this card, called the Marriott Rewards® Credit Card. That card earns 3 points for spending at Marriott locations and 1 point for all other purchases. While it earns 10 credits towards Elite Status annually and you qualify for Silver benefits, you don't get the free night certificate. Without the free night and the additional bonus categories and earnings, we think the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is the better option for loyal Marriott guests.