EDIT: July 2016 – New applications for this card were currently suspended as at September 2015 – no reason has been given
This is my review of the Marriott Rewards MasterCard UK credit card.
It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here for a free 30-day trial of Equifax’s online credit report service. Note that a monthly fee of £14.95 will be charged if you do not cancel during the 30-day free trial period.
As with all rewards cards, this is not a suitable product for you if you do not clear your balance in full every month. You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 6.4% variable on purchases and balance transfers.
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 16.9% variable.
About the card
The Marriott Rewards MasterCard is issued by Creation. Creation may not be a familiar name but they are behind many store cards and are owned by a joint venture between French bank BNP Paribas and French store chain Galerie Lafeyette. The current card was launched in 2011 and replaces an earlier one run by Halifax.
What is the sign-up bonus?
10,000 Marriott Rewards points, when you spend £200 within 6 months. This is worth 2,000 Avios or other airline miles if converted directly. It only gets you a free night in a rarely-spotted Category 1 or 2 hotel – a top end Marriott in Category 9 would be 45,000 points.
This compares poorly with the Hilton HHonors Visa card where the sign-up bonus gets you a free night ANYWHERE, even the most expensive Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria property.
Any other benefits?
Yes, you get Marriott Rewards Silver Status for as long as you hold the card, by virtue of receiving 10 night credits towards elite status each year, as well as 2,000 bonus Marriott Rewards points each year you keep the card.
However, Marriott Rewards status is not really worth it at this level. The only real benefit of Silver (as you can see from the link above) is that you might, and only might, avoid the room overlooking the service entrance or next to a noisy lift shaft. You also receive a 20% base points bonus.
Reaching Gold status requires 50 nights per year, far more than any competing chain. Even the 10 night credits received from this card only makes a modest dint in that target.
What is the annual fee?
There is no annual fee.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
The earnings rate on the card is 1 point per £1 for general spending (2 per £1 at Marriott properties) and double that outside the UK.
Remember that the Marriott card has a fee of almost 3% for foreign currency transactions. Despite the offer of double points, you may want to consider getting a separate card to use abroad which charges no foreign exchange fees, such as the Post Office Money Platinum card (free, no rewards) or the Lloyds Avios Rewards card (£24 fee, earns Avios).
What is a Marriott Rewards point worth?
Whilst this is always hypothetical, I tend to work on the basis on a top-category hotel costing £250 – what you would pay in New York, Paris or London including tax. On that basis, a Marriott point is worth about 0.55p based on a 45,000 point redemption for such a room.
On this basis, 1 point per £1 is equivalent to a 0.55% rebate on your spend. This is very poor. The return on overseas spend is twice as high, but you will be paying the 2.99% FX fee which can be avoided by using an FX-free card such as that offered by the Post Office.
The return is OK when spending at Marriott hotels and when earning double points abroad, but few people will put enough money through those to make it worthwhile holding a card just for that purpose.
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the Asda card, which pays 0.5%. The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is the House of Fraser MasterCard, which offers 1% of your spend in House of Fraser gift vouchers.
For an average spender, the Marriott card therefore offers very poor value. You would be better off using selling the House of Fraser gift vouchers on ebay and spending the money on a Marriott hotel directly!
The card is fundamentally useless to anyone who does not already have a stash of Marriott points. Spending £45,000 to get one free night in a Category 9 hotel is frankly crazy.
Other points to note
American Express Membership Rewards stopped being a Marriott Rewards partner some years ago. This means that, if you need to top-off a Marriott account to get to a suitable level for a redemption, the credit card may offer an easy way to get the points you need.
Whilst the card is free, using the sign-up bonus of 10,000 Marriott points for 2,000 Avios points or a quarter of a free night in a top-tier property simply doesn’t cut it in the current market.
On-going earning is also very poor. It is difficult to imagine a worse rate than 1 point per £1 given their weak spending power. The only positive points to consider are the free Silver status (not that Silver benefits get you much) and the 2,000 bonus Marriott Rewards points annual bonus (worth £10) which may benefit some.
The application form for the Marriott Rewards MasterCard can be found here.
(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.)