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Review: the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card

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This is my review of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card issued in the UK.

It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for.  These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Top Credit Cards Offers‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 24th September 2020 and all of the information was correct as of that date.  Ignore the November 2019 publication date.)

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

Key link: Marriott Bonvoy American Express application form

Key facts: £75 annual fee

The representative APR is 38.8% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. The interest rate on purchases is 22.2% variable. 

About the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is issued directly by American Express.  The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty scheme which covers 30 hotel brands including Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Westin, W, Aloft, Luxury Collection etc.

It is a credit card, like the British Airways American Express, and not a charge card like The Platinum Card.

What is the Marriott Amex sign-up bonus?

20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, when you spend £3,000 within three months. This is worth 6,666 Avios or other airline miles if converted.  The points are also good for a free night, or often more than one night, in many lower-end Marriott hotels.

A higher bonus of 23,000 points is available if you are referred for the card. Email me at rob at headforpoints.com if you would like a referral link.

Bonvoy points convert 3:1 into 40+ different airline schemes.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card review

What are the rules for qualifying for the sign-up bonus?

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months.  Cards issued by MBNA or Lloyds Bank do not count.

You WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job.  Amex is only interested in any personal cards you have had.

You will definitely receive the bonus if you are only a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card. As far as Amex is concerned, that card belongs to the primarily cardholder and does not make you an ‘existing cardholder’.

If you do not qualify for the bonus, you can still apply.  You still receive the other card benefits.

Any other benefits with the Marriott Bonvoy Amex?

All cardholders get 15 elite nights credits, annually, in Marriott Bonvoy.  This will automatically get you free Silver Elite status.  This has few real benefits except for a 10% bonus on base points earned from Marriott hotel stays.

More interestingly, it means that you are 15 nights closer to earning Gold Elite, Platinum Elite or Titanium Elite status.  This is where the card has real value.

New cardmembers will receive their 15 elite night credits within 60 days of applying.  In subsequent years, the 15 elite nights will be credited by 1st March.

Spend £15,000 per year on the card and you will receive Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy. The benefits of this are modest, though, and you can get Gold Elite for free simply by taking out an American Express Platinum card.  You would also receive Gold Elite status by staying just 10 nights, once you add in the 15 elite night credits that come with the card.

Spend £25,000 per year and you receive a voucher for a free hotel night. However, this can only be used at hotels costing up to 25,000 points which basically knocks out any expensive and / or aspirational hotels. Given the huge amount of spending required to trigger the free night, this restriction makes little sense.

(If the free night was valid anywhere, I might be prepared to go for it. A free night a year at the Gritti Palace in Venice is not a bad way to spend your time and is not a bad return on £25,000 of spend. You won’t find anything too luxurious up to 25,000 points however.)

What is the Marriott Bonvoy Amex annual fee?

There is a £75 annual fee. You receive a pro-rata refund if you cancel.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

The earnings rate on the card is 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1.

Review Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card

You will receive triple points (6 per £1) when using the card at any Marriott hotel.

What is a Marriott Bonvoy point worth?

Based on my recent hotel redemptions, I am happy to say that you should be able to get 0.5p per point without much trouble and, on an expensive night, far more.

The airline conversion rate is also generous. 60,000 points is worth 25,000 miles in most of their partner schemes, including Avios and Virgin Flying Club. This puts a floor under their value – if you assume airline miles are worth 1p then this gives you a floor value of 0.42p per Bonvoy point given the conversion ratio above.

If you live in London, Marriott Bonvoy has a private suite at the O2 Arena and makes seats with full hospitality available for points redemption for many concerts.  The Marriott Moments site shows you some of the other great experiences you can bid for with points.

How does the Marriott Bonvoy Amex compare to a cashback credit card?

My default comparison card is the John Lewis / Waitrose Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.25% cashback in vouchers. The representative APR is 18.9% variable.

For an average spender, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card offers only average value.  If you manage to redeem for free hotel nights at 0.5p+ per point of value, you are getting 1.0% of your spending in rewards BUT you are paying a £75 annual fee.

Is the Marriott Bonvoy Amex a good card to use when travelling?

Not really.  As American Express adds a 3% foreign exchange fee, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad. Unfortunately there are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee.  One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

If someone else is refunding your expenses – which means you don’t care about the 3% FX fee – it is certainly a good card to use at Marriott Bonvoy hotels.  You will earn 6 points per £1 spent.

It is a GREAT card to use at Marriott hotels in the UK. You will earn 6 points per £1 which is effectively a 3% return on your spending.

Other points to note

It is worth remembering that Marriott Bonvoy offers transfers to 40+ different airlines. For many of these airlines, the Marriott Bonvoy credit card is the only way for a UK resident to earn in that programme via card spend.

American Express no longer has a minimum income requirement for its cards.

How else can you earn Marriott Bonvoy points from a credit card?

There are two interesting options, one of which is initially free:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 10,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card offers 10,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. You also receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. It has a £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

Conclusion

The standard sign-up bonus is, on the face of it, middling – you get 20,000 points, which also converts to 6,666 airline miles or roughly £100 of free hotel rooms.

Whilst this sounds good, the £75 annual fee reduces the value. You can, of course, cancel the card after earning the bonus for a pro-rata refund of the annual fee.  Cancelling after two months, for example, would mean a £62.50 fee refund and a net cost for your bonus miles of only £12.50.

The on-going earning rate is average.  If you are committed to transferring to a specific airline then you may be better off with a dedicated airline card.  However, if you transfer to airlines in batches of 60,000 then you are getting 0.825 miles per £1, and the Marriott Bonvoy American Express also gives you flexibility to transfer to many different airlines or to redeem for hotel rooms.

If you are seeking airline miles with an airline which does not otherwise have a UK card partner, this card could be a good choice. For many airlines, eg Air Canada Aeroplan, the Marriott Bonovy Amex is the only way to earn miles via a credit card at a respectable rate.

The application form for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card can be found here.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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.