This is our review of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card issued in the UK.
It is part of our series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts are linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards‘ area in the menu bar. Our other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
Key facts: £75 annual fee
The representative APR is 42.6% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. The interest rate on purchases is 25.3% 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 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?
The sign-up bonus on the card is 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. This is worth 6,667 Avios or other airline miles if converted.
The points are also good for one free night in many mid-market and budget 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.
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.
What are the benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Amex?
Get 15 elite night credits:
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.
Much 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. If you were currently doing, say, 35 nights at Marriott hotels per year, you would be crazy not to get this card in order to hit the 50 nights required for Platinum Elite.
Officially, 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.
Unofficially, new cardmembers are receiving their 15 elite night credits within a few days of signing up. As an existing cardholder, I received my 15 nights for 2022 in the first week of January.
Get Gold Elite status for spending £15,000:
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.
Get a free night for spending £25,000:
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.)
You will be allowed to top up the 25,000 points free night voucher with up to 15,000 points from your Bonvoy account, allowing you to book a room costing up to 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
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.
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 – click for a longer article on this topic.
The airline conversion rate is also generous. 60,000 points is worth 25,000 miles with most of their airline partners, 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 Lloyds Bank Cashback credit card. It is free for life and offers 0.25% cashback on your first £4,000 of annual spend and 0.5% thereafter.
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.
The real value comes if:
- you are happy to pay the £75 fee purely to get the 15 elite night credits, and the 2 points per £1 is just the icing on top
- you know you can redeem your Bonvoy points at peak times to get far more than my 0.5p target (I recently got 1.2p per point over Christmas 2020 in the UAE)
- you are a high spender, so the £75 annual fee doesn’t make a big difference to your return
- you spend a lot at Marriott hotels to benefit from 6 points per £1
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 credit cards with 0% foreign exchange fees worldwide which earn airline or hotel points. (The Virgin Atlantic credit cards have 0% FX fees in the Eurozone.) One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than Amex charges) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
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:
Until 19th July 2022, the bonus on Amex Gold is increased to 30,000 Membership Rewards points. These convert to 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
The American Express Platinum charge card usually 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 with The Platinum Card. It has a £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
The standard sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express is good. You will receive 20,000 points, which also converts to 6,667 airline miles or roughly £100 of free hotel rooms.
Whilst this sounds OK, 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 Bonvoy Amex is the only way to earn miles via a credit card at a respectable rate.
For anyone keen to earn or retain Marriott Bonvoy elite status, you should get the card. You receive an easy 15 elite night credits each year.
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’ 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 responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.