If you are at all interested in earning Marriott elite status, then the Marriott Premier Visa Card is an absolute must credit card to apply for. The strength of this credit card lies in it’s elite status earning boost potential, and that is the only reason why I can see someone applying for this credit card and paying the $85 annual fee. That said, there remains a case for holding this card if you are a casual traveler, but I personally believe there are better and cheaper credit card options than the Marriott Premier Card.
Marriott Premier Visa Card Review
Let’s start with the card benefits. The Marriott Premier Card offers the following benefits as a cardholder:
- 50,000 sign up bonus if you spend $1,000 within your first three months through this link
- Earn 5 Marriott Rewards points per dollar at Marriott properties
- Earn 2 Marriott Rewards points per dollar for airline, car rental, and restaurant purchases
- Earn 1 point per dollar for all other purchases
- Earn 1 free night at a category 1-4 hotel during the first year of your membership; earn a free night at a category 1-5 hotel every year thereafter
- Earn 15 hotel night credits every year on your card anniversary (no limit)
- Earn one night credit toward hotel elite status for every $3,000 that you spend on the card
- No foreign transaction fees
That’s a pretty strong list of benefits. Aside from the sign up bonus, the benefit that immediately jumps to mind as having great elite status earning potential is the 1 night credit toward elite status for every $3,000 spent on the card. According to the terms and conditions of this offer, there is no limit to the number of elite night credits you can earn this way! That means that you could potentially earn Marriott Platinum status by simply spending $180,000 on this card (plus the 15 hotel night credits you get each year). Now, that’s a lot of money to spend in one year, and my average reader does not come anywhere close to that, but then again, this is just a tool in our elite status acquisition strategy right?
Let’s think about this from a more economical perspective. First, not all of us needs Marriott Platinum status. When I travel for both leisure and business, my primary wants are the following in order of priority:
- Executive Club Access (including free breakfast)
- Welcome Amenity
- Bonus Points
Having access to the club lounge is the most important elite benefit for me. Why? Well for one it’s convenient and saves me money. When I travel for business I sometimes have to pay out of pocket and getting free breakfast in the lounge is not only easy, but it saves me money. In fact, if you are on a daily per diem allowance rather than an expense account, this is a fantastic benefit as it beats paying $8-10 for a likely inferior breakfast at McDonalds or Starbucks. In addition, you don’t even have to leave the hotel.
That said, you don’t need to have Platinum status to get access to the club lounge. Marriott Gold status will do just fine in this department. Gold status requires just 50 nights per year (yes I know, 50 nights is like spending almost 2 months per year in a hotel), but hear me out.
If you consider that the Marriott Premier Card grants you 15 nights per year, then your earning hurdle is now just 35 nights. Let’s also assume that you spend $30,000 per year on this card, which nets you another 10 elite credit nights, and you are now looking at just 25 nights to qualify for Marriott Gold Status. That’s still quite a few nights, and some of us may be able to qualify for that with business travel, but there is another useful tool we can use.
Marriott Rewards is one of the only hotel loyalty programs that allows “rollover nights.” Rollover nights are hotel room nights earned toward elite status that are in excess of the elite tier that you qualified for in the past year. For instance Marriott Silver status requires 10 nights per year. In the scenario above you earned a total of 35 nights in the first year, which would qualify you for Silver status the following year. However, you earned 25 more nights than what was required to gain Silver status, and therefore Marriott will “rollover” those elite qualifying room nights to the following year. In this case you would now start with 25 room nights in year 2.
With 25 room nights to start and earning another 15 with the Marriott Premier card, you now have 40 nights toward the 50 room nights required for Marriott Gold status. This can be done with either $30,000 of spend on the card, staying 10 nights, or a combination of both. Regardless, this is an easy way to get Gold status and access to the elite benefits described above.
Free Category 1-5 Hotel Night
Another great feature of the card is a free hotel night that you receive each year on your card anniversary. The first year you get just a category 1-4 night, but the following year and every year thereafter it is valid at hotel categories 1-5, which open up quite a few of the nicer hotel properties. Category 1-4 hotels are usually the cheaper, or older properties like the Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Springhills Suits, etc. I’ve been able to redeem my free night certificate at some reasonably good values in the past like the Courtyard Hong Kong, and the Courtyard Portland, but by and large these certificates are difficult to use. However, expanding the redemption set to category 5 will open up a lot of properties you otherwise would not have access to, which is a welcome feature and dramatically increases the value of the free night awards. Judging by my past experience I would value a category 1-5 night at $80-120. This benefit alone offsets the card’s annual fee.
Marriott Rewards Point Earning
My Marriott Rewards Card review thus far has focused mainly on getting elite status, but many people are very focused on points and free nights instead. With this card, you earn 5 points per dollar at Marriott hotels, 2 Marriott Rewards points per dollar for airline, car rental, and restaurant purchases, and 1 point for all other purchases. This is a weakness of the card. While 5 points at Marriott hotels is a good earning rate, the other categories simply do not thrill me. In fact, other cards have higher earning levels in those categories. The Citi Forward Card earns 5 Thank You points per dollar at restaurants, which far exceeds the 2 points you earn on this card. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a hidden feature of this card that you must consider, which is the elite credit night you earn after spending $3,000. This elite credit night is difficult to value and depends largely on a) How difficult it is for you to get elite nights from work or business travel, b) How much you value elite status, and c) How much it would cost you to complete a mattress run in terms of absolute out-of-pocket cost and inconvenience.
My valuation of Marriott Gold Status is around $400-500 if I were to have to pay for it as an annual subscription. I came to that value by estimating how much I would pay for club level access, additional points and the rare upgrade totaled by the number of nights I typically stay per year and limited by the 35 (the incremental number of room nights above the 15 bestowed upon you for having the card). If you value each of those incremental nights at $15, which is $500 for Gold Status divided by 35, then you are earning another $15 on top of the points you earn on the card. Keep in mind that this value is relative to the number of nights you need to achieve status. Let’s say you only need 5 room nights remaining to get status. Then the value of those nights jumps to $100. Either way this feature increases your earnings on the card.
In this Marriott Premier Card review I examined the benefits of this credit card in terms of gaining hotel elite status and economic benefits. If you are at all interested in getting Marriott Gold status then this card is a no-brainer simply due to the 15 elite night credits you get per year and the elite night per $3,000 of spend. If you are not an elite status person, but value points and free nights, then the one free night per year is a great feature that offsets the $85/year annual fee. In either case I think this is a great card to hold, but is geared much more toward people interested in acquiring and maintaining elite status.