Which enhanced Marriott bonus is best? 5 nights vs points & Platinum

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Update: The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless offer for 5 free night certificates is scheduled to end on 10/28/20.

Yesterday, American Express unveiled new enhanced welcome bonuses for their Marriott Bonvoy cards.  Meanwhile, Chase’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card continues to offer one of the biggest bonuses we’ve ever seen: 5 free 50K night certificates.  On the surface it seems like the Chase offer is the best of three, but the reality is complicated.  For many, I believe that the Amex offers are better.

This post isn’t meant to be a comparison of which card is best long term.  I previously covered that topic here: Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best?  Instead, in this post I’ll compare the three offers and explain why I think the Amex offers are best for many.

Wasn’t the Boundless 5 Night offer supposed to expire on Oct 15?

Readers had reported receiving the 5 Night offer via email.  Apparently the email said to apply by October 15th.  We took this to mean that the offer was likely to end on the 15th.

I’m writing this post on the evening of October 15th and haven’t yet seen any signs that the offer is really about to end.  My bet is that the offer will continue, at least for several more weeks.  The risk is that readers will see this in the morning and will find that the Chase offer is already dead.  I don’t think that’s likely, but I’m letting you know now just in case.

Three Enhanced Marriott Card Welcome Bonuses

Here are the three current offers:

Card Offer
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
75K points
75K points after $3K of eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$125 Annual Fee

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
75K points
75K points after $3K in the first 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$450 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 100K + 1 free night award after $5K spend in 3 months [Expired 5/18/22]

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
5 Free Nights up to 50K points each
5 Free Night Certificates each valid for a night up to 50K points after $5K in purchases in the first 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).

See Also: Are you eligible for a new Marriott card?

Recent better offer: This matches the best offer we've ever seen on this card.

Why 5 free nights isn’t as great as it sounds

At first glance, the bonus offering 5 50K free night certificates sounds like it is roughly equivalent to a 250K offer.  But, it’s not.  Not at all.  Consider these factors:

  • Fifth Night Free Awards don’t work with certificates.  Marriott’s “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” awards only work with points-awards.  Thanks to this feature, 200K points can get you 5 nights at a 50K per night property.  This makes the 5 50K free night offer more like a 200K offer (at best) rather than a 250K offer.
  • Certificates expire. Points don’t.  As long as you have activity in your Marriott account at least once every 24 months, your points will never expire.  These free night certificates, though, expire after a year.  Marriott will usually let you extend certificates for another year upon request, but lately they haven’t been willing to extend a second time.  So, at best, these certificates may be valid for two years.
  • Points are much more flexible.  50,000 points can be used to book one 50K night, two 25K nights, four 12.5K nights, etc.  A 50K cert, meanwhile, can only be used to book a single night costing 50K points or less.  Plus, the certificate has no residual value if you use it for a night that costs less than 50K points.
  • Getting the Chase Bonvoy Boundless card makes you ineligible for the other two offers.  Marriott has crazy rules about who can qualify for welcome bonuses with their cards (see: Are you eligible for a new Marriott card?).  If you want to get one of the Amex Marriott cards and you’ve either acquired a Chase Marriott card in the past 90 days or you’ve received a bonus on a Chase Marriott card in the past 24 months, then you won’t be eligible for a welcome bonus with the Amex card.  Meanwhile, if you get either of the Amex Bonvoy cards, you can still qualify for the welcome bonus for the other Bonvoy card.

If you’re very likely to book 5 nights within the next year at a property costing 50K per night, then I think it’s fair for you to compare the offer to a 200K offer.  If you would use the certs at a 35K per night hotel, then you should compare the offer to a 140K offer.  Don’t get me wrong… even 140K is a great offer.  But is it as good as the alternatives?

Why the Amex welcome bonuses are better (for many)

There are several reasons you may prefer the Amex bonuses over the Chase bonus:

  • Platinum Elite Status: Both Amex welcome bonuses include 12 months of Marriott Platinum status.  That’s pretty good because Platinum status includes perks such as 4pm late checkout, 50% point bonus on paid stays, lounge access or free restaurant breakfast at most properties, and free room upgrades including to suites.
  • Points have advantages over certs:  100K or 125K points won’t get you as many free 50K nights as the Chase offer could get you, but those points are way more flexible.  Points can be used for 5th Night Free awards.  Points don’t expire as long as you have activity in your account at least once every 24 months.  And points are much more flexible: you can use points to book a 60K per night property, but you can’t do the same with the 50K free night certificates.
  • You can get both bonuses: If you get the Chase card, you won’t be able to qualify for either Amex offer for the next 24 months.  But if you get one of the Amex cards, you can qualify for the other Amex card immediately (but you should wait a week between applications).  If you qualify and meet the spend requirements, this would result in a massive haul of 225K points.  I’d take that any day over 5 free night certificates.

Long Term Strategy

Elite Status Level Requirements Per Year Key Benefits
Silver Elite 10 Nights Late checkout, 10% point bonus
Gold Elite 25 Nights 2PM late checkout; 25% point bonus; welcome gift (points only); room upgrade; enhanced internet
Platinum Elite 50 Nights 4PM late checkout; 50% point bonus; welcome gift w/ breakfast option; room upgrade includes suites; lounge access; Choice benefit (such as 5 suite night awards) when you achieve 50 nights.
Titanium Elite 75 Nights All of the above, plus: 75% point bonus; United Silver Premier status via RewardsPlus; Ritz-Carlton suite upgrades; Additional Choice Benefit (such as 40K free night certificate) when you achieve 75 nights.
Ambassador Elite 100 Nights + $20K Spend All of the above, plus: Ambassador Service (dedicated Marriott agent); Your24 (Choose the 24 hours of your stay. For example, choose to check in at 9am after an overnight flight).
 

Those interested in Marriott elite status beyond the next year ought to have a plan in place for acquiring both a consumer and business Marriott card.  The reason is that each gives you 15 elite nights per year towards status.  You can’t get more nights by having multiple consumer cards or multiple business cards, but if you have at least one of each, you’ll get a total of 30 elite nights each year without any effort.  Platinum Elite status requires 50 nights and offers a very good combination of perks.  If you get 30 elite nights each year automatically, then you only need 20 nights of actual stays each year to maintain Platinum status.  Considering that free nights booked with points or certificates count towards that total, that’s not a very high bar to cross.

If you’re starting from scratch with Marriott cards, then it’s possible now to sign up for both Amex cards.  Then, if you later decide you don’t want to pay $450 per year for the Bonvoy Brilliant card, you can always call and downgrade to the $95 Amex Bonvoy card.

If you go with the Chase card, though, you’ll have to wait 24 months after receiving the welcome bonus before you can qualify for the Amex Bonvoy Business card.

Conclusion

If you don’t care about elite status and you are confident that you can get good use out of the 5 free nights that Chase offers, then go for it.  That’s a fantastic offer.  If you are interested in elite status, though, the Amex cards offer both a short term fix in the form of 12 months of Platinum status, and a long term fix because they make it easier to secure 30 elite nights per year.

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Angelo

I currently have the chase Bonvoy card and it has been over 24 months since I have gotten a bonus, but I did receive an upgrade offer of 50k to switch from the premier + card to the boundless card about 20 months ago. Does that make me ineligible for the 5 night offer card? Additionally, if I were allowed to get the 5 night cert bonus how long after closing the card would I have to wait before applying and being able to get approved for this card?

[…] Those who are unsure if they’ll actually use the 5 free nights towards good value may be better off getting 100K or more points from Amex, plus elite status for a year.  Even better, if you have the slots for it, would be to sign up for both Amex cards.  See this post for complete details: Which enhanced Marriott bonus is best? 5 nights vs points & Platinum. […]

Ben

I received the Bonvoy business amex on 10/7, slightly before the new bonus…
Can I ask Amex to match to the new bonus?

Rob

Is there any way to product change to the Chase Marriott card that gives you 1 elite night for $3k spend? Kicking myself for accepting their upgrade offer now that I could use that elite night boost.

JoeH

I have debated this back and forth. We would use the 50k night certificates at full value. My wife would hit platinum with a business card and the stackable EQN’S. But not if she goes for the Boundless since she has the Brilliant. So the value of the 5 certificates is lower since we won’t get my benefits. (tried this summer to extend my benefits but received an unbreakable no) Just so tricky!

Gordon

I haven’t seen the following fact pattern described and it seems like the best strategy to me. Apply for the AmEx Bonvoy business card, then apply for the Chase Bonvoy Boundless card. Wouldn’t that net 100k points, platinum status and the 5 50k certificates? Marriott credit card rules are confusing so I don’t even know if that’s possible but it seems like the best move to me because the AmEx business card doesn’t count towards the 5/24 rule so those at 4/24 or below can take advantage. Is this a feasible strategy?

AlexL

Once you are approved for Amex Bonvoy Business in the past 90 days, you are not eligible for a welcome bonus on the Chase Bonvoy Boundless card.

Gordon

Thanks alex

Adam

But what if you aren’t eligible for the Bonvoy Business? Then just comparing 125k + Platinum from the Brilliant to the 5FNC on the Boundless makes it a bit harder. Obviously someone should pick 225k points over 5FNC worth at most 250k, but when you compare 125k to 250k…

Adam

True. I just picked up the Business (No bonus just got it for the 15 nights to push me over to platinum for the year) so I’m not eligible for the Chase bonus for another 60 days or so. P2 had SPG business so not eligible for that but is eligible for both the brilliant and boundless currently. I don’t super value Platinum in her account because i have it. I would value 5 FNC in her account with platinum status, but its not possible to have 5 FNC and platinum on her account. Ugh the dilemma. I’m leaning toward getting thr boundless for me when I’m eligible and brilliant for the points for her since i can combine them in my account. Or maybe i wait to see if Chase brings back the 100k boundless as i would rather have 100k for $95 rather than $450

Willy T

Looks like if you’ve had any Starwood cards you’re not eligible for AMEX card bonus is that correct? Seems very restrictive. Are any Marriott cards giving the yr Plat status available to past Starwood card holders? Keep up the great work, Thanks!

Paul

Another Marriott promotion with big headlines and little value. If everyone is platinum than no one has platinum benefits because demand will make them unavailable. Marriott platinum is now Marriott gold for the the free breakfast benefit and very little else.

Dan

SUBs and 5/24 aside, if I knew then what I do now, I would have gotten one or both AMEX Bonvoy cards instead of the Boundless last year.

Boundless is a perfectly fine card (use the free night for $100+ and you come out ahead), and you could not stack the business and personal elite nights when the Bonvoy program relaunched, but now that you can stack them, Amex can give you:

-150,000-225,000 points in SUB (depending on when you get the cards, and granted you can only get the bonus once each)
-$300 credit towards room rates (or any other Marriott charges)
-2 free nights starting after your first year (different point values, but not hard to come out ahead if you max out the $300 credit)
-Stay 20 nights per year and you get Platinum

Last edited 1 year ago by Dan
paul

the offers are getting more creative these days lol