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Now that I’ve decided on an airlines card for my London trip, it was time to start looking at hotel cards. I’ve been sharing my findings with you guys for the past few weeks.
All of those were great prospects, but in the end I decided on…
- 75,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
- Free night upon account anniversary
- 6 points per $1 at Marriott properties
- 2 points per $1 on all other purchases
- $95 annual fee
The cheapest hotels I could find that were still in useful areas of London were 35,000 points. That seems to be the mid-range standard, since that’s the points amount Marriott cites when it promotes the card. So that’s the amount I’m going to treat as the standard award.
On the surface, the Marriott card isn’t better than IHG’s card. After all, in both cases, the welcome bonus is enough for two nights, plus they offer an anniversary night. That’s definitely not better than Hilton’s potential 6 free nights or Hyatt’s nine.
Still, the welcome bonus provides two nights, plus the anniversary night means you get three nights, which is a good start for a hotel card. But there’s a way to get a fourth night free.
See, Marriott offers the fifth night free when you book at least five nights. This means that, as long as your stay is at least five days long, you’re going to get a total of four nights for free and pay for one.
Some night math
It’s worth noting that the IHG Rewards Club Premier will also get you four nights free, five if you wait until you get your anniversary night.
But that still leaves Hilton’s six nights or Hyatt’s nine, so let’s compare.
First of all, to get one of those nights at Hilton and Hyatt, you need to spend $15,000. That’s $11,000 and $9,000 above what you need for the Hilton and Hyatt welcome bonuses, respectively. Use the Citi Double Cash card, and you’ve earned enough for a free night (and then some) at many Marriott properties.
- Marriott has more properties, so you’re more likely to find a hotel in an area you want
- The Bonvoy Boundless card requires a lower spend to get to the welcome bonus ($3,000 versus $6,000)
But what about the Hilton Surpass card? Surely, five free nights is better than four, right? Yep, it is.
So once again it comes down to a lower spend for the welcome bonus ($3,000 vs $4,000) and whether the properties are where you want to be (and, I suppose, any brand loyalties you have).
Marriott exclusive feature
There is one unique thing about booking with Marriott points, which the other hotels don’t offer (and which is pertinent if your stay would last longer than your hotel points): You can choose which nights to apply your points to.
Other hotels are probably going to apply your free nights to the cheapest rates. With Marriott, you can specifically apply the points to the priciest nights.
If that sounds confusing, perhaps a visual is in order. Here’s what happens when I go to book a London hotel for August. After choosing the hotel and clicking View Rates, I choose “Customized Cash + Points” and see the following:
As you can see above, I was able to choose the lowest-cost night (151 GBP) to pay with cash and apply points to the more expensive nights.
That’s pretty darn cool! (Also note that the Marriott Bonvoy member free night was applied to the most expensive room rate. Which is pretty nice.)
The only real downside to this card is that, frankly, its competitors beat its free nights. Also, the cost — I don’t love it. But $95 is about industry standard. Ya gotta pay to play, as they say.
For my purposes
Given that they offer more free nights, it might seem like I should choose the Hyatt or Hilton card for my purposes. But as discussed in previous posts, the hotels’ locations are an issue. Those properties simply aren’t convenient. And since I have limited energy, I need something close to the Tube and not too far from the attractions.
So I chose the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card — and it’s going to get me six free nights at a London hotel. Here’s how:
First, I’m cheating a bit by starting with 45,000 points already in my Marriott account. They’re what’s left (after booking my DC trip, woot!) of the transferred-over points from when I had the Starwood rewards card.
Second, I’ll earn 6,000 points spending enough to get my welcome bonus of 75,000 points. That will put me up to 126,000 points.
Third, I just need to spend $7,000 (14,000 points) on the card to push me up to 140,000, which is enough for four free nights. Add in the Bonvoy member bonus fifth night and, voila, five free nights.
Then fourth, I’ll wait to get my anniversary night, putting me up to a total six free nights.
If Mom and I want to stay longer, we can either move hotels or choose the lowest-cost night(s) to pay for in cash. Yep, all in all the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card is clearly the winner here for my purposes.
For your purposes
But most people aren’t me (thank goodness). And if we’re being honest, Marriott isn’t the best card for a lot of people. You can get more free nights with either Hyatt or Hilton.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card works best for me. But for general purposes, I’d recommend the cards in the following orders:
But of course location is very important, so if you already have a city in mind then check the properties’ locations to be sure they’re in good spots. Given that there are fewer Hyatt than Hilton properties, the Hilton Surpass card might end up being the best one for many folks.
Has anyone used the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card? Which card do you think is the best deal for your needs?
I Pick Up Pennies has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. I Pick Up Pennies and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.