Review: Marriott Rewards Premier Card

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Airline cards are tremendously popular, but are they really the best way to earn travel rewards? Many cardholders who earn frequent flier miles are upset because carriers have increasingly “devalued” their miles – meaning it takes more of them to get where you want to go.

Depending on your circumstances – and your frustration – it may be more profitable to earn rewards for the hotel rather than the flight. Chase’s Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card allows customers to earn points for free hotel nights and elite member privileges.

Advantages

  • Earn a great sign-up bonus. New applicants receive 50,000 bonus points after the first use of the card – more than enough for three nights’ stay at a mid-priced hotel with their “PointSaver” awards. You’ll also receive a free night’s stay at one of their low- to mid-priced properties (called category 1-4 hotels) after your account is opened.
  • Bonus points from spending. You’ll earn 5 points for every dollar spent at more than 3,400 Marriott properties, 2 points per dollar spent on restaurant, airline, and rental car purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent anywhere else.
  • Get elite status. You automatically earn 15 nights’ credit toward elite status in the Marriott Rewards program, and another night for each $3,000 spent. So you’re immediately granted Silver status, which offers discounts and late checkout.
  • No foreign transaction fees. Thankfully, this is one of a growing number of credit cards that don’t charge extra when purchases are processed outside of the United States.
  • First-year annual fee waived. After your first year, the annual fee will be $85.

Disadvantages

  • Limited award availability. Marriott reveals on its Web page, “Hotels may limit the number of standard rooms available for redemption on a limited number of days.” That means you might be denied an award stay during peak times. Competing chains such as Starwood, Hyatt, and Hilton offer award nights for any available room.
  • High redemption rates. Standard award nights start at 7,500 points for a “category 1″ hotel – typically inexpensive properties in suburban or rural areas. But a whopping 40,000 points per night is required for the most luxurious properties. In contrast, a Starwood hotel award night can cost as little as 3,000 points, and a standard room at the most expensive Hyatt is never more than 22,000 points.
  • High interest rate. The standard APR is 15.24 percent. Like most rewards cards, this is a higher rate than customers can find in a non-rewards card. Of course, if you pay off your balance each month, this isn’t an issue. If you carry a balance, forget this card and find one with a lower APR. Check out our 5 Credit Cards With Low Interest Rates.
  • Annual fee. The $85 fee (waived the first year) is a little on the high side. They do offer a Marriott Rewards Credit Card for a $45 annual fee, but it has fewer benefits.

Bottom line

Get it if: You want to earn free hotel stays at thousands of Marriott properties around the world.

Forget it if: You carry a balance or you are turned off by the idea of limited award availability during peak travel periods.

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