The Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront resort in Virginia.
Marriott Hotels
The Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront resort in Virginia.
CNN —  

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Our quick take: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card offers a generous sign-up bonus and a high earning rate on Marriott stays, along with a free night at each anniversary starting with the second year you have the card, which can easily make the card pay for itself.

Pros:

  • Earn 6 points on every dollar you spend at Marriott properties.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Complimentary Marriott Silver elite status for being a card holder.
  • Earn Gold elite status when you spend $35,000 in purchases on the card in a card holder year.
  • Receive an annual Free Night Award that can be used at any Marriott property worth up to 35,000 points starting with the second year you have the card.

Cons:

  • Marriott Bonvoy points aren’t as valuable as some other hotel points.
  • Marriott Silver is the lower tier of elite status.
  • $95 annual fee.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on the card within three months of opening the account.

Best for: Marriott loyalists who are willing to pay a $95 annual fee to earn a large sign-up bonus and get a free hotel night each year starting with the second year in exchange for the cost.

Digging into the Marriott Boundless credit card

When it comes to Marriott credit cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is generally considered the primary choice for people looking for a mix of standard Marriott perks and decent earning rates. A $95 annual fee is required, but the card’s bonus offer is generous, and Marriott fans will find the card’s annual Free Night Award starting in the second year to be well worth the cost.

You’ll also earn more points on paid Marriott stays with this card. General Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program members earn 10 points for every dollar spent at a Marriott just for being a member, but with the Marriott Boundless card, you’ll then earn an additional 6 points per dollar for paying with the card, and another 1 point per dollar for having the Marriott Silver elite status that comes with the card.

You’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on all other purchases you make with your card, which makes this hotel credit card more rewarding than some other hotel card options, including the no-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card.

Advantages of the Marriott Boundless credit card

The first advantage of the Marriott Boundless card actually comes at the start of the second year you have the card, and every year thereafter. It’s a Free Night Award that can be used at any Marriott property that costs up to 35,000 points based on Marriott’s award chart.

This means you could use your free night at a Category 5 property, such as the JW Marriott Hotel Grand Rapids in Michigan, on standard travel dates, but only at up to a Category 4 property like the Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran in Indonesia if you want to travel during peak travel dates.

Use your Free Night Award from the Marriott Boundless card at properties like the JW Marriott Grand Rapids in Michigan.
Marriott Hotels
Use your Free Night Award from the Marriott Boundless card at properties like the JW Marriott Grand Rapids in Michigan.

The Marriott Boundless card also gives you a pathway to Gold elite status just from spending on your credit card, which can make sense if you want some elite perks for a specific stay but you don’t have time to earn them through traditional means.

With the Marriott Silver elite status that comes with the card, you’ll get the previously mentioned bonus point on Marriot stays as well as late checkout when available and free Wi-Fi at Marriott propoerties. But with Marriott Gold status, you’ll see better benefits, such as 25% more points on Marriott stays, enhanced room upgrades and late checkout up to 2 p.m.

To earn Gold status, you’ll need to spend $35,000 on your card within an account year. That’s a high threshold to meet, and if you’re spending that much on your credit card, there may be better credit card options. But it’s not insurmountable if Gold status is important to you.

Also, the travel and consumer protections you get with this card include purchase protection against damage or theft, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement.

Related: Having one of these credit cards with trip insurance could save you thousands on your next vacation.

Disadvantages of the Marriott Boundless credit card

If you’re looking for reasons not to love the Marriott Boundless card, you don’t have to look too hard. The most noticeable disappointment is the fact that this card only gives the card holder Silver elite status, which is the same tier of status you get automatically when you sign up for the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card.

Also, keep in mind that Marriott Bonvoy points just aren’t as valuable as some other hotel programs, and definitely not when you compare to flexible point programs. For example, according to frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Marriott Bonvoy points are worth 0.8 cents apiece. Compare that to World of Hyatt points, which are worth 1.7 cents each according to The Points Guy, or the 2 cents per point valuation for the site’s Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

By and large, this means that points earned with other rewards and travel credit cards may be worth more than the Marriott points you’ll earn with the Marriott Boundless card — even if you don’t earn them quite as fast.

Finally, it’s important to note that you only get the annual Free Night Award starting with the second year you have this card — you don’t get it for the first year when you sign up. That’s somewhat offset by the fact that you can earn the card’s large sign-up bonus when you first get it, but it’s a perk that won’t help offset your annual fee in year one.

Stacking up the Marriott Boundless card against our benchmark

CNN Underscored uses the Citi® Double Cash Card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.

Here’s how the Marriott Boundless card scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that’s better than our benchmark, red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

KEY DETAILS
Citi Double Cash Card Marriott Boundless Card
Card type Mastercard Visa
Sign-up bonus None 100,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
REWARDS
Earning rate 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) 6 points per dollar on Marriott purchases and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases
Redemption value 1 cent (cash back) 0.8 cents per mile*
Ease of basic redemptions Easy Easy
Advanced redemption options Can convert cash back to ThankYou points that transfer to 16 airline partners if you also have the Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige® Can redeem for travel packages or gift cards or share your points with other members
Quality of advanced redemptions Good Fair
FEES
Annual fee $0 $95
Foreign transaction fee 3% None
BENEFITS AND PROTECTIONS
Travel perks None Silver elite status with Marriott Bonvoy
Purchase protections None Purchase Protection
Travel protections None Baggage Delay Insurance, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Trip Delay Reimbursement
Other perks None Free Night Award good at any Marriott property up to 35,000 points every year starting with the second year you have the card, and Marriott Gold elite status when you spend $35,000 on the card in an account year
INTEREST RATES ON PURCHASES AND BALANCE TRANSFERS
Introductory APR on purchases None None
Length of introductory APR on purchases N/A N/A
Introductory APR on balance transfers 0% None
Length of Introductory APR on balance transfers 18 months N/A
Introductory balance transfer fee 3% or $5, whichever is greater N/A
APR after intro period ends/standard APR 13.99%-23.99% variable 15.99%-22.99% variable
* Based on point valuations calculated by frequent flyer website The Points Guy.

The chart above demonstrates how the Marriott Boundless card definitely comes out ahead in some categories, but it also shows just how difficult it can be to compare travel credit cards to cash back credit cards. Not only do different types of rewards have their own unique qualities, but some perks like elite status can be worth more to some people than others.

Just keep in mind that the Marriott Boundless card is geared toward people who want to earn hotel rewards and stay with Marriott brands. If you prefer to earn more flexible rewards or basic cash back for all your spending, then you’ll want to consider a different rewards credit card.

Related: Use these travel credit cards to plan a post-pandemic trip in 2021.

Other credit cards similar to the Marriott Boundless card

If you want a Marriott credit card without an annual fee, you should check out the Marriott Bold card. Just keep in mind that this card has a less lucrative rewards scheme, and the sign-up bonus is a lot less generous to boot at 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.

On the other hand, if you want lots of benefits when you travel, you can also look at the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. This card currently offers new card members 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within three months of opening the account as well as up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants during the first six months.

You’ll pay a $450 annual fee for this card (see rates and fees), but you’ll get perks like up to $300 in annual statement credits for eligible purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels. up to $100 in credits for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and more. This luxury travel credit card also gives you automatic Gold elite status with Marriott.

Related: Earn 75,000 bonus points and up to $200 in credits with these Marriott credit cards.

Also, keep in mind that Chase credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve can help you earn rewards for Marriott stays. Since Marriott is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, you can transfer Chase points at any time to your Marriott account at a 1-to-1 ratio.

Should you get the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card?

If you're a frequent visitor to Marriott properties like the Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel in the United Kingdom, the Marriott Boundless card could be right for you.
Marriott Hotels
If you're a frequent visitor to Marriott properties like the Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel in the United Kingdom, the Marriott Boundless card could be right for you.

It never hurts to compare all the best rewards credit cards before you apply, and to think about what credit card benefits and features would be most useful to you. If you don’t travel much, or if Marriott isn’t your usual hotel chain, this card probably isn’t right for you. You’ll be better off looking at other credit cards with different perks, or perhaps even a credit card that earns cash back.

But overall, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is a decent choice if you want to earn rewards with the Marriott Bonvoy program and get a few perks along the way. This is especially true if you’re willing to pay an annual fee for some hotel perks but you prefer to pay less than $100 per year, and you travel enough to take advantage of the card’s free annual award night each year.

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.

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