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What is the Better Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card?

Credit Cards May 09, 2020

What is the Better Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card?


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Generally speaking, the easiest way for most Canadians to earn the most points in loyalty programs is through credit cards. Marriott Bonvoy Points are no different. Although you can earn plenty of points by staying at Marriott properties, you can only be on vacation for so long (sadly!) before you have to return to the real world. However, you can spend money and earn tons of points from your credit card year-round (for your next vacation)!

The most obvious choice, if you want to earn Marriott Bonvoy Points, is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. It features a 50,000 point sign-up bonus (which we value at $450), and allows you to earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy Points for every dollar you spend anywhere, and 5 points for every dollar spent at a Marriott property. On top of this, you instantly get Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status. It is the bottom level of Marriott's status tiers, but it still comes with great perks. If you want to elevate your Marriott status, 15 Elite Night Credits are granted to your Marriott account every year which means you only need 10 hotel stays to become a Gold Elite member (or you will automatically reach Gold Elite status after charging $30,000 purchases on your card each year). Finally, every year you renew the card you get a free annual night at a Marriott property (equivalent to 35,000 points or below, which we value at $315).


Sign-up Bonus 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points upon spending $1,500 in your first 3 months of card membership
This sign-up bonus is worth a $450 value
Rewards - Earn 5 points for every $1 in Card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties
- Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on everything else
Travel Insurance See all travel insurance
Other Perks - Annual Free Night Award every anniversary (35,000 points maximum)
- Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
- 15 Elite Night Credits
- Automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status when $30,000 in purchases are charged to the card in a year

But the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is not the only way to earn Marriott Bonvoy Points! Since American Express Membership Rewards transfer at a 1:1.2 rate to Marriott Bonvoy, many American Express cards can earn Marriott Bonvoy Points. The highest-earning rate of these cards is the American Express Cobalt Card, which technically earns 6 Marriott Bonvoy Points for every $1 spent on food & drink! However - this means you miss out on all the Marriott-focused perks that the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card has.


American Express Cobalt Card
Annual Fee: $120 ($10/month)
Sign-up Bonus 2,500 Amex Membership Rewards upon each month you spend $500 in your first 12 months of card membership
This sign-up bonus is worth a $450 value
Rewards - Earn 5 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining, grocery stores, and food delivery in Canada
- Earn 2 points for every $1 in card purchases on eligible travel, transit and gas
- Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else
Travel Insurance See all travel insurance
Other Perks - The Hotel Collection benefits

Which is the better card? We focus on three main categories to determine a winner:

Travel Insurance - American Express Cobalt

Rewards - American Express Marriott Bonvoy

Perks - American Express Marriott Bonvoy

Best Overall - American Express Marriott Bonvoy


Travel Insurance

Winner: American Express Cobalt

Both cards feature very similar travel insurance coverage. They both feature flight delay, car rental coverage and lost and stolen baggage. However, they both lack any form of trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance, which are some of the most important forms. The American Express Cobalt does have one important form of travel insurance that gives it an edge: Emergency Medical Insurance (for the first 15 days of a trip). Although I recommend neither card if you're worried about travel insurance, the American Express Cobalt is a better card for that aspect.


Looking for Free Flights Instead?

Check out the Best Aeroplan Cards in Canada


Rewards

Winner: American Express Marriott Bonvoy

But which card earns more Marriott Bonvoy Points? It is a close battle in the first year based on our average spending amounts. From the second-year on this is a different story (and may come as a shock due to the high earning rate on the Cobalt card) when you include the annual free hotel night after the first year that the American Express Marriott Bonvoy card provides, it is a higher earning card. Of course, it should also be considered that the points the American Express Cobalt card earns are more flexible. However, if you are dedicated to the Marriott Bonvoy program, the choice is obvious: the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card will give you more value.

Another exception to note: if you spend a lot of money on food & drink on your card (higher than our average spending amounts) then the American Express Cobalt may earn you more points. However, you give up the perks of the Marriott Bonvoy card mentioned below in exchange.


Annual Marriott Bonvoy Points Earned
Card Annual Fee 1st Year Net Annual Points Earned 2nd+ Year Net Annual Points Earned
American Express Marriott Bonvoy $120 50000 + 33600 = 83600 35000 + 33600 = 68600
American Express Cobalt $120 36000 + 50400 = 86400 50400

Perks

Winner: American Express Marriott Bonvoy
If this wasn't already clear from my summary of the cards: the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card is filled with perks for the average Marriott customer. This includes the annual free night credit (which I actually included under the rewards section) but additionally, it includes automatic Silver Elite status and 15 Elite Night Credits. The Silver Elite Status is great on its own, but the ability to become a Gold Elite member after just 10 stays in a year is a huge opportunity.

Even as a Silver Elite member, I constantly received room upgrades, often even to suite-style rooms in less busy hotels. I never had a reasonable late checkout request denied (often 1 pm or 2 pm). Stepping up to Gold Elite guarantees both these privileges (assuming availability makes them possible), and also comes with a larger points bonus and a welcome gift of... more points! If you stay at Marriott brands even just a few times a year, having hotel status there will likely pay off.  


Marriott Bonvoy Status Table?


The American Express Cobalt Card, on the other hand, does not come with any direct perks. The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card wins this category hands down.


Best Overall

Winner: American Express Marriott Bonvoy

This should come as no shock as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card provides better rewards, better perks, and only falls short to the American Express Cobalt on one form of travel insurance. If you stay exclusively at Marriott properties, I would argue this card is the best $120 investment you can make, and it's annual free night award alone more than pays for itself.

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