As part of its merger with SPG, Marriott made the decision to continue offering cobranded credit cards issued by both Chase (which had issued the legacy Marriott cards) and American Express (which issued the legacy SPG cards). The chips were divvied up and Chase walked away responsible for issuing the entry-level consumer (i.e., not business) Marriott Bonvoy card.
That card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, is currently offering a limited-time sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (available until May 2). Unfortunately, the Bonvoy credit card portfolio features eligibility restrictions that will prevent many would-be card holders from successfully applying. Let’s take a look at whether the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless deserves a spot in your wallet.
Who Is This Card For?
While the 100,000-point welcome bonus on the Bonvoy Boundless is exciting, it also carries a decent opportunity cost. This card is restricted by Chase’s 5/24 rule, which dictates that you won’t be approved for the card if you’ve opened five or more credit cards (across all issuers) in the last 24 months. This means you aren’t just picking the Bonvoy Boundless card; you’re potentially picking it instead of another Chase card. So this isn’t a card you should open haphazardly — you should have a plan for how you’re going to use the 100,000 points.
If you’re a Bonvoy Platinum or Titanium elite, this bonus will get you much more value, as your stays will come with elite benefits such as suite upgrades and free breakfast. This card can also be a great choice if you plan on using the points for a valuable airline transfer to Korean Air, Alaska or JAL.
Current Bonus & Eligibility
Let’s start with the most exciting part of any new credit card, the sign-up bonus. Now through May 2, new applicants can earn 100,000 Marriott points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. TPG values Marriott points at 0.9 cents each, meaning this bonus is worth a respectable $900.
100,000 Marriott points open up the door to a bunch of interesting redemptions, including three nights at a Category 5 hotel. I think Category 5 is where you’ll find the most value in the new Bonvoy program, and it’s worth studying your options for Category 5 hotels to help you redeem your annual free-night certificate (but more on that later).
Unfortunately, there’s a one-two punch of restrictions that will stop many people from applying for this card. The first is Chase’s 5/24 rule, and the second is that Chase and Amex have cooperated to limit welcome bonus eligibility across all the Bonvoy credit cards, so even if you are under 5/24 you might not be allowed to use one of your slots for the Bonvoy Boundless. This chart shows you what cards you can and cannot apply for based on your individual situation:
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card earns 6x points on eligible Marriott purchases, the same as all the other Bonvoy credit cards (including the premium Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card). It earns 2x points on all other purchases, making it a decent option for everyday spending.
Based on TPG’s valuations, this works out to a 5.4% return on Marriott purchases and 1.8% everywhere else. On paper it would seem like you can do better using a Chase Sapphire Reserve for your hotel stays (and earning 3x Ultimate Rewards points or a 6% return), but you have to consider the value you can actually get from your Marriott points. As I mentioned before, Platinum and Titanium elites get a much better return on their award redemptions thanks to a generous set of elite benefits, which is why I continue to pay for all my Marriott stays with a Bonvoy credit card.
The Bonvoy Boundless isn’t the only card offering a limited-time 100,000-point welcome bonus, and we’ve discussed a few of the best ways to redeem this specific bonus before. When it comes to maximizing your Marriott redemptions in general, there are a few strategies you’ll want to keep in mind.
First of all, you’ll want to take advantage of the fifth night free on award stays whenever possible. This is an easy way to get a 20% discount and make your points stretch even farther. If you’re staying at Category 1 hotels and leveraging this benefit, you could even turn your Bonvoy Boundless sign-up bonus into 16 hotel nights that way. Or, you could find a Category 4 hotel like the W Bangkok and get exactly five nights (25,000 points a night plus the fifth night free).
While I prefer to use my Marriott points for actual hotel stays, Marriott also has the largest list of airline transfer partners, with over 40 options to choose from. Points transfer at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. This means that transferring 60,000 Marriott points to United Airlines, for example, would net you 25,000 miles.
If you’re going to transfer Marriott points to an airline, you should use this opportunity to top up on some otherwise hard-to-earn mileage currencies. Alaska Airlines, Korean Air and JAL are three fantastic examples of highly flexible and valuable miles that are hard to earn any other way. In fact, one of my favorite redemptions to date was transferring 195,000 Marriott points to 80,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles to book a first class seat on the carrier’s 747-8.
The Bonvoy Boundless comes with a $95 annual fee, but it should be easy to get several hundred dollars of value out of the various perks this card offers.
Anniversary Free Night Award — Each year on account renewal, you’ll receive a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points. This basically means any Category 1-5 hotel, though once peak and off peak pricing are implemented later this year, Category 5 hotels at peak pricing won’t be eligible. You can find a number of luxury St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton hotels to use this certificate at, and you’ll also find incredible flexibility in big cities like Chicago that offer over a dozen 35,000 point hotels to choose from. You can check out a few of our favorite options here.
Automatic Silver Elite Status — Silver status in the new Marriott program won’t get you posh penthouse suites, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Silver elite members will get a 10% points bonus, late checkout, and access to an elite reservation line. You can see the full breakdown of Marriott’s elite status tiers here.
15 Elite Night Credits Each Year — This benefit is shared by all the Bonvoy credit cards, but it’s limited to one set of elite credits per Marriott account no matter how many credit card you have. For those who have their sights set higher than Silver, this perk can be immensely valuable as it lowers the qualification threshold for Marriott Platinum status 30% from 50 nights a year to 35.
All together, these benefits represent a few hundred dollars in value each year and easily outstrip the $95 annual fee, which is why I’m happy to keep this card open year after year.
Which Cards Compete With The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless?
The first lesson you learn when you start building a credit card strategy is how sacred your 5/24 slots with Chase are, so the Bonvoy Boundless has to pass a rigorous test to earn one of the spaces. If you don’t have one already, you should strongly consider opting for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card first. You’ll pay the same $95 annual fee (though the Sapphire waives it for the first year), and you’ll get a valuable welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. TPG values this bonus at $1,000 thanks to its immense flexibility, as you can transfer those points to any of Chase’s 13 hotel and airline transfer partners. You’ll continue to rack up points at a fast clip with 2x points on travel and dining, and enjoy trip delay and cancellation insurance, primary rental car insurance and baggage loss and delay insurance.
Even if you settle on a Bonvoy card as the next addition to your wallet, the Boundless might not be the best option. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card carries a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees), but it can easily pay for itself over time. First of all, you’ll get up to a $300 annual Marriott property credit which can be used toward room rates, effectively dropping your out of pocket cost to $150. Your anniversary free night with the Brilliant card is worth up to 50,000 points, literally one-upping the level of luxury you can experience. Instead of Silver status you get complimentary Marriott Gold status (which comes with a 25% points bonus, room upgrades and a welcome amenity) and the chance to upgrade to Platinum by spending $75,000 a year.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is in a bit of an odd bind; as the only entry-level consumer credit card in the Bonvoy program, it’s the logical first choice for many Marriott travelers. But strict bonus restrictions and fierce competition from other Chase cards mean you should think hard before applying. Still, if you’ve already built out your Chase trifecta and confirmed that you are in fact eligible for this bonus, this card is a great addition. I have no trouble getting $250-$300 of value out of my anniversary free night certificate, and if I can get that sort of return on a $95 investment each year, that’s an easy win.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.