The Best Credit Cards to Use for Marriott Points

The way I see it is that there are two different approaches you would take to earning points to use towards Marriott stays. The first is by accumulating Marriott points to book an award stay and the second is accumulating points to book through an online travel agency (OTA) (for this article, I’ll focus on the Chase Travel Portal as the example of the OTA).

Card options to earn Marriott points 

I’m going to focus on the four following cards

  • Marriott Premier Rewards Card
  • Ritz-Carlton Card
  • SPG (SPG points can be transferred to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve

However, for a couple of examples, I’ll throw in some alternative options because in certain circumstances it could make sense to use them.

Earning Marriott points at Marriott stays

If you purchase a stay at a Marriott property directly through Marriott your earnings for the cards would like this.

  • Marriott Premier Rewards Card: 5X
  • Ritz-Carlton Card: 5X
  • SPG: 2X SPG which can be converted into 6X Marriott
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3X

The SPG card wins out since you’ll be able to earn 6X on Marriott points every per dollar spent, so this will usually be your best bet.

Keep in mind that 3 Ultimate Rewards is still worth more than 6 Marriott points. So unless you’re absolutely positive that you need or will use Marriott points to complete a booking, you may want to consider still putting your spend on the Reserve for the sake of the flexibility and increased value. You’d be losing out on 1 Marriott point per dollar but if you’re not sure you’d be using that point, it would definitely make sense to put your spend on the Reserve.

Marriott Marquis Houston
Marriott Marquis Houston.

Earning Marriott points with every day spend

When it comes to everyday spend, things can get a little more interesting.

 Non-bonused spend

This category covers all purchases that do not fall into a bonus category and thus only earn the standard rate.

For Non-bonused spend your earning will look like the following:

  • Marriott Premier Rewards Card: 1X
  • Ritz-Carlton Card: 1X
  • SPG: 1X SPG which can be converted into 3X Marriott
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1X
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: 1.5X

In this situation, the SPG card wins again, since you’ll be netting 3X Marriott points for every dollar spent. The same logic applies, though. Consider the worth of earning 1.5X on the Freedom Unlimited due to the flexibility. If you know you only need Marriott points though, the SPG card will be the better earner.

Dining and car rentals

Dining and car rentals are both 2X bonus categories of both the Marriott Premier Rewards Card and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card. They should also both code as 3X on the Sapphire Reserve since car rentals typically code as travel.

So your earnings would look like this:

  • Marriott Premier Rewards Card: 2X
  • Ritz-Carlton Card: 2X
  • SPG: 1X SPG which can be converted into 3X Marriott
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3X

The situation here is tied between the Sapphire Reserve and the SPG card, so it all depends on your goals.

Marriott La Concha Hotel
Marriott La Concha Hotel restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Airfare

Airfare, when purchased directly with the airline, is another 2X category on the Marriott Premier Rewards Card and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card and should also code as 3X on the Sapphire Reserve.

Your earning rates would look like the following:

  • Marriott Premier Rewards Card: 2X
  • Ritz-Carlton Card: 2X
  • SPG: 1X SPG which can be converted into 3X Marriott
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3X
  • Platinum Card from American Express: 5X

The Platinum Card from American Express earns 5X on airfare purchased directly from the airlines and American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to SPG at a ratio of 1,000:333. Typically, you would avoid transferring Membership Rewards to SPG given the poor transfer ratio. However, if your only goal is to accumulate Marriott points then this could be your best route.

Let’s say you spend $100 on airfare. That’s 500 Membership Rewards. Transferred to SPG that comes out to 166.5. Now transferred back to Marriott that’s right at 500 Marriott Points.

With each other card you’d only end up with 300 Marriott Points, so the Platinum Card would actually earn you the most Marriott points.

Note: The Sapphire Reserve has some of the best trip protections built into it so you’d miss out on those with the Platinum Card but the idea is just to show that the Platinum Card could earn you the most Marriott points when purchasing airfare.

Supermarkets

  • Marriott Premier Rewards Card: 2X
  • Ritz-Carlton Card: 2X
  • SPG: 1X SPG which can be converted into 3X Marriott
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3X
  • EveryDay Preferred: 4.5X 

The Amex EveryDay Preferred earns 3X on supermarkets up to $6,000 per year and when you make 30 or more purchases within a month, you earn a 50% bonus on all of your points that stacks with the 3X on supermarkets. This means that you earn 4.5X at supermarkets for up to $6,000 each year with the EveryDay Preferred!

So let’s say you spend $100 on groceries. That’s 450 Membership Rewards. Transferred to SPG that comes out to about 150. Now transferred back to Marriott that’s right at 450 Marriott Points. So again, if it’s all about earning the most Marriott points, it could make sense to utilize the poor transfer ratio between Membership Rewards and SPG.

View from the Marriott Fallsview, Niagara Falls, Canada.

Utilizing an OTA

Your strategy will change up a lot if you’re planning on booking a Marriott stay through an online travel agency like the Chase Travel Portal.

Let’s say you have the Sapphire Reserve and will be earning 3X on all dining and travel. In that case, the Reserve easily wins out on all of the “ties” shown above with the SPG card. And I’d also put non-bonused spend on the Freedom Unlimited along with supermarkets.

Let’s say you want to book a room at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, where you will pay $415 for one night. If you used Marriott points this would cost 70,000 Marriott points. So you’d be getting .6 cents per point in value from a points redemption.

However, if booked through the Chase Travel Portal you could come out with 1.5 cents per point. So for a $415 stay, you’d only need 27,667 Ultimate Rewards.

Going this route would mean that you should put your spend on your Chase cards in virtually all circumstances, and I’ll show why.

Remember the 4.5X earned by the EveryDay Preferred on groceries? That return in value is like a 2.7% rebate since 4.5 * .006 = 2.7%. Compare that to the Reserve at 3 * .015 = 4.5%. This return in value for the Reserve would be also higher than the Platinum’s 5X on airfare. Also, you have to factor in the added flexibility of not being restricted to award availability with the Chase Travel Portal.

And Marriott is one of the last hotels to still honor elite benefits when bookings are made through an online travel agency. There are some reports of people still having trouble receiving their elite benefits, but at least you still have a good shot at receiving your elite benefits.

Final word

Depending on your goals for Marriott redemptions, there are several different ways to maximize your Marriott point earnings. Some of them, like utilizing American Express Membership Rewards to SPG, are a bit unconventional, but depending on your intended use of your points, they could definitely make sense.

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