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Why the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card Is Worth the Annual Fee

By Eric Rosen

Jan 20, 2021

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A stay at the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul (pictured top right) could be yours for points not dollars.

Photo by OPIS Zagreb / Shutterstock

A stay at the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul (pictured top right) could be yours for points not dollars.

Bonus points, elite status, and a low annual fee all make the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless one of the best hotel credit cards.

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Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. Some offers may no longer be available. View the current offer for Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card here. View the current offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card here.

With 30 brands including Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and Residence Inn, and over 8,000 participating hotels worldwide, not to mention more than 120 million members, Marriott Bonvoy is the world’s largest hotel loyalty program.

No matter where in the world you end up traveling, even if it remains close to home for the foreseeable future, having some Marriott Bonvoy points in your back pocket can be a great way to save money on stays. The easiest way to earn those points is by carrying a Marriott Bonvoy cobranded credit that earns rewards on everyday purchases. Doing so can also ensure you enjoy other perks such as automatic elite status and annual free reward nights. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card is a fine choice for road warriors and occasional leisure travelers alike thanks to numerous bonus earning opportunities and an affordable annual fee. Here’s everything you need to know about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless details

Although it doesn’t offer the flashier perks of its more premium counterpart, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is nonetheless a solid choice that makes sense for a broader range of travelers.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points and a bonus award night worth up to 50,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Combined, this offer is worth up to a whopping 175,000 points.

Annual fee: $95

Earning rates: Rack up six points per dollar on purchases made at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and two points per dollar on all other purchases. The card waives foreign transaction fees, too.

Annual free night: Every year after the account anniversary and the annual fee is paid, cardholders receive a free night award worth up to 35,000 points (we’ll get to more on this below).

Elite status: Cardholders receive 15 elite night credits per calendar year, which is more than enough for the first rung of status, Silver. Perks at that level include potential room upgrades, late checkout times, and earning bonus points on stays. If you spend $35,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year, you get a bump up to Gold status.

Eligibility: Unfortunately, you won’t receive the welcome offer if you currently have this card or another one from Marriott, including the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, or  the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, among others. If you don’t currently have one of these cards, but did in the past and received its welcome bonus within the past 24 months, you might also be precluded.

How to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points

There are a few different ways to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points, but by far the easiest and most valuable is simply for hotel stays. Participating hotels fall into one of eight categories, with nightly rates ranging from 4,000 to 100,000 points depending on the hotel, the dates, and whether special saver awards are available. Standard award nights (meaning at times that are neither off-peak nor at the busiest times) range from 7,500 to 85,000 points per night.

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For example, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Dallas Park Central has rooms that go for 5,000 at off-peak times, 7,500 at standard times, and 10,000 points at peak times. By contrast, at the Category 8 Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, room rates range from 63,000 to 100,000 points. It can be confusing, but the best way to find out how many points you’ll need is simply to search in the area you want to stay on the dates you need and see how many points are required.

In general (and based on a lot of award searches), try to get at least 0.7 cents in value per point you redeem. So if you are redeeming 5,000 points, your room should cost at least $35 per night, which isn’t hard to do. If you’re going for one of those 100,000-point redemptions, make sure you’re using them for a night that would cost $700 or more if you paid.

Also keep in mind that when you redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for stays of five nights or more, your fifth night is free. So if you booked a five-night stay, you’d only need enough points for four nights—effectively scoring a 20 percent discount.

Hotel stays aside, one of the things that makes Marriott Bonvoy points so interesting is that you can convert them into miles with over 40 different airlines. The conversion ratio is three Marriott points to one airline mile with most partners. When you convert 60,000 Marriott points at a time, you get a 5,000-mile bonus with most partners. So let’s say you transferred 60,000 Marriott points to your American Airlines AAdvantage account. You’d end up with a total of 25,000 airline miles. This is definitely an option worth considering if you need to top up your frequent flier account for an upcoming award flight.    

How to use the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless free reward night

Perhaps the best perk offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is that annual free reward night. However, be aware of a few parameters. First, it’s only redeemable for a single night, and it expires within one year of issuance. It is only valid for awards costing up to 35,000 points, too. That puts most of Marriott’s higher-end hotels in Categories 6–8 out of reach. But you can still find some solid value options.

In general, look to redeem your free night award at hotels in Category 4 or Category 5, the latter of which has standard award rates of 35,000 points per night. That way, you can make sure you’re getting the most value for your certificate. To put it into context, the W Chicago–City Center is a Category 5 property where you could redeem your certificate at most times, while room rates start at around $220 per night.

Farther afield, the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul, and the St. Regis Bangkok are two other Category 5 hotels where award rates are 35,000 points or under on many dates while paid rates start at around $230 and $180, respectively. Depending on where you redeem your certificate, you could be saving hundreds of dollars per year, which makes the $95 annual fee for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card more than worth it.

Travel and purchase benefits

One final component to consider is Marriott Bonvoy Boundless’s outstanding suite of travel and purchase protections, many of which are important now more than ever. Among the ones cardholders can count on:

Trip delay reimbursement: If your trip is delayed over 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you might be covered up to $500 per ticket for things like meals and lodging.

Lost luggage coverage: Cardholders and immediate family members are eligible for up to $3,000 for checked or carry-on luggage that is damaged or lost.

Baggage delay insurance: If your bag is delayed over six hours, you might get up to $100 per person per day for up to five days for essential purchases like clothing and toiletries until your belongings arrive.

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Purchase protection: If something you buy with your card is damaged or stolen within 120 days, you might be reimbursed up to $500 per item, with a maximum benefit of $50,000 per account.

Extended warranty: The card will extend warranties of three years or less by an additional year.

No foreign transaction fees: The Boundless is great for international travel since it waives pesky foreign transaction charges that can really add up.

Who is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card good for?

With an affordable $95 annual fee and an anniversary free reward night that can be used at most of the chain’s lower- and mid-range hotels, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is a strong choice for most travelers. It accrues Marriott points at a decent clip, and the elite night credits can guarantee you Silver status year after year even if you don’t stay enough to earn it on your own. If you are a frequent Marriott guest, those 15 nights might be just the boost you need from Silver to Gold, or Gold to Platinum, and a host of additional benefits, such as earning even more bonus points on stays, higher upgrade priority, and premium in-room internet.

That said, if you frequently stay (and spend a fair amount of money) at Marriott properties, you might want to consider applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant instead. The Brilliant does charge a $450 annual fee, but comes with a host of value-added perks to compensate.

First, cardholders get up to $300 in statement credits each year of card membership toward purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, including room charges. They also receive a free night award each account year that’s worth up to 50,000 points (and thus redeemable at some higher-end hotels than the Boundless’s certificate). Folks who book stays of two nights or more using a special rate at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties receive up to $100 toward qualifying on-property charges like restaurant tabs and spa treatments.

They can also enroll for Priority Pass Select airport lounge access and receive a statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry once every 4.5 years (or $85 for TSA PreCheck once every 5 years). Finally, cardholders receive automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold status, a whole level above what the Boundless offers, although they also get 15 elite night credits toward earning a higher status, just as with the Boundless.

Now through November 3, 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is offering new applicants 150,000 bonus points plus a free night award worth up to 85,000 points after making $5,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months. Otherwise, it earns six points per dollar on Marriott purchases, three points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and two points per dollar on everything else.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold might be the best choice for budget-conscious travelers looking for a travel rewards card with no annual fee that still accumulates points at a steady pace. The card is currently offering 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. It earns three points per dollar on Marriott purchases and two points per dollar on other travel purchases, then one per dollar on everything else. Cardholders get 15 nights of elite credit each year, too, but no annual free reward night.

Whether you’re a loyal Marriott guest, or just someone looking to build up a points balance toward future stays, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is an excellent and well-priced choice to work toward award nights and enjoy elite status to boot. Its annual free reward night alone is probably worth getting and keeping the card since it can be worth hundreds of dollars per year. Add the card’s automatic elite status and you’ll enjoy the free travel you earn with the card even more.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

>> Next: How to Earn, Redeem, and Maximize Marriott Bonvoy Points

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