The $95 annual fee recently posted on my Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card (formerly the Amex SPG Business card). We performed our usual review of the benefits of the card compared to the annual fee and made a retention call to Amex.
- We decided to keep the card and pay the $95 annual fee
- We did not receive any retention offer
- We had an online offer in our account that we had not seen before, for 7,500 bonus Marriott points if we spend $5,000 in a calendar month, good up to 6 times through 10/7/2019 for a total of up to 45,000 bonus points
Previous Recent Article
We recently wrote a complete “Keep or Cancel” analysis on this card, when Philly’s card came up for renewal about 2½ months ago. The card was still branded as the Amex SPG Business card at that time. We won’t repeat all of the details here. Here’s a link to the earlier article to see the details of our analysis:
In the previous article, we concluded that the keep-or-cancel decision on this card was simple – Are we willing to pay $95 to get a Marriott Free Night Award certificate good for up to 35,000 points?
We concluded then that the answer was Yes – and we proceeded to pay the annual fee and keep Philly’s card. We also have the intangible benefit of maintaining a good relationship with Amex in hopes of scoring one or more new sign-up bonuses on Amex cards during the coming year.
Similarly, we plan to keep my card for now. We believe we can get $200-plus in value from the free night certificate, which justifies the $95 annual fee.
If anything, the “keep” decision is even easier on my card than it was on Philly’s card, because we can get one elite night credit when we use the free night certificate, we use my account for elite status purposes with Marriott, and this free night will help get us to the highest elite level we can achieve.
Note that you must pay the annual fee in order to receive the Free Night Award certificate. The terms state that the certificate will be delivered to the cardholder’s Marriott Bonvoy account within 8-12 weeks after your card account anniversary. My certificate had not arrived in my Marriott account by the time I had to make a final “keep or cancel” call on the card in order to not have to pay the annual fee.
This decision may be different next year. In a few days on 3/28/19, the annual fee on this card will increase to $125 per year. In addition, at some point this year, Marriott plans to introduce Peak/Standard/Off-Peak pricing, which will eliminate the ability to redeem the Free Night Award certificate at Category 5 hotels during Peak pricing.
It’s also possible that we may cancel this card during our cardholder year, if needed to open up one of our 5 slots for a new Amex credit card. Like all of the Marriott co-branded cards, it’s truly that useless for ongoing spend.
Did I Get a Retention Offer?
We had about $3,700 in spend on this card during our past cardholder year. But we’ve also had 6 figures or more in spend across all of our Amex cards where I’m the primary cardholder. In addition, the points earning on this card was eviscerated during the middle of our cardholder year, when earning on unbonused spend dropped from 3x Marriott points per dollar (1x SPG point/dollar) to 2x.
Between the drop in points earning and the change in card branding from SPG to Marriott, we thought we might receive a retention offer despite the fairly modest spend on this card. But nothing was offered, no matter how I approached things. And even when I specifically asked for a retention specialist, the agent declined to transfer me.
I was given an “invitation” to the Amex “working capital” program, which I declined. I’ve seen this program on many pop-ups when I log in to my Amex accounts, but I’ve never paid attention to them. I didn’t totally focus on the details when the agent was talking about them either, but the interest rates sounded staggeringly high.
I also asked about product change options. I didn’t expect there to be any, but I wanted to ask, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and there weren’t any new data points to report. As expected, there were no product change options.
I told the agent that I was very disappointed but that I’d think about it overnight and probably call back to cancel tomorrow (which I won’t do, since we’re keeping the card for now).
The no-offer retention call reminded me of a conversation I had with Mark Ostermann about one of his recent Miles to Memories articles. Mark mentioned that there are whispers that Amex may be cutting back on retention offers, allowing only one retention offer per person, per year or two, across all cards. The agent I spoke with didn’t mention this. But my experience continues to be consistent with such a rule, given the lack of a retention offer on either my Business Platinum card recently or this card.
But Then I Discovered a Spend Offer in My Online Account
After I concluded my disappointing retention call, I was flipping through my online account and noticed a new spend offer under the “Offers for You” section where we usually find the standard Amex Offers.
This offer was a bit confusing but certainly interesting. I clicked on “Enroll Now” and was taken to this page:
In short, Amex offered me 7,500 bonus Marriott points for $5,000 in spend in a calendar month. The offer was open until 10/7/2019. It has a cap of 45,000 bonus points total – that is, I can earn the bonus in a maximum of 6 months.
There are 8 chances to hit the spend and receive the 7,500 bonus. But 2 of the “months” – now through the end of March, and October 1-7 – are severely truncated. Thus, for the most part, we’re looking at 6 months, April through September, where we might earn the bonus.
I completed my enrollment by clicking the “Enroll” button:
Full terms and conditions are as follows:
Is the Spend Offer a Good Deal?
Maybe, depending on your spending alternatives. We always remember that many people generated tons of unbonused spend on the SPG cards when they earned 1x SPG point per dollar, which equated to 3x Marriott points per dollar. With this offer, if we spend exactly $5,000 on the card in a month to earn 7,500 bonus points (1.5x) on top of normal 2x earning, we’d earn a total of 17,500 points on the $5,000 spend – which comes to 3.5x Marriott points per dollar on unbonused spend. So, it’s at least worth a closer look.
Unbonused Spend (2x regular earning) – With the promotion, we can earn 3.5x Marriott points per dollar. At our current baseline value of 0.7 cents per Marriott point, this is effectively a points rebate of 2.45%. For us, this is not best-in-class earning on unbonused spend. We’d use the Amex Blue Business Plus for 2x Membership Rewards (MR) per dollar. At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, that’s a points rebate of 3.0%. Another option would be to use unbonused spend to meet minimum spend requirements on more lucrative sign-up bonuses or upgrade bonuses, if any are available to us, instead of using the spend toward this Marriott bonus.
In addition, a 2.45% return won’t justify any inorganic spend where the cost is 2.5% or higher, such as by using Plastiq.
Thus, unbonused spending on this card doesn’t sound very appealing, even with the promotional offer.
4x Bonus Categories – The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card has four 4x bonus categories – US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless providers, and US shipping. With the spend bonus, we’d be earning up to 5.5x in these categories. That would be a points rebate of about 3.85%.
However, 3.85% isn’t best-in-class for us in any of these categories:
- US Restaurants – We can earn 5x TYP/6.25% on our Citi Prestige, 4x MR/6.0% on our Amex Gold card, or 3x UR/4.5% on our Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- US Gas Stations – We can earn 3x UR/4.5% on our legacy Chase Ink card. (Note that for many people, 3.85% would be best-in-class for US gas stations – but you’re not going to be spending anywhere close to $5,000 per month on gas!)
- Wireless Providers – We can earn 5x UR/7.5% on our Chase Ink Cash, or we can earn 3x UR/4.5% + get cell phone protection by using our Chase Ink Preferred card.
- US Shipping – We can earn 3x UR/4.5% on our Chase Ink Preferred.
So, the spend offer isn’t particularly helpful in any of the 4x bonus categories, either.
Spend at Marriott Hotels (6x earning) – Now here’s a category where Marriott co-branded cards are at least *close* to best-in-class even without this spend bonus. With our recent drop in baseline value of Marriott points from 0.75 cents per point to 0.7, 6x points-earning is now worth 4.2% to us. On our baseline valuations, we’d say that the Chase Sapphire Reserve is now slightly better at 3x UR/4.5%.
But with the spend bonus, we could earn up to 7.5x on $5,000 spend in a month at Marriott hotels. That’s a lot of hotel spend, and it would be quite rare for us to hit that threshold. But, we do have a major Rewarding Event coming up at a Marriott property, so there’s at least one month where we can easily and organically hit the $5,000 threshold for a 7,500-point bonus.
And there’s little to no harm in regularly using the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card for spend at Marriott properties anyway, so we may simply make this card our go-to for any Marriott hotel spend over the next few months. (Aside from the one event, though, it seems unlikely that we’ll get close to spending $5,000 in any other month – especially since we’re quite down on Marriott at the moment and focusing our discretionary stays at Hyatt as we go for Globalist in 2019.)
So, the big-spend offer was nice to receive, but my best guess is that we’ll only use it for the one month where we have the Rewarding Event planned. Still, we’ll happily take an extra 7,500 Marriott points (which we value at $52.50)
What do you think about our decision to keep the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card and our analysis of the big-spend promotional bonus offer? Please share with us in the Comments!
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