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Middle Age Miles

Keep or Cancel – Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

keep or cancel american express amex marriott bonvoy business card free night certificate 30 elite night credits
Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card

Executive Summary

In our opinion, the keep-or-cancel decision on the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card comes down to a single question (barring a good retention offer): Do you think it’s worth the $125 annual fee to get a 35,000-point Marriott free night certificate?

In our case, we came our with 2 different answers – No for Philly’s card and Yes for mine. Our circumstances help to illustrate why the answer may be different for different people.

In general, though, we think that the default answer on this card is “cancel,” and you should only “keep” if you have a good reason to do so.

Basics of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

Key features and benefits of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card are:

  • Annual fee = $125
  • Points-earning (recall that our baseline value for Marriott points is 0.67 cents per point):
    • 6x Marriott Bonvoy points at Marriott properties (4.0%)
    • 4x Marriott Bonvoy points at US restaurants, US gas stations, cell phone bills from US service providers, and US shipping purchases (2.7%)
    • 2x Marriott Bonvoy points on all other purchases (1.3%)
  • 35,000-point Free Night Award after each year’s anniversary
    • The timing is such that to get the Free Night Award, you’ll be required to pay the next year’s annual fee before receiving the Award certificate
  • Ability to earn an additional 35,000-point Free Night Award if you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • 15 Marriott Bonvoy elite nights per calendar year
    • Note that, historically, this has not been additive if you have multiple Marriott co-branded cards; the max you could receive is 15 elite nights no matter how many Marriott cards you held
      • Looking at the current card terms & conditions, it may be possible to get 30 elite nights if you hold a Marriott co-branded business card and a Marriott co-branded personal card (we have not received 30 nights despite holding both card versions; this may need to be the subject of a separate article)
    • These 15 elite nights will get you Marriott Bonvoy Silver elite status (which isn’t worth much)

The current sign-up bonus for the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card is 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months after approval. (The link is our referral link.) At our baseline value of 0.67 cents per Marriott point, the sign-up bonus would be worth about $500, which may make the card attractive for a new sign-up (even if you might not keep the card long-term).

Analysis of the Card’s Benefits

In short, for most people the only useful benefit of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card is the 35,000-point annual Free Night Award certificate.

Why do we say this?

  • The card is not best-in-class for any points-earning category, even for stays at Marriott hotels
    • At Marriott hotels, we’re better off paying with a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Preferred (3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points/4.5% return) or a US Bank Altitude Reserve (3x US Bank points/4.5%)
    • Restaurants: Citi Prestige (5x ThankYou Points (TYPs)/6.25%) or Amex Gold (4x Membership Rewards (MR) points/6.0%)
    • Gas stations: Citi Premier (3x TYPs/3.75%) or our old Chase Ink legacy business card (3x UR/4.5%)
    • Cell phones: Chase Ink Preferred (3x UR/4.5% + insurance) or Chase Ink Cash (5x UR/7.5% (without insurance))
    • Shipping: Chase Ink Preferred (3x UR/4.5%)
    • Everywhere else: Amex Blue Business Plus (2x MR/3.0%) or Citi Double Cash (2x TYPs/2.5%)
  • Sparing the math, we’ll just say that there’s no way it’s worth it to spend an additional $60k for an extra 35,000-point certificate
  • If you want 15 Marriott elite night credits, there are several Marriott cards with annual fees that are lower than this card’s $125/year that will give you this benefit, including the Chase Marriott Bold card that has no annual fees

Analysis of the “Keep or Cancel” Decision

As we mentioned at the outset, the “keep or cancel” decision on the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card is straightforward – is it worth it to pay the $125 annual fee to get a 35,000-point Free Night Award certificate with a one-year expiration clock?

Philly’s Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

For Philly’s card, we decided to Cancel. Earlier this month (March 2020), Marriott changed its hotel award categories. The changes obliterated the value of a 35,000-point Free Night Award, especially when combined with the impact of Marriott’s introduction of Peak pricing during 2019. We wrote about the changes and the impact on 35k Free Night Awards here:

In addition, we make all of our Marriott reservations under my name in order to get enough nights to re-qualify for elite status – and for us, every night counts (setting aside the coronavirus situation and the fact that elite status may be extended this year regardless of number of stays). Using a free night in her name is counter-productive, except when we’re getting a second room for a family member. Looking forward into 2020, we didn’t see any good use for a 35k Free Night Award certificate in her name.

Beyond that, we have plenty of cards and pay plenty of annual fees. We don’t mind having a multitude of cards in my name but Philly prefers to stay leaner. All in all, it just made sense to us to go ahead and cancel this card.

Craig’s Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

For my card, we decided to pay the $125 annual fee and Keep it for now. There are several factors that play into this decision:

  • As we noted above, the Free Night Award certificate in my name is much more valuable because we can get a useful elite night credit out of it (and probably do so in connection with an organically-useful stay).
  • My card is in the name of a legitimate business, and the annual fee is a legitimate business deduction. That reduces the net cost down from $125 to something more like $85. That helps justify paying the fee to get the Free Night Award certificate.
  • Even with Marriott’s recent devaluations, it shouldn’t be difficult to use the certificate to get comfortably more than $85 in value.
  • I want to figure out whether I can actually get 30 elite nights credit by holding both an Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card and an Amex Marriott Bonvoy personal card. I’m planning to reach out to Amex (and perhaps Marriott as well) to sort out that situation. The terms & conditions of both cards suggest that a person holding both cards should be able to get 30 elite nights and not just 15. It would be incredibly valuable to me to be able to get 30 elite nights from credit cards in a year, as I close in on Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum status (I need either 2 or 3 more years as Platinum) but we’re generally using Hyatt as our primary hotel loyalty program now. Not to mention, this subject should also make for an interesting article for Middle Age Miles!

I also have a more nuanced issue that I’m trying to navigate, related to the number of Amex credit cards I hold and my ability to apply for new Amex credit cards. Right now, I have 7 Amex credit cards. The limit is generally 5, although I think the limit for people like me who had a card converted from another issuer (my old Citi Hilton card to an Amex Hilton Surpass) may actually have a 6-card limit. In any event, if I want a new Amex credit card, I’m going to need to cancel at least 2 of my existing cards. The obvious choices are my two Amex Marriott cards – the Bonvoy Business and the Bonvoy personal. If I can score 30 Marriott elite nights per year by holding both cards, then I want to keep those cards until I get to Lifetime Platinum. But if not, I may want to cancel both cards (after I receive my 35k Free Night Award certificate from the Bonvoy Business card) in order to open space for a new Amex card (like, perhaps, an Amex Hilton Honors Business card). It all makes for a very interesting puzzle.

What About a Retention Offer?

I didn’t try to get a retention offer for the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card, for a couple of reasons. One, Amex can be stingy about how often it gives out retention offers. I recently received a great retention offer on my Amex Platinum personal card. I didn’t want to go back to the well too soon, plus I didn’t want to potentially jeopardize a possible future retention offer on a card I felt more strongly about keeping. And two, it’s generally best-practice to keep an Amex card open for the rest of the cardholder year after receiving a retention offer. I didn’t want to commit right now to holding the card for a full year because, as discussed above, I might want to cancel it in a few weeks to open a slot for a new Amex credit card.

Wrap-Up

We hope that this article and the discussion about our decision-making process on our Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business cards is helpful to you in making your own “Keep or Cancel” decision on this card. As we mentioned at the outset, we think the correct default decision would be to Cancel the card, but your own personal circumstances (like mine) may mean that it makes sense for you to Keep it.

Finally, we’ll keep you apprised on what we learn about the potential to get 30 Marriott elite night credits by holding an Amex Marriott business card and an Amex Marriott personal card.

What do you think about the “Keep or Cancel” analysis and decision on the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card? And do you have any experience or data points with the new (or at least apparently new) language in the Amex terms and conditions that would potentially allow for 30 elite night credits? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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15 thoughts on “Keep or Cancel – Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

  1. ER

    I hold both the business and personal Marriott cards with Amex and have only gotten 15 elite nights. If we could get 30, that would be a game changer! Please keep us updated on that! Thanks!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi ER – Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I’ll see what I can find out and report back! ~Craig

      1. Rabbmd

        My wife had both a personal and business Marriott amex both last year and this year. Both years she received only 15 elite nights (in 2018 it was a different story as the merger of marriott and Starwood created a one year opportunity to get multiple elite nights from different chase and max business and personal cards). Ironically I cancelled my wife’s Marriott amex bus yesterday before seeing your article. The elite night has been decimated, the fee has gone up significantly (last year I barely kept it because only the old sub $100 fee was charged in March), the earning is decidedly subpar, and the constant Marriott point value devaluation makes the decreased earning rate even worse in real value terms. The loss of the free Sheraton lounge access still stings….

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi Rabbmd – Correct, everyone has been getting only 15 elite nights no matter what cards they had. My memory is that all T&C language I’d read until recently said 15 was the cap no matter what. It seems like the language about maybe getting 30 nights is new.

          Totally agree with all your points that led you to cancel your wife’s card. And yes, the free Sheraton lounge access was a sweet benefit. It was very nice for us to have it when we were working our way up the SPG elite status food chain! ~Craig

          1. HS

            Me three on the old Sheraton club access… That was why we got card for my wife way back when… When that disappeared, $95 for a good 35,000 point night made it a keeper last March, but $125 for a not-so-likely-good 35,000 point night made it easy to let go of this card this past weekend. Didn’t fish for a retention offer, and CSR did not blanch when cancellation was mentioned. Just canceled it.

  2. Stephen

    I don’t know if it’s applicable to your situation, but another reason to keep the card would be if it’s your only Amex business card. Business cards get targeted for some Amex Offers that personal cards don’t (e.g. 10% back at Lowe’s on up to $1,000 and 10% back at Staples on up to $500), so if that was the only business card in your household, you’d be missing out on those.

    You mentioned possibly applying for the Hilton business card, so this would be a moot point, but thought I’d throw it out there as something to consider.

    I’m in the process of trying to decide whether to keep my wife’s card. I’d been leaning towards keeping it and after reading your reasoning, I think we will, even though an extra elite night credit on her account doesn’t really help seeing as we book all our stays under me.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Stephen – I hope you guys are healthy and holding up fine through the virus crisis. Thanks for the comment. Good point on the Amex Offers. We have many other Amex biz cards ourselves, but that could definitely be a consideration for other people.

      You guys travel a lot, so I’m guessing it’s relatively easy (compared to most people) for you to redeem the FNC for good value easily in excess of $125. I’m also guessing that the AF on your wife’s card is a legitimate deductible biz expense for you guys, which puts the math even more in your favor. Seems like a keeper for your wife.

      1. Stephen

        Yep, we do deduct the annual fee which certainly helps in deciding to keep it.

        It’s proven to be a little harder to use the FNCs though; we have 5 between us (including from Chase Marriott cards) and like to keep a couple spare in case we need to overnight somewhere expensive. That leaves us with 3 others which makes it a little harder to make use of seeing as we normally stay 5-7 nights in the same place. We’ve had to extend a couple of our certificates the last couple of years as they went unused, so that’s why I’d still been considering canceling her card.

  3. Lee F

    I had four Bonvoy cards three days ago, now two (Ritz and Brilliant). Canceled my AMEX and Chase business cards. Very liberating.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      I hear you, Lee F. We still love our Ritz card because of the multitude of benefits that work well for us (RIP, $100 Visa Infinite flight discount) but we’re feeling very ambivalent about the other cards. ~Craig

  4. docntx

    As always, thank you for a thoughtful evaluation. Hope you an yours are in good health through Coronageddon.
    In our case, we will probably cancel this card to get past the “5 maximum credit card rule” that AMEX has in place as interesting offers may appear.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi docntx – Many thanks for the comment. We’re all healthy here, just super-busy trying to get our house sold and move in to our new place. I hope you and your family are well too.

      Can’t blame you for canceling the card. I agree, it seems like there’s a chance we’ll see some improved offers as we try to jump-start the economy after the Coronageddon stoppage. ~Craig

  5. Pingback: I Downgraded my JPMorgan Chase Ritz Carlton to Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless ($450 AF to $95 AF)

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