A Cost/Benefit Analysis for the Marriott Bonvoy Amex

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In the spring of 2017 I opened a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. At the beginning of this year, that card was product changed to the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

The Mariott Bonvoy Amex Card is not open for applications. Those that have one were all product changed from a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. If you’re interested in a Marriott Rewards earning credit card, your options are the:

The annual fee for my Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card was charged at the end of April, so towards the end of May I performed a cost benefit analysis to determine whether or not I wanted to keep it open another year. It is common practice for banks to refund the annual fee for about a month after it’s charged, but no reason to push it. Depending on the circumstance, I tend to do my cost/benefit analysis around 11 to 12.5 months after the prior annual fee was charged, or after I opened it if the annual fee is waived the first year, to always be able to get it refunded if I decide the cost is higher than the benefit.

Don’t forget to call the bank every year for a retention bonus.

The first step of any credit card cost/benefit analysis–that many aren’t aware of and by skipping leave lots of value on the table year after year– should always be: Call the number on the back of your card to negotiate a retention bonus. If you’re calling at the appropriate time in your card member year (11 to 12.5 months after the prior annual fee is charged), then the power is all yours. Annual fees are expensive, so all you need to say is that you don’t think your card is worth keeping open another year due to the fact that X.

  • X could be that you have another rewards card that gives you better benefits.
  • X could be that you don’t stay at/fly the co-branded hotel or airline anymore.
  • X could be (and this was my line with the Marriott Bonvoy Amex) that since the card you originally signed up was product changed to a different card with different benefits, and it is less valuable to you now
  • X could be a lot of things, and could be more than one thing.

To get to the point quicker, I usually also say, “…so is there anything you could offer me to make it worth keeping open?”

What I Was Offered

Nada.

I wasn’t offered anything in relation to keeping the Marriott Bonvoy Card open. I stopped spending on this card in August of 2018 when the earning rate was changed from 1 SPG point per dollar to 2 Marriott Rewards per dollar spent on everyday purchases. That sounds like more, doesn’t it? It’s not, when you’re looking at it from the perspective of someone who transfers these points to airline partners for mileage redemptions. 1 SPG point used to (they no longer exist) equal 1 of almost any airline mile. When the SPG program merged with the Marriott Rewards program, members’ SPG points tripled to become Marriott Rewards. 3 Marriott Rewards now transfer to 1 airline mile. That means earning 2 Marriott Rewards per dollar on everyday spend is not even equal to earning a whole mile per dollar…only .66 miles per dollar.

The old SPG cards (consumer and business versions) that were replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy Amex and Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex

It’s likely because I stopped using my card in the middle of last year that I was offered nothing in exchange for keeping the card open and paying another annual fee. Not surprising. That being said, I’ve been offered retention bonuses on cards I’ve barely spent on past the meeting a spending requirement for a bonus.

The only option I was offered was to upgrade to the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex and earn 15,000 Marriott Rewards for spending $1,000. But if I wanted the Bonvoy Brilliant then I’d apply for it outright to get the 75k bonus, so I declined the upgrade.

Unfortunately there is no downgrade option for the Marriott Bonvoy Amex.

With no retention bonus to speak of, I went back to the drawing board to see if I considered the the card worth keeping open for other reasons.

On to Step 2: Are the marginal benefits of holding the card larger than the annual fee? If so, keep it. If not, cancel it.

The 6x category bonus for spend at Marriott properties does not hold any value to me as I rarely ever stay at hotels, nevertheless Marriotts. I consistently choose Airbnbs over hotels.

For the same reason, the Silver Elite member status benefit holds pretty much no value for me either.

The one benefit that many get more than $95 of value for (the cost of the annual fee) is the annual Free Night Award. For many, the Free Night Award (which is a benefit of all the Marriott co-branded cards) is easily worth enough to cancel out a $95 fee, but again, like I said, I rarely stay at hotels. I would need to make a concerted effort to use the certificate, and I highly doubt I’d get more than $95 of value from it as the only circumstance I’d be staying in a hotel for one night would be for a utilitarian purpose (in other words, not an aspirational stay). I’d rather have $95 and take the temporary ding to my credit score.

Bottom Line

With no retention bonus and a negligible amount of value provided by the benefits, I deemed my Marriott Bonvoy Amex to have a higher cost than benefit and therefore canceled it.

I encourage everyone to do their own cost/benefit analysis of all their credit cards that charge annual fees every year when another fee is due. Not doing so, year after year, severely chips away at the value of your travel rewards… especially if it’s a card you’ve taken out of rotation for regular use.

Anyone else gone through this process recently? What did you decide to do?


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I’m making a similar analysis. My fee comes up in August.

    I’m already Marriott Gold due to being United Gold. I put very little spend on this card when it used to be my go to card.

    I’ve managed to squeeze value out of the annual cert because I go to MotoGP in Austin every year and use my cert for a Saturday night stay at the Sheraton downtown. That hotel is close to $400 during race weekend.

    Still, I might call and cancel and see if they bribe me to remain.

    • Yea, I think it’s worth the few minutes to call even if you don’t really plan on canceling. Never know what you’ll get.

  2. I am in the same situation and wanted to cancel but missed the 30 day deadline.This game is rigged before it begins.Will have to pay more attention next time or take another hit.

    • Ouch. Yep, certainly have to play this game carefully. Try to get in the habit of setting calendar alerts or some other way to notify yourself for 12 months out when you open a new card.

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