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With 2021 now around the corner and travel likely to begin opening up at some point next year, you might be starting to think about your next vacation — even if it’s just a short drive away. And since the Marriott hotel chain has such a large presence both domestically and globally, you may be considering whether a Marriott credit card makes sense for you.

If it does, there’s probably never been a better time to score a terrific welcome offer, because both American Express and Chase are offering increased bonuses on their Marriott credit cards right now. Even better, one set of offers is focused on points, while the other features free nights, so there are options for everyone.

Let’s look at the American Express offers first. For a limited time until Jan. 13, 2021, new card members can earn up to 125,000 Marriott bonus points with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. Those points break down like this: You’ll earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership. New Marriott Brilliant Amex card members will also get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status for one year, between Feb. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022.

For business owners, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card currently offers 100,000 Marriott bonus points after you make $5,000 in purchases within your first three months of card membership, plus you can earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first six months of card membership for eligible purchases made with your card on U.S. advertising in select media. And on top of that, you’ll get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status for one year, between Feb. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022. This offer is also only available for a limited time until Jan. 13, 2021.

Meanwhile, on the Chase side, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card isn’t offering bonus points to new card holders, but rather five free nights (worth up to 50,000 points per night) after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account. The free night certificates are valid for one year from date of issuance.

You’ll get excellent value with all three of these card offers, so deciding which offer to choose probably depends on which card is right for you. Let’s dive into the details of each card.

Marriott Brilliant credit card benefits

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is a card for people who frequently find themselves at Marriott hotels, as it comes with a slew of elite perks, but also a high $450 annual fee. However, one of the best features of the card is up to $300 in statement credits annually for Marriott purchases. If you can use those credits in full each year, you’re effectively only paying a net annual fee of $150.

The card earns 6 points for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3 points per dollar at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.

You also get 15 elite night credits with the Marriott Brilliant Amex, which means you’ll get automatic Silver Elite status every year you have the card after your introductory Platinum status expires, and you can upgrade to Gold Elite status by spending $35,000 on the card each year.

When it comes to the welcome bonus, you might be wondering how much 125,000 Marriott points are worth. Well, based on the point valuations of CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy, Marriott points are worth 0.8 cents apiece, which makes this bonus worth $1,000, which is a sizable haul.

Redeem 60,000 points from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant credit card for a night at the Marriott Miami Edition.
Redeem 60,000 points from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant credit card for a night at the Marriott Miami Edition.
PHOTO: Marriott Hotels

However, it’s important to note that 25,000 points of that bonus don’t arrive until the start of the second year you have the card, which means you’ll be paying the $450 annual fee each year for two years to get the full bonus. That’s not a problem if you intend to keep the card for the long term, but it’s something to consider if you’re thinking about just trying it out for a year.

But at the start of that second year (and every year thereafter), you’ll also get a complimentary award certificate that can be used at any Marriott hotel for one night costing 50,000 points or less. This means you can use it at any category 1 through 5 property on the Marriott award chart, plus off-peak and standard redemptions at category 6 hotels and off-peak redemptions for category 7 properties.

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card.

Marriott Business credit card benefits

If you’re a small business traveler who expects to be back on the road more often in 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express card could be a good fit. The card comes with a much lower $125 annual fee, but also has the same 15 annual elite credits as the Marriott Brilliant card, which you can “stack” together for a total of 30 elite nights if you also hold one of the other personal Marriott cards that offer elite credits.

With the Marriott Business Amex, you’ll earn 6 points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 4 points per dollar at US restaurants, at US gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers and on US purchases for shipping, and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Just like with the Marriott Brilliant card, you’ll get a complimentary award night each year starting with your second card member year, but with the business card, the free nights can be used at Marriott properties with a redemption level up to 35,000 points. That means you can use it at any category 1 through 5 property on the Marriott award chart except for category 5 hotels during peak periods.

The JW Marriott in Rio de Janeiro is a category 5 hotel.
The JW Marriott in Rio de Janeiro is a category 5 hotel.
PHOTO: Marriott Hotels

Given that easy access to travel is currently an unknown, the timing on this certificate actually works out fairly well. Since you don’t receive your first certificate until you’ve had the card for a year, you won’t have to worry about trying to use it right now, but you’ll have access to it a year from now when it’s more likely you can really use a free hotel night, perhaps for a sorely-needed vacation. You can also earn a second award night after you spend $60,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year.

The 100,000 bonus points on the Marriott Business Amex are worth $800 based on The Points Guy’s valuations, but you also get up to $150 in statement credits for eligible purchases made with your card on U.S. advertising in select media in the first six months after opening the account. So if you can maximize the points and credits, you can get as much as $950 in value from the bonus.

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.

Marriott Boundless credit card benefits

If you’d prefer not to worry about points and would rather just have free nights, the sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is an absolutely fantastic value. The five free nights can be used at any Marriott property with a redemption level of 50,000 points or less, which opens up a ton of options.

The one caveat to keep in mind is that the five free nights must be used within one year from the date they’re issued, so you can’t hold onto these nights for years on end. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use them all in that timeframe, then one of the points options might be a better choice since Marriott points don’t expire as long as you have activity in your Marriott account once every 24 months (and even that deadline has been temporarily suspended for many members during the pandemic).

In addition to the sign-up bonus, there are many other benefits that are extended to Marriott Boundless card holders, making this a nice card to hold onto year after year if you plan to stay at Marriott hotels on a regular basis when travel returns to normal.

With this card, you’ll receive complimentary Marriott Silver elite status for as long as you’re a card holder. Silver status gets you late checkout and a 10% bonus on points earned during your Marriott stays. Although this is Marriott’s lowest-tier elite status, having some sort of status is better than no status at all, and it could potentially even get you a better room during check-in (though improved rooms are not guaranteed).

Or, if you’re looking to earn a higher level of elite status, the Marriott Boundless card also comes with 15 annual elite night credits, which can stack with the 15 elite nights from the Marriott Business Amex for a total of 30 elite nights. Alternatively, you can also earn Marriott Gold elite status by spending $35,000 on the card each account year.

The Marriott Boundless card also comes with its own complimentary award certificate. Starting with your first yearly account renewal and every year thereafter, you’ll receive a certificate that can be used at any Marriott hotel for one night costing 35,000 points or less.

Other great perks include baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement and purchase protection. And with the Marriott Boundless card carrying only a $95 annual fee, you can easily come out well ahead with all these card holder perks. In fact, if you can use the card’s complimentary award night each year for a room that would otherwise cost $95 or more, you’ll easily make the card worth it.

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.

Is a Marriott credit card right for you?

The Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel in the United Kingdom.
The Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel in the United Kingdom.
PHOTO: Marriott Hotels

Marriott has about 30 different brands under its umbrella, which means there are plenty of opportunities across the globe to redeem your Marriott points or use free nights. Whether you want to stay at an ultra-luxury beach destination in the Caribbean or a few miles down from your favorite amusement park, there’s generally a Marriott property for everyone.

Obviously, if you don’t stay at Marriott hotels very often, then a Marriott credit card probably isn’t a good fit. But if you do expect to be at a Marriott even a few times in 2021, then any of these three Marriott credit cards are worth considering for their welcome offers alone, and then to keep on an ongoing basis, especially for the annual complimentary award certificates.

So if you’re just a casual Marriott traveler, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card from Chase, while small businesses with an owner or employees that make a lot of Marriott stays can choose the Marriott Bonvoy Business card from American Express. And Marriott fanatics who can use all the perks — and the up to $300 in annual statement credits — should grab the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant from American Express and get the best that Marriott offers.

Find out which credit cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.

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