In this edition of Head-to-Head, we’ll compare two credit cards from Marriott Bonvoy, one of the largest hotel programs for Canadians: the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
Marriott Bonvoy is currently the only major hotel chain with a co-branded credit card in Canada. Both credit cards offer solid value propositions with reasonably low annual fees, as well as some very desirable perks and benefits.
As Marriott Bonvoy is slated to switch to fully dynamic pricing in 2023, now is a great time to pick up one or both of these cards and book some amazing Marriott hotel stays. If you’re looking to pick one card to get, here’s a comparison of the two products to help you decide.
We’ll begin with some of the cards’ key characteristics: the bonuses, fees, and earning rates.
1. Annual Fee
Both cards have very reasonable annual fees, especially when you consider the perks and benefits that come along with them.
The Amex Bonvoy Card has an annual fee of $120, while the business version has a yearly fee of $150.
Verdict: The difference of $30 makes the personal Amex Bonvoy Card the winner here.
2. Welcome Bonus
The personal Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card offers 70,000 Bonvoy points when the $3,000 minimum spend is met within the first three months, when you apply via a refer-a-friend link.
There’s also 5x Bonvoy points on eats and drinks in the first three months, up to a maximum of 10,000 points on $2,000 of spending, bringing the total possible welcome bonus up to 80,000 points.
On the other hand, the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card offers 70,000 Bonvoy points upon meeting the minimum spend requirement of $3,000 in net purchases within the first three months, when applied for using a referral link.
There’s also 5x Bonvoy points on gas, travel, and dining in the first six months, up to a maximum of 10,000 points on $2,000 of spending, elevating the total welcome bonus to 80,000 points.
Historically, the spending requirement for the personal version of the card has hovered around $3,000 in the recent past, with a welcome bonus of between 50,000–70,000 Bonvoy points, up to a high of 105,000 in the summer of 2021.
For the business version of the card, the spending requirement has fluctuated from a low of $1,5o0 to a high of $5,000, with some time in between at $3,000. Similar to the personal card, the welcome bonus has ranged between 50,000–80,000 Bonvoy points, up to a high of 105,000 Bonvoy points in the summer of 2021.
The current welcome bonus offers for both credit cards are therefore amongst the best we’ve seen in terms of balancing a higher bonus with a lower spending requirement.
Verdict: The total welcome bonus offers on these two cards are identical, but have a slightly different earning structure. The Bonvoy Business Card has a longer window to earn the full 5x bonus at six months, compared to the personal card’s three months, giving it a slight edge.
3. Earning Rates
Both credit cards have an excellent earning rate of 5 Bonvoy points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels, including room charges, food and beverage, and incidentals.
Additionally, both cards earn 2 Bonvoy points per dollar spent on all other purchases.
However, the Bonvoy Business Card has one advantage that we don’t see with the personal Bonvoy card, as it earns 3 Bonvoy points per dollar spent on gas, dining and travel.
Verdict: The additional earning rate for the Bonvoy Business Card makes it the clear winner. Gas, dining, and travel purchases can make up a significant amount of everyday spending (especially for business owners), unlocking the possibility of earning plenty more points with the Bonvoy Business Card.
Perks and Benefits
In general, a travel credit card’s ongoing perks and benefits help to justify its annual fees year after year. As you’ll see, the personal and business Bonvoy cards are largely similar in this criterion.
1. Elite Qualifying Nights
15 elite qualifying nights are rewarded to cardholders of both products, automatically qualifying members for Silver Elite status. This status earns additional benefits such as 10% bonus points on stays and priority late checkout.
Elite qualifying nights are beneficial in the pursuit of more meaningful levels of status, such as Marriott Platinum Elite or Titanium Elite status.
Upon reaching these tiers at 50 and 75 elite qualifying nights respectively, you’ll enjoy a suite of perks when staying at hotels under the Marriott umbrella, including free breakfast, complimentary suite upgrades, and 4pm late checkout.
The 15 elite qualifying nights rewarded from both cards drop the requirements down to 35 and 60 nights for Platinum and Titanium, respectively. Unfortunately, unlike the US-issued versions of these cards, holding both the personal and business cards won’t stack to 30 elite qualifying nights.
2. Anniversary Free Night Award
Cardholders will receive an annual Free Night Award each anniversary date, valued at 35,000 Bonvoy points.
Based on our current valuation, 35,000 Bonvoy points is worth $315 (CAD), outweighing both cards’ annual fees. This makes it quite compelling to add both cards to your “keeper card” portfolio, to be kept and held for the Free Night Award year after year.
If you’re tactical in planning your award redemption, you can easily redeem the Free Night Award for a hotel night that would otherwise cost more than $315.
Furthermore, you can now top-up the Free Night Award with an an additional 15,000 points, for a redemption of up to 50,000 points. This should be enough to score a very attractive upscale hotel at a significant discount.
Verdict: Since both cards offer the exact same perks and benefits, they remain deadlocked in this category of comparison.
Beyond the basic card features and ongoing benefits, what else sets these two Marriott Bonvoy credit cards apart?
1. Ease of Getting Approved
Fortunately, neither card has a minimum income requirement for approval. In addition, approval for the Amex Bonvoy Business Card is more straightforward than you may think.
There’s no requirement to be a registered business when applying for the business version; those operating as sole proprietors or doing business under their name can qualify.
Both the personal and business cards offer practically identical insurance benefits.
Both cards offer a fairly basic package flight and baggage delay insurance, hotel burglary insurance, lost or stolen baggage insurance, car rental theft and damage insurance, and $500,000 in Travel Accident Insurance.
More robust insurance types like emergency medical coverage, trip cancellation, and trip interruption or not found on either card.
As a product geared towards business owners, the Bonvoy Business Card also offers coverage of up to $10,000 in case of permanent total disability as a sole proprietor due to accidental injury.
Verdict: This additional business-oriented insurance coverage gives the Bonvoy Business Card a slight edge, although neither card ranks among the best choices for travel insurance in the market.
3. Supplementary Cards
The personal Bonvoy card offers free supplementary cards, up to a maximum of nine per account.
Meanwhile, the business version charges $50 per supplementary card, also allowing up to a maximum of nine cards per account.
Verdict: The personal card wins in this category, with no additional charges for supplementary cards.
4. Referral Bonus
The Bonvoy Business Card earns 15,000 Bonvoy points per referral, up to a maximum of 150,000 Bonvoy points per calendar year.
On the other hand, the personal Bonvoy card earns 10,000 Bonvoy points per referral, up to a maximum of 150,000 Bonvoy points per calendar year – although some cardholders are occasionally targeted for a higher referral bonus of 15,000 Bonvoy points.
Verdict: The Bonvoy Business Card is the winner in this category, offering the superior referral bonus on an ongoing basis.
5. Visual Appearance
Both cards are identical with a clean, grey, and sleek design, featuring Marriott Bonvoy’s logo in the top-right corner.
Overall, it’s a fairly close race between Marriott Bonvoy‘s two co-branded credit cards in the Canadian market.
The Bonvoy Business Card a higher earning rate of 3 Bonvoy points per dollar earned on gas, dining, and travel, as well as a superior referral bonus structure. In exchange, however, there’s a higher annual fee of $150 compared to the personal card’s $120.
Ultimately, both the personal and business credit cards are worth applying for and holding in the long run, given their strong ongoing benefits in the form of 15 elite qualifying nights and an anniversary Free Night Award that outweighs the annual fee every year.
If you had to pick one card, I’d recommend the business version for a slight edge or the personal version to save on annual fees. However, if you’re looking to truly maximize Bonvoy points, then picking up both cards would be the wisest move.