With credit card signup offers enduring a relatively slow year in Canada, many Canadians have been looking south of the border and getting started with US credit cards in order to boost their points balances and diversify their holdings.
In recent months, we’ve seen American Express US and their rival, Chase, locked in an ever-escalating arms race in terms of offering higher and higher welcome bonuses on their premium travel credit cards. American Express put forth unprecedented offers of 60,000 US MR points on the Gold Card and 50,000 US MR points on the Green Card, whereas Chase has offered a similarly never-before-seen 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
While those offers were definitely impressive, they still remained in the usual five-figure realm that we’re accustomed to seeing from credit card issuers. Well, today, Chase has taken things to a whole new level, putting out a truly staggering offer of five free night certificates worth up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each, valuing the overall offer at 250,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, on their Chase Marriott Boundless Visa.
Unfortunately, before we get too excited, it’s generally the case that signup offers on Chase credit cards are generally less useful to Canadian applicants compared to American Express US, as Chase doesn’t allow you to sign up directly as a cross-border applicant and rather generally requires at least one year of established US credit history to approve you.
Still, this is a pretty incredible offer on a credit card product we haven’t covered before, so I think it’s worth taking a look at the details for those of you who might be lucky enough to eligible, as well as those of you who might now be galvanized to get started on your US credit card journey.
Signup Bonus of Five Free Night Certificates
Most credit card signup bonuses are delivered in the form of rewards points in a certain loyalty program, but Chase has taken a different approach here.
Upon signing up for the Chase Marriott Boundless Visa and spending US$5,000 in the first three months, a total of five free night certificates, each worth up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, will be deposited into your Bonvoy account. The card has an annual fee of US$95, which is not waived for the first year.
The free night certificates will be deposited in your account up to eight weeks after meeting the spending threshold. They will then be valid for one year from the date of issuance, meaning that you’ll have the opportunity to redeem them for your travels throughout 2021 – and depending on when you meet the minimum spend and how long it takes for the certificates to deposit, potentially into 2022 as well.
On paper, the five free night certificates are worth up to 250,000 Marriott Bonvoy points in total, which is obviously a jaw-dropping bonus to receive on a single credit card application.
Of course, you don’t actually get the full flexibility of having 250,000 points in your account, as you’re limited to redeeming each certificate for a free hotel night worth 50,000 points – you wouldn’t be able to leverage the Marriott Bonvoy points to transfer to their airline partners, for example. But if you primarily collect Bonvoy points for the purposes of high-end hotel stays, then this offer will be right up your alley.
You might assume that the free night certificates worth up to 50,000 points would be best redeemed towards Category 6 hotels, which cost 50,000 points per night at the standard rate. That would certainly unlock plenty of value from the bonus, including a wide range of Marriott’s higher-end properties around the world.
However, the true absolute best-case scenario is to redeem these certificates on a Category 7 hotel on an off-peak date, which also costs 50,000 points per night if you’re able to locate the off-peak dates on the calendar.
In addition to the signup bonus worth a quarter-million Bonvoy points on its own, the Chase Marriott Visa also provides an elite qualifying boost of 15 elite nights, which can be stacked with the American Express US Marriott Bonvoy Business Card to give you a total of 30 elite qualifying nights (remember, the only way to stack two of these 15-night bonuses to reach 30 is to hold both a US-issued personal Bonvoy card and a US-issued business Bonvoy card).
If you hold the following combination of Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit cards...
You will receive...
Canadian personal + Canadian business
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian personal + US personal
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian personal + US business
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian business + US personal
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian business + US business
15 elite qualifying nights
US personal + US business
30 elite qualifying nights
That’ll get you more than halfway towards Marriott Platinum Elite status, which is where you start to enjoy the truly valuable benefits like free breakfast, lounge access, and suite upgrades.
The Chase Marriott Boundless can also be worthwhile to keep year after year, thanks to its anniversary bonus of a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That’s good for a hotel stay at a Category 5 Marriott hotel at the standard rate, which can easily outweigh the card’s US$95 annual fee.
Lastly, in terms of the points earning rate, the Chase Marriott Boundless earns 6 Marriott points per US dollar spent at Marriott properties, which is on par with with its Amex US counterparts. On all other purchases, it earns 2 Marriott points per US dollar spent, which isn’t really a competitive return in my books – your best bet would be to reserve this card for spending at Marriott hotels.
Who Is Eligible for the Bonus?
As good as the offer is, there is a multilayered set of eligibility rules that might limit many individuals who are interested in the offer from actually being able to get it.
First of all, Chase generally requires at least one year of established credit history in the US (and sometimes more) to approve you for a premium travel credit card. They also won’t process applications without an SSN or ITIN included on the application. For Canadians, this means that only those of us who’ve already gotten started on our US credit card journey at least one year ago will potentially be eligible at this time – if you haven’t gotten started yet, there’s no better time than the present, so that you can have some skin in the game the next time one of these stunning non-Amex offers arrive.
Chase also has the infamous “5/24 rule”, which means that they won’t approve you for any credit card if you’ve opened more than five credit cards over the past 24 months (although keep in mind that Amex US business cards do not show up on your personal credit file, and so do not count towards your 5/24 total).
These days, the 5/24 rule applies to the vast majority of Chase’s credit cards, so if you’ve gone on a US credit card application spree recently, that means you won’t be able to get approved for the Chase Marriott Boundless until you go back “under 5/24”.
Next, on the Chase Marriott cards specifically, there is a very convoluted set of exclusion criteria for prospective cardholders who also hold the Marriott credit cards issued by American Express US. Here they are:
This is some very granular fine print indeed, and you’ll want to carefully read through each criterion to make sure it does not apply to you if you want to be eligible for the bonus.
Alas, I imagine that many Canadians who’ve gotten started with US credit cards may have applied for one of the Amex US Bonvoy credit cards along the way: either the US Bonvoy Brilliant or the US Bonvoy Business.
If that’s the case, you might find yourself disqualified from the Chase bonus due to the above eligibility criteria. Marriott clearly doesn’t want to be doling out big bonuses left and right to anyone who’s willing to apply for their cards from both issuers.
To get a better understanding of these exclusion criteria, let’s take myself as an example. I currently hold two Amex US Bonvoy cards: the base-level US Bonvoy Card (which is grandfathered from the Starwood Preferred Guest days, and is no longer open to new applicants) and the US Bonvoy Business Card. The former automatically disqualifies me from this bonus under Criterion #1.
However, I’m in the clear under Criteria #2 and #3: I haven’t received the bonus on either the US Bonvoy Business or the US Bonvoy Brilliant within the past 24 months (my US Bonvoy Business was received in January 2017, more than two years ago) and I haven’t applied for either product within the past 90 days either.
So this has me thinking… as a current cardholder of the base-level US Bonvoy Card, I do have the option of upgrading to the US Bonvoy Brilliant at any time. If I do that, and wait 30 days, I’d no longer fall foul of Criterion #1.
And if I don’t receive an upgrade bonus when upgrading (and there’s no upgrade bonus currently showing on my account), then I wouldn’t trigger Criterion #2 either. Criterion #3 is a bit vague, but the way I read it, it excludes individuals who apply for the Bonvoy Brilliant, not who upgrade to it.
I’m normally pretty happy to hold onto my portfolio of US credit cards without making too many major moves, but a signup bonus worth up to 250,000 Marriott Bonvoy points certainly has my interest piqued.
I’m going to give the above strategy a try and will keep you updated as to how it goes, and I’d encourage you to do the same if you’ve already established your US credit card presence and may only need to move a few jigsaw pieces around to fulfill the Chase Marriott Boundless Visa’s eligibility criteria.
The US credit card market continues to heat up, and now it’s Chase’s turn to throw down the glove.
The Chase Marriott Boundless Visa will grant you five free night certificates, each redeemable for a free night worth up to 50,000 Bonvoy points and valid for one year from the date of issuance, when you apply and spend US$5,000 in the first three months.
Unfortunately, Chase’s relatively stricter approval criteria, as well as the specific eligibility criteria on this product, may disqualify many prospective applicants (especially those from Canada) from the bonus. However, there is no published end date on the offer, so my sense is that it could remain in place for at least a few months’ time, giving those of us who may need to maneuver our US credit card portfolio with the eligibility criteria in mind the opportunity to do so.
Now it’s your turn, Amex US – what have you got for us on the Bonvoy Brilliant and the Bonvoy Business?