As you know, Marriott is buying Starwood, which is a bummer, so I’m trying to figure out a silver lining. Presumably Starwood credit cards will become Marriott credit cards at some point. Right now, you can get both a business and a personal Marriott card from Chase, assuming you don’t get tripped up by the 5/24 rule, which would allow you the privilege of two “free” Category 1-5 rooms per year for $184, assuming you hold on to the cards and pay the annual fees.
If you get two Starwood cards converted to Marriott, Chase would probably grandfather you in and let you have two of each type of Marriott card, assuming the portfolio went to Chase. (See here for a discussion of how many Chase cards you can have in total.) So now you’re looking at four free nights per year at a little under $400.
In terms of annual free credit card hotel room value, Marriott leaves something to be desired. The IHG card is a no-brainer since the fee is only $49 and you can take your free night at any hotel in the chain. The Hyatt card isn’t quite as generous, as the free night is only good for Category 1-4 hotels, but it’s pretty easy to find a Hyatt hotel in those categories that costs much more than the card’s annual fee.
As for the Marriott card… yes, you can make it worth your while but it’s not as easy as with the other two cards. Even so, having one or two cards can be useful in case you want a quick trip to an area where other chains don’t have good coverage. But four cards? Or even eight cards for credit card power couples? That feels like you’re locked in. It’s a credit-card timeshare, albeit one that’s cheaper and easier to get out of than a real timeshare.
Marriott cards currently give you 15 nights toward elite status, but unfortunately you cannot stack elite nights from both the personal and business cards so I doubt that four cards would do you much good in that regard, unless something gets screwed up when they merge the Marriott and Starwood programs. Which is of course a possibility given how mergers of IT systems usually go.
Of course, I guess it’s possible that Amex holds on to the portfolio and they don’t even offer a free night, rendering this discussion moot.
My wife and I only recently got around to getting the Marriott cards so I don’t yet have a good feel for exactly how valuable the free night benefit is for our household. If any of you have thoughts on the matter, I’m all ears.