Guide: Earn Marriott Bonvoy Elite Nights With Credit Cards

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One of the benefits of hotel credit cards is that they can help you earn elite status. Some hotel credit cards outright offer elite status, while others offer a certain number of elite nights towards a status tier.

In this post I wanted to share a guide to earning elite nights in the Marriott Bonvoy program using co-branded Marriott credit cards.

Earn 30 Marriott elite nights with credit cards

Let’s talk about everything you need to know to earn Marriott Bonvoy elite nights using Marriott’s credit cards, as this is a benefit that was improved in 2020.

What are Marriott elite nights?

For those who haven’t historically pursued hotel status, it’s perhaps worth clarifying what I’m talking about when I say “elite night.” An elite night doesn’t get you a free night in a hotel, or get you a free night in a hotel with elite benefits.

Rather hotel loyalty programs have certain minimum requirements to earn status with them (this could be 50, 60, 75, or 100 nights per year, depending on the benefits). Status gets you benefits like room upgrades, late check-out, free breakfast, etc.

When I use the term “elite night,” I mean you’re getting credit that qualifies towards earning status in the program. If a credit card gets you 15 elite nights, that doesn’t get you any free nights in hotels, but rather it gets you closer to earning status with a program, since it’s the equivalent of having spent 15 nights in a hotel when it comes to the progress towards status.



Some hotel credit cards can get you closer to elite status

Which Marriott credit cards offer 15 elite nights?

Marriott has credit cards issued by both American Express and Chase, and several of them offer 15 elite nights towards status annually just for having the card. The following Marriott credit cards each earn 15 elite nights per year (three are open to new applicants, while four are older cards that are no longer open to new applicants):



Several Marriott credit cards can help you earn elite status

Earn up to 30 Bonvoy elite nights per year with credit cards

As you can see, there are potentially up to seven Marriott Bonvoy credit cards each offering 15 elite nights. Does that mean you can get three Marriott credit cards and earn 45 elite nights per year that way? No, unfortunately not.

You can earn a maximum of 30 Bonvoy elite nights per year through co-branded credit cards:

  • You can earn at most 15 elite nights per year through personal Marriott Bonvoy credit cards
  • You can earn at most 15 elite nights per year through business Marriott Bonvoy credit cards
  • There’s only one business card, so if you want to earn 30 elite nights per year with credit cards, you’ll need to have the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card plus one personal Marriott Bonvoy credit card

This is a new change in 2020 — through 2019 you could earn at most 15 elite nights per year on any Bonvoy account, while as of 2020 you can earn 30 elite nights, between personal and business cards.



You can earn up to 30 elite nights per year with Marriott credit cards

When do Marriott credit card elite nights post?

The ability to earn Marriott elite nights with credit cards is an ongoing perk:

  • In other words, you don’t just get 15 elite nights your first year, but you also get them in subsequent years
  • You also get these elite nights even if you open your credit card in the middle of the year, so there’s no requirement that the account has to be open at the beginning of the year

So, when should you expect Marriott elite nights to post?

  • If your Marriott Bonvoy credit card is open at the beginning of the year, your 15 elite night credits will post by March 1; however, in practice they typically post much faster, often within the first week of January
  • If you open your Marriott Bonvoy credit card during the year, your 15 elite night credits will post within 60 days of account opening



You could start each year with 30 Bonvoy elite nights

Do elite nights earned through Marriott credit cards count towards lifetime status?

Marriott offers the following three tiers for lifetime status:

  • Lifetime Silver status requires 250 elite nights plus five years of status
  • Lifetime Gold status requires 400 elite nights plus seven years of Gold status or higher
  • Lifetime Platinum status requires 600 elite nights plus 10 years of Platinum status or higher

Do elite nights earned through Marriott credit cards count towards the lifetime status night requirement? The answer is yes, they absolutely do.



Credit cards can get you closer to Marriott lifetime elite status

What about Marriott credit cards offering status for spending?

A couple of Marriott credit cards offer elite status for spending. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card offers Platinum status when you spend $75,000 on the card in a calendar year.

For some people that might be worth it, though there is one important distinction to understand. When you earn status through spending, you’re not actually getting the corresponding elite nights.

To explain this in the form of an example:

  • Say you spend $75,000 on the Bonvoy Brilliant Card and then earn Platinum status
  • You’ll have Platinum status, but won’t get the corresponding 50 elite nights
  • If you want to then go for Bonvoy Titanium status (which requires 75 elite nights), you’re not any closer to earning it, since you’re not getting the 50 elite nights usually associated with Platinum status
  • You also wouldn’t qualify for Bonvoy Choice Benefits, since those are based on the elite nights you earn, rather than your status



Some Marriott credit cards outright offer Platinum status with spending

Marriott credit cards make Platinum status attainable

Marriott has five elite tiers (Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador), and I’d say status starts becoming valuable around the Platinum tier. Bonvoy Platinum members receive perks like the following:

  • Unlimited suite upgrades, subject to availability
  • Guaranteed 4PM check-out, except at resorts, where it’s subject to availability
  • Complimentary lounge access and/or breakfast at most Marriott brands
  • Bonus points on stays
  • Bonvoy Choice Benefits, where you can select perks like Suite Night Awards

Now, in fairness, there are a lot of Platinum members and I do find Marriott to be quite inconsistent, so temper your expectations when it comes to the unlimited suite upgrades. 😉

Bonvoy Platinum status ordinarily requires 50 elite nights per year, so if you can earn 30 elite nights per year, that gets you 60% of the way there. Then you’d only have to earn an additional 20 elite nights to achieve status.

Keep in mind that even award stays and redemptions of free night certificates count towards status with Marriott, so you don’t even have to stay 20 nights on paid rates. That’s potentially not that hard even for someone who is ordinarily a leisure traveler.



It’s much easier to earn Platinum status with the right Marriott credit card

How do other hotel credit card elite status opportunities compare?

In case you’re curious about how Marriott’s policy of earning status with credit cards compares to the policies of competitors, I figured I’d talk briefly about what other hotel groups offer.

The best opportunity to earn status with a hotel credit card is available with Hilton. The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (review) offers Hilton Honors’ top-tier Diamond status for as long as you have the card, with no spending requirement. That’s an incredible perk.

IHG Rewards Club also has a decent opportunity, as the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (review) offers IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you have the card.

When it comes to Hyatt, World of Hyatt Globalist status is my favorite top-tier hotel status, and understandably it’s also not that easy to earn. However, The World of Hyatt Credit Card (review) can help you earn elite status. You receive five elite nights annually just for having the card, and two more elite nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card.



I love the status opportunities with the Hilton Aspire Card

Bottom line

Marriott Bonvoy members can earn up to 30 elite nights per year using co-branded credit cards. This is a policy that only changed in 2020, as previously you could earn at most 15 elite nights per year with co-branded Marriott credit cards.

This is potentially a great opportunity, as it gets you 60% of the way towards Bonvoy Platinum status.

Do you leverage Marriott credit cards to earn Bonvoy elite status?