HDFC Bank and Marriott have launched a co-branded credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy HDFC Bank Credit Card. This is the first hotel co-branded credit card in India. The talks about the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card had been doing rounds for a couple of years and I had mentioned it here. Finally, the card has seen light of the day and it has been launched on the Diners platform. Now does it make sense to apply for the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card? Read to find out.
Marriott HDFC Bank Credit Card
- Joining and Annual fees of 3000+ taxes.
- No annual fee waiver
Rewards and Benefits:
Joining & Recurring Benefits:
- 1 free night award on paying the joining and annual fee. Up to the value of 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
- Complimentary Marriott Silver Elite status for as long as the card is active
- 10 Elite Night Credits (ENC) under the Marriott Bonvoy Program
- 8 Marriot Bonvoy (MB) points for every 150 spent at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy. This will include many ITC properties too. Reward rate of 2.67%, I value 1 MB point at 50p overall.
- 4 Marriot Bonvoy (MB) points for every 150 spent on travel, dining and entertainment. Reward rate of 1.33%.
- 2 Marriot Bonvoy (MB) points for every 150 spent on other purchases. Reward rate of 0.67%.
- Exclusions – EMI, fuel spends, wallet load, gift cards, government payments, rental
- 1 free night award on annual spends of 6lakhs, 9 lakhs and 15 lakhs each. i.e. 3 free night awards on spending 15lakhs in an anniversary year.
- The 1 free night award is valid for 12 months.
- 12 complimentary domestic lounge access per year, applicable on both the domestic and international terminals.
- 12 complimentary international lounge access, outside India.
Marriott Bonvoy Program
Before getting into my thoughts on the Marriott HDFC Bank Credit Card, let’s first get some basics of the Marriott Bonvoy program.
What is the Marriott Bonvoy program?
Marriott Bonvoy is a loyalty program offered by Marriott International, one of the world’s largest hotel chains. The program allows guests to earn and redeem points for various benefits and rewards when they stay at Marriott’s participating hotels and resorts.
Marriott International has over 8500 properties all over the world. Marriott owns 31 popular brands; a few of them are Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, JW Marriott, W, Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridian, Courtyard, Four Seasons, Fairfield etc. Within India, Marriott owns around 140 properties and it will increase to 200 by 2025. Many of the popular ITC hotels are also part of the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Members of the Marriott Bonvoy program can earn points for eligible stays at Marriott’s wide range of hotel brands. You can earn points through eligible spending on dining, spa services, and other hotel amenities. You can redeem points earned in the Marriott Bonvoy program for a variety of rewards. These include free nights at Marriott hotels and resorts, room upgrades and even air miles transfer.
What are the various tier levels?
The Marriott Bonvoy has several elite tiers, including Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, and Ambassador Elite. Members can achieve these tiers based on the number of nights stayed and the points earned in a calendar year. Higher tiers offer additional benefits like room upgrades, late checkout, lounge access, and more.
The Marriott HDFC Bank Credit Card offers you the Silver Elite tier. It is just one notch above the base level. The benefits of various elite tiers are available here.
A word of caution, When booking Marriott properties through points the breakfast is not included with the stay, one needs to pay for it. For Marriott Bonvoy members, breakfast is included only if you are in the Platinum Elite or above tier.
What is an Elite Night Credit (ECN)?
It’s a fancy-sounding name. Thus disregard the word Elite, it is just a night credit. It tells you how many revenue nights you have stayed with Marriott in a year. These night credits help you move to a higher tier in the Marriott hierarchy. However, mind that award nights are generally not counted towards ECN. More details about the ECN are available here.
Positives and Negatives of the Marriott HDFC Bank Credit Card
Positives of this credit card
Good starting point into the world of hotel loyalty
The Marriott HDFC Bank credit card offers the Sliver Elite tier to the cardholder as long as the card is active. This is sort of a good starting point for many. You can upgrade to the Gold tier by booking just 15 nights more, which is not difficult for someone who travels quite often. Further, you get 10% more Marriott Bonvoy points on eligible spending during the stay.
Free night award valued at 15k MB points
The key highlight of the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card is that it offers up to 4 free night awards. One on paying the annual fee and 3 more based on spending milestones. You can book almost any Marriott property with the free night award where the MB points requirement is 15K or below. Actually, there are many good properties available at 15K MB points in September. Just to name a few, ITC Mughal Agra, ITC Grand Chola, Courtyard Aravali, Westin Mussorie, JW Marriott Kolkata, ITC Sonar Kolkata, and Westin Mumbai Powai Lake.
Further, if the room you are booking has a higher point requirement, you can redeem or purchase up to 15k MB Points to expand the value of your Free Night Award.
Clubbing of Free Night Awards is possible
Another positive of the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card is that you can club your free night awards and redeem them together. Thus in theory you can get 4 free nights of stay at a Marriott property using this credit card.
Lounge access – no separate card needed
The Marriott HDFC Bank credit card provides 12 domestic and 12 international lounge access to the cardholder. Since this card is on the Diners platform, the good thing is you don’t need a separate Priority Pass to access international lounges. Just the credit card works.
Further, the 12 domestic lounge access also provides access to lounges on the international terminal within India. Many credit cards don’t allow access to international lounges at domestic airports.
Getting approved as the 3rd HDFC Bank credit card
The HDFC Bank management has said that the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card will be approved as the third credit card for the HDFC Bank cardholders. This is good, as many people would already hold 2 HDFC credit cards. However, I won’t keep my hopes high with the 3rd HDFC Bank card, as the bank is known to be conservative and is very risk averse. Thus, likely that many will be rejected if applied as the 3rd HDFC credit card.
Negatives of the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card
The reward rate is not very exciting
While putting a value on 1MB is a tough task, I have generally observed that anything between 40-50p for 1MB is fair. Thus, if I value 1MB at 50p the reward rate on the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card does not seem great. You are getting a 2.67% reward rate on Marriott spends, 1.33% on travel/dining spends and just a 0.67% reward rate on all other spends. This is not very exciting in terms of reward rate.
Booking via points does not include breakfast
Under the Marriott Bonvoy program, when booking rooms using points the breakfast is not included and you need to pay for it. You need to account for this expense when booking Marriott properties. The breakfast is only available to Platinum Elite and higher-tier members. Given that the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card only offers the Silver Elite tier (2 notches below the Platinum tier) breakfast won’t be included for any of the free night award bookings also.
Getting a free night award on your dates can be a challenge
The Marriott Bonvoy program has recently moved to the dynamic point requirement for redemption. What this means is the points required to book a certain room will change depending on the demand. Thus, the properties that I mentioned above may have different MB point requirements depending on your travel date.
There are caps on spends
To prevent the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card being used for business purposes there are certain caps mentioned in the T&Cs. The Marriott spends are capped at 10lakhs per month. Post that you earn only 2 points for every 150 spent. For the travel, dining and entertainment spend, the same cap is at 5lakhs for a month. i.e. post 5 lakhs spends in a month you get only 2 points for every 150 spent. Grocery spends are capped at 1.5lakhs per month. Thus after 1.5lakh spent on groceries in a month; you don’t earn any reward points. In my opinion, the caps are quite liberal and should not hamper the normal usage of the credit card.
Comparison with Amex MRCC and Plat Travel Credit Cards
In the below dynamic Excel sheet, if you happen to spend say 20k every month just on Marriott properties and nowhere else, the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card is barely able to meet the reward rate of Amex MRCC. This is considering the best-case assumption. Thus in reality the reward rate will be much lower.
Similarly, if you happen to spend say 35k a month just on Marriott, the reward rate of the Marriott credit card barely beats the MRCC but only when one takes into account the FNA value. It is still not able to beat the Amex Plat Travel.
The Marriott HDFC Bank credit card shines only at higher spend value on Marriott. Say you are spending around 1.5lk per month then the value of 4 FNA awards kick in and sort of give higher benefits than the Amex MRCC (Apply Now) and Amex Plat Travel (Apply Now).
I found the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card an underwhelming card in the hotel loyalty space. Nonetheless, it gives a good flavour of the Marriott Bonvoy ecosystem. Thus, the credit card power users and the Marriott loyalists would not find anything interesting in it. Further, given that the ICICI Bank is also launching 2 credit cards (a Base and a Select variant) on the Visa platform with Marriott, the task for them is fairly easy now.
Nonetheless, Marriott loyalists may just apply for the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card; get the welcome FNA award of 15k MB points and enjoy a day’s stay at a Marriott property at 3600 per year. Not a bad deal per se :).
Anyway, I am not applying for this credit card. I would rather use my Amex MRCC (Apply Now) and Amex Plat Travel (Apply Now) credit cards and get Marriott points on them. Given that Amex also allows me to use points to get Taj, Vistara or even Amazon vouchers and transfer to many airline partners, makes the Amex cards much more versatile credit cards over the Marriott HDFC Bank credit card.
In the interest of full disclosure, Credit Cardz may earn a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the links in this post. However, opinions and views expressed here are of the author's alone and not those of the bank, credit card issuer, or anyone else and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.