Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex worth the $450 annual fee?

Oct 8, 2021

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Among the many premium credit cards out there is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. This cobranded hotel credit card doesn’t offer automatic top-tier status and comes with a pretty high $450 annual fee (see rates & fees).

The truth is, cobranded hotel cards usually aren’t the best for maximizing your spending beyond purchases with a given hotel chain. However, the annual award nights that come with these cards can be quite valuable. So when there’s one with an annual fee that rivals the likes of other premium cards, one of our first questions is always whether it’s worth it or not.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card proved that it’s possible to get outsized value from at least one premium hotel card by offering generous perks such as automatic top-tier elite status and weekend reward nights. But today, we’re going to see whether the same holds true for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. After all, the card is currently offering an elevated welcome bonus that can get you as much as $1,880 in value.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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In This Post

Welcome bonus worth up to $1,880

In examining whether or not the card is worth it, let’s start at with the introductory bonus offer.

Now through Nov. 3, 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex comes with a welcome bonus of 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus free night award (redemption level worth up to 85,000 Marriott points) after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Resort fees may apply. The points alone are worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations and the 85,000-point award night is worth up to $680 when fully maximized.

Some of the best uses of Marriott Bonvoy points include a free night at properties such as the new Ritz-Carlton, Turks & Caicos, the St. Regis Bora Bora, the West Hollywood Edition or the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane. Those who enjoy time on the powder may love ski-adjacent options at the St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis Deer Valley or Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch.

Related: 9 places to maximize the new 85,000-point Marriott award night certificate

The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage Palm Springs. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Alternatively, you could leverage Marriott’s fifth-night free feature and receive over a dozen free award nights at a mix of low-cost Category 1 and 2 hotels — once you add in the points earned from meeting the minimum spend requirement and depending on the time of year you are travel. Or, if you’re looking to splurge, you could redeem your 150,000 points for an off-peak night at the  St. Regis Maldives, St. Regis Bora Bora or Al Maha Resort in Dubai.

The Al Maha Resort. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Keep in mind Amex has restrictions that will limit your ability to collect a new member bonus if you’ve had Marriott products from Chase. Fortunately, there’s a pop-up that will tell you if you are not eligible for the bonus when you apply before Amex runs your credit — and our chart can help clarify things as well.

Annual free night award

Each year on your card-opening anniversary, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points. That’s enough to book a standard night at a Category 6 hotel or even an off-peak night at a Category 7 hotel.

In case you need some inspiration on what that can get you, you can use your 50k certificate for a stay at the W Shanghai, the Mykonos Theoxenia, the new Swan Reserve at Walt Disney World, JW Marriott Bonnet Creek or the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino.

Related: Using your Marriott free night certificate in the US

The JW Marriott Bonnet Creek. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

$300 statement credit for Marriott purchases

This part is very straightforward: During each cardmember year (defined by when you opened the account), you’ll receive up to a total of $300 in statement credits on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

This credit applies not just to incidentals charged to the room but also for room rates, so you should have no trouble maximizing this benefit and essentially drop the card’s annual fee to $150 if you stay with Marriott each year. Assuming you get more than $150 in value from the 50,000-point annual award night, the card quickly can tip to the worth-it category.

Photo of the Miami Beach Edition by
The Miami Beach Edition. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Elite status

The card offers automatic Marriott Gold Elite status. Truthfully, that’s not great, but it’s better than nothing. The most valuable benefits of Gold status are upgrades to enhanced rooms and a 25% point bonus on hotel spending. The Platinum Card® from American Express also offers automatic Gold status (once you enroll), making this potentially duplicative if you have other premium travel cards.

However, a bit more useful for those chasing a higher level of elite status is that the card also comes with 15 elite-qualifying night credits per year. So, if you’re chasing free breakfast, suite upgrades and all the other benefits that come with Platinum elite status, you’ll need just 35 nights instead of 50 nights.

And as of 2020, this benefit does stack with the nights you earn with Marriott small business cards.

That means you could have 30 elite night credits from having a personal and a small business Marriott card, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, which is pretty great.

Related: These are the best Marriott credit cards 

A complimentary Marriott Platinum breakfast to-go. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Other perks

Other built-in perks of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card include a Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you and two guests unlimited access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, as well as a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. While the Priority Pass membership is not a massive value-add if you already receive the benefit through other cards, if you already have Global Entry or PreCheck, you can use this credit to cover a friend or family member’s application fee. Enrollment required for select benefits.

The Bonvoy Brilliant’s earning structure is similar to the other Marriott cards, but with two additional bonus categories: dining and airfare. Cardholders earn 6x points per dollar on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3x points per dollar points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points per dollar on other eligible purchases.

Based on TPG’s valuations, that’s essentially a return of 4.8% on Marriott purchases, 2.4% on restaurants and flights, and 1.6% on everyday spending. Those rates aren’t earth-shattering but also aren’t bad.

Related: Earn bonus Marriott points on your Uber rides and food delivery orders

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Bottom line

While it might not be the best card for everyday spending, there’s plenty of value to be had in the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card if you stay, or want to stay, at Marriott properties.

In addition to the massive welcome bonus, ongoing perks such as the annual free night award and up to $300 annual statement credit can make the card pay for itself year after year. This wouldn’t be our top pick if you are just getting started in reward travel or only plan to hold one credit card. Still, it can be worth it for Marriott aficionados, who will get good value out of the annual 50k certificate and welcome bonus.

Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card with a 150,000-point and free night award bonus worth up to 85,000 points.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.

Additional reporting by Summer Hull and Jennifer Yellin

Featured image by The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.