Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex Worth the $450 Annual Fee?
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Among the many premium credit cards out there is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card with a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees). Cobranded hotel cards usually aren’t the best for maximizing your spending beyond purchases with a given hotel chain, 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.
The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express proved that it’s possible to get outsized value from at lease one premium hotel card by offering generous perks such as automatic top-tier elite status and weekend reward nights. Today, we’re going to see whether the same holds true for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant.
75k Welcome Bonus
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex comes with a sizable welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. That’s worth $600 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. It’s 25,000 fewer points than the previous welcome bonus of 100,000 points with a minimum spending requirement of $5,000 in the first 3 months, but you can still stretch 75,000 points pretty far, and the spending requirement is $2,000 lower.
Some of the best uses of Marriott Bonvoy points include a free night at properties like The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket, the W Hollywood or The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami. Alternatively, you could leverage Marriott’s 5th Night Free feature and get more than 10 free nights at a mix of low-cost Category 1 and 2 hotels. If you’re looking to splurge, you could redeem 85,000 points for a night at the all-suite St. Regis Maldives, St. Regis Bora Bora or Al Maha Resort in Dubai.
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, off-peak night at a Category 7 or peak night at a Category 4. In case you need some inspiration, you can use your certificate for a stay at the W Shanghai, the Mykonos Theoxenia, Design Hotels or The Royal at Atlantis, Autograph Collection.
$300 Statement Credit for Marriott Purchases
This part is very straightforward: During each card member year (defined by when you opened the account), you’ll receive up to a total of $300 in statement credits for Marriott purchases charged to your card. 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.
Elite Status Shortcuts
The card offers automatic Marriott Gold Elite status and the ability to earn Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 in a calendar year. The most valuable benefits of Gold status are upgrades to enhanced rooms and a 25% point bonus on hotel spending. While it’s better than nothing, it isn’t especially exciting — especially considering that the Platinum Card® from American Express also offers automatic Gold status.
What can be 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 (assuming you don’t earn it by spending $75k with the card). Unfortunately, this benefit does not stack with the nights you earn with other Marriott cards.
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 and free meals at a growing list of airport restaurants, as well as a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. While the Priority Pass membership is essentially useless 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.
The Bonvoy Brilliant’s earning structure is pretty similar to that of the other Marriott cards, but with two additional bonus categories: dining and airfare. Card holders earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels, 3 points per dollar points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2 points per dollar on all other 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, which isn’t earth-shattering, but also isn’t bad.
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. Aside from the welcome bonus, perks such as the annual free night award and $300 statement credit can make the card pay for itself year after. If you’re thinking about breaking up with Marriott, however, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
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