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. This cobranded hotel credit card doesn’t offer automatic top-tier status and comes with a pretty high $450 annual fee (see rates and 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 outsize value from at least one premium hotel card by offering generous perks such as automatic top-tier elite status and weekend reward nights. But in this guide, we’re going to see whether the same holds true for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant.
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 examining whether or not the card is worth it, let’s start with the introductory bonus offer.
With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, you can earn a welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
Some of the best uses of Marriott Bonvoy points include a free night at properties such as The Ritz-Carlton, Turks & Caicos, The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, The West Hollywood Edition and the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane. Those who enjoy time on the powder may love ski-adjacent options at The St. Regis Aspen Resort, The St. Regis Deer Valley or The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.
Marriott recently removed its award charts in favor of a dynamic pricing system, but is keeping 97% of hotels within their previous off-peak to peak pricing bands through the end of 2022 — meaning you’ll probably want to make use of that bonus free night before then.
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 after your card renewal month, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points.
In case you need some inspiration for what that can get you, you can use your 50,000-point certificate for a stay at the W Shanghai, the new Swan Reserve at Walt Disney World, the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek or the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort. Due to the dynamic pricing, you’ll want to do a calendar search for flexible dates in order to find dates that are 50,000 points or less.
$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 dropping 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.
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% points bonus on hotel spending. The Platinum Card® from American Express also offers automatic Gold status (once you enroll), making this potentially redundant 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.
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 an up to $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 TSA PreCheck, you can use this credit to cover a friend’s or family member’s application fee. Enrollment is 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 6 points per dollar on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 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.
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 in annual statement credits 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 50,000-point certificate and welcome bonus.
Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card with 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Summer Hull and Jennifer Yellin.
Featured photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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