Credit card showdown: Deciding between the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and Bonvoy Brilliant
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.
The Marriott Bonvoy program is unique in that it has credit card partnerships with two different issuers: Chase and American Express. If you’re in the market for a new card, you may be torn between the mid-tier Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card issued by Chase and the premium Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
Deciding between a mid-tier and premium credit card is challenging enough. Still, when two different banks issue those cards with different sets of application rules, the decision gets even harder. This is even more so when both offer elevated welcome offers or sign-up bonuses as they are now.
Today we’re going to demystify the decision and help you decide whether the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card makes more sense for you.
Current sign-up/welcome offers and eligibility
The first thing most of us look at when evaluating a new card is the welcome bonus or sign-up bonus.
The Bonvoy Brilliant currently has an elevated welcome offer of 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after using your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, you’ll earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of account opening.
The Bonvoy Boundless, on the other hand, is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 125,000 bonus points + 1 free night (valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening (total of up to 175,000 bonus points).
TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, making these bonuses worth $800 and $1,400, respectively.
Before you decide which card you want, it’s important to figure out which of these cards you’ll be eligible for. Let’s start with the Bonvoy Boundless. This card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so you’ll be automatically rejected if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. You also won’t be eligible if you’re a current Marriott Bonvoy Boundless or Marriott Bonvoy Premier cardholder, or if you’ve received a bonus on those cards in the last 24 months.
Although there aren’t many major loyalty programs that have cobranded cards issued by two different banks (American Airlines is the only other one that comes to mind), Marriott limits bonus eligibility across the entire cobranded card family.
You won’t be eligible for a bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card if you fall within any of these categories:
- A current cardmember, or a previous cardmember within the last 30 days, of the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express).
- A current or previous cardmember of either the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card), and received a new cardmember bonus or upgrade bonus in the last 24 months.
- Applied and were approved for Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card) within the last 90 days.
Amex doesn’t have a rule like 5/24, but it does limit you to earning the welcome bonus on a given card to once per lifetime. So if you’ve already earned a bonus on the Bonvoy Brilliant or the former SPG Luxury Amex, you won’t be eligible for a new bonus. The offer terms also exclude the following Chase customers:
Welcome offer not available to applicants who (i) have or have had The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card from JPMorgan or the J.P. Morgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a new Card Member bonus or upgrade offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 24 months.
When you add up the 5/24 rule, Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule and the way Marriott limits eligibility, a large percentage of people who want one of these Bonvoy cards might not be eligible. Especially with the confusing name changes, make sure to double and triple check the terms and conditions before applying so you don’t waste a hard credit pull for nothing.
Premium vs. mid-tier
When comparing a mid-tier card to a premium version, it helps frame the conversation regarding whether the premium card offers enough extra value to justify its higher annual fee. Let’s meet our two competitors (terms apply):
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card|
|Sign-up bonus/welcome offer||Earn 125,000 bonus points + 1 free night (valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening (total of up to 175,000 bonus points).||Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after using your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, you’ll earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of account opening.|
|Annual fee||$95||$450 (see rates & fees)|
|Bonus categories||6x on purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2x on other eligible purchases||6x on purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3x at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline and 2x on other eligible purchases|
|Annual free night certificate||Free night worth up to 35,000 points||Free night worth up to 50,000 points|
|Marriott Elite status||Complimentary Silver Elite status. Earn Gold by spending $35,000 a year||Complimentary Gold Elite status. Earn Platinum by spending $75,000 a year|
|Perks||15 elite night credits a year||Up to $300 in annual Marriott statement credits, valid on room rates and hotel charges
Up to a $100 luxury property credit valid on eligible stays of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels
15 elite night credits a year.
Which should you get?
Assuming all else is equal and that you’re eligible to apply for both of these cards, the Bonvoy Brilliant has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) versus $95 for the Bonvoy Boundless. With the elevated sign-up bonus with the Bonvoy Boundless, TPG values the sign-up bonus from the Boundless by an additional $400. That means the Brilliant needs to provide at least $755 in incremental value to get our vote.
Let’s start with the most important benefit of most premium credit cards: the annual statement credit. In this case, the Bonvoy Brilliant offers an up to $300 annual credit on Marriott purchases that’s automatically applied to your account (for use at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program). This applies to room rates and other hotel charges such as dining or spa treatments, so we value it at face value. If you’re committed enough to Marriott even to consider getting its premium credit card, you should have no problem using that credit each year.
This annual credit effectively drops the out-of-pocket cost on the Bonvoy Brilliant to $150 a year and narrows our gap with the Boundless to $455.
Both cards offer a free night certificate each year on your account anniversary. The Bonvoy Boundless free night is worth up to 35,000 points, while the Bonvoy Brilliant’s is worth up to 50,000 points.
On the surface, TPG values those extra 25,000 points from the Bonvoy Brilliant at $200, further closing the gap to a $255 difference in value. However, if you dig into possible redemption options, the gap gets even wider. It should be easy to get $400-$500 from a 50,000-point free night, thanks to a number of luxury hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton, Bali and Ritz-Carlton, Cancun. The 35,000-point free night is still worth about $250 to $300 if you redeem it well, but looking at the available properties you can see that it really is a full category lower.
Both cards offer some form of automatic elite status, but the Silver Elite status that comes with the Bonvoy Boundless doesn’t get you much of anything beyond a 10% points bonus.
On the other hand, Gold Elite status from the Brilliant card includes a 25% points bonus, room upgrades, and a welcome gift (250 or 500 bonus points, depending on the brand). You can also upgrade all the way to Platinum status, which unlocks perks such as upgrades to suites and free breakfast by spending $75,000 a year, though that might not be worthwhile.
Both cards have similar bonus categories — 6x on Marriott purchases and 2x everywhere else — but the Brilliant card takes things up a notch by also throwing in 3x earning at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline.
At this point, you’ll have to assess how often you stay at Marriott properties and if you’re able to put in the work to maximize the free night certificates to determine which card is the better choice for you. Despite a higher upfront annual fee, the Brilliant offers much more long-term value beyond the welcome offer through annual statement credits, a valuable free night certificate and better elite status.
The Bonvoy credit card names are a little confusing, but the cards themselves are not. While both cards are offering enticing elevated bonuses, once you’ve confirmed that you are eligible to apply for either the Chase Bonvoy Boundless or Amex Bonvoy Brilliant, the choice comes down to your travel habits and how often you’ll stay at Marriott properties in the future.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
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