Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card review
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest card information.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card overview
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is Marriott’s most-premium card offering. Standout benefits include automatic Gold Elite status (with the ability to fast-track to higher status), an annual free night at hotels costing up to 50,000 points, and up to $300 in Marriott credits each year. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Marriott has four cobranded cards available to new cardholders, with fees ranging from none to $450 per year. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is the most expensive one, at $450 a year (see rates and fees), but does that necessarily mean it’s the best?
It comes with a 100,000-point welcome bonus (after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months), strong earning rates and valuable benefits like annual credits at Marriott properties of up to $300 (which essentially drops the card’s annual fee to $150). These make the Bonvoy Brilliant card compelling for most Marriott guests, but let’s dig a little deeper to see if it’s right for you.
Who is this card for?
As a cobranded hotel credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is geared toward Bonvoy members who want to supplement their potential loyalty rewards points from stays and get special perks when visiting Marriott properties. However, you don’t need to be a road warrior to get value from the card — one to two Marriott stays per year are enough to maximize the card’s benefits and can more than offset its $450 annual fee (see rates and fees). Plus infrequent Marriott guests can get tremendous value out of Marriott Bonvoy points, thanks to the program’s wide variety of airline transfer partners.
Related reading: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?
Welcome bonus: As much as $800 in value
Now through April 8, 2020, the card is offering 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. With TPG’s Marriott points value of 0.8 cents, this bonus alone is worth $800. The standard bonus for the card has most frequently hovered at 75,000 points, so this limited-time offer represents a nice 33% increase and an extra $200 worth of points. Keep in mind that Amex has implemented restrictions that will limit your ability to collect a new-member bonus if you’ve had similar Marriott products from Chase or previous SPG cards from American Express. Be sure to review the card’s offer details page to ensure you’re eligible.
Main benefits and perks
Where the card shines the most is in the perks it offers:
- Marriott elite status — Primary cardholders (authorized users aren’t included) receive automatic Marriott Gold status and the ability to earn Platinum 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. Platinum status is much more coveted and includes perks such as upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access.
- Annual free-night award — Each year on (or around) your card-opening anniversary, you’ll receive a free-night award worth up to 50,000 points. That’s much more valuable than the free-night certificates that come with the lower-tier Marriott cards, which are capped at 35,000 points. Some of the best uses of the 50,000-point free night certificate include five-star hotels such as The Ritz-Carlton Macau and The St. Regis Langkawi, where rooms routinely top $500 per night.
- Statement credit of up to $300 for Marriott purchases — During each cardmember year (defined by when you opened the account), you and your authorized users will receive up to a total of $300 in statement credits for Marriott purchases charged to your card. Marriott has confirmed that this credit applies to room rates as well as incidentals charged to your room, so you should have no trouble maximizing this benefit. That essentially lowers the card’s annual fee to $150 (see rates and fees).
- Property credit of up to $100 — When you book a paid stay of at least two nights at participating Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties with the special “$100 property credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate,” you’ll receive a credit of up to $100 for incidentals.
- Priority Pass Lounge access — As is pretty standard among premium travel rewards cards, the card comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you and two guests unlimited access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. Additional guests are charged $32 per lounge visit
- Travel protections — This card offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance, lost baggage reimbursement and trip delay insurance for trips delayed by more than six hours due to a covered reason. You must book a round-trip ticket and pay entirely with your card to be covered.
- Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck — Like many other premium cards, the Bonvoy Brilliant will reimburse you when you charge the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to the card (up to $100). Unlike the Priority Pass membership, which essentially becomes 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. This benefit is available to cardholders once every four years. And remember, Global Entry includes PreCheck, so it’s typically the smarter choice.
- Purchase protection — Purchases made with the card can get up to one year of extended warranty coverage and 90 days of return protection. This applies to warranties of five years or less on covered purchases in the U.S. or its territories or possessions.
- Elite night credits — Cardholders will receive 15 elite-qualifying-night credits per year. This benefit is identical to that of the regular Bonvoy Amex and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase and is limited to one per member, not one per card.
Related reading: Amex trip insurance changes are now in effect
How to earn points
The Bonvoy Brilliant’s earning structure is similar to that of the regular Marriott Bonvoy Amex and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, but with two additional bonus categories: dining and airfare. Cardholders earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels, 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
The non-Marriott earning rates are a bit low, so you’ll probably want to pair the card with one or more that offer superior bonus categories, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and other travel purchases. There are also some other great options for your everyday spending.
How to redeem points
There are many lucrative ways to use Marriott Rewards points. The first and most obvious redemption is for free stays. With the ability to book at more than 6,900 properties across 30 brands in 130 countries, you’ve got a lot of choices. The Marriott portfolio has a number of unbelievable hotels, including some of the most over-the-top, luxurious properties in the world.
These include a number of Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties, some of which are all-suite, such as the St. Regis Maldives, and others in dreamy destinations like the Al Maha Resort in the desert outside of Dubai. Rooms at top-tier properties like these typically range from 70,000-100,000 points per night. That may seem like a hefty price in points, but it isn’t that bad, considering room rates are $1,500+ per night most of the year.
Related reading: Maximizing redemptions with the Marriott Bonvoy program
Those looking to use their welcome bonus to get more than one or two nights could combine stays at low-cost Category 1 and 2 hotels with Marriott’s Fifth Night Free feature and get more than 10 free nights with 75,000 Marriott points. For instance, Category 1 hotels such as the modern Aloft Panama City can be booked for five nights for just 30,000 points total. If you’d prefer something a little nicer, you can book a five-night stay at a Category 2 hotel like the JW Marriott Shenzhen Bao’an for just 40,000 points total.
Fortunately, Marriott allows you to book awards in advance even if you don’t have all the points you need, so if you’ve got your eye on the perfect redemption, you can book immediately, pay for it on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and earn the points you need up until 14 days before check-in. Just note that Marriott’s new peak and off-peak pricing means that these Points Advance reservations only confirm the availability; the actual rate could fluctuate up until you redeem the points to finalize the stay.
But you can get more than free hotel nights with these points. Unlike Hilton and Hyatt points, there’s the potential for some great value when turning Marriott points into airline miles. Marriott points can be transferred to more frequent flyer programs than ever before — 45 to be exact. With the exception of JetBlue, Air New Zealand and El Al, points transfer at a pretty solid 3:1 ratio, and you’ll also enjoy a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred — dropping the effective transfer rate to an even-better 2.4:1.
Which cards compete with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant?
The Bonvoy Brilliant Amex is now Marriott Bonvoy’s only premium cobranded credit card available to new applicants, so there’s no card that directly competes or conflicts with it. However, if you’re not loyal to the hotel chain, you might consider another premium hotel card, such as The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. It carries the same $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) and offers many of the same benefits, including automatic elite status, automatic statement credits and award nights. That card also offers better returns on bonus category spend.
Related reading: The best hotel credit cards
A more direct competitor of the Bonvoy Brilliant is The Platinum Card® from American Express. The card offers some overlapping benefits, including automatic Marriott Gold Elite status and Priority Pass lounge access, and is a 1:1 transfer partner of Marriott Rewards. However, that card costs $100 more a year with its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), doesn’t offer the opportunity to earn Bonvoy Platinum status and doesn’t come with free-night certificates. Given that the Bonvoy Brilliant essentially costs just $150 a year (see rates and fees) after factoring in the annual Marriott statement credit, it’s easy to make a case for carrying both cards to get the annual free-night certificate, better return on hotel purchases and potential shortcut to a higher status level.
If you’re a Marriott loyalist in need of a cobranded credit card or are looking to change from a different Marriott card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is an ideal choice. Its earning rates are not as lucrative as those of some of its competitors, but the large welcome bonus coupled with impressive built-in perks — like an annual Marriott property credit of up to $300 and a free-night certificate of up to 50,000 points — make it easy for even an infrequent traveler to get tremendous value out of the card. Although you’ll never have trouble finding a hotel at which to redeem points, the program’s many airline transfer partners also make it a great choice for racking up points to redeem for free flights. The elevated welcome bonus won’t stick around for long so make sure to apply by April 8, 2020, if you’re interested.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
For a limited time, earn 100,000 points with this card after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. Offer ends 4/8/20. TPG values 100K Bonvoy points to be worth around $800. Aside from the huge welcome offer you'll earn up to $300 in statement credits each year and 1 free night every year after cardmember anniversary. Terms apply.
- Earn 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
- Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $450 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees