Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Credit Card Review
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Although the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program has fully folded into Marriott, the SPG Luxury Card lives on, and it’s the only premium cobranded credit card available to new applicants that’s part of the new Marriott program, since the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card was closed to new applicants. However, it now goes by a different name: the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
But does the card justify its hefty $450 annual fee? (See Rates & Fees) The mid-tier Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has long been regarded as one of the best all-around credit cards on the market — although it took a hit with the reduction in earnings for non-bonus purchases — and it’s no longer open to new applicants. You can apply for Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (previously the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card) from Chase if you want a sub-$100 card, but with the 100,000-point welcome bonus (after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months), strong earning rates and valuable benefits like an automatic up to $300 annual Marriott property credit (which essentially drops the card’s annual fee to $150), the Bonvoy Brilliant card makes a compelling case for most Marriott guests.
Who Is This Card For?
As expected from a cobranded hotel credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is geared toward Marriott Rewards members who want to supplement their stay-based points earning and get special perks when staying at 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 more than offset its $450 annual fee. Plus, infrequent Marriott guests can get tremendous value out of Marriott Rewards points thanks to the program’s wide variety of airline transfer partners.
The card’s currently offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months. With TPG’s Marriott points value of 0.8 cents, this bonus alone is worth $600. Keep in mind that Amex implemented new restrictions that will limit your ability to collect a new member bonus if you’ve had similar Marriott products from Chase.
The Bonvoy Brilliant’s earning structure is pretty similar to that of the regular Marriott Bonvoy Amex and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless (previously known as the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card), 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 points on all other purchases.
The non-Marriott earning rates are a bit low so you’ll probably want to pair the card with one that offers superior bonus categories, like The Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and other travel purchases.
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 over 6,700 properties across 29 brands in 127 countries, you’ve got a lot of choices. As of Mar. 5, Marriott properties cost a maximum of 85,000 points per night for a standard room. So, the card’s welcome bonus is more than enough for a free night at top-tier resorts like the St. Regis Maldives and the Al Maha in Dubai where room rates are $1,500+ per night most of the year.
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 5th Night Free feature and get more than 10 free nights with 75,000 Marriott points. For instance, Category 1 hotels like the modern Aloft Panama can be booked for five nights for just 30,000 points in 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 just yet, so if you’ve got your eye on the perfect redemption, you can book immediately, spend with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and earn the points you need before up until 14 days before check-in.
All that said, it’s not just free hotel nights that these points are good for. Unlike Hilton and Hyatt points, there’s also potential for some great value when turning Marriott points into airline miles. With the new unified loyalty program, Marriott points could 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 2.4:1 ratio, factoring in the 5,000 mile bonus given for every 60,000 points transferred.
Where the card shines the most is the perks it offers:
- Marriott Elite Status — Primary card holders (unfortunately, authorized users aren’t included) receive automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Platinum after spending $75k 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 like upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access.
- 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 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 like The Ritz-Carlton Macau and The St. Regis Langkawi, where rooms routinely top $500 per night.
- Up to $300 Statement Credit for Marriott purchases — During each card member 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 and essentially narrow the card’s annual fee to $150.
- Up to $100 Property Credit — When you book at least a two-night paid stay at participating The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis property with the special “$100 property credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate,” you’ll receive up to a $100 credit for incidentals at properties.
- 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
- Application Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck — Like many other premium cards, the Bonvoy Brilliant will also 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 become 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 that’s the smarter choice.
- Boingo Wi-Fi Access — Card holders receive free enrollment in the Boingo Preferred plan, which gets you unlimited access to over one million Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and other locations around the world. You can sync this access with up to four devices. This is most similar to Boingo’s Global plan, which costs $39 per month.
- Elite Night Credits — Card holders will receive 15 elite qualifying night credits per year. This benefit is identical to that of the regular Bonvoy Amex and the Bonvoy Boundless from Chase, and is limited to one per member, not one per card.
Although rather unremarkable when compared to those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige, the card also carries travel protections like secondary collision damage waiver, lost baggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance, as well as improved purchase protection benefits like extended warranty and return protection.
Which cards compete with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant?
As this is the only premium cobranded credit card available to new applicants that’s part of the new Marriott program, there’s no card that directly compete or conflict with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex. However, if you’re not loyal to the hotel chain, you might consider the issuer’s other premium hotel card: The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. It carries the same $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) and offers many of the same benefits like automatic elite status, automatic statement credits and award nights. That card also offers better returns on bonus category spend.
A more direct competitor of the Bonvoy Brilliant is the Platinum Card from American Express. The card offers some overlapping benefits like 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 (See Rates & Fees), doesn’t offer the opportunity to earn Platinum status and doesn’t come with free night certificates. Given that the Bonvoy Brilliant essentially costs just $150 a year after factoring in the 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 for an upgrade from a different Marriott card, then 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 a $300 annual Marriott property credit and 50,000-point free night certificate 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 to redeem points at, the program’s many airline transfer partners also make it a great choice for those looking to rack up points to redeem for free flights.
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.
Earn 75,000 points with this card after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months. TPG values 75K Bonvoy points to be worth around $600. 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.
- Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 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