A highest-ever bonus and 85,000-point free night award: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card review
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
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 participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, worth up to 50,000 points, and up to $300 in annual Marriott statement credits each year on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program. 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 is currently offering an increased welcome offer of 150,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points plus a bonus award night worth up to 85,000 points when you make $5,000 in eligible purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership. Ongoing benefits include strong earning rates and valuable benefits like annual credits at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program 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. Plus, infrequent Marriott guests can get tremendous value from Marriott Bonvoy points, thanks to the program’s wide variety of airline transfer partners.
Welcome bonus: As much as $1,880+ in value
Now through Nov. 3, 2021, the card is offering 150,000 bonus points plus a bonus Free Night Award (valued up to 85,000 points) after spending $5,000 in the first three months. With TPG’s Marriott points value of 0.8 cents, the 150,000 points are worth $1,200 and the 85,000-point award night is worth up to $680 when fully maximized, which is huge. The award night certificate will cover a standard room at any Marriott property in the Bonvoy program, with the exception of peak nights at top-tier Category 8 properties.
Just remember that Amex has 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 complimentary automatic Marriott Gold status and the ability to earn Platinum status after spending $75,000 in a calendar year thereafter. 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 eligible 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 at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program. 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.
- 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 (enrollment required).
- 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. (enrollment required for select benefits). 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.
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 at U.S. restaurants and select airfare purchases. Cardholders earn up to 6x Bonvoy points per $1 spent 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 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 apparent redemption is for free stays. With the ability to book at more than 7,500 properties across 30 brands in 131 countries, you’ve got a lot of choices. The Marriott portfolio has many fantastic hotels, including some of the world’s most over-the-top, luxurious properties.
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.
For instance, Category 1 hotels such as the modern Aloft Panama City can be booked for five nights for just 30,000 points total (factoring in the fifth night free on award stays). If you’d prefer something a little nicer, you can book a five-night stay at a Category 2 hotel like the Le Méridien N’Fis from just 40,000 points total on off-peak nights.
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 within 60 days of booking or up until 14 days before your arrival (whichever comes first). Just note that Marriott’s 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 a whopping 40 frequent flyer programs. All but two partners have pretty solid a 3:1 point-to-mile transfer 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. The only airline with a worse ratio is Air New Zealand, which transfers at a 200:1 ratio, while Marriott points transfer to United at a slightly better 3:1.1 ratio.
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 American Express Aspire Card. 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 provides better returns on bonus category spend. 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.
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. (enrollment required for select benefits). However, that card costs $245 more a year with its $695 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 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 extra-large welcome offer coupled with impressive built-in perks — like an annual Marriott property statement credit of up to $300 and an annual 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.
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.
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Aside from the welcome offer you'll earn up to $300 in statement credits each year at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program and 1 free night (worth up to 50k points) every year after your cardmember anniversary. Terms apply.
- Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
- Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 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