Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant vs. the Ritz-Carlton Card: Which Card Is Better?

Jun 22, 2019

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Knowledgeable TPG readers might glance at the headline to this story and object to its entire premise, since the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card closed to new applications in 2018. So before we dive into this comparison, let’s address the elephant in the room. Although the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is Marriott’s only premium-level card technically available to new applicants nowadays, there’s been a workaround to getting the now-closed Ritz card. Chase allows card holders of other personal Marriott-branded Chase cards — such as the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card — to do a product change to the Ritz-Carlton card as long as they have had their cards for at least 12 months.

With that technicality out of the way, today we’re going to compare the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and Ritz-Carlton cards head-to-head to find out which one is better for you, and if you should even carry both of them simultaneously.

Main Benefits and Features

Here are the basics of each of these two cards in the major categories:

Marriott Bonvoy brilliant Ritz-Carlton Card
Annual Fee $450 (see rates & fees) $450
Welcome Bonus 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
(Terms Apply)
N/A
Earning Rates
  • 6x points at participating Marriott hotels
  • 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2x points on all other purchases
  • Terms apply
  • 6x points at participating Marriott hotels
  • 3x points on dining, car rentals and airline purchase
  • 2x points on all other purchases
Credits
  • Up to $300 in statement credits for purchases at participating Marriott hotels
  • Up to a $100 credit for incidentals every time you book at least a two-night paid stay at a participating Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis property.
  • Up to $300 in statement credits for eligible airline incidentals, including baggage fees, lounge access or in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • Up to a $100 credit for incidentals every time you book at least a two-night paid stay at a participating Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis property.
Elite Status Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status

Earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 in a calendar year

Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status

Earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 in an account year

Free Night Certificates Annual free night (up to 50,000 points) after card renewal Annual free night (up to 50,000 points) after card renewal
Other Benefits
  • 15 elite night credits (limited to once per member)
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100)
  • Priority Pass Select membership (with guesting privileges)
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees)
  • Complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi access
  • Access to Amex Offers
  • 15 elite night credits (limited to once per member)
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership (with guesting privileges)
  • $100 discount on the purchase of between 2 and 5 qualifying round-trip, domestic coach airline tickets on the same itinerary.
  • Three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level on paid stays of up to seven nights.
  • Extensive travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees

Welcome Bonus

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy
35,000 points will get you a free night at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening. That’s worth $600 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

Ritz-Carlton Card: Since the Ritz-Carlton Card is no longer available for new sign-ups, there is no welcome bonus. Those that do a product change to the Ritz-Carlton Card do not receive any bonus points.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant — no explanation needed.

Earning

At first glance, the earning rates appear to be the same on both cards, but they’re not.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 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. With TPG’s recent valuations in mind, that’s essentially a return of 4.8% on Marriott purchases, 2.4% on restaurants and flights and 1.6% on everyday spending.

Ritz-Carlton Card: The earning rates on the Ritz-Carlton Card are slightly broader. The card earns 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels, 3 points per dollar on dining worldwide, car rentals and airline purchase and two points per dollar on all other purchases.

Winner: Ritz-Carlton Card because it offers bonus points on dining worldwide, as opposed to just in the US, as well as bonus points for car rentals. However, the earning rates on both cards as a whole are pretty low when compared to other premium travel rewards cards, so you’ll still want to use a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and other travel purchases.

Redeeming

Shanghai Edition (Photo credit Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)
The Shanghai Edition is one of Marriott’s hottest new hotels (Photo credit Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)

Both cards earn Marriott Bonvoy points so there’s no difference on the redemption front. You can redeem Marriott Bonvoy points toward free stays at over 6,500 properties across 29 brands in 127 countries, or turn them into airline miles for free flights. Marriott points transfer to 44 frequent flyer programs, mostly at a pretty solid 2.4:1 ratio, factoring in the 5,000-mile bonus given for every 60,000 points transferred.

Winner: Tie.

Travel Perks

The biggest differences between the cards lie in the travel perks they offer…

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Each year, you’ll get up to a total of up to $300 in statement credits for Marriott purchases charged to your card, including everything from incidentals during stays, such as meals and spa services, to room rates themselves. Primary cardholders receive automatic Gold Elite status and the ability to earn Platinum Elite after spending $75,000 in a calendar year. Gold Elite status come with benefits upgrades to enhanced rooms and a 25% point bonus on hotel spending. Platinum Elite status includes perks like upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access. 

The card also comes with 15 elite qualifying night credits per year and an annual free night award worth up to 50,000 points. Like many other premium cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant comes with a Priority Pass membership (which won’t include restaurant access beginning August 2019) and will reimburse you when you charge the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to the card (up to $100). Other non-Marriott benefits include free enrollment in the Boingo Preferred plan, which gets you unlimited Wi-Fi access at airports and other locations around the world, and no foreign transaction fees.

Ritz-Carlton Card: The Ritz-Carlton Card offers all of the same Marriott-specific perks, plus some more. In addition to automatic Gold Elite status with an opportunity to fast-track to Platinum Elite by spending $75,000 in an account year, 15 elite qualifying night credits, an annual free night award worth up to 50,000 points and up to a $100 credit for incidentals every time you book at least a two-night paid stay at participating Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties, you’ll also get a much broader $300 statement credit that applies to many airline incidental fees and three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level on paid stays of up to seven nights.

Like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, the card offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit and a Priority Pass membership (which does include restaurant access). Non-Marriott travel perks that are unique to the Ritz-Carlton card include a $100 discount on the purchase of multiple round-trip domestic coach tickets on the same itinerary and extensive travel protections that match those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve, including primary car rental coverage, up to $500 per ticket for trips delayed more than 6 hours or require an overnight stay and up to $100 reimbursed per day for up to 5 days for baggage delayed more than 6 hours.

The Ritz-Carlton Card reimburses you for necessities while your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / The Points Guy)Winner: Ritz-Carlton Card. Although many of the cards’ Marriott-specific perks overlap, the Ritz-Carlton Card offers additional perks for Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis stays, as well as more extensive non-Marriott travel perks.

Other Benefits

The rest of the cards’ benefits are practically identical. Both cards come with purchase protection benefits like extended warranty and return protection, as well as discounts through Amex Offers and Chase Offers.

Winner: Tie.

Should I Get Both Cards?

Given how many of the perks overlap, you’ll likely only want to carry both cards if you could get value from an additional annual free night certificate. After factoring in the annual travel credits, the annual fee on each card is effectively $150, and if you’re wise about your redemption, you could get upwards $400 in value from each certificate. Carrying both cards will not help you fast track to a higher level elite status, as the 15 elite night credits that each of the cards offer are limited to one per member.

Bottom Line

Unlike some other comparisons, there’s no clear winner in this showdown. Although the Ritz-Carlton offers more valuable travel perks, it’s important to factor the 75,000-point bonus you’d forego by not getting the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant into the calculation. At the end of the day, the best card for you will depend on which you’re eligible for. You must have already carried a personal Chase card for at least 12 months to do a product change to the Ritz-Carlton Card. Likewise, it’s important to remember that you can’t get the bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant if you’ve ever received a bonus on the card or the SPG Luxury Card.

If you’re eligible for both cards and are still deciding which is best for you, here are some other articles that can help:

Featured image of the Ritz-Carlton Cancun by Zach Griff / The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49%-26.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.