Maximizing the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex Card
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With a $450 annual fee, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card isn’t the cheapest card on the market (see rates & fees). In fact, it’s the most expensive in Marriott’s portfolio of credit cards. However, with big price tags come big benefits, so as long as you familiarize yourself with the benefits of the rebranded Marriott card from Amex, you’ll be sure to come out ahead — even if you only stay at Marriott properties a few times a year.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is currently offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. That’s worth a whopping $600 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, but if you’re smart about your redemptions, you might get even greater value.
In case you need some inspiration for how to best spend those points, you could book a free night at upper-tier properties like The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket and The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami or three nights at mid-tier properties like the Moxy NYC Downtown and the Sheraton Hua Hin Resort and Spa (note that certain hotels have resort fees).
If it isn’t free nights you’re after, you could transfer your points to Marriott’s many airline partners to score high-value flight awards, such as round-trip tickets to Hawaii on Delta booked by transferring 60,000 Marriott points to Korean Air’s SkyPass frequent flyer program.
And don’t forget that you can use Marriott’s Points Advance feature to make a future booking even if you don’t have all of the necessary points in your account yet. Just make sure you have the points in your account 14 days before check-in.
$300 Marriott Bonvoy Statement Credit
During each card holder year (defined by when you opened the account), you’ll receive up to $300 in statement credits for purchases on the card at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. This credit applies to everything from incidentals during stays, such as meals and spa services, to room rates themselves. At a bare minimum, you should have no trouble maximizing this benefit to partially offset the card’s annual fee.
Annual Free Night Award
In addition to the annual statement credit, each year after your account anniversary, you’ll get a free night certificate that’s worth up to 50,000 points (certain hotels have resort fees). That’s enough to book a standard night at a Category 6 hotel like The Ritz-Carlton Macau, off-peak night at a Category 7 like The St Regis San Francisco or peak night at a Category 4 like the JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo.
Family-friendly options the certificate covers include The Royal at Atlantis, The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin and The Westin New York Grand Central. Cash rates at some of these properties can often exceed a couple hundred of dollars per night so you should be able to get some serious value from this benefit.
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status
Primary card holders get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, which offers perks like upgrades to enhanced rooms and a 25% point bonus on hotel spending. It’s a nice benefit to have, but could also hold zero value if you have the Platinum Card® from American Express as it also offers complimentary Gold status. Enrollment required for select benefits. Fortunately, there are other elite status shortcuts which can be maximized.
Card holders receive 15 night credits toward qualifying for the next level of elite status. (Limit one 15 Elite Night Credit per Marriott Bonvoy member account. Benefit is not exclusive to cards offered by American Express. Terms apply.) This means that if you’re chasing free breakfast, suite upgrades and all the other benefits that come with Platinum Elite status, you’ll need just 35 nights, instead of 50. Although a hefty amount to spend, you also have the chance to spend your way to Platinum Elite status by charging $75,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Pay for Marriott Stays
While the card doesn’t offer the best returns on everyday spending, it’s a good choice for maximizing your return on Marriott stays. Card holders earn 6 points per dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott hotels — a 4.8% return based on TPG’s valuations. However, when you factor in the 25% bonus you’ll get as a Gold Elite, you’ll actually be earning 8.5 points per dollar spent — a 6.8% return. That combined return beats out the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is loaded with value. In addition to the large welcome bonus, maximizing benefits like the annual statement credit and free night award (certain hotels have resort fees) can easily make this card cash-flow positive year after year. While we only focused on the card’s most valuable benefits for this post, there are some other ones you may be able to get good use from as well, including a Priority Pass Select membership, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit and you can receive up to a $100 property credit on qualifying charges of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Featured photo of The Shanghai Edition by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy.
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