Is it worth spending $75k on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card to earn Platinum status?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest welcome offers and updated card information. It was originally published on Oct. 1, 2018.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is the second premium co-branded hotel card in the Amex portfolio, following the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. Despite the high $450 annual fee (see rates and fees for Aspire card); see rates and fees for Brilliant card) that you’d incur on each card, both are loaded with perks to make your Marriott or Hilton stays more rewarding, including certain automatic elite status benefits: the Aspire Card offers complimentary top-tier Hilton Diamond status to all cardholders, while the Bonvoy Brilliant card only offers Gold status in the Bonvoy program. Enrollment required for select card benefits.
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.
However, there’s an additional way to boost your status if you’re a new cardholder of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card. Even though it isn’t the highest tier in the new program, you can earn Platinum status by spending a whopping $75,000 a calendar year on the card (note that the same spending threshold applies on the discontinued Ritz-Carlton Rewards card). But just because that option is available, doesn’t necessarily mean you should take advantage of it. Today we’ll take a look at whether it makes sense to spend your way to Platinum status with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.
There are two important factors I’ll consider in this analysis. First, I’ll take into account the opportunity cost of spending $75,000 on the card. Since your purchases could earn you a more valuable haul of points if you charged them to a different card, I’ll bring in what you’re “giving up” by putting them on the Bonvoy Brilliant card in my calculations below.
Second, I’ll account for the value of Platinum status in the new program. When Nick Ewen did his comprehensive review of the new Marriott elite status levels, he valued Platinum status at $3,045. But if you’re qualifying through credit card spending instead of nights spent in a hotel, you’ll be getting much less value than this. It’s important to figure out how much less so you can make an educated decision.
Two quick reminders before we dive in. For the purpose of this post, I’m assuming that you canspend $75,000 a year without jeopardizing your personal finances. If you end up violating the first commandment of travel rewards and carrying a balance on your credit card, the interest you’ll pay will quickly erase the value of your points and elite status. In addition, all calculations are based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
Platinum Elite Status
Marriott Platinum status comes with a number of pretty sweet benefits, but some of the most valuable ones include:
- 50% point bonus: Platinum members will earn 15 points per dollar spent at most brands in the Marriott portfolio.
- 4:00 p.m. late check-out: This is guaranteed at most brands, though it is subject to availability at resort & convention hotels.
- Room upgrades: Platinum elites will enjoy space-available upgrades at check-in, and this includes suites (except at Ritz-Carlton locations, where suite upgrades are reserved for Platinum Premier members).
- Lounge access at eligible properties
- A welcome amenity: Select from points, breakfast or some other food and beverage credit, though the exact details vary by brand.
As someone who easily spends 50 nights a year in hotels, these benefits give me plenty of reason to be loyal to Marriott. I get immense value out of the suite upgrades, bonus points and free breakfast in particular. But are these perks worth diverting $75,000 of spending to the Bonvoy Brilliant card?
As noted above, one of the prime factors in this analysis is the opportunity cost. Put simply, this cost represents the value you’ve lost by spending this amount of money on the Bonvoy Brilliant card rather than another card with a higher return on these purchases. Spending $75,000 on a co-branded SPG card pre-merger would have been much more lucrative. That card was widely considered to be the most valuable for everyday non-bonus spending as it earned the equivalent of 3 Marriott points per dollar, a return of 2.7%. Post merger, the card’s earning rate got cut by a third and now only earns 2 points per dollar. TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, so while that’s still a respectable 1.6% return, it’s noticeably smaller than before.
However, it’s not the most lucrative option out there. Assuming all of your spending was in non-bonus categories (i.e. not at Marriott, which would earn 6x points per dollar spent, and not at U.S. restaurants or flights purchased directly with the airline, which would earn 3x points per dollar spent), that $75,000 of annual spending would net you 150,000 Marriott points, worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations. Let’s take a look at how that compares to some other great choices for everyday spend:
|Credit Card||Rewards Earned From $75,000 of Spending||Value
||Difference From Bonvoy Brilliant Amex|
|The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express||125,000 Membership Rewards Points (2x on the first $50,000 spent on purchases per calendar year; 1x after that)||$2,500||+$1,300|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||112,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (as long as you have a “premium” card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve)||$2,250||+$1,050|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||$1,500 (earns 2% cash back; 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay)||$1,500||+$300|
As you can see, shifting your non-bonus spending from a card that earns transferable points (like the Blue Business Plus) to the Bonvoy Brilliant card could cost you, potentially over $1,000 in a single year. If you get that much value out of Marriott Platinum status, it might be worthwhile, but that’s a big chunk of change to leave on the table.
Bear in mind too that the above chart assumes you put all your spending on a single card instead of mixing and matching cards as you go. If you spent $50,000 on a Blue Business Plus, you would max out the 2x bonus and earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points, worth $2,000. You could then switch to the Freedom Unlimited for the last $25,000 of spending and earn 37,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, worth $750 (again, assuming you also have a card like the Sapphire Reserve and can combine your points). That brings your total value up to $2,750, almost twice as much as you’d get by using the Bonvoy Brilliant card alone.
If, on the other hand, most of your spending goes to a fixed-value or cash back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card, you aren’t sacrificing as much in value. You would, however, be making a radical change to your overall points strategy. While 150,000 Marriott points are worth about $1,200, it requires much more effort to redeem them at a good rate. If you keep a fixed value card near the top of your wallet, odds are you appreciate simplicity and earning rewards with minimal effort. Switching to the Bonvoy Brilliant Card to earn Platinum status would cost you a modest $300-900 in rewards value, but it could end up costing you a whole lot more if you aren’t diligent about how and when you choose to redeem your points.
It’s worth noting that depending on your personal spending patterns the math could get a lot uglier. If you spend exactly $75,000 on your credit cards in a calendar year, putting all of that on your Bonvoy Brilliant card would mean sacrificing some high value bonus categories, from 3x points on travel and dining with the Sapphire Reserve to 5x points on airfare (booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel) with The Platinum Card® from American Express. I’d only consider using the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex to spend your way to Platinum status if you can do so without giving up your other rewarding bonus categories. Of course the inverse is also true: if a large chunk of your spending comes at Marriott hotels, the 6x bonus category on the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex will work in your favor and narrow the gaps highlighted above.
It’s Better to Qualify the Old Fashioned Way
Unless you find yourself coming up just short of qualifying for Platinum status the old fashioned way (that is, by actually staying in hotels), I think the added value of getting it through credit card spending is minimal. All the Marriott credit cards offer 15 elite night credits (limited to one per Marriott account, not one per card), which means earning Platinum status really only requires 35 nights in a hotel, and that includes award stays. If you’re staying significantly less than that, the $75,000 spending threshold is just more trouble than it’s worth.
Depending on what card combination you would use instead of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, you could earn an additional $1,000+ worth of points. So if you can get that much value (or more) from your Platinum status in a calendar year, it might be worth taking advantage of this benefit. But how can we calculate exactly what value you’d get?
Nick’s valuation of Platinum status is based on the assumption that you stay 60 nights a year and spend an average of $150 per night. That’s how he arrives at the $3,045 sticker price for Platinum status. However, if you don’t actually accumulate 50 elite night credits during the year, you won’t be eligible to select a Choice Benefit. Nick values those at $250, and without them the value of Platinum status comes down to $2,795. Divide that by 60 nights, and you get a value of about $47 a night.
At that rate, here’s how this would translate into value at different night thresholds during the year.
|Nights at Marriott Hotels
||Value Of Platinum Status|
You can reference the chart above for a rough estimate of how much Platinum status will be worth to you, depending on your travel patterns. Compare that number to the value of points you would “lose” by shifting your spending to the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, and you can decide whether or not it makes sense for you to pursue Platinum status via credit card spending.
Keep in mind too that if you’re staying 30 or so nights a year and you have the Bonvoy Brilliant card, you’re within striking distance of qualifying for Platinum anyway. It shouldn’t be hard to squeeze in a handful of additional nights, even if they’re just mattress runs to the local Fairfield Inn or Four Points. Spending a few hundred dollars to grab those last few nights to reach Platinum status the “hard way” may still be a better (and cheaper) option than shifting significant spending from another card to the Bonvoy Brilliant card.
Of course, this analysis looks at a singular benefit on the card: the ability to earn Marriott Platinum Elite status by spending $75,000 on the card in a calendar year. There are still several other lucrative perks that may make the card a worthwhile addition to your wallet, both now and in the long-run:
- Welcome bonus: 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.
- Earning rates: 6x points per dollar spent on purchases at participating Marriott hotels; 3x points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline; 2x points per dollar spend everywhere else
- Free night: Annual free night award on cardmember anniversary, valid at properties up to 50,000 points per night
- Statement credits: Up to $300 in statement credits every year for eligible purchases at Marriott properties, plus a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years (up to $100)
- Lounge Access: Priority Pass Select membership, including up to two guests
- Terms Apply
- Enrollment required for select card benefits.
Big spending on travel rewards credit cards can lead to large hauls of points and lucrative benefits, but is it a good idea to spend $75,000 on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card to upgrade your automatic Gold status to Platinum status? To put things simply, if you’re close to qualifying for Platinum status already but have no way of getting there through the regular qualification criteria (elite-qualifying nights), heavy spending on the Bonvoy Brilliant card could drive some solid value, especially if you plan to remain loyal to the program moving forward. If not, you may want to consider a card such as the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (thanks to its automatic top-tier status).
Just remember that if you decide to spend $75,000 a year on your Bonvoy Brilliant card, there is a massive opportunity cost. Make sure the elite benefits you’re getting outweigh the points you’re giving up, and never EVER spend money you don’t have just to earn points or status.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
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