I don’t love Marriott, but here’s why I caved and got the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex anyway

Apr 24, 2022

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I’m not a huge fan of the Marriott Bonvoy program. However, when I was shopping for a new credit card to add to my insane collection of cards, I realized that my supply of Bonvoy points was pretty depleted. Despite not loving the Marriott loyalty program, I end up staying at a lot of Bonvoy properties and I can always find ways to use the points. For instance, I used Bonvoy points to stay at the Sheraton Kauai Resort last year.

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Sunset at the Sheraton Kauai Resort.
Sunset at the Sheraton Kauai Resort. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I already have the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card which carry hefty annual fees. So why would I want to open another high-annual-fee card?

I read my colleague Benji Stawki’s review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, and it had me intrigued.

The card currently has a welcome offer of 100,000 Bonvoy points and a free night award (worth up to 85,000 points) after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of cardmembership.

Unfortunately, I opened my account back in February, so I missed out on this new and improved offer. Still, I earned 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

While that’s not a huge amount of points, especially after Marriott has repeatedly devalued the program, TPG still pegs the value at about $600, and I knew I could get that much value out of the welcome offer.

The Bonvoy Brilliant™ card also has a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees).

What really allowed me to justify the card, however, was the $300 in statement credits. I figure I’m really only paying about $150 for the card since I’ll get $300 of the fee back as a credit from Amex. Those 75,000 bonus points I earned are easily worth $150.

The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card

Photo of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card on a world map.
Photo of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card on a world map. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

While I don’t consider Marriott Bonvoy points the most valuable hotel currency, it still has its uses. Sure, it’s now costing more to stay at some of our favorite Marriott properties, but I can still always find a way to use Bonvoy points.

Related: Why I’m not so nervous about Marriott’s upcoming switch to dynamic award pricing

I mentioned some of the benefits of the card above, but there are several others worth talking about. Unlike me, you’ll get 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a welcome offer and that $300 statement credit for staying at any Marriott property. You’ll also get a free night certificate valid for up to 85,000 points. That opens up some nice hotels.

The card includes a Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you free entry to airport lounges worldwide. You also receive a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit once every five years.

You can earn quite a few Bonvoy points using the card, too. You’ll earn 6 points per dollar at eligible hotels (Marriott Bonvoy program hotels). You also get 3 points per dollar at restaurants in the U.S. and on flights booked directly with the airlines. You’ll get 2 points per dollar for all other purchases.

You’ll also receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points each year when you renew the card. I did a quick search and found I’d be able to stay a night at the brand new AC Hotel in downtown Bozeman or even the Wilson Hotel in Big Sky, Montana (a fancy Residence Inn). Or you could stay at the Courtyard in Paris Gare de Lyon.

Note that Marriott’s shift to dynamic pricing may make these a bit harder to use now. However, the program does plan to add the ability to top off these certificates with up 15,000 points from your Bonvoy account. This could open up even more luxurious (and expensive) properties.

You also get Marriott Gold Elite status just for holding the card which could give you a few extra benefits at your next Marriott stay.

Speaking of status, if you’re aiming a little higher, you also get 15 elite-qualifying night credits per year. So, if you want the extra benefits that come with Platinum status, you’ll need just 35 nights instead of 50 nights. Open a Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, and you’d only need 20 nights to hit Platinum.

Related: Earn up to 30 elite nights by holding Marriott cards

Opening the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

Opening the card was easy. I applied for the card via TPG’s application page (of course), which you can access via this link: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

It takes you to a dedicated page with the welcome offer and other details.

 

Getting the bonus points for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

I was able to get the spend done on the card in just a few weeks, and I’ve already earned more than 79,000 Bonvoy points. That includes 211 bonus points for dining and, of course, those points from the welcome offer.

Marriott points tally. (Screenshot courtesy Marriott Bonvoy)
Marriott points tally. (Screenshot from Marriott Bonvoy)

I’ve also already booked my first stay on the card that will earn me that $300 statement credit with two nights at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit in May. The bill will come to just over $400, so I’ll end up paying just about $100 for a two-night stay at one of the nicest hotels in Detroit. Score.

Bottom line

Even with many of the best Marriott Bonvoy properties now costing more points due to dynamic pricing, I still find that Bonvoy points come in handy in my travels and I’m always looking to stock up. The welcome offer and the $300 statement credit for hotel stays made getting the Bonvoy Brilliant card a no-brainer for me.

It’s an even better idea now that Marriott has increased the welcome offer.

I’m already enjoying holding the card. I won’t make a decision on keeping or canceling until the annual fee comes due in February of 2023. That’s plenty of time to see how the card is treating me. Knowing my track record though, it’s another one I could keep long-term. I think I’m now up to more than a dozen cards.

What can I say? I’m definitely a credit card junkie.


Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant with 100,000 points plus a free night award (up to 85,000 points) after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.


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

Featured photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy.

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy Bonus Points after spending $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 8/31/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$125
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
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.