Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card review

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Best for Marriott loyalists

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Rewards rate

2X–6X

Annual fee

$450

Intro offer

75,000 points

Regular APR

17.24%-26.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Overview

If you’re a die-hard Marriott customer and want to take advantage of many travel benefits and reward-earning opportunities available, then the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card could be the best hotel credit card for you. Marriott loyalists will squeeze a lot more value out of their annual Free Night Award because the Bonvoy Brilliant card has a much higher redemption cap–cardholders can redeem up to 50,000 points for a stay instead of the other Bonvoy cards’ 20,000 and 35,000 respective point caps.

Not only is it the premier Marriott credit card, but it’s also the only consumer Marriott card from American Express. This means you get access to exclusive Amex perks on top of its prime travel protections and loyalty benefits, such as complimentary award nights and Gold Elite status. These swanky perks, however, come at a premium $450 annual fee.

While that certainly is no price to shrug at, you can realistically meet it if you stay at Marriott properties frequently enough to spend at least $3,041 there each year. The perks and benefits that come with the card (if utilized) present an easier route and can make up most of the annual fee—if not raking in value beyond the fee. So if you’re hesitant from the upfront cost, then consider the long-term benefits of the card if Marriott is your go-to hotel during your travels. However, there are plenty of Marriott-friendly general-purpose travel cards if you want a bit more flexibility for the price tag.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Eclipses similar sibling cards by earning 18.5X points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program (thanks to the Bonvoy loyalty program and automatic Gold Elite status), as well as boosted rewards on travel-related categories like U.S. restaurants and flights booked through airlines.
  • Over $500 in potential annual Marriott Bonvoy credits, perks and travel benefits can more than offset the annual fee
  • Similar to what other premier travel cards offer, prized travel protections like trip interruption, cancellation and delay insurance are included
  • Its automatic Gold Elite status (typically available after 25 stays each year)

Cons

  • Although the $450 annual fee for a hotel rewards card can be realistically recouped by loyal guests, some cardholders may find it high for a brand-specific card
  • The welcome offer and rewards potential can be low for the spending requirement compared to other hotel cards, for some applicants
  • Its automatic Gold Elite status is the second-to-last loyalty tier, which isn’t a big break considering rival cards haved offered better elite status perks

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program (up to 18.5X points through the Bonvoy loyalty program with Gold Elite status), 3X points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines plus 2X points on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 17.24 percent to 26.24 percent (variable)

Current welcome offer

Compared to other co-branded hotel credit card welcome bonuses, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is a solid offer. You can earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you spend $3,000 in your first three months. That’s a drop from the card’s previous bonus of 100,000 points and a Free Night Award after a $5,000 spend in your first three months.

Based on Marriott Bonvoy points’ latest 0.8 cent valuation from The Points Guy, the 75,000-point welcome offer could be worth $600. This is a solid incentive, but may not be the best you’ll find on the travel card market for the steep annual fee. Plus, earlier bonuses have run as high as 125,000 points, so now may not be the best time to apply if getting a large bonus is one of your top priorities.

Rewards

Naturally, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card carries more Marriott Bonvoy reward categories than other Bonvoy cards. But the Bonvoy Brilliant Card’s real rewards value comes from its complimentary, one-year Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, which boosts the value of your points by 25 percent on qualifying purchases—among other valuable benefits.

Earning rewards

Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. You’ll also get 3 points per dollar on U.S. restaurant purchases and flights booked directly with airlines, along with 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.

These reward rates might not seem much better than the up to 17 points per dollar you’d earn with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, but adding the Brilliant’s complimentary Gold Elite status makes a big difference.

For example, let’s say you booked a night at the New York Marriott Downtown for $117. You’d earn 10 points per dollar as a Bonvoy rewards program member and another 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. You’d also get a 25 percent earnings boost to your 10 membership rewards points as a Gold Elite status member, for a total of 18.5X points per night. That same hotel stay with the Boundless card would earn you 17X points per night with that card’s complimentary Silver Elite status which earns an additional 10 percent on the same 10 membership points earned for each dollar spent.

Along with boosted rewards, Gold Elite members get a few extra ways to earn rewards, too. Linking your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card to the Eat Around Town by Marriott Bonvoy program can give you another 6 points per dollar on eligible restaurant purchases on top of the 3 points per dollar you’d already earn at U.S. restaurants.

You can also earn extra points by traveling with United Airlines or Emirates Airlines. Flying with Emirates can rake in 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar plus any Emirates Skywards Miles you’d already earn thanks to the Your World Rewards program, and United’s MileagePlus program is the only airline partner rewards program that can convert miles to Marriott Bonvoy points with the right card (at a 1:1 ratio, too). Interestingly, you can also elect to earn miles instead of points for your stay with one of the more than 40 Marriott airline partners.

Redeeming rewards

You can redeem your points for award nights at more than 7,000 Marriott Bonvoy hotels or for other travel options, including flights, car rentals and travel packages. If you’ve found your hotel stays will be limited, you can also choose to transfer your points to over 40 frequent flyer programs at a 3:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy will add 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points you convert to miles.

Unfortunately, your only non-travel option is to redeem for gift cards, but you can also book travel with cash and points to cover the difference if you’re short a few points. You can also buy up to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per year, though your money might be better spent on your room.

How much are points worth?

Depending on the “hotel category” and whether you travel in or off-peak, your point value can vary since Marriott Bonvoy doesn’t use a flat-rate reward booking scale. Booking an off-peak night at a Category 1 hotel might only take 4,000 points, while a Category 8 property’s peak night skyrockets to 90,000 points.

If you need a helpful baseline, The Points Guy estimates Marriott Bonvoy points have a 0.8 cent market value—which makes them more valuable than Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards Club points but less valuable than World of Hyatt and Wyndham rewards.

Other cardholder perks

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card carries a laundry list of valuable benefits, including a host of annual credits, travel perks and upgrades thanks to your complimentary Gold Elite status. Don’t forget that this is also Marriott’s only American Express card, which grants you access to exclusive American Express Experiences and Pay It Plan It alternative payment plans.

Marriott hotel credits

These recurring credits alone nearly recoup the annual fee, but considering that booking four consecutive nights earns you a free fifth night, these combined features can stretch your points’ value significantly:

  • Up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy(TM) program.
  • Up to $100 credit when directly booking a two-night minimum stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy(TM) program. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • 15 Elite Night credits toward your next Elite status level each calendar year

If you’re looking to offset the card’s annual fee, these perks here are the card’s main areas of value compared to the similar Bonvoy Boundless and other Marriott cards. If you’re less likely to take advantage of these credits and plan to lean on your reward points instead, then the Bonvoy Boundless might be a better fit for its comparable rewards at a much lower annual fee. However, keep in mind that the Bonvoy Brilliant has a higher 50,000-point cap on annual Free Night Awards than all other Marriott Bonvoy cards (versus the Boundless card’s 35,000-point cap, for example), which can net you up to $120 more value each year toward a nicer hotel stay (based on TPG’s 0.8-cent point value).

Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status

The Bonvoy Brilliant card includes permanent, complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, which is normally available only after staying 25 nights in one year.

On top of the 25-percent boosted reward rate, you’ll receive a wide array of premium Marriott Bonvoy privileges beyond basics like complimentary upgraded internet access. Participating Marriott Bonvoy properties also provide a welcome gift upon arrival (in the form of points or credits) and enhanced room upgrades at check-in (if available). What’s more, Marriott’s Ultimate Reservation Guarantee will compensate you for similar local lodgings in case you can’t be accommodated.

If you’re considering this card, then you’d probably already stay at least 25 nights per year at Marriott Bonvoy locations and achieve Gold Elite status anyway. However, this perk secures you baseline Gold Elite status if your travel fluctuates some years, and the additional 15 Elite Night credits can get you closer to Platinum Elite. On the other hand, this is Marriott’s top-tier card and it’s disappointing you aren’t awarded at least automatic Platinum Elite considering Gold Elite is the second-to-the-bottom loyalty tier.

By comparison, the competing premier Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card awards cardholders with the Hilton Honors program’s top hotel loyalty status, and a few non-Marriott cards like the The Platinum Card® from American Express even hand out automatic Gold Elite status. That said, if you think you stay at Marriott Bonvoy locations enough each year that you’ll earn at least Platinum Elite, then the Bonvoy Brilliant provides peace of mind with guaranteed Gold Elite status and a boost up the loyalty ladder with 15 Elite nights.

Travel and purchase perks

Ponying up for the hefty annual fee could be worth it since the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is one of the best credit cards for travel insurance. Paying with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card protects your purchases, returns and travel with money-saving perks such as:

  • Access to 1,200+ Priority Pass Select lounges around the world
  • Trip cancellation, interruption and delay insurance
  • Up to $100 Global Entry and TSA Precheck application fee credit
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Baggage insurance

Whether you’re a Marriott loyalist or not, these benefits can ease your mind during whatever trip you plan to take. These aren’t necessarily standard features on typical credit cards (especially some co-branded travel cards) but are familiar to premium travel cards. Priority Pass Select membership, trip cancellation and interruption insurance are perhaps the most valuable travel perks on the card, and are more common among issuers’ premier cards, but the Bonvoy Brilliant’s return protection is a rarer perk (also offered by the Hilton Honors Aspire) that can be especially helpful for online shopping and some travel purchases.

For a card with a $450 annual fee, these are certainly welcome (but expected) benefits and will help you eke more value out of the card beyond rewards earnings.

How much are points worth?

Depending on the “hotel category” and whether you travel in or off-peak, your point value can vary since Marriott Bonvoy doesn’t use a flat-rate reward booking scale. Booking an off-peak night at a Category 1 hotel might only take 5,000 points, while a Category 8 property’s peak night skyrockets to 100,000 points.

If you need a helpful baseline, The Points Guy estimates Marriott Bonvoy points have a 0.8 cent market value—which makes them more valuable than Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards Club points but less valuable than World of Hyatt and Wyndham rewards.

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Bankrate insight
Marriott Bonvoy will move to dynamic pricing across Mar. 29 and 30, 2022, meaning it’ll abandon its property category-tiered chart and your points will not have a fixed value. You may want to book travel while you can rely on your point value since points and award nights now carry more potential value at higher-tier properties, especially with the Bonvoy Brilliant’s higher 50,000-point annual Free Night Award night cap.

Rates and fees

The Bonvoy Brilliant card’s silver platter of reward opportunities and benefits is a fantastic deal. You just have to overcome the elephant in the room: a $450 annual fee. Assuming a point value of 0.8 cents per point and accounting for the extra 12.5 points per dollar on eligible hotel purchases you get as a Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite member, you’d need to spend about $3,041 per year (or about $254 per month) on Marriott Bonvoy hotel purchases to offset the fee. Spending at U.S. restaurants and on directly-booked flights and general purchases will help chip away at this cost faster.

Besides rewards spending, maximizing the yearly credits and perks alone amount up to a $825 annual value, including the annual Free Night Award (worth up to 50,000 points) that’s valued at up to $400 itself. That’s a remarkable value and more than offsets the cost of holding the card—without even factoring in stellar savings from the Priority Pass Select membership.

Other than that, the card’s rates and fees are par for the course. There are no foreign transaction or over-limit fees but unfortunately, there are no intro APR offers to help you avoid interest charges. If you carry a balance, there is a 17.24 percent to 26.24 percent (variable) APR, as well as a 1.33 percent fixed finance plan fee (of each purchase moved into a plan based on the plan duration) if you use the Pay It Plan It alternative payment feature.

Bankrate staff experience

Stephanie Zito, a Bankrate contributor and financial specialist on our Expert Review Board, finds the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s rewards and features are more than worth the annual fee for cardholders that can take advantage of them—especially the Free Night Award.

The greatest benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card are the hotel and resort credits, which fully offset the high annual fee. If you can use your annual free night at a 50,000-point hotel stay which costs more than $500, this card will more than easily pay for itself year after year.

— Stephanie ZitoBankrate Financial Expert Review Board member

How the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card compares to other hotel cards

Although the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is the most rewarding Marriott card, you might not feel comfortable forking over $450 each year if you’re not loyal to one brand or simply don’t think your travel commitments each year will reap the card’s full value. General-purpose travel cards might provide a bigger bang for your buck in that case.

American Express Image

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

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5.0
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on American Express's secure site

Annual fee

$450

Intro offer

75,000 points

Rewards rate

2X–6X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Annual fee

$550

Intro offer

60,000 points

Rewards rate

1x–10x

Recommended credit

Excellent(740 - 850)
Chase Image

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

Annual fee

$95

Intro offer

Earn 5 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points)

Rewards rate

2X–17X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card vs. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

A general purpose travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card could be more suited to your spending habits if you’re not sold on an expensive brand-oriented card like the Bonvoy Brilliant. The Sapphire Reserve could give you more flexibility, more valuable points (worth up to 1.5 cents each toward Chase Ultimate Rewards travel) and a variety of bonus categories and redemption options for every leg of your trip.

The card does come with a higher annual fee at $550, but there’s a laundry list of reward opportunities and valuable features that can more than recoup the cost. For example, its far-reaching rewards categories offer excellent rates for staple travel purchases: 3X points on general travel and dining, 5X points on Chase-booked air travel (after earning your $300 travel credit) and 1X points on all other purchases. More importantly to frequent hotel guests, you’ll earn 10X points on Chase Dining, hotel stays and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The intimidating annual fee won’t gnaw through your rewards either considering that the card’s up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, Priority Pass Select membership and more will largely offset the price tag without relying on year-round Marriott spending.

Coupled with the card’s 50 percent bonus value toward Ultimate Rewards-booked travel, the broader travel rewards spending has the potential to not only be more rewarding for cardholders less concerned with brand loyalty but offer some of the best card pairing combinations available.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card vs. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

If you want to downsize or couple with a Chase credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card may be a more budget-friendly source of Marriott rewards. The card comes with a $95 annual fee but lacks the same perks, benefits and Gold Elite loyalty status that make the Bonvoy Brilliant so valuable.

The Boundless card’s rewards rates are only slightly lower at 17X points for every dollar you spend at Marriott Bonvoy locations. That’s 6X earned from the card, 10X from the membership and 1X for the Silver Elite Status provided with the card (versus the Brilliant card’s automatic Gold Elite status). You can also earn 3X point on the first $6,000 of grocery store, gas station and dining purchases each year before these categories drop to the same 2X rate you’ll earn on all other purchases. This gives the Bonvoy Brilliant’s permanent 3X U.S. restaurant and airline-booked flight categories an edge for regular travelers, but the Brilliant’s real edge comes from its additional features.

The Boundless also offers 15 Elite Night credits (plus another Elite Night credit per $5,000 spent, in a unique twist) and a Free Night Award. However, the Brilliant card’s higher Free Night Award point-value redemption cap (15,000 points higher than the Boundless card’s 35,000-point cap—a $120 difference, based on TPG’s point estimation), up to $400 in annual statement credits at Marriott properties and complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge access make the Bonvoy Brilliant a much more valuable card in the long run despite the higher annual fee.

Best cards to pair with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s high annual fee means that you’ll probably want to use it as your primary rewards card, so any complimenting credit card should reward you for purchases outside hotels, restaurants, directly-booked flights and ideally come with no annual fee (or one that the paired card can easily offset).

A flat-rate travel card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card would be a great choice because it can earn miles on everyday purchases. Similarly, a United Airlines credit card could be a solid choice since you can convert your miles to Marriott Bonvoy points at a 1:1 ratio. Or, if you’d like to really maximize your Marriott Bonvoy points, you can even pair it with a card like the Amex® Everyday Preferred Credit Card, which earns American Express Membership rewards points that are transferable to your Marriott Bonvoy account.

Although the other Marriott cards present a sizable bonus category overlap, pairing your Bonvoy Brilliant with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® also grants you 15 more Elite Night credits, another annual Free Night Award and the chance to earn boosted 3X points on your first $6,000 of grocery store and gas station purchases each year. These cards can fill reward category spending gaps that aren’t covered by your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card without missing out on loyalty rewards.

Bankrate’s Take: Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card worth it?

For people who spend more than roughly $3,045 per year (about $254 per month) on Marriott Bonvoy hotel stays, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card essentially costs nothing to hold because you’ll earn enough in rewards points to offset the annual fee. In fact, you only need to spend $400 on expenses at eligible Marriott Bonvoy properties and take advantage of the Priority Pass Select lounge access to more than make up for the annual fee once you factor in the annual credits and extra features.

Overall, its plethora of reward opportunities, annual hotel credits and first-rate travel benefits can easily make up for the pricey annual fee. But if you’re not a dedicated Marriott Bonvoy guest, a general-purpose travel card or Marriott credit card with a lower annual fee is probably a better fit.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

The information about the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

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