Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card review

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Snapshot

4.5

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Best for Marriott loyalists

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Rewards rate

2X–6X

Annual fee

$450

Intro bonus

75,000 points

Regular APR

15.74%-24.74% 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.

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 first-year elite status. These swanky perks, however,  come at a premium $450 annual fee.

Dive into the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card’s rich portfolio of benefits to see if these perks are worth the steep price tag.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
  • Over $300 in potential annual Marriott Bonvoy credits
  • Prized travel protections like trip interruption, cancellation and delay insurance
  • Amazing welcome bonus of complimentary Gold Elite status for 2021

Cons

  • $450 annual fee
  • Currently, complimentary Gold Elite status only offered for the first year
  • Low point value

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 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. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first six months of card membership.
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 15.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable

Current welcome offer

Compared to other co-branded hotel credit card welcome bonuses, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is a solid offer, but far from the best the card has previously provided.

You can earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after making $3,000 in purchases within your first three months. Plus, you can also earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first six months of card membership. You’ll also automatically receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, which unlocks elite perks and reward-earning opportunities.

Based on Marriott Bonvoy points’ latest 0.8 cent valuation from The Points Guy, the 75,000-point welcome offer alone could be worth up to $600. This is a solid incentive once you add in the statement credits for an $800 total value, but isn’t the best you’ll find on the travel card market for the steep annual fee. In fact, the Bonvoy Brilliant card’s previous (limited-time) offer provided 125,000 points that were worth up to $1,000, so the current offer isn’t worth rushing to nab.

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 2021 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 as a Gold Elite status member, for a total of up to 2,340 points per night.

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 (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 for 2021. 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 account anniversary. 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

Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status

The current welcome offer includes complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for 2021, 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.

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

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 10 points per dollar on eligible hotel purchases you get as a base Marriott Bonvoy member, you’d need to spend $3,516 per year (or about $293 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.

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 15.74 percent to 24.74 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.

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. General-purpose travel cards might provide a bigger bang for your buck in that case.

Depending on which issuer’s benefits you prefer, going with either The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card would give you better flexibility and more valuable points to earn or redeem on every leg of your trip.

If you’re looking to downsize or couple with a Chase credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless or the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card may be more budget-friendly sources of Marriott rewards.

American Express Image

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

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4.5
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on American Express's secure site

Annual fee

$450

Sign up bonus

75,000 points

Rewards rate

2X–6X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

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3.8

Annual fee

$95

Sign up bonus

Earn 3 Free Nights

Rewards rate

2X–17X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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4.3
Apply now

on Chase's secure site

Annual fee

$550

Sign up bonus

50,000 points

Rewards rate

1x–10x

Recommended credit

Excellent(740 - 850)

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 and directly-booked flights.

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 and vice versa.

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

For those who spend more than 50 nights per year in a Marriott bed, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is a no-brainer, as its plethora of reward opportunities, annual hotel credits and first-rate travel benefits can easily make up 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.

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.