Best for Marriott loyalists
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
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Big perks for Marriott loyalists – with a big price tag.
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This card has more than enough premier perks for frequent Marriott guests to justify the annual fee, including complimentary Gold Elite status, impressive annual credits and prized American Express travel features.
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If you’re a frequent Marriott guest and can take advantage of many of the travel benefits and reward-earning opportunities the brand offers, then the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card could be the best hotel credit card for you.
The Bonvoy Brilliant is not only the premier Marriott credit card, but it’s also the only consumer Marriott card from American Express. This means that along with the card’s prime travel protections and loyalty benefits — including complimentary award nights and Platinum Elite status — you’ll get Amex perks like the issuer’s “Lowest Hotel Rates Guarantee” and Pay It Plan It alternative payment options.
Marriott loyalists in particular can squeeze a lot of value out of their annual Free Night Award because the Bonvoy Brilliant card has a much higher point redemption cap than other Bonvoy cards: Cardholders can redeem up to 85,000 points for a stay with the Bonvoy Brilliant, versus 20,000 and 35,000 on other Bonvoy cards.
These swanky perks, however, come at a premium $650 annual fee. While that certainly is no price to shrug at, you can make up for it (and then some) with this card’s valuable perks. However, there are also plenty of Marriott-friendly general-purpose travel cards worth considering if you want a bit more flexibility or a lower price tag.
Eclipses similar sibling cards by earning 21X points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program (thanks to the Bonvoy loyalty program and automatic Platinum Elite status), as well as boosted rewards on travel-related categories like U.S. restaurants and flights booked through airlines.
Offers hundreds of dollars’ worth of annual Marriott Bonvoy credits, perks and travel benefits can more than offset the annual fee.
Prized travel protections like trip interruption, cancellation and delay insurance are included.
Its automatic Platinum Elite status (typically available after 50 stays each year) gives you a headstart with reward and perk upgrades.
Although the $650 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 are low for the spending requirement.
Compared to other co-branded hotel credit card welcome bonuses, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card offers terrific value, despite the relatively low value of Marriott points themselves. You can earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you spend $5,000 in your first three months. That’s double the card’s most recent bonus of 75,000 points after a $3,000 spend in your first three months.
The latest Bankrate point and mile valuations give Marriott Bonvoy points a value of 0.7 cents each on average, so we estimate the 150,000-point welcome offer could be worth around $1,050. On the downside, the card’s spending requirement has also increased by $2,000, which could put this bonus out of reach for some cardholders.
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 Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, which boosts your rewards rate on qualifying Marriott purchases by 50, among other valuable benefits.
The Bonvoy Brilliant card earns 6X points on eligible purchases at Marriott Bonvoy properties, plus 3X points on worldwide restaurant purchases and flights booked directly with airlines. All other purchases earn 2X points.
The Bonvoy Brilliant card’s rewards rate on Marriott stays might not seem much better than the rate you’d earn with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card (also 6X points on eligible Marriott Bonvoy property purchases), but adding the Brilliant card’s complimentary Platinum Elite status makes a big difference.
All Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program members earn an additional 10X points on Marriott purchases on top of their credit card rewards rates, but with Platinum Elite status, you can add an additional 50 percent to that member rate and get 15X points on top of your card’s rate. That boosts your total rewards rate on Marriott purchases to 21X points with the Bonvoy Brilliant, versus up to 17X points total with the Boundless card.
Along with boosted rewards, Platinum 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 6X points on eligible restaurant purchases on top of the 3X points per you’d already earn at U.S. restaurants. The Bonvoy Brilliant is also a solid credit card for Uber, earning an extra 6X points on Uber Eats deliveries ordered to your Marriott hotel (2X points when away from a hotel) and 3X points on all Uber rides (after linking your accounts).
You can also earn extra points by traveling with United Airlines or Emirates Airlines. Thanks to the Your World Rewards program, flights with Emirates earn 3X Marriott points on top of any Emirates Skywards Miles you would already earn as a member of that loyalty program. You can also earn more points by converting United MileagePlus miles to Marriott Bonvoy points at a 1:1 ratio, which can be handy if you stay with Marriott more than you fly with United.
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. Points can cover many of your other Marriott expenses as well, including room upgrades and anything charged to your room — such as food, beverages and spa treatments.
If you’re short a few points, some Marriott bookings allow you to cover the difference with cash or provide a “PointSavers” redemption discount. You can also buy up to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per year, though your money might be better spent on your room.
You can also redeem for “Marriott Bonvoy Moments,” which are Marriott’s take on the culinary, arts and entertainment experience redemptions other travel reward programs offer. Other assorted options include gifting your points to someone, donating points to charities or using points on gift cards.
If you won’t be staying with Marriott for a while, you can also transfer your points to any of Marriott’s partner travel programs at a 3:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy will add 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points you transfer. Unfortunately, since Marriott points are worth just 0.7 cents apiece, this option isn’t a good deal unless the airline’s rewards are worth more than 2.1 cents per point/mile. Based on Bankrate’s latest point valuations, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic may be the only worthwhile transfer partners.
One of your best options may be transferring Marriott points to United Airlines. Marriott points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to United MileagePlus and we estimate United miles are worth 1.1 cents per mile. United also adds 10 percent more miles to your converted total on top of the 5,000 bonus miles you get from Marriott for every 60,000 points you transfer.
For example, 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points would be worth $420 when redeemed for Marriott stays based on a 0.7-cent-per-point value but transferring them to the MileagePlus program could get you up to 71,000 miles, worth about $781.
Marriott shifted to dynamic award pricing in March 2022, so your point value varies depending on where you stay and whether you book a stay during peak or off-peak season. You can calculate how much value you’ll get out of your points for a specific booking by dividing the cost of your stay by how many points are needed. For example, if a $150 one-night stay requires 15,000 points, each point would be worth 1 cent each.
If you need a helpful baseline, Bankrate estimates that Marriott Bonvoy points are worth 0.7 cents on average. That makes them more valuable than Hilton Honors points but less valuable than World of Hyatt and Wyndham rewards.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card carries a lengthy list of valuable benefits, including a host of annual credits, travel perks and upgrades thanks to your complimentary Platinum 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.
These recurring credits alone nearly recoup the annual fee, and since booking four consecutive nights earns you a free fifth night, these combined features can stretch your points’ value significantly:
If you’re looking to offset the card’s annual fee, these perks are the card’s main areas of value compared to the 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.
Keep in mind that the Bonvoy Brilliant has a higher point cap on annual Free Night Awards (85,000 points) than all other Marriott Bonvoy cards. For example, the Boundless card has a 35,000-point cap on its Free Nighter Award. That means the Bonvoy Brilliant’s free night could provide you with more luxurious options and potentially more value.
Each calendar year you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases, you can pick from a list of Earned Choice Award benefits. Options include Five Suite Night Awards, a Free Night Award (of up to 85,000 points) or a $750 mattress and box spring discount from Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques.
The Bonvoy Brilliant card includes complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, which is normally available only after staying 50 nights in one year.
With Platinum Elite status, you’ll earn 50 percent more points on every hotel purchase, as well as a wide array of premium Marriott Bonvoy privileges beyond basics like complimentary upgraded internet access and late checkout. 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 a couple dozen nights per year at Marriott Bonvoy locations, on track to achieve Gold Elite status. However, this perk secures you Platinum status regardless of how frequently you stay. Plus, the additional 25 Elite Night credits can get you closer to Titanium Elite status.
Paying for the hefty annual fee could be worth it since the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers significant travel perks, and it’s one of the best credit cards for travel insurance. Paying with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card provides money-saving perks, such as:
Whether you’re a Marriott loyalist or not, these benefits can ease your mind during your trip. These aren’t necessarily standard features on typical credit cards (especially some co-branded travel cards) but are common on premium travel cards. Priority Pass Select membership, trip cancellation and interruption insurance are perhaps the most valuable travel perks on the card, but the Bonvoy Brilliant’s return protection is a rarer perk that can be helpful for online shopping and some travel purchases.
For a card with a $650 annual fee, these are certainly welcome (but expected) benefits and will help you eke more value out of the card beyond rewards earnings.
The Bonvoy Brilliant card’s silver platter of reward opportunities and benefits is a fantastic deal for Marriott loyalists. You just have to consider if the card’s rewards and perks are worth the $650 annual fee.
If you only used the card for Marriott hotel bookings, you’d need to spend about $4,422 per year to offset the fee. That’s $4,422 times 21X points times a 0.7-cent-per-point value. Using your card at U.S. restaurants and on directly-booked flights as well will help chip away at this cost faster.
If that sounds like an intimidating amount to spend on hotel stays, keep in mind that by maximizing the card’s yearly credits, you can enjoy $400 or more in annual value. Add to this the card’s annual Free Night Award (worth up to 85,000 points, a $595 value) and you shouldn’t have much trouble recouping the cost of holding the card if you frequent Marriott hotels.
Other than that, the card’s rates and fees are par for the course. There are no foreign transaction fees or over-limit fees. Like most premium travel cards, the Bonvoy Brilliant does not include any intro APR offers to help you avoid interest charges. If you carry a balance, there is a 19.49 percent to 28.49 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.
Although the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is the most rewarding Marriott card, you might not feel comfortable forking over $650 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.
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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 gives 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 also has a slightly lower annual fee of $550, and its lengthy list of reward opportunities and valuable features can more than recoup that 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 is easier to recoup, too, 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.
On top of these perks, the card offers a 50 percent bonus on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. That provides much greater flexibility when it comes to redeeming travel rewards, especially for consumers less concerned with hotel brand loyalty. This card also provides some of the best card pairing combinations available.
If you want to downsize or pair 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 loyalty status that make the Bonvoy Brilliant so valuable.
The Boundless card’s rewards rates are slightly lower at up to 17X points for every dollar you spend at Marriott Bonvoy locations. That’s 6X earned for every $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®, up to 10X for being a Marriott Bonvoy® member and 1X for the Silver Elite Status provided with the card (versus the Brilliant card’s automatic Platinum 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) and a Free Night Award. However, the Brilliant card’s higher Free Night Award point-value redemption cap (50,000 points higher than the Boundless card’s 35,000-point cap — an up to $350 difference, based on our point estimation), annual statement credits and complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge access make the Bonvoy Brilliant a more valuable card in the long run despite the higher annual fee.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s high annual fee means that you’ll probably want to use it as your primary rewards card, so any complementary credit card should reward your 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.
It may also be a good idea to look into a more general rewards card so you can earn cahs back outside of travel expenses. For tiered rewards, the Discover it® Cash Back is a great choice because it earns 5 percent cash back on everyday categories like Amazon.com, grocery stores, and more quarterly (activation required). Plus, Discover rewards can be redeemed at a 1:1 ratio for cash back.
Frequent Marriott guests will find the Bonvoy Brilliant card’s excellent perks more than justify the intimidating annual fee. In fact, the value of the card’s annual perks and credits may make up for the annual fee on their own. That said, 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.
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