Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card review

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card review

Published: June 21, 2019
Published: June 21, 2019
Ratings Policy
Luxury Rating:
3.3 rating
3.3 rating
3.3 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.5
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.8
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 4.0
Customer Experience 4.6

In a Nutshell:

Aside from its gigantic introductory bonus, the main appeal of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is luxury hotel perks.

View similar hotel rewards cards

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee
$450 (See rates and fees)

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($6,250 monthly spend)
$2,046

APR
17.99-26.99% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 24 months
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Cash + points option available at participating hotels
  • Can transfer points to a variety of airline partners at 1:1 ratio
  • Variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, airfare, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and charity donations
  • Largest hotel network in the world

Cons

  • Marriott points are somewhat inflated, worth only 80% of the value of the average point
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the Marriott rewards program
  • Most redemption options outside of hotel stays have a very poor value
  • Hotels may limit standard room awards

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee (See rates and fees), free night award each year on card anniversary (category 1-6 room), $300 hotel credit, $100 credit for purchases at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton hotels on stays of two nights or longer, Priority Pass lounge membership, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, complimentary Gold elite status, earn Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend, 25% point bonus on hotel stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout, welcome gifts, dedicated elite reservation line, priority late checkout, ultimate reservation guarantee, free premium in-room internet, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi

Rewards Rating:
4.3 rating
4.3 rating
4.3 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.2
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 4.0
Customer Experience 4.6

In a Nutshell:

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card offers a lot of value in its first year thanks to a giant introductory bonus, but – if you’re not interested in luxury perks with Marriott hotels – you can find many rewards cards that offer better ongoing value.

Rewards Rate

  • 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply

Annual Bonus

  • Free award night (redemption level up to 50,000 points) on your anniversary
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • $300 credit for purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every 4 years
  • $100 credit for purchases at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton properties on any stay of two nights or longer

Annual Fee
$450 (See rates and fees)

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$941

APR
17.99-26.99% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 24 months
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Cash + points option available at participating hotels
  • Can transfer points to a variety of airline partners at 3:1 ratio
  • Variety of redemption options, including hotel stays, upgrades, airfare, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and charity donations
  • Largest hotel network in the world

Cons

  • Marriott points are somewhat inflated, worth only 80% of the value of the average point
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the Marriott rewards program
  • Most redemption options outside of hotel stays have a very poor value
  • Hotels may limit standard room awards

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee (See rates and fees), free night award each year on card anniversary (category 1-6 room), $300 hotel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, $100 credit for purchases at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton hotels on stays of two nights or longer, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, complimentary Gold elite status, earn Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend, 25% point bonus on hotel stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout, welcome gifts, dedicated elite reservation line, priority late checkout, ultimate reservation guarantee, free premium in-room internet, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Review: More Details

If you frequent Marriott Bonvoy hotels and prefer to inject a bit of luxury into your vacations, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card is laden with plush perks. On top of a generous introductory bonus, the card offers a great rate on Marriott Bonvoy purchases – making it easy to fast-track your way to your next award night.

Additionally, the card offers a bevy of travel credits and luxury benefits like lounge access, automatic elite status and free Boingo Wi-Fi at hotspots around the globe. On the downside, the card charges a steep annual fee of $450, putting it out of reach for more moderate spenders.

Introductory bonus

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with a generous introductory bonus of 75,000 points for cardholders who spend $3,000 in the first three months. Even when you consider the slightly lower point value of Marriott points, this is a good offer – worth about $600 in hotel nights. With the bonus, you can score up to 10 nights at the lowest-tier Marriott Bonvoy properties (or up to 12 nights if you use Marriott’s fifth night free perk).

Annual bonus

Each year on your account anniversary, the Marriott Brilliant card offers a free award night with a redemption level up to 50,000 points. You’ll just need to be sure to use your certificate quickly, as it expires after 12 months.

Earning points

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders can rack up points easily, thanks to a good rewards rate on travel and dining purchases. Users earn the most on Marriott Bonvoy stays, which bring in 6 points per dollar. The card also offers 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights and 2 points per dollar on other purchases.

While the rewards rate on the Brilliant card seems incredibly generous at first glance, it is important to note that Marriott points are worth slightly less than the average rewards currency.

What are Marriott points worth?

Like with many hotel loyalty programs, Marriott Bonvoy points are a bit inflated. When redeemed for a free night award, we estimate the average Marriott point is worth 0.8 cents. While this is not quite as valuable as the average rewards currency (usually around 1 cent per point), Marriot points are slightly more valuable than other hotel loyalty programs. For comparison, we estimate Hilton Honors points are only worth about 0.5 cents.

Because of this lower point value, the Marriott Brilliant card doesn’t earn as much in rewards value as the high earning rate would suggest. Among popular hotel credit cards, the Brilliant falls toward the middle of the pack in the value of rewards earned per dollar of spending (factoring in earning rate and average point value):

Marriott hotel network

The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program is huge, encompassing Marriott, SPG and Ritz-Carlton hotel brands. With more than 6,900 properties in more than 110 countries, there is likely a Marriott location wherever you are traveling. Additionally, brands range from midlevel properties like TownePlace Suites to luxury properties like the St. Regis – so the program is suited for travelers of any budget.

Redeeming points

Unfortunately, redemption options with the Marriott Brilliant card are relatively limited. Like with many hotel co-branded cards, there is no good cash redemption option. Additionally, redemption options other than award nights get poor value out of your points.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant redemption options

Redemption option Point value (cents)
Standard rooms 0.8
Upgraded rooms 0.7
Cash + Points 0.6
Cruises 0.4
Car rentals 0.4
Merchandise 0.4
Donation 0.3
Instant redemption (for hotel bill charges) 0.2
Marriott Moments Varies

To avoid losing point value, we recommend saving your rewards for award night redemptions. We estimate you’ll get the best value for lower-tiered properties (category 1 to 3).

See Related: Best ways to redeem Marriott points

How many Marriott points do you need for a free night?

Marriott Bonvoy award nights are priced by property category. Peak times of year will also cost you a bit more. You can score an off-peak award night at a category 1 property for as little as 5,000 points, but more luxury stays can cost you upwards of 70,000 points.

Marriott standard room rewards

Category Off-peak awards Peak awards
1 5,000 10,000
2 10,000 15,000
3 15,000 20,000
4 20,000 30,000
5 30,000 40,000
6 40,000 60,000
7 50,000 70,000
8 70,000 100,000

Luckily, Marriott doesn’t impose any blackout dates on award night stays. However, many properties (especially higher-tiered properties) have limited standard room availability. To ensure you can score the award night stay you want, we recommend looking as far in advance as possible.

Transferring Marriott points

With the Marriott Brilliant card, you have the option of transferring your points to more than 40 travel partners at a 3:1 rate. You’ll also get a 25 percent bonus (15,000 points) for every 60,000 points that you transfer.

See Related: Transferring Marriott points

Unfortunately, you’ll almost always lose some point value when you transfer – due to the less than ideal transfer rate. Even with the 25 percent transfer bonus and many airline programs offering a mile value greater than 1 cent per mile, transferring is not your best option in most cases.

Elite status

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, cardholders will automatically receive Gold Elite status with the loyalty program. This comes with all sorts of luxury perks, including complimentary room upgrades based on availability. Gold Elite members also enjoy late checkout, complimentary Wi-Fi and mobile check-in.

See Related: Elite status benefits with the new Marriott Bonvoy program

Heavy spenders can enjoy even more perks, as Brilliant cardholders can be upgraded to Platinum Elite status any year they spend $75,000. While this is a relatively high spend threshold to reach, it comes with perks like lounge access and your choice of welcome gift upon arrival.

Priority Pass lounge access

One of the many luxury benefits that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is Priority Pass Select membership. This perk grants access to more than 1,200 airport lounges, restaurants and Minute Suites around the world. Plus, cardholders are allowed two complimentary guests anytime they visit a lounge – an added benefit for those who travel with family.

Hotel credit

To help offset its high annual fee, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card offers up to $300 in statement credits every year to cover incidental purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties. This includes purchases such as spa treatments or room service.

See Related: Make the most of your card’s travel credits

Additionally, Brilliant cardholders receive a $100 property credit for any stay of two nights or longer at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton properties. Like the yearly hotel credit, this perk covers incidental purchases. But as an added bonus, this credit can be used multiple times per year on any qualifying stay.

If you regularly make on-property purchases during your hotel stays, these credits can make a big dent in the Brilliant card’s $450 annual fee.

Other benefits

On top of generous travel credits and lounge access, the Marriott Brilliant card comes with plenty of additional perks that make it a valuable choice for frequent travelers.

  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit – When you pay for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee with your card, you can be credited up to $100 to cover the cost.
  • Boingo Wi-Fi access – Brilliant cardholders receive free membership to all Boingo Wi-Fi connections around the globe.
  • No foreign transaction fees – You won’t be charged a fee on purchases made abroad.
  • Free ShopRunner membership – Cardholders can enjoy a free ShopRunner membership, which comes with free, two-day shipping from dozens of online merchants.
  • Baggage insurance – For fares paid entirely with your card, you can be reimbursed for items in your bags if they are lost by the carrier.
  • Car rental insurance – For cars booked and paid for with your card, you can receive secondary coverage in the case of damage or theft.
  • Extended warranty – On eligible warranties of five years or less, you can add an additional two years to the original manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Purchase protection – If an item purchased with your Brilliant card is stolen or damaged in the first 120 days, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per occurrence ($50,000 max per year).

Keep in mind that while the Marriott Brilliant card does not charge a foreign transaction fee, American Express cards are not accepted as widely abroad as they are in the U.S.

Customer experience

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is issued by American Express, which has a great customer service reputation. In J.D. Power’s 2018 customer satisfaction survey, Amex scored 830 – ranking second among 11 major issuers. On top of 24/7 customer service and an online chat feature, the issuer has a highly-rated mobile app.

Approval odds

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is designed for users with excellent credit (above 740), so you’ll want to ensure you meet those qualifications before you apply. Additionally, the introductory offer on the card is restricted to new cardholders. If you have had the Brilliant card (previously named the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card from American Express), the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express or the Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card from JPMorgan, you will not qualify for the offer.

How does the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant compare to other rewards cards?

While the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card can be a great option for Marriott loyalists looking for luxury perks, many travelers might be better off opting for a card with a lower annual fee or more flexible rewards. Here’s a quick look at a few popular alternatives:

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Rewards rate

  • 6 points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 2 points per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 12 points per dollar at select Hilton properties
  • 6 points per dollar on U.S. restaurant, U.S. supermarket and U.S. gas station purchases
  • 3 points per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Welcome bonus

75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

125,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual fee

$95

Annual fee

$95

Annual fee

$450

Other things to know

  • Annual free night stay in a hotel up to 35,000 points
  • Automatic Silver Elite status
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Terms apply
Other things to know

  • Free weekend night each year you spend $15,000
  • Automatic gold elite status
  • Diamond elite status each year you spend $40,000
  • 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes
  • Terms apply
Other things to know

  • $300 annual travel credit for any travel purchase
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • 50% higher point value when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards
  • Primary car rental insurance

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

If you are a loyalist of Marriott Bonvoy hotels – but can’t quite afford a $450 annual fee – the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is another great option. It comes with a generous introductory bonus and automatic Silver Elite status. Unfortunately, the card only awards bonus points on Marriott stays, making it a bit more difficult to rack up points with this card than with the Brilliant.

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend

If you aren’t particular about staying at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, the Hilton hotel network also has great coverage around the world – with more than 5,100 properties. With the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card, you’ll get a better rewards rate than the Marriott Brilliant – despite a much lower annual fee. Even though Hilton Honors points are worth less than Marriott points, the inflated rate on U.S. restaurant, supermarket and gas station purchases boost the Ascend’s earning potential.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

For travelers who prefer a bit more flexibility in their rewards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of our most popular travel cards. It charges a hefty $450 annual fee, but it offers up to $300 per year in travel credits for any travel purchase (including ride-shares, parking garages and more) that offsets a big portion of it.

Ultimate Rewards points are also incredibly flexible and can be applied toward purchases with any airline or hotel brand – giving you the potential to use your points toward any great deal. If you redeem those points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, they have a high 1.5-cent-per-point value.

Who should apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card?

  • Marriott Bonvoy loyalists who enjoy luxury travel perks.
  • Cardholders looking for a generous introductory bonus.
  • Frequent travelers looking for automatic elite status with the world’s largest hotel program.
  • Cardholders who will take advantage of perks like free Boingo Wi-Fi and Priority Pass lounge access.

How to use the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card:

  • Spend at least $3,000 in the first three months to earn the introductory bonus.
  • Use the card for all Marriott Bonvoy, U.S. restaurant and airfare purchases to earn bonus points.
  • Put all major travel purchases on the card to take advantage of protections and travel credits.
  • Shop through the Shop My Way portal when shopping online to earn a few extra points.
  • Use Marriott PointSavers deals to book stays with fewer points.

Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card worth it?

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with a high annual fee, but frequent travelers can offset a big portion of this cost by taking advantage of travel credits and benefits like airport lounge access. If you are a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist, the card comes with plenty of perks to cover the cost. Travelers who aren’t loyal to a particular brand, however, might be better off opting for a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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

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