Marriott Bonvoy has credit cards issued by both American Express and Chase. Marriott has essentially split out the market:
- Chase issues the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card (review), which is the no annual fee personal card
- Chase issues the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card (review), which is the $95 annual fee personal card
- American Express issues the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (review), which is the $125 annual fee (Rates & Fees) business card
- American Express issues the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, which is the $450 annual fee premium personal card
I’ve never written a review of that last card before, so I wanted to take a closer look at it in this post. Is the Bonvoy Brilliant Card worth it? It’s a card I have, but is it valuable for everyone?
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Basics For September 2020
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card was only introduced in early 2019, and is the latest hotel credit card with a steep annual fee. However, like many premium credit cards nowadays, the good news is that having this card shouldn’t be costing you nearly as much as the annual fee suggests.
Let’s take a closer look at all the benefits of this card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Welcome Bonus
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.
I value Bonvoy points at ~0.7 cents each, so to me those points are worth ~$525.
Given how many American Express and Chase Marriott cards there are at this point, there are some pretty complicated restrictions in place regarding eligibility for this card.
On the most basic level, the welcome offer is not available to applicants who have had this product, or the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card (which is briefly what this card was known as).
Furthermore, the welcome offer is not available to applicants who:
- Have or have had The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card from JPMorgan or the J.P. Morgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card in the last 30 days
- Have acquired the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days
- Have received a new Card Member bonus or upgrade offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 24 months
General Amex Card Restrictions
For those with excellent credit, I find Amex cards to be easy to be approved for. Anecdotally most people I’ve heard from have reported instant approvals on this card, so it really shouldn’t be very tough to be approved for.
Just make sure you know that:
- You can be approved for at most two Amex cards in a 90 day period
- You can have at most five American Express credit cards at any point (this doesn’t include charge cards)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card $450 Annual Fee
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card has a $450 annual fee. You can add additional cardmembers at no extra cost.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card has no foreign transaction fees, so it could be a good option for purchases you make abroad.
Earning Points With The Bonvoy Brilliant Card
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card has some bonus categories, though for the most part this isn’t a card you’re going to want to start using for your everyday spending. There are much more generous card bonus categories out there.
As a matter of fact, I have this card but don’t actually spend money on it, unless there’s a very specific promotion causing me to do so. Here’s how the bonus categories on the card work.
6x Points At Marriott Hotels
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers 6x Bonvoy points for spending at Marriott hotels globally. For many business this will be a worthwhile bonus.
Since I value Bonvoy points at ~0.7 cents each, that’s the equivalent of a ~4.2% return on hotel spending. Personally I still prefer to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for my Marriott hotel spending, as it offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points.
Earn 6x points for stays at Marriott hotels
3x Points On Restaurants & Flights
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card has some bonus categories that offer 3x points, including for purchases with:
- U.S. restaurants
- Flights booked directly with airlines
Based on my valuation of ~0.7 cents per point, that’s like a 2.1% return on spending, which isn’t amazing. Personally I think there are better credit cards for both restaurant purchases and airfare purchases.
2x Points On All Other Purchases
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers 2x points on all other eligible purchases. Personally, I don’t consider 2x points per dollar spent to be especially compelling, since I value that at a return of 1.4-1.6 cents per point, and there are better cards for everyday spending.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Perks
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a variety of perks, ranging from a $300 annual hotel credit, to an anniversary free night certificate. For many people (including me) the benefits more than offset the annual fee on the card.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits offered by the card.
$300 Marriott Bonvoy Statement Credit
Just for having the card, you get a $300 statement credit every cardmember year for spending at Marriott properties. This benefit is available the first year, and all subsequent years.
This really couldn’t be easier to use — just use this card at any Marriott property globally, and your first $300 in eligible spending will automatically be reimbursed. This can be on room rates, meals, or just about anything else purchased directly with the hotel.
Assuming you spend at least $300 per year at Marriott hotels, then I’d say this is more or less worth face value, and lowers the real “out of pocket” on this card to $150 per year.
Note: for June through August of 2020, this statement credit can instead be used towards eligible purchases at US restaurants, including takeout and delivery.
Up To 50K Points Annual Free Night Reward
The other major perk that makes this card worthwhile is that you get a free night award every year on your account anniversary, valid for a one-night hotel stay at a property costing up to 50,000 points. You receive your first one of these on your first anniversary.
The free night certificates offered on most other Marriott cards are valid at properties costing up to 35,000 points per night, so being able to use these at properties costing 50,000 points per night is awesome. This gets you access to all kinds of luxury hotels.
There are plenty of hotels costing $500+ per night that you can use this at. Assuming you value this at a minimum of $150, then I’d say you’re just about at the breakeven point on the card. The $450 annual fee is easily offset by the $300 travel credit, and then this free night.
Use your free night certificate at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota
Free Gold Elite Status
Just for having the Bonvoy Brilliant Card you receive Gold Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program. This status ordinarily requires 25 elite nights, and gets perks including the following:
- 25% bonus points on hotel stays
- 2PM late check-out
- A room upgrade
Platinum Elite Status With $75,000 Spending
If you have this card you can earn Platinum Elite status if you spend $75,000 on the card in a calendar year. This status ordinarily requires 50 elite nights. Platinum Elite status gets you the following benefits:
- 50% bonus points on hotel stays
- 4PM late check-out
- A room upgrade, including to a standard suite
- Welcome gift, including breakfast at many brands
Platinum status is potentially really worthwhile, though at the same time there’s quite an opportunity cost to putting $75,000 of spending on the card, given the other excellent options out there.
15 Elite Nights Towards Status
Just for having the Bonvoy Brilliant Card you receive 15 elite nights towards status annually. Several co-branded Marriott credit cards offer this, and you can only receive the benefit once.
In other words, if you have three Marriott cards then you wouldn’t get 45 elite nights.
However, this really makes it more attainable to earn Platinum status, which is where status really gets valuable. Platinum status requires 50 nights, so if you have this card you’d only need to earn an additional 35 elite nights.
Platinum Elite members receive suite upgrades
Premium Internet At Marriotts
Nowadays all Marriott Bonvoy members who book direct receive free in-room internet. However, if you have this credit card you receive free premium internet access while staying at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
$100 Ritz-Carlton & St. Regis Property Credit
The card also offers a $100 on-property credit at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis when you book stays of at least two nights. The catch is that you have to book an “eligible rate,” which is going to be equivalent to the best available/non-discounted rate.
Personally I don’t consider that to be so valuable. Why?
- You have to book a specific rate, so points stays, discounted member rates, etc., don’t qualify
- Most of these hotels also belong to Virtuoso, which offers a similar credit and more
The $100 credit benefit might not be as valuable as it sounds
Priority Pass Select Membership
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to 1,300+ lounges around the world. You can bring two guests with you into lounges, space permitting. This is a great way to make your airport experience more pleasant.
Do me aware that those getting a Priority Pass membership through Amex don’t receive credits at Priority Pass restaurants.
Access Priority Pass lounges with the Bonvoy Brilliant Card
TSA Pre-Check Or Global Entry Credit
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every four years. Just charge the $85-100 membership fee to your card, and it will automatically be reimbursed. It doesn’t matter who the fee is being paid for, as long as you charge it to your eligible card.
Travel Protection & Insurance
As of 2020, the Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers some valuable new travel coverage. The card offers reimbursement when your trip is canceled or interrupted, as follows:
- You can be reimbursed for up to $10,000 in non-refundable travel expenses per trip, up to $20,000 per 12 consecutive month period
- This applies to covered reasons, which includes accidental bodily injury, inclement weather, military orders, terrorist action, call to jury duty, one’s dwelling made uninhabitable, and a quarantine imposed by a physician for health reasons
- Coverage applies to you and your family members (including domestic partners) and traveling companions who purchase a trip with your card
- You must file your claim within 60 days of the covered event
On top of that, the card offers reimbursement for trip delays, as follows:
- This applies if you’re delayed by at least six hours
- If eligible, you can be reimbursed up to $500 per trip for necessary expenses, like hotels, meals, and other essentials
This coverage can be valuable if your flight is canceled or delayed
One of the great features of Amex cards is access to Amex Offers, which gives members savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. There’s huge value to be had in getting as many Amex cards as possible so that you can get these offers on multiple cards.
Amex Offers could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can access these offers by logging into your account and scrolling down to the bottom of your account summary page.
Temporary Coronavirus Benefits
Earn 10X points/$1 on up to $3,500 in combined purchases spent at gas stations and restaurants between July 15 and September 15, 2020. This includes eligible delivery services such as GrubHub and DoorDash. You must register for the promotion by September 15, 2020 at 11:59PM ET.
Is The Bonvoy Brilliant Amex Worth It?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have the Bonvoy Brilliant Card. It’s not a card that I put spending on, but rather it’s a card that I have for the perks.
The way I view it, this card really costs me $150 per year — it has a $450 annual fee, but I think the $300 annual Marriott credit is more or less good as cash. In reality, I’m paying $150 per year for an annual free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 50,000 points.
To me that’s an excellent deal. The card has plenty of other perks that others may find valuable, but which I don’t get much value out of:
- The card also offers a Priority Pass membership, but personally I have several cards that offer this
- The card offers a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fee credit, though again, I have several cards that offer this
- The 15 elite nights towards status are valuable, but I also have the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex, and you can only get this benefit on one card
Beyond the above, let me share a couple of other things worth considering with regards to this card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Vs. Boundless Card
Many people may be looking to decide between the $450 annual fee Brilliant Card, and the $95 annual fee Bonvoy Boundless Card. What are the major differences?
- The Boundless Card offers an anniversary free night valid at a property costing up to 35,000 points per night (rather than 50,000 points)
- Both cards offer premium internet and 15 elite nights towards status
- The Brilliant Card offers a Priority Pass membership, Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check credit, and a $300 Marriott credit
- The Boundless Card is issued by Chase, while the Brilliant Card is issued by Amex, in case that impacts your approval odds
For the casual Marriott guest I think the Boundless Card is a more reasonably priced option that’s valuable, while for the loyal Marriott guest, perhaps the Brilliant Card is a better option.
Why You Shouldn’t Transfer Chase Points To Marriott
Marriott is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you could transfer points at a 1:1 ratio. For example:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), which offers 3x points on dining and travel
- The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review), which offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent annually on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review), which in conjunction with one of the above cards earns 1.5x points on all purchases
In some cases this would be your best bet for earning Marriott points through credit card spending, since you can earn 3-5x points in select categories.
Even so, I wouldn’t recommend transferring Chase points to Marriott. Why? I value Marriott points at ~0.7 cents each, while you can instead transfer points at the same ratio to programs like World of Hyatt, where I value the points at ~1.5 cents each (more than times as much).
While there are plenty of ways to earn Marriott points with credit cards, there aren’t many ways to do so at efficient or competitive rates.
There are better uses of Chase points than transferring to Marriott
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Summary
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card is Marriott’s most premium credit card. The card has a $450 annual fee, but offers perks like a $300 annual Marriott credit and annual free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 50K points, which could make this card worthwhile.
This card could definitely be worth having, though I also think Marriott’s more reasonably priced annual fee cards — the $95 annual fee Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase, and the $125 annual fee Bonvoy Business Amex from Amex, may be a better option for many.
One unique aspect of this card is that you can spend your way to Marriott Platinum status. $75,000 is a good amount to spend on the card, especially given the opportunity cost of this spending. In the right circumstances some might consider that to be worthwhile, though.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Marriott Bonvoy Business Card From American Express (Rates & Fees).