Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Review (2021)

Filed Under: Credit Cards, Marriott
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6x Points
on Marriott
3x Points
at Restaurants
Foreign Transaction Fees
Annual Fee: $450
| Terms Apply.

Marriott Bonvoy has credit cards issued by both American Express and Chase. Marriott has essentially split out the market:

In this post, I wanted to take a closer look at the Bonvoy Brilliant Card. Is the Bonvoy Brilliant Card worth it? It’s a card I have, but will it be as valuable to others?

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Basics For January 2021

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card was introduced in early 2019, and is one of the newest “luxury” hotel credit cards. 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 75,000-Point Welcome Bonus

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 Bonvoy bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months. I value Bonvoy points at ~0.7 cents each, so to me 75K points are worth ~$525.

Receive Bonvoy Platinum status as part of this welcome bonus

Card Eligibility

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 credit cards in a 90 day period
  • You can have at most five American Express credit cards at any point (this doesn’t include cards without a preseet spending limit)

See this post for all major credit card application restrictions to be aware of.

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 (Rates & Fees).

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Bonvoy Brilliant Card has no foreign transaction fees (Rates & Fees), so it could be a good option for purchases you make abroad.

Earning Points With The Bonvoy Brilliant Card

The Marriott 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.

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 ~1.4% return on spending, 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.

Use your $300 credit towards virtually any hotel spending

Up To 50K Points Annual Free Night Reward

The other major perk that makes the Bonvoy Brilliant 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

Complimentary Gold Elite Status

On an ongoing basis, 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
  • 2 PM late check-out
  • A room upgrade

Spend to Platinum Elite Status

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. Whether or not it makes sense to spend $75,000 on the card in the future to earn this very much depends on your travel patterns.

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 on a personal card and once on a business card

In other words, if you have three Marriott personal cards then you wouldn’t get 45 elite nights. However, if you have a personal card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ Amex Card, you’d get 30 elite nights!

This really makes it more attainable to earn Platinum status in the long run, which is where status really gets valuable. Platinum status requires 50 nights, so if you were getting 30 elite nights per year from credit cards, you’d only need 20 more elite nights.

There are lots of great perks to Platinum status

Premium Internet At Marriott Properties

Nowadays all Marriott Bonvoy members who book direct receive free in-room internet. However, if you have this credit card you receive complimentary premium internet access while staying at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.

$100 Ritz-Carlton & St. Regis Property Credit

The Bonvoy Brilliant 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 be 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

Amex Offers

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.

For example, I had an offer on this card for a $100 statement credit when spending $1,000 on the card. I took full advantage of this, and it saved me $100, so that was great.

An Amex Offers deal I had on my Bonvoy Brilliant account

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 personally 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

In addition to that, I do get value out of the consistent Amex Offers deals that I see on this card, which has saved me well over $100 this year alone.

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 (you can only receive this benefit once across all Marriott co-brand personal credit cards)
  • 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

Personally, I prefer the Brilliant Card, since I think it’s worth paying an extra $55 to get a free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 50,000 points, rather than 35,000 points. More casual Marriott guests may prefer the Boundless Card, though, given that there’s less “sticker shock” to the annual fee.

Both the Boundless & Brilliant are potentially great cards

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 should more than justify the annual fee.

Add in all the money-saving offers available with Amex Offers, and you should easily come out ahead with this card.

If you want to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card or apply, follow this link.

Apply Now

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. Decent card, but could be improved (i would like to see 4x for dining and airfare). The credits and certificate are easy to use. I have it and use it for any Marriott spend. It is also one of the better looking cards in person.

  2. Lucky,

    You may want to add an addendum to this article with regards to the decreased usefulness of the 50k redemption credit. Between peak pricing and the award chart changes of the past couple days, the $450 for this card looks less attractive than it was just a couple days ago.

  3. Ben – I recognize many of the photos here, but whenever you can, it is really nice to add a caption of where a photo lines up to. That being said, I think that the value of some priority pass restaurants is meh and am starting to wonder if Amex Plat is the card of cards with priority pass lounges + the amex lounge collection. Oh yeah, and having a big3 airline club card for the hub captives. I love my CSR and I think the redemptions and rental car coverage+bonus spend is helpful but I do begin to wonder.

  4. After the most recent deval this is not worth keeping long term. The fnc is even harder to redeem these days. Dont waste a Amex long term, give that to a second Aspire.

  5. agree with @jon @lucky the 50k redemption has dropped a lot in fact its making me debate canceling this card , seems like more than half (back of the paper math) have gone away at both the 35k and 50k level redemptions making these points harder to use as well as the certificates. This newest chart may make me finally got to hyatt.

  6. I disagree on the 50K credit – very easy to use for stays in cities like DC, Chicago, etc. It should at least pay for the $150 net fee. You are basically left with a free Bonvoy card that gives you 15 elite nights and 6x on Marriott spending. Worthwhile having for anyone that spends a good amount on Marriott anyway

  7. I only use for my hotel spend (I travel for work) where I primarily prefer to stay with Marriott. My anniversary year hits in Feb (like most of us who got this card when it launched)–while I’m satisfied with it, I do think the free night it offers needs to come up in value to match the new award charts.

  8. This $450 card looks laughably poor in comparison to the American Express Hilton Aspire card. The Aspire comes with Hilton Diamond status, meaning free breakfast and (a fairly high chance of getting) upgrades. Even the $95 Amex Hilton Surpass card’s complimentary (Hilton) Gold status includes free breakfast. Marriott’s Gold status does not include free breakfast, and the likelihood of getting upgrades with that status is not particularly good. Sorry, but Marriott and this supposedly top-end card are now pedestrian at best.

  9. So what is now the best way to earn Marriott points? I still love some of the unique former Starwood properties, which Hyatt just hasn’t matched yet. But as you noted above, I’m not finding myself putting spend on my Marriott cards any more — just silly given the low value and earn. And even for paid stays, I prefer Hyatt given the really great Globalist breakfast benefit vs. the unpredictable and increasingly “toast and a coffee” Titanium breakfast benefit. So my Marriott point balance has dwindled. Given the similarly poor transfer values, what is a former Starwood loyalist to do so he can stay with points at some of his favorite hotels?!

  10. I’d really like to see comparisons of ultra-premium cards for those that stay at Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, and IHG, respectively. For example,
    Prestige vs. CSR vs. Platinum vs. Brilliant for Marriott. Here’s how that breaks down for me:

    $245 net fee
    3X TYP on hotels
    5X TYP on restaurants & airfare & travel agencies
    Can redeem for 1cpp on travel
    Can cash out for 1cpp
    No coverages
    4th night free up to 2x/year, with caveats

    $200 net fee
    3X UR on hotels & airfare & restaurants
    Can redeem for 1.5cpp on travel
    Can cash out for 1cpp
    6h trip delay, trip C&I, primary CDW
    Lyft benefits

    $550 fee, less various credits
    5X on airfare
    Can redeem for 1cpp on travel (?)
    Can cash out for 0.6cpp (1.25cpp for Schwab)
    6h trip delay, trip C&I, no CDW
    More lounges, but no PP restaurants
    Marriott & Hilton Gold

    $150 net fee
    6X Bonvoy on Marriott
    3X Bonvoy on airfare & restaurants
    Can’t redeem for anything but Marriott (0.6cpp?)
    Can’t cash out
    6h trip delay, trip C&I, no CDW
    No PP restaurants
    50k FNC
    Marriott Gold

    GE/PreCheck credit and non-restaurant PP offered by all.

    I’m sure I’m missing a lot – someone like you would be better qualified to do the comparison. Maybe add the Business Platinum or other options, and possibly even 2- or 3-card combos (Prestige/Premier/Rewards+, Brilliant/Boundless, Platinum/Green, etc.).

    I do think that having multiple Bonvoy cards is a good idea as well. Two or three FNCs are worth more than 2-3x a single FNC. Many of us would never spend $200+ or 35k/night; for us, having a single FNC either:
    – “forces” us to “overpay” for an extra night or two at a Cat 4 or 5 when we’d be okay with a Cat 2 or 3,
    – use it at reduced value – say, a Cat. 3 on which we’re okay to burn 17.5k/night for an extra night or two, or
    – “throw it away,” in a way, on a one-night stay that I otherwise wouldn’t book
    $95/$125/$150 getting me a free night at a Cat. 5/5/6 is nice, but $95+$125+$150=$370 getting me 3 nights is much nicer.

  11. The Brilliant still feels incredibly overrated to me. Aside from the temporary Plat status, it’s basically a one category upgrade on the free night vs the Boundless, for a net of $55. The math works if you’re going to maximize that free night every year, but I expect more from a $450 annual fee. The value proposition of the Hilton Aspire, for example, far outweighs the Brilliant for the same annual fee.

  12. Judging by the comments Lucky, it seems to me that it is time for you to do a head-to-head match-up between the Bonvoy Brilliant and the Hilton Aspire.

  13. You can still downgrade this to the $95 AMEX card that has the 35k annual certificate, right?

  14. Also, isn’t a card that sucks for onging spend a problem, in that AMEX is going to put you in popup hell and deny signup bonuses once you have a card that you’re not using?

  15. @MattR:

    Another little advantage the Hilton Aspire has is 7x flights/restaurants/rental cars, which is handy for dropping some spend on it to keep the AMEX pop up bonus gremlins happy. By Lucky’s valuation that’s 3.5% return, not 2.1% as in the Brilliant, and has an additional category.

  16. The problem with Amex’s cobrands and part of their in-house portfolio is the lack of bonus categories when abroad. I would probably use the cards much more if the bonus categories worked abroad.

    For the Brilliant in particular, the earning is simply too low. The Marriott program is great on paper, with nearly any partner you could want, but if my card spend earns the equivalent of less than a mile per dollar – what good is it?

    Am I missing something? Have there been numerous promotions for this card increasing the earn level?

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