Both American Express and Chase issue co-branded Marriott credit cards. The market is split between them — American Express issues the ultra-premium personal card and business card, while Chase issues with the mid-range personal card and no annual fee personal card.
In this post, I wanted to take a closer look at the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, which is the most premium credit card in the portfolio, and it’s also offering an exceptional limited-time welcome bonus at the moment.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Basics For October 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, and I’ve found the card to be well worth it.
Let’s take a closer look at all the benefits of this card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Welcome Bonus
For applications through November 3, 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is offering a huge two-part welcome bonus:
- Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months
- Earn a free night award (valid for a one-night redemption of up to 85,000 points) after spending $5,000 within three months
As you can see, this welcome bonus is worth up to 235,000 Bonvoy point. I value Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents each, so the bonus is worth up to $1,645 to me. That’s massive.
I think it’s particularly noteworthy that the card is offering a free night award valid at a hotel costing up to 85,000 Bonvoy points. That covers all the way up to Marriott’s top Category 8 properties in standard season. We’ve never seen a free night award worth up to 85,000 points offered as part of a welcome bonus before.
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)
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.
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 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, you receive 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.
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.
Complimentary Gold Elite Status
On an ongoing basis, just for having the Bonvoy Brilliant Card, you receive complimentary 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
Spend To Platinum Elite Status
You can earn Platinum Elite status if you spend $75,000 on the Bonvoy Brilliant 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 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. This would be my preferred way of earning this status, rather than spending $75,000 on the card.
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
- All of these hotels belong to Marriott STARS, and some of these hotels belong to Virtuoso, which offer similar benefits
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.
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
The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers valuable 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
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, last year 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.
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 much 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, plus for 15 elite nights towards status annually, which helps me earn a higher status tier.
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 have saved me hundreds of dollars.
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.
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 don’t yet have this card, I’d highly recommend applying with the current bonus, which is absolutely incredible. Earning 150K Bonvoy points plus a free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 85,000 points is awesome.
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).