My Experience With The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card

My Experience With The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card

11
In the interest of full disclosure, OMAAT earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers (terms apply) that we have found for each product or service. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, hotel chain, or product manufacturer/service provider, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about our partners, and thanks for your support! The offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) has a hefty annual fee, though for many people the perks should more than justify it.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Welcome Bonus

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card welcome bonus comes in two parts:

  • Earn 75,000 Bonvoy bonus points after spending $3,000 within the first three months
  • Earn $200 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made at U.S. restaurants within the first six months

Why the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is worth it

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card has a $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees). I can totally understand how on the surface some people might say “well I don’t want to pay $450 for a card if I don’t have to.”

This is a card I have, and in this post I wanted to explain how this card has been oh-so-worth-it to me, and why I think this would be the case for lots of others as well.

In no particular order, here’s how the benefits of this card have worked out for me:

$300 Marriott travel credit

Personally, I view the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card as actually costing $150 per year, rather than $450 per year. Why? Because the card offers a straightforward $300 annual Marriott travel credit.

This couldn’t be easier to use, and there are no hoops to jump through — you’ll receive statement credits for the first $300 you spend each cardmember year at a Marriott family property with the card:

  • This is valid at virtually all properties, both in the US and abroad, and at a variety of brands, ranging from Four Points to Ritz-Carlton
  • This is valid for virtually all hotel spending, ranging from room rate, to food & beverage purchases, to spa treatments

The $300 travel credit posts automatically

If you spend at least $300 per year at Marriott properties, this should just about be worth face value, plain and simple. And I guess to reverse it, if you don’t spend at least $300 per year at Marriott properties (even on incidentals), then chances are that this card isn’t for you.

You can use the credit for food & beverage purchases at Marriott properties

Free night award worth up to 50,000 points

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a free night award on your account anniversary every year, valid at a property costing up to 50,000 points per night. This has a significant advantage over the free night award on some other Marriott credit cards, which are only valid at properties costing up to 35,000 points.

For example, over Thanksgiving of 2019 I used this for a free night at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. We decided to celebrate the holiday there with family (it was convenient for my mom, and it was her first time really leaving the house after a surgery a couple of months prior), and we had a great time.

It just happened to be that the hotel cost 50,000 points per night, so I could use a certificate for a night, when the paid rate would have been over $350 including taxes.

As far as I’m concerned, at this point I’m already coming out ahead with the card, between the $300 travel credit and the night at a hotel that would have cost $350+.

I redeemed my free night award at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota

$240 in further statement credits in 2021

American Express has introduced temporary card perks in 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In each month of 2021, those with the Bonvoy Brilliant can receive a $20 monthly dining credit, worth up to $240.

Note that this only applies to those who register, and you must have had the card prior to January 1, 2021, to take advantage of this (so new cardmembers can’t take advantage of this). The point is to illustrate how valuable this card has proven to be for existing cardmembers as well, so this isn’t just a card you should consider for the bonus.

15 elite nights towards Bonvoy status

The Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers 15 elite nights towards status annually. Since I have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, I receive a total of 30 elite nights towards status annually between the two cards.

For many people, this will make Platinum Elite status quite attainable, as it requires 50 nights per year, so having those two cards gets you 60% of the way there long term.

Having the card makes status easier to earn

The Bonvoy Brilliant perks I haven’t used

In addition to the above perks, there are several more Bonvoy Brilliant Card perks that others may get value out of, but that I personally don’t:

  • A Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you access to 1,300+ lounges around the world; personally I receive this perk through several cards, so an incremental member doesn’t get me much
  • Premium in-room internet at Marriott properties; since I have status with Marriott, I get this benefit anyway
  • A Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every 4-4.5 years, which ordinarily costs $85-100; this is potentially valuable, but I get this benefit on so many cards

Get airport lounge access with the card

Bottom line

Personally, I find the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card to be extremely worthwhile. While the card has a $450 annual fee, the $300 annual Marriott travel credit is more or less worth face value, so to me the card is really only costing me ~$150 per year.

Then there are all the extra statement credits I’ve received (beyond the $300 annual statement credit), including at least $240 in credits in 2021, plus a free night award at a hotel costing up to 50,000 points, and much more.

If you don’t yet have the Bonvoy Brilliant and are eligible, I’d highly recommend considering applying with the current offer, because this is a card that can more than pay for itself.

If you have the Bonvoy Brilliant, what has your experience been like?

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).

Conversations (11)
Newest comments are displayed first.

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.

Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Anthony

    AC -

    1) Your Amex Platinum already includes Hilton Gold status, which is the best mid-tier status available. You get breakfast at all Hilton hotels, plus occasional upgrades. Diamond status (which you get with the Hilton Aspire) doesn’t add that much more

    2) Hyatt seems to offer excellent service at the high end, but you have to commit to earning that status via spending on a card or stays, so you have to see if...

    AC -

    1) Your Amex Platinum already includes Hilton Gold status, which is the best mid-tier status available. You get breakfast at all Hilton hotels, plus occasional upgrades. Diamond status (which you get with the Hilton Aspire) doesn’t add that much more

    2) Hyatt seems to offer excellent service at the high end, but you have to commit to earning that status via spending on a card or stays, so you have to see if you can achieve that

    3) Marriott offers good service at the Platinum/Titanum level, but as Lucky always moans about, elite recognition is inconsistent, and you have to earn that status with paid hotel stays

    To me, this implies that unless you are a business traveler with brand preferences, you should be brand agnostic and accumulate points through sign up bonuses and spending and not worry too much about the card benefits. If you want to stay at a Bora Bora hotel, find which hotel you would like to visit and sign up for the cards that give you points towards that stay.

    Personally I generally stay with Marriott for business but dabble in Hilton and Hyatt as well.

  2. Esquiar

    AC - get the Amex Bonvoy biz card first because it doesn’t affect 5/24. Don’t get the Chase Boundless card because it blocks you from getting both Amex Bonvoy SUBs for two years.

    The Hyatt card certs are great because immune from peak pricing, but the current SUB is garbage, so wait until better.

    The Aspire card offers the appearance of good value but keep in mind the resort credit is restricted to...

    AC - get the Amex Bonvoy biz card first because it doesn’t affect 5/24. Don’t get the Chase Boundless card because it blocks you from getting both Amex Bonvoy SUBs for two years.

    The Hyatt card certs are great because immune from peak pricing, but the current SUB is garbage, so wait until better.

    The Aspire card offers the appearance of good value but keep in mind the resort credit is restricted to higher-end properties, while the Brilliant $300 credit works at any Marriott. So depends on your normal travel patterns...

  3. NCTipper

    AC - the Bonvoy Brilliant is good but I would recommend the AMEX Hilton Aspire card for someone who is hotel agnostic...automatic Diamond status, free weekend night at ANY Hilton hotel in the world (Conrad Bora Bora!), 150K point sign up bonus (I think), various other ways to earn back the steep $450 annual fee ($250 resort credit, $250 airline incidentals credit, Shoprunner, $100 off at Waldorf/Conrad, Priority Pass, etc.). Plus you will earn 34...

    AC - the Bonvoy Brilliant is good but I would recommend the AMEX Hilton Aspire card for someone who is hotel agnostic...automatic Diamond status, free weekend night at ANY Hilton hotel in the world (Conrad Bora Bora!), 150K point sign up bonus (I think), various other ways to earn back the steep $450 annual fee ($250 resort credit, $250 airline incidentals credit, Shoprunner, $100 off at Waldorf/Conrad, Priority Pass, etc.). Plus you will earn 34 points per dollar at Hilton (14 on the card, 20 for being Diamond). I get lots of value from this card every year.

  4. AC

    Question for Lucky / anyone who'd want to chime in: I've followed this blog for years, and I've yet to invest in a hotel rewards card (I primarily put spend on CSR & AMEX Gold, have AMEX Plat for benefits). What would you recommend as a first hotel card? This is tempting, but I'm also tempted by Hilton & Hyatt (& maybe IHG?). I haven't really decided what brand I should dive deep into given...

    Question for Lucky / anyone who'd want to chime in: I've followed this blog for years, and I've yet to invest in a hotel rewards card (I primarily put spend on CSR & AMEX Gold, have AMEX Plat for benefits). What would you recommend as a first hotel card? This is tempting, but I'm also tempted by Hilton & Hyatt (& maybe IHG?). I haven't really decided what brand I should dive deep into given the Gold status automatically for Bonvoy + HHonors.

    One of my main motivations would be a big sign up bonus to bolster points. My main airport is SFO, and one of my first trips post-COVID would be somewhere in the Pacific (maybe Bora Bora or Mo'orea given direct hop to PPT). Would be interesting to see a blog post that breaks down a strategy for hotel credit cards, particularly as I find the programs & cards less straight forward than airline / MR + UR + Citi points.

  5. eponymous coward

    I applied for it while the 100k + Platinum in the 2021 member year + 25k on renewal offer was available late in 2020. The current offer is probably comparable in value in my mind, given that Marriott's big benefit for Platinums (breakfast and space available upgrades for elites) are pretty uneven (read: I might trade it for more points on signup and a $200 statement credit and just be Gold in 2021).

    I also...

    I applied for it while the 100k + Platinum in the 2021 member year + 25k on renewal offer was available late in 2020. The current offer is probably comparable in value in my mind, given that Marriott's big benefit for Platinums (breakfast and space available upgrades for elites) are pretty uneven (read: I might trade it for more points on signup and a $200 statement credit and just be Gold in 2021).

    I also got an offer for $50 statement credit on Marriott spend early this year, which basically boosted the annual statement credit on Marriott spend to $350 when I used it on some stays. That plus the $220 in monthly statement credits for 2021 means I'm being paid to hold and use the card for 2021. The extra elite night credits Marriott has dumped in my account + their current 2x elite night credit promo + some travel in 2021 means I have a legitimate shot to *earn* Platinum for 2022 (which is obviously what Marriott was hoping for, a better share of my hotel $$$).

    The current AMEX offer for 7500 Marriott points with $7500 of spend (through the year) is enough to get me to throw some miscellaneous spend on the Brilliant to try and get that (I don't have a Citi Double Cash + Citi Premier/Prestige combo, or AMEX BBP like you do for TL;DR reasons), as 3x Bonvoy for $1 USD spend is a reasonable alternative to my usual default for miscellaneous spend (2% cashback card). I plan on some extensive travel in Europe, Asia and India in mid-2022 so having a large pool of Marriott points and Platinum status (and suite upgrade instruments) would be handy for that.

    So far this is a keeper for years 1 and 2 (25k points on renewal + 50k room certificate + need to renew Global Entry/NEXUS in 2022, so a $100 statement credit + $300 Marriott statement credits = easily worth $450 for year two) and I'll decide in year 3 if it makes sense to keep, downgrade to the $95 legacy card or just dump it. It probably doesn't get much other than Marriott spend absent compelling promotions, similar to what you do, Lucky.

  6. Luke

    Have 4 of the 50k certificates (Between my and wife's cards) and 2 of the 35k point night certificates some of which are expiring at end of July.

    Was able to book towards end of July within the same week for 2 nights at St Regis Atlanta and 2 nights at Ritz Carlton Amelia using the 50k certificates and 2 nights at the still to open JW Marriott Charlotte using the 35k ones. Getting...

    Have 4 of the 50k certificates (Between my and wife's cards) and 2 of the 35k point night certificates some of which are expiring at end of July.

    Was able to book towards end of July within the same week for 2 nights at St Regis Atlanta and 2 nights at Ritz Carlton Amelia using the 50k certificates and 2 nights at the still to open JW Marriott Charlotte using the 35k ones. Getting total value of over 4k using these certificates so certainly theres value to be had and should be a nice summer road trip hopefully!

  7. Russ

    It’s a great card. It had bonuses for dinning over the summertime so I shifted my restaurant spend to it for a few months. Then it has the $20/month credit you mention which is clever - it keeps it in my wallet when I would normally only use it for Marriott Hotel or dinning spend.

    Also since there are not other ways to just randomly earn Marriott points sans business travel its good stuff.

  8. Chris

    I received a bonus for upgrading my Chase Marriott Premium Plus card back in Dec 2018. I can't find in the terms that shows eligibility if you have received a bonus on another card. Anyone else see it?

  9. Art_Czar

    The 50k certs aren't as desirable as 50k points. Points don't expire and offer greater flexibility of use and I wish that the card would offer an annual benefit of 50k points in lieu of a certificate.

  10. Anthony

    It’s a good card. I use it fairly often, and it is a low fee card if you stay at a Marriott at least once a year (net fee of $150). As long as the fee doesn’t go up, it is a keeper for me. I do wish they would have better earnings in general (though I will take advantage of the extra point on spending promotion this year). No reason not to have this card if you stay at Marriotts with any regularity

  11. Uzi

    The main issue with this card is not necessarily the perks and credits you mention, but the 50K certificate itself. I have had this card since its inception. Since Marriott announced peak pricing, these certificates have become very difficult to use at their face value. I must have looked at dozens and dozens of properties over a wide range of dates and I cannot recall a single instance where I was able to find a...

    The main issue with this card is not necessarily the perks and credits you mention, but the 50K certificate itself. I have had this card since its inception. Since Marriott announced peak pricing, these certificates have become very difficult to use at their face value. I must have looked at dozens and dozens of properties over a wide range of dates and I cannot recall a single instance where I was able to find a Category 6 hotel at 50K in a semi-desirable location or time. Most Category 6 hotels that present any real value seem to be applying peak pricing almost exclusively. I can probably still get the 450 value out of the card as you outline, but only if I am willing to stay at properties that I would not otherwise stay at just to be able to use these certs or use them for sub-par Category 5 hotels. The same of course applies to points but perhaps even worse: in order to get maximum value I find myself having to choose properties that I might not otherwise choose just to be able to get a good value out of these points over a 5 day stay. Plus, it is simply too frustrating to keep scouring Marriott website for good value as it is becoming harder to accomplish. This issue is of course separate and apart from myriad issues I have had with Marriott in the last 2 years or so, which are generally blamed on bad IT which is definitely partly to blame but cannot explain the breadth of issues that arise on a regular basis.

    I already have Hilton cards from Amex and Hyatt from Chase. When my renewal on this card comes later this year, I am cancelling and will stay mostly at Hyatt and Hilton properties. I am looking forward to not dealing with Marriott.

Featured Comments Load all 11 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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.

Anthony

AC - 1) Your Amex Platinum already includes Hilton Gold status, which is the best mid-tier status available. You get breakfast at all Hilton hotels, plus occasional upgrades. Diamond status (which you get with the Hilton Aspire) doesn’t add that much more 2) Hyatt seems to offer excellent service at the high end, but you have to commit to earning that status via spending on a card or stays, so you have to see if you can achieve that 3) Marriott offers good service at the Platinum/Titanum level, but as Lucky always moans about, elite recognition is inconsistent, and you have to earn that status with paid hotel stays To me, this implies that unless you are a business traveler with brand preferences, you should be brand agnostic and accumulate points through sign up bonuses and spending and not worry too much about the card benefits. If you want to stay at a Bora Bora hotel, find which hotel you would like to visit and sign up for the cards that give you points towards that stay. Personally I generally stay with Marriott for business but dabble in Hilton and Hyatt as well.

Esquiar

AC - get the Amex Bonvoy biz card first because it doesn’t affect 5/24. Don’t get the Chase Boundless card because it blocks you from getting both Amex Bonvoy SUBs for two years. The Hyatt card certs are great because immune from peak pricing, but the current SUB is garbage, so wait until better. The Aspire card offers the appearance of good value but keep in mind the resort credit is restricted to higher-end properties, while the Brilliant $300 credit works at any Marriott. So depends on your normal travel patterns...

NCTipper

AC - the Bonvoy Brilliant is good but I would recommend the AMEX Hilton Aspire card for someone who is hotel agnostic...automatic Diamond status, free weekend night at ANY Hilton hotel in the world (Conrad Bora Bora!), 150K point sign up bonus (I think), various other ways to earn back the steep $450 annual fee ($250 resort credit, $250 airline incidentals credit, Shoprunner, $100 off at Waldorf/Conrad, Priority Pass, etc.). Plus you will earn 34 points per dollar at Hilton (14 on the card, 20 for being Diamond). I get lots of value from this card every year.

Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,523,713 Miles Traveled

25,807,500 Words Written

28,675 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT