Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Review
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from American Express is a luxury hotel rewards credit card that commands a high annual fee but makes up for it with a series of lucrative hotel and general travel rewards and benefits, including a 75,000-point sign-up bonus.
The card is perhaps the flagship card of the American Express hotel-card lineup because the Marriott brand includes the W as well as the Ritz-Carlton.
To understand how valuable this card is, you’ll need to get a sense of what kind of rewards the card offers and which types of spending earn you the most rewards, what the card offers in the way of status upgrades and perks you get during your hotel stay, as well as what its rates and fees are.
Also important here, is knowing how this card compares other Marriott cards as well as other luxury hotel cards.
We’ll cover all these areas in this review using our extensive experience to analyze the features and benefits most important to you and give you a clear sense of this card’s year-to-year value.
Pros: Double points on most purchases, free Silver Elite status, free night every year.
Cons: High interest rate.
Estimated Yearly Travel Rewards: 80,865 points
|Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Regular APR|
|75,000 points||$450||17.99% to 26.99%|
|Rewards Rate: 6x on Marriott purchases, 3x on restaurants and airfare, 2x on everything else|
You’ll typically find two types of benefits with a travel credit card: rewards you earn through spending and stay-related benefits you get when you book via points or money payments.
The spending rewards for this card are broken down into three tiers: 6 points for every dollar you spend at Marriott properties, 3 points for restaurant and airfare purchases and 2 points for every dollar spent on everything else.
These points are what's known as Marriott Bonvoy points and they’re what you’ll use to book rooms through the Bonvoy program, which is Marriott's “frequent flyer” program for hotel guests.
So, if you go to a Marriott property, which includes more than a dozen brands, anytime you use your Bonvoy AmEx to make a purchase, you’ll get 6 points for each dollar. A $1,000 hotel stay plus $300 spend in the hotel restaurant would earn you 7,800 points.
Now, let’s say you left the hotel one night to eat at a highly-rated restaurant a few blocks away and you spent $150. Because you get a 3x bonus on restaurant purchases, you’ll rack up 450 Bonvoy points for the meal.
And, finally, if you bought $400 worth of plane tickets directly from the airline’s website then you’ll have earned another 1,200 Bonvoy points. It’s important to note that you only get the 3x bonus on plane tickets if you buy directly from the airline and not through a third-0party site like Orbitz.
Finally, if you go shopping during your trip and buy some new shoes and sunglasses for $150, the 2x bonus on the “everything else” purchases would earn you another 300 points.
Your grand total of points from the trip would be 9,750 on $2,000 spending, which is a significant amount of points.
The second way to earn points through spending is to use your card to make at least $3,000 in purchases the first three months you own the card. Once you hit this threshold, you will get 75,000 bonus Bonvoy points. Remember, though, that interest charges, late fees, and balance transfers don’t count toward that total.
Tip: It can take up to 8–12 week for your bonus points to arrive in your account.
The Value of Bonvoy Points You Earn Through Spending
Based on our calculations, the first year you own this card you have the potential to rack up around 155,865 points your first year and 80,865 points every subsequent year if you spend at least:
- $1,500 a year at Marriott properties
- $1,500 on flights every year
- $3,365 on dining
- $32,000 on “everything else” purchases
The more you spend in any bonus category above what the Bureau of Labor Statistics deems average for any given category, the more points you’ll have each year.
Marriott hotels have booking rates of between 7,500 and 85,000 points, with the potential to cost more or less depending on in which part of the year you’re going to stay. Peak seasons demand higher point totals (10K–100K) whereas off-peak seasons require fewer points (5K–70K).
Therefore, we estimate you can book as many as 31 nights with your first-year points and as many as 16 nights with the points you earn every year after that.
IN addition to the points you can earn with this card, you get several other benefits that are available to you every year you own the card.
Every year on your cardmember anniversary you’ll get a free night you can use at any Marriott hotel that costs 50,000 points or less.
Each year you’ll also get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases you make at Marriott hotels. These purchases include restaurants and spas. Remember, though, in order to get the statement credits, you’ll need to charge the purchases to your room and pay your bill with your Bonvoy card.
The final yearly perk is Gold Status, which is a tier in the loyalty program that entitles you to:
- Free upgrades when available
- 25% points bonuses on Marriott purchases
- Free bonus points for each stay
- Enhanced in-room internet access
- 2 p.m. late checkout
Normally, you’d have to stay at Marriott properties at least 25 nights a year to get Gold Elite status.
Additional travel rewards include:
- $100 credit at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis
- Priority Pass Select membership
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
- 15 Elite nights
These benefits are specific to luxury travelers, as the on-property credit is limited to Marriott’s most luxurious properties, the Priority Pass membership provides free luxury lounge entrance at more than 1,000 airport lounges and the Elite nights can help you achieve Platinum Elite status, which is one step up from the complimentary Gold status the card gives you.
Also, Marriott will reimburse you for the application fee you pay for either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck program, two options for travelers who want expedited security check-in at U.S. airports.
At the time of publishing, the interest rates and fees on this card were as follows:
- APR for purchases and balance transfers: 17.99%–26.99%
- Cash advance APR: 27.49%
- Penalty APR: 29.99%
- Annual fee: $450
- Cash advance/balance transfer fee: 3%
- Late/returned payment fee: Up to $38
- Foreign transaction fee: None
What you see here is a typical series of rates and fees for a travel card. The APR’s you see are going to be higher than what you’d get with most cash rewards credit cards, mainly because American Express has to pay for the points they hand out to customers and using higher interest rates is one way to recoup that money.
The one thing we want to point out here is that you’ll pay a penalty APR anytime you make one late payment or you have a returned payment. This is key because the penalty APR is really high and will stay on your account for six months.
Amex’s fine print says they’ll review your account after six months and, if you make timely payments that aren’t returned, there’s a good chance they’ll lift the penalty APR.
If you’re a Marriott loyalist and want to stick with that brand, then it makes sense to consider how this card compares to other Marriott cards. However, if you’re looking for the best overall luxury hotel card, then it helps to know how this card’s perks, interest rates, and other characteristics match up with luxury cards from Hilton, the only other brand with a luxury hotel card.
For this reason, the following chart will provide you data about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase and the Hilton Honors Aspire from American Express:
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card||Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card||Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card|
|Cheapest Rewards Room||7,500||7,500||10,000|
|Status Upgrade||Gold Elite||Silver Elite||Diamond|
|Yearly Travel Credit||$300 on Marriott purchases||None||$250 on Hilton purchases|
|Yearly Property Credit||$100||None||$100|
|# of Anniversary Nights||1||1||1 weekend night plus another weekend night if you spend $60K in 1 year|
As far as the Marriott cards go, it’s the yearly points totals, yearly credits and the Gold Elite status that sets the two cards apart. The Brilliant gives you $400 in yearly credits along with the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit and complimentary upgrades, all of which give it a considerable value boost over the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
If you’re someone who enjoys upgraded rooms and frequently stays at Marriott hotels, then paying the higher annual fee will be worth it. However, if you only stay at Marriott properties once or twice a year, it may benefit you to pay the lower monthly fee.
Now the differences between the Hilton luxury card and the Marriott luxury card are a little more pronounced. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, for example, provides double the sign-up bonus and around 40,000 more points per year than the Bonvoy Brilliant. Also, you get Diamond status in Hilton’s loyalty program, a tier this is far superior to Marriott’s Gold Elite.
Diamond status entitles you to executive lounge access, 100-percent points bonuses on purchases at Hilton properties and upgrades to suites when they’re available.
The drawback to the Hilton Aspire card is that the points required to book a room are more expensive but only slightly more so. Also, the card doesn’t offer reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees.
If you stay at hotels on a regular basis, then we believe the luxury afforded by the complimentary Diamond status you get with the Hilton Aspire makes it the slightly better luxury hotel rewards card.
Based on our research on this card, we believe it presents some interesting pros and cons you should consider whether you’re a Marriott loyalist or just looking for the best luxury hotel rewards credit card.
As a Marriott card, we think that the yearly credit and the opportunity to upgrade make this a good choice if you’re a frequent traveler for business or pleasure and you stay at Marriott hotels.
The upgrades and the $300 hotel credit will pay for itself if you have multiple stays over the course of the year, as the upgrades along with credits for restaurant and room service purchases (not to mention spa treatments) will exceed the extra $355 you pay for the annual fee over the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase.
Now, if you’re a frequent traveler and prefer the best accommodations no matter which hotel you stay at, then you might be open to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. As our comparison showed, its strength appeals most to luxury travelers: Diamond status.
The access to executive lounges is a great perk if you like to socialize and appreciate free snacks and refreshments. Plus, a lounge may afford you enough space to relax and do work while you have a drink, rather than having to stay in your room or go to a business center to get work done.
In addition to that perk, you 100-percent points bonus means that you’re basically doubling any points you earn during your stay. So, if you earn 2,000 points on purchases you make with your Aspire card, you’ll actually get 4,000.
Your Gold Elite status with Marriott, on the other hand, earns a 25-percent bonus on points you earn during your stays. So, instead of getting 4,000 points as you would with the Aspire, you’ll get 2,500 points.
So, consider these things as you decide if the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is the right choice for you. If you want to learn more about luxury cards in general, take a few minutes to read our rankings of the best luxury cards of 2019. You’ll see what the various premium cards offer and how they may differ from the Bonvoy Brilliant.