Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card review: Is it worth the annual fee?
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons
- New cardholders can up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021).
- Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
- Enjoy complimentary Platinum Elite status with your card for the 2021 year (offer expires 1/13/21).
- The annual fee isn't for everyone. If you don't frequently stay at Marriott hotels, or you don't think you'll use the other benefits offered by the card, you might have a tough time offsetting the cost of the card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card annual fee is hefty– $450– and so you would expect that a card like this would come with a lot of benefits. Does it live up to the hype, or is it a huge and crushing disappointment? American Express is a CardRatings advertiser. See Rates and Fees.
In short, yes, we think that the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ lives up to the hype. At least, it should for fans of the Marriott hotel chain and their many, many brands. (For those who don't know, some of the hotels owned by Marriott include The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Westin, Sheraton, SpringHill Suites and Residence Inn, among several others.)
There are a lot of benefits that come attached to this card. Let's run through some of its biggest assets:
- It has a very generous rewards program, but we'll talk more about that in the next section.
- You can get up to a $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit every year when making eligible purchases at Marriott hotels and timeshares. Right there, that takes a big bite out of the annual fee.
- Free Night Award. What's this, you ask? Every year, after your card account anniversary, you receive one free night at a participating hotel (just be aware that some hotels have resort fees).
- Platinum Elite status for the 2021 year (offer expires 1/13/21).
- A $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit. With your card, you can book a special rate for a two-night minimum stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis and get up to $100 in credit for qualifying charges.
- Enjoy access to Priority Pass Select, which offers unlimited access to over 1,200 airport lounges in 130 countries, regardless of the airline or class you are flying.
- Go through airline security easier. Receive either a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or a statement credit for up to $85 for TSA Pre✓® for a five-year plan.
- Car rental loss and damage insurance. When you use your card to reserve and pay for the entire rental, you can say "no thanks" to the collision damage waiver at the rental company counter, and you will be covered for any damage or theft to the rental vehicle.
- Baggage insurance plan. Coverage can be provided for up to $2,000 for checked baggage and up to a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on baggage.
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance, up to $10,000 per trip and up to $20,000 per 12 consecutive month period.
- No foreign transacton fees. See Rates and Fees
- Limited Time Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020
- Limited Time Offer: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95. Offer Expires 12/10/2020
- 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
- 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
- Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
- Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
- Terms Apply.
As we said earlier, the rewards are generous. In a nutshell, this may be a hotel credit card, but you also get rewards on airline purchases, restaurants and whatever is on your shopping list, whether it's tube socks or dandruff shampoo or a wall clock.
Here's a breakdown of the rewards…
- You get six Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
- You'll receive three Marriott Bonvoy points when you eat at U.S restaurants or book a flight directly with airlines.
- You'll get two Marriott Bonvoy points on all other eligible purchases.
And we should note that there is a great welcome bonus allowing new cardholders to earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months, then earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership (offer Expires 1/13/2021).
So, about that fee. This is probably obvious, but we'll spell it out. If you're a fan of the Marriott brand, and you think you'll get a lot of use of the card, you'll probably feel that the $450 fee isn't a big deal. Of course, we'll state the obvious right now: if you never stay at the Marriott and never plan to, then you should look for another card.
If you often stay at Marriott hotels or its timeshare properties and you plan to take advatange of some of the other card perks like lounge access or Global Entry membership, it shouldn’t be too difficult to offset the cost of this card. For instance, that $300 statement credit mentioned above offsets more than half the cost of the annual fee alone. This credit is earned by making eligible purchases directly at hotels or timeshare properties, and purchases include things like restaurant charges or visits to the spa, not obscure things that would make this credit hard to earn. And once you get the Free Night Award after a year of having the card, that should effectively wipe out the entire $450 fee.
So, again, if you're a fan of Marriott or plan on taking an annual family vacation at a Marriott hotel or resort, the card could pay off big for you, and the fee might not be that big of a deal.
If you're more of a Holiday Inn or Comfort Inn sort of person, or you generally sleep on friends' sofas when you travel, there are surely some other travel rewards credit cards that you'll find more to your liking.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
If you aren't much of a Marriott fan, you might find Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a more general travel rewards credit card, more to your liking. That said, there are some important differences to be aware of.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a steep annual fee of $550. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ card's annual fee is still steep but less so– $450.
Each card has a welcome bonus for new cardholders. With Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you'll receive 50,000 points worth $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® - after spending $4,000 during the first three months of card membership.
Use your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ card and spend $5,000 in the first three months, and you'll receive 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points - and 25,000 after the first year (offer expires 1/13/21). According to our calculations, 125,000 points comes to being worth approximately $1,000.
Both cards offer a reimbursement of up to $300 in statement credit each account anniversary, which can help to offset the annual fee.
Both cards also offer free airport lounge access at more than 1,000 lounges worldwide.
And there is no foreign transaction fee for either card, making them both great cards to have when you're traveling internationally.
As far as ongoing rewards goes, Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders earn 3X points on travel (not just on hotel stays) immediately after earning the $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1X point on all other purchases.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ vs. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card also has a $450 fee. So, if you can get past that, you just need to think - do I love Marriott with all my heart, or is it Hilton where my loyalty lies? Much of what is going to steer you toward either card has to do with how you feel about the hotel brand.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire has an attractive welcome bonus for cardholders. You'll get 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you use the card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, if you spend $5,000 in the first three months, you'll receive 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points - and you'll receive 25,000 after the first year of opening the account (offer expires 1/31/21).
So the Hilton Honors has more bonus points - and you'll spend less to get it.
Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors rewards program is very generous - you'll receive 14 points per dollar you spend when you make eligible purchases on your card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio; seven points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants; and three points on all other purchases.
Still, the Marriott Bonvoy's rewards program is no slouch. As a reminder, you'll get six Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. Moreover, you'll receive three Marriott Bonvoy points when you eat at U.S. restaurants or book a flight directly with airlines. You'll also earn two Marriott Bonvoy points on all other purchases.
Regarding statement credits, Marriott Bonvoy has the edge since you can get up to a $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit every year if you make eligible purchases at eligible Marriott hotels and timeshares. But you'll receive less with Hilton Honors– $250 in Hilton Resort credits on your card each anniversary year when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
Neither card, it should be noted, has a foreign transaction fee.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ vs. Platinum Card® from American Express
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Really, what could be better? You get points for sleeping, eating and shopping. With the Bonvoy Brilliant™ you’ll earn six Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. When you dine at U.S. restaurants (or book a flight directly with airlines), you'll receive three Marriott Bonvoy points. You'll also nab two Marriott Bonvoy points on all other purchases.
The Platinum Card® from American Express does a little better with points for flying and lodging but the rewards are a bit less generous on general purchases. You'll receive 5X Membership Rewards® points for flights booked directly with airlines (using your American Express Platinum card, of course) or through American Express Travel as well as on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. Any other purchases you make earn 1X point per dollar.
In terms of statement credits, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express offers a $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit every year if you make eligible purchases at Marriott hotels and timeshares. Meanwhile, the Platinum Card® from American Express provides up to $200 a year in statement credits to cover incidental airline charges, like baggage fees and in-flight refreshments, charged on the card with a pre-selected airline.
The Platinum Card® has a hefty $550 annual fee; the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ has a sizable annual fee as well. Still, you want to look at each card carefully beyond the annual fees. If you travel extensively and enjoy the Marriott brand, then you are probably better off with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™. If you travel extensively but aren't wedded to any hotel brand, the Platinum Card® from American Express may be the way to go.
Neither card has a foreign transaction fee.
As you've no doubt figured out, especially if you've read all of this and haven't just been skimming, if you regularly stay at Marriott properties, and you plan to continue doing so, then, yes, you can make the case that the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is absolutely worth it. There are a lot of perks and benefits that come with the card that easily help offset the annual fee and then some.
But if your cousin Brenda manages a Ramada Inn, and so you're always going there because she hooks you up with her employee discount, and you last went to a Marriott in 1992 and aren't really sure if you'll ever go again, unless Brenda ever applies to work at a Marriott, in which case, sure, you'd happily go there… then, well, sure getting this credit card would probably not be a brilliant idea. But, again, if you're a frequent traveler, and you often stay at a hotel owned by Marriott, and you're interested in the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™, then you probably have an easy decision ahead of you.
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (See Rates and Fees); Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (See Rates and Fees)