Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Review (2020)

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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, especially since it’s offering an incredibly generous limited-time bonus right now. 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 October 2020

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card was only 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.

Limited-Time Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Welcome Bonus

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is offering a limited-time welcome bonus through January 13, 2021. The bonus consists of several parts:

  • Earn 100,000 Bonvoy bonus points after spending $5,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months
  • Plus, earn an additional 25,000 Bonvoy bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership
  • Enjoy complimentary Platinum Elite status with your card for the 2021 status year (February 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022)

I value Bonvoy points at ~0.7 cents each, so to me 125K points are worth ~$875, and that’s not even account for the value of Platinum status.

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 charge cards)

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.

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. For many business this will be a worthwhile bonus.

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

Free Limited-Time Platinum Elite Status For 2021

As a part of the limited-time welcome bonus on the Bonvoy Brilliant Card, you’ll receive complimentary Platinum Elite status for the 2021 status year (February 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022).

After that, on an ongoing basis, if you have this card, 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, so it’s incredible to be able to get this for 2021 as part of the welcome bonus. 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.

Platinum members receive room upgrades, up to standard suites

Free Gold Elite Status (Beyond 2021)

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
  • 2PM late check-out
  • A room upgrade

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 Marriotts

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, just recently 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 recently 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.

On top of that, at the moment the card is offering a phenomenal welcome bonus, which even includes Platinum status for the 2021 program year, and 25K bonus points on your first anniversary. Add in all the money savings offers available with Amex Offers, and you should easily come out ahead with this card.

If you don’t yet have the Bonvoy Brilliant Card, I’d highly recommend applying.

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).