Full Review of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
Good all around for travel but most rewarding on Marriott purchases
Annual statement credits and Marriott Bonvoy property credits
Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
No introductory APR for purchases or balance transfers
Annual fee at the higher end of what many travel cards charge
Only 2 points per dollar at hotels other than Marriott
- Good all Around for Travel but Most Rewarding on Marriott Purchases: As a co-branded hotel rewards card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card is most rewarding when you book Marriott hotel and resort stays. But its rewards structure also makes it suitable for charging other travel purchases, such as airfare and dining, and earning an above-average rewards rate.
- Annual Statement Credits and Marriott Bonvoy Property Credits: This card features two nice incentives in the form of a $300 annual statement credit and a $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit. The annual statement credit of up to $300 can be earned on eligible Marriott Bonvoy hotel purchases each reward year, which begins at the date of account opening. The $100 property credit can be earned by charging qualifying purchases, such as room service or spa treatments, at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotels.
- Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status: Another valuable benefit is automatic Gold Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Some of the advantages of Gold Elite status are a 25% Marriott Bonvoy points bonus on eligible stays, enhanced room upgrades, and 2 p.m. late checkout.
- No Introductory APR for Purchases or Balance Transfers: Some travel rewards cards offer an introductory 0% APR to make initial purchases or balance transfers more affordable. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card isn't one of them, unfortunately. The same regular variable APR of 15.74% to 24.74%, based on creditworthiness, applies to all purchases and balance transfers.
- Annual Fee at the Higher End of What Many Travel Cards Charge: Paying an annual fee for a travel rewards card isn't unusual, but it's worth keeping the cost in mind as you weigh it against the benefits you’ll receive. At $450, this card's annual fee puts its firmly in the premium travel rewards category. If you don't travel that often, you may find it hard to make up the fee in rewards value.
- Only 2 Points per Dollar at Hotels Other than Marriott: If you frequent hotel brands other than Marriott, you'll still earn points on bookings but at a much lower rate compared with what you'd get at Marriott hotels. So in evaluating whether this card is a good fit, it's important to consider how often you book with Marriott versus other hotel chains.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card is best suited to travelers who prioritize earning points over miles or cash back and who regularly stay at Marriott properties. It could be a natural fit for someone who's already enrolled in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty rewards program and is looking for a way to accelerate their rewards earnings to get more reward nights. This card also has promise as an all-around travel card, owing to the rewards rate earned on dining and airfare purchases, as well as the fact that it has no foreign transaction fees.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card One-Time Offer
This card offers an opportunity to earn a large number of points right off the bat, with a 75,000 point bonus. To earn those rewards, eligible new cardmembers need to charge $3,000 in purchases in the first three months, a reasonable target for someone who travels often or charges other purchases, such as dining and groceries. In terms of what those points are worth, the value varies depending on how they're redeemed.
As an example, they could be worth two nights at Fairfield Inn & Suites Manhattan/Fifth Avenue, which would cost $616 otherwise. Or, they could be used to book one night at the W New York in Times Square, which would ordinarily cost $408. Marriott Bonvoy has eight hotel reward tiers, and the lower the property tier, the further those bonus points could stretch.
Rewards Earning Details
The rewards structure for this card is fairly simple. Purchases made at participating Marriott hotels earn 6 points per dollar. Purchases at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines earn 3 points per dollar, while all other purchases earn 2 points per dollar.
There are no limits on the number of points that can be earned each year with the card. It's worth noting that to earn the 3 points per dollar on flights, those must be booked with the airline. If you book through a third-party travel site, such as Expedia, you'll only earn 2 points per dollar on those purchases.
Rewards Redemption Details
Marriott Bonvoy points can be redeemed for reward nights at more than 7,000 participating Marriott properties. If you're redeeming for hotels, the minimum number of points required for a reward night is 5,000. That will get you an off-peak stay at a Category 1 hotel, such as a Fairfield Inn & Suites or a Springhill Suites. At the highest end, the minimum number of points required to redeem is 100,000. You'd need that amount to book a peak night at a Category 8 property, like the St. Regis New York or The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, in Florida.
Aside from hotel stays, you can also redeem your Bonvoy points for flights or rental cars with Marriott travel partners, including more than 40 airlines. Points are also redeemable for room upgrades, exclusive travel and entertainment experiences, gift cards, and shopping. Marriott doesn't disclose what points are worth in dollar terms, but as with other travel cards, you typically get the most bang for your buck by redeeming rewards for travel, and in this case, hotel bookings specifically.
It's possible to transfer points earned with your card and through the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program to other travel partners. You can transfer points and convert them to miles in more than 40 frequent flyer programs, at a 3:1 value in most instances. Points transfer to Air New Zealand Airpoints and JetBlue TrueBlue at rates of 200:1 and 6:1, respectively.
When you transfer 60,000 points, Marriott Bonvoy rewards you with 5,000 bonus points. You can transfer up to 240,000 points per day. When you transfer points to the United MileagePlus program, you also get a 10% points bonus through RewardsPlus.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
As with many travel cards, the best way to maximize rewards with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card is to be strategic about earning and redeeming points.
Suppose you spend $5,000 on hotels, $2,500 on airfare and dining, and $2,500 on miscellaneous purchases. Including 75,000 introductory points bonus, that would come to 117,500 points, which could get you five nights at a Category 3 hotel like the Colorado Springs Marriott.
Now suppose you travel more frequently and charge $10,000 in Marriott hotel bookings the first year, for a total of 60,000 points. You also charge $5,000 in airfare and dining purchases and another $5,000 in miscellaneous purchases. Plus you get the 75,000 introductory points bonus. Altogether, your first-year points would total 160,000.
You could use those points to book a four-night stay at a Category 5 property, like the Courtyard in downtown Denver, or two nights at a Category 7 property, like The Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas in Beaver Creek.
Again, how you redeem determines what those points are worth. For example, these figures all assume you're booking on peak rate nights. You could get more value from your points by choosing standard or off-peak nights instead.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant's Outstanding Benefits
- $300 annual statement credit
- $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit
- Automatic Gold Elite status
- Free room night each anniversary year
- Credit for 15 nights toward the next tier Elite status each year
- Complimentary lounge access through Priority Pass Select
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
- Premium in-room Wi-Fi service
- Extended warranty protection
- Travel accident insurance
- Baggage insurance
- Global Assist Hotline access
- Return protection
- Cell phone insurance
- Free two-day shipping with Shoprunner
- Exclusive entertainment access
American Express earned a score of 838 out of 1,000 in J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, placing it second behind Discover. This card offers the standard array of account management tools, including online and mobile access. American Express customer service is available via live chat when you log in to your account or by calling 800-528-4800.
American Express offers the usual security features, such as EMV chip technology, digital wallet capabilities, and the ability to set up account alerts. American Express also says it monitors your account for suspicious activity and cardmembers are not held liable for fraudulent charges.
Fees to Watch Out For
The most important fee to consider is that $450 annual fee and how quickly you could make up for it in rewards and other perks. The $300 statement credit and the $100 property credit can go a long way toward balancing out the fee, however.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card could be worth its substantial annual fee if you're looking for a higher rewards rate on hotel stays and upper-tier perks. It could be good for anyone who's already a Marriott Bonvoy member and wants a straightforward way to compound points earnings so they can redeem them for reward nights or for airfare aboard partner airlines. The fee credit toward Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, as well as Priority Pass Select lounge access, might also appeal to travelers who'd like to minimize stress and maximize comfort while spending time at the airport between flights.
This card is obviously less than ideal for someone who doesn't travel as often, doesn't book largely with Marriott, and isn't comfortable paying a higher annual fee to earn travel rewards. It also wouldn't be as attractive for someone who wants more flexibility in transferring points to other travel partners. Something like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which allows for points transfers on a 1:1 basis, might be more appropriate in that instance.
The best way to evaluate whether this card is a good fit is to examine your annual spending, then calculate the estimated number of points you could earn and how that would translate to redemption value. That can tell you pretty quickly whether the card and its associated features are worth the $450 annual fee.