Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — Full Review [2020]

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Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — Full Review [2020]

U.P. Rating ? The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

"Premium Card for Marriott Bonvoy Loyalists"

A premium card for Marriott fans who want perks like an annual statement credit, an annual free night award, and a fast track to Marriott elite status.

Apply Now (at Amex's secure site)

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® card is a premium card designed with road warriors and Marriott loyalists in mind.

While it does come with a steep annual fee, those who frequent Marriott hotels will greatly appreciate benefits like automatic Gold Elite status, a free hotel night, $300 Marriott credit, and much more.

So is the card a worthwhile addition to your wallet?

Pros

  • 6x points per $1 on Marriott purchases
  • 3x points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines and U.S. restaurant purchases
  • 2x points per $1 on all other purchases
  • $300 Marriott statement credit
  • Automatic Gold Elite status (Platinum Elite status when you spend $75,000 on the card in a year)
  • 1 Free Night Award each cardmember anniversary (good for a stay up to 50,000 points)
  • 15 Elite Night Credits each year
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit

Cons

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card — Snapshot

The Ideal Cardholder

The St. Regis Mauritius Resort Pool
The St. Regis Mauritius Resort. Image Credit: Marriott

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is best suited for frequent travelers who are dedicated Marriott loyalists and can make great use out of each of the card’s perks and benefits.

$300 Marriott Statement Credit

One of the biggest benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is conveniently also one of the easiest to use. With this card, your first $300 in eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels is credited back to you as a statement credit.

What counts as an eligible purchase? Marriott has stated that the credit can apply to room rates, as well as incidental charges made at restaurants, spas and other establishments within the hotel property (incidental charges must be charged to your room and paid for with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card).

If you know you’re going to spend at least $300 on Marriott stays over the course of a year, then this effectively makes the annual fee of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card $150 in our view.

Anniversary Free Night Certificate 

Another excellent perk that helps offset the cards annual fee is the annual free night certificate, which naturally gets you a free night at any Marriott Bonvoy property priced up to 50,000 points.

With Marriott now utilizing dynamic award pricing, this free night certificate could get you a free night in a Category 6 property, assuming that it is not a peak night, or a free night in a Category 7 property during off-peak nights.

You can often find Marriott Category 6 hotels priced anywhere from $300 to $500 per night, with Category 7 properties eclipsing that even further, so the annual free night will certainly bring excellent value to cardholders.

Gold Elite Status

Gold Elite status is the second tier (of 5) in the Marriott Bonvoy program and comes with perks like:

  • 25% bonus points on stays
  • Enhanced room upgrades if available (enhanced rooms include desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, or rooms on Executive Floors, but do not include suites)
  • 2 p.m. late checkout if available
  • Welcome gift of points when you check-in

The enhanced room upgrades and 2 p.m. late checkout are certainly welcome benefits when available, but keep in mind the only benefits you are guaranteed is the 25% bonus points and the welcome gift.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card also offers cardholders a path to Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 or more on the card each account anniversary year. Marriott Platinum Elite status offers increased perks like a 50% point bonus, 4 p.m. late checkout (based on availability), enhanced room upgrades (including suites), lounge access, and free breakfast at participating hotel brands.

15 Elite Night Credits

Need an extra boost towards reaching the next elite status tier? The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card jumpstarts you with 15 elite night credits at the start of each year.

Don’t confuse these elite night credits with free night certificates, as you cannot redeem these credits for award nights — they exclusive count towards your status.

This can still be hugely beneficial, as the next 2 status tiers, Platinum Elite and Titanium Elite, require 50 nights and 75 nights a year, respectively. This means that the 15 elite night credits you earn from the card can drop the actual nights needed to qualify for Platinum Elite status to 35, and 60 nights to earn Titanium Elite status.

Priority Pass Select Membership

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders also receive a Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you (and 2 traveling companions) into over 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide.

Great Card If

Don't Get If

  • You don’t stay in Marriott hotels often
  • You prefer a card with a lower or no annual fee

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card — Fees

  • Annual Fee
    • $450
  • Foreign Transaction Fees
    None
  • Interest Rates
    • 15.74% to 24.74% Variable
  • Late fees
    • Penalty APR: 29.24% Variable
    • Fee: Up to $40
  • Cash Advance APR
    • 25.24% Variable
    • Fee: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.

How to Earn More Marriott Points

The Ritz Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach Ocean View
The Ritz-Carlton Waikiki Beach. Image Credit: Marriott

Marriott Stays

It goes without staying, but you’d be wise to make this card a top option for all of your Marriott hotel stays. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card earns 6x points per $1 spent with the hotel chain. This represents a 4.2% return on your spend with Marriott hotels, based on our 0.7 cents per point valuation for Marriott points.

Hot Tip: Thanks to the automatic Gold Elite status, you’ll receive 12.5x points per $1 for being a Gold Elite member, plus another 6x points per $1 when paying with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, for a total of 18.5x points per $1 (or nearly 13% back).

Airfare and U.S. Restaurants

The card also earns 3x points per $1 on airfare purchases made directly with airlines, and at U.S. restaurants. Keep in mind that there are cards out there that offer a much better return on your spending for both airfare and dining.

But if you’re trying to stockpile Marriott points for a certain redemption, or you’re trying to spend your way to Platinum Elite status, then this is a helpful option.

Everyday Spending

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card also earn 2x points for every $1 you spend on all other purchases, and again, while this card isn’t the best option for non-bonused spending, this can still be helpful for those hoping to earn as many Marriott points as possible — or reach the next level of elite status.

Refer-a-Friend Bonus

American Express allows you to refer your friends for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, and you can earn 50,000 Marriott points per year in the process — 10,000 for each friend you refer to the card. To send out a referral, visit the Refer-a-Friend website and log in using your Amex username and password (or your credit card information).

Adding Ultimate Reward Cards

Marriott is a Chase Ultimate Reward transfer partners, so points earned from your Ultimate Rewards cards can be transferred to top off your Marriott points balance.

If you’re interested in applying for a Chase credit card, take a look at some of our favorites for personal and business use.

Hot Tip: Here at Upgraded Points, we value Chase Ultimate Reward points very highly — much higher than Marriott points — so we generally don’t recommend transferring your Ultimate Reward points over to Marriott. 

How to Use Marriott Points for Max Value

After you amass a stash of Marriott points, you naturally want to make sure you’re getting the best value out of them. Here are our top options for doing so, along with some we recommend you avoid.

Marriott Stays

No surprise here, one of the best ways to get great value for your Marriott points is by staying in Marriott hotels. The Marriott chart offers 8 different redemption categories, and with the addition of peak and off-peak pricing, free nights can range anywhere from 5,000 to 100,000 points per night.

The wide range in award pricing brings a good deal of fluctuation to the amount of value you’re able to receive from your stays, but there is no shortage of excellent Marriott properties where you can receive huge value!

Hot Tip: One of the best ways to earn outsized value during your Marriott stays is by taking advantage of the fifth-night free benefit on award stays. This effectively earns you a 20% discount on your redemption!

Airline Transfer Partners

One of the most powerful perks of Marriott points is their ability to be transferred to over 40 different airline partners.

While Marriott points do not transfer at a 1:1 rate like Chase Ultimate Reward or Amex Membership Reward points, they can still be quite useful. Marriott points, for the most part, transfer at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. This means that transferring 120,000 Marriott points to Alaska Airlines would result in 50,000 miles in your Alaska Airlines account — enough for a one-way business class ticket with Cathay Pacific!

At face value, this may not seem like a great option for your points, but keep in mind that all points and loyalty programs have varying degrees of value and usefulness.

Hot Tip: If you’re wanting to transfer your Marriott points to airline miles, we recommend transferring them to hard-to-earn mileage currencies that don’t have many other transfer options. Some good examples are Alaska AirlinesKorean Air, and Japan Airlines, which can be difficult to earn a lot of miles but can provide fantastic redemption options.

Marriott Moments

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders can use their points to book one-of-a-kind experiences through the Marriott Experiences portal, like sporting events, or culinary trips.

Some experiences can be purchased for a set number of Marriott points, while others require you to bid auction-style. We recommend that you try to determine a reasonable cash value that you’d be willing to pay for these experiences, and then make sure the number of points required doesn’t exceed that value.

Marriott Hotel + Air Package

You can also purchase a Marriott Hotel + Air package with your points, which consists of a 7-night hotel stay plus a stash of airline miles, but does not include other things like a rental car or excursions.

When you buy a Hotel + Air Travel Package, you’ll get a certificate for a 7-night Marriott hotel stay plus a certain number of airline miles ranging from 50,000-110,000, depending on which package you choose. Packages range from 255,000 all the way to 750,000 Marriott points, depending on how high of a hotel category you select. Check out our full guide to find out which packages make the most sense.

Marriott Shopping

Finally, you can use your Marriott points to shop for products or merchant gift cards via their online shopping websites. We highly recommend that you do not do this. The redemption rates are pretty terrible and you’re missing out on big-time travel value by redeeming your points this way.

Bottom Line: At Upgraded Points, we strongly recommend that you redeem your points either for hotel stays or via an airline transfer partner, as those are the 2 redemption options that will yield you the best value for your points. 

Marriott Transfer PartnerMin TransferTransfer Ratio (Marriott > Partner)Bonus Airline Miles
for every 60k Marriott Points Transferred
Transfer Time (based on pre-merger reports)
Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus3,0003:15,0003 days
Aer Lingus Aeroclub3,0003:15,000unknown
Aeroflot Bonus3,0003:15,00020 days
AeroMexico Club Premier3,0003:15,0004 days
Air Canada Aeroplan3,0003:15,0005 days
Air China PhoenixMiles3,0003:15,0005 days
Air France/KLM Flying Blue3,0003:15,0003 day
Air New Zealand Airpoints3,000200:1251 day
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan3,0003:15,0004 days
Alitalia MilleMiglia3,0003:15,0007 days
ANA Mileage Club3,0003:15,0004 days
American Airlines AAdvantage3,0003:15,0002 days
Asiana Airlines Asiana Club3,0003:15,0004 days
Avianca Airlines LifeMiles3,0003:15,0001 day
British Airways Executive Club3,0003:15,0003 days
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles3,0003:15,0005 days
China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club3,0003:15,0003 days
Copa Airlines ConnectMiles3,0003:15,0003 days
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles3,0003:15,0001 day
Emirates Skywards3,0003:15,0003 days
Etihad Guest3,0003:15,0003 days
FRONTIER Miles3,0003:15,000unknown
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club3,0003:15,0008 days
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles3,0003:15,0001 day
Iberia Plus3,0003:15,0001 day
Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank3,0003:15,0002 days
InterMiles3,0003:15,000unknown
JetBlue TrueBlue3,0006:12,5001 day
Korean Air SKYPASS3,0003:15,0002 days
LATAM Airlines Multiplus Fidelidade3,0003:15,0002 days
Qantas Frequent Flyer3,0003:15,0002 days
Qatar Airways Privilege Club3,0003:15,0003 days
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan3,0003:15,000unknown
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer3,0003:15,0002 days
South African Airways Voyager3,0003:15,0003 days
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards3,0003:15,0001 day
TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go3,0003:15,000unknown
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus3,0003:15,0004 days
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles3,0003:15,000unknown
United MileagePlus3,0003:1.15,5003 days
Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer3,0003:15,0002 days
Virgin Australia Velocity3,0003:15,0001 day
Vueling Club3,0003:15,000

Alternatives to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

If you’re looking for a more well-rounded premium travel credit card then the Chase Sapphire Reserve card could be a perfect option.

The card earns 3x points per $1 spent on all travel and dining purchases, with the travel definition being extended to include airfare, hotels, Airbnb, etc., along with a 10x points per $1 on Lyft rides.

While the card does charge a $550 annual fee, when you consider the $300 travel credit, Priority Pass membership, travel insurance protections, Lyft Pink membership, and DoorDash credits, it certainly makes for a compelling option.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

The only other premium hotel credit card on the market is the Hilton Aspire card — and it packs quite a punch.

The card earns 14x points per $1 on Hilton stays, includes top-tier Diamond status, a $250 Hilton resort credit, a $250 airline fee credit, a Priority Pass Select membership, and an annual free weekend night award usable at any Hilton hotel.

If you’re not committed to Marriott and like the idea of having top tier elite status with Hilton, then the Hilton Aspire card might be perfect for you.


Frequently asked questions

Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card worth it?

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card might very well be worth it for you frequently stay at Marriott hotels and can take advantage of the annual free night and $300 Marriott credit.

Does the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card charge foreign transaction fees?

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best?

Generally speaking, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card offers more perks and higher elite status than the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for you.

Be sure to compare and contrast which benefits will be most useful for you and whether they are worth their respective annual fees.

Can you transfer Marriott points?

Yes, Marriott has over 40 airline transfer partners that you can transfer your points to.

Do Marriott points expire?

Your Marriott points will expire after 24 months of no account activity. To keep them active you just need to a qualifying activity, like earning or redeeming points.

Jarrod West

About Jarrod West

Born and raised just outside of Cincinnati, Jarrod became fascinated with using points and miles as the perfect way to visit dream destinations without breaking the bank. Thanks to points and miles, Jarrod was able to spend 3 months traveling Europe financed nearly entirely with points and miles; while flying in premium cabins and staying in 5-star hotels along the way. To date, Jarrod has traveled to 16 countries and 22 US states.

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