Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card overview
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is Marriott’s most premium card offering. Standout benefits include automatic Platinum Elite status, an annual free night at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program that is worth up to 85,000 points and up to $25 in statement credits each calendar month when you use your card at eligible restaurants worldwide, all alongside a lucrative limited-time welcome offer. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Marriott has six cobranded cards available to new cardholders, with fees ranging from none to $650 per year. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is the most expensive one, at $650 a year (up from $450, and takes effect for current cardmembers whose renewal dates are Jan. 1, 2023 or after; see rates and fees). But does that necessarily mean it’s the best?
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The card underwent some big changes on Sep. 22, 2022, so be sure to check out our guide explaining the good and the bad.
The card currently has a welcome offer of 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. This offer ends on Jan. 11, 2023.
The Bonvoy Brilliant card is compelling for loyal Marriott guests — but let’s dig a little deeper to see if it’s right for you.
Who is this card for?
As a cobranded hotel credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is geared toward Bonvoy members who want to supplement their potential loyalty rewards points from stays and get special perks when visiting Marriott properties.
But you don’t need to be a road warrior to get value from the card — one to two Marriott stays per year are enough to maximize the card’s benefits and can more than offset its $650 annual fee. Plus, infrequent Marriott guests can get tremendous value from Marriott Bonvoy points, thanks to the program’s wide variety of airline transfer partners.
Welcome bonus: $1,260 in value
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is currently offering 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. This offer ends on Jan. 11, 2023.
Based on TPG’s Marriott points value of 0.84 cents each, those 150,000 points are worth $1,260.
Just remember that Amex has restrictions that will limit your ability to collect a new-member bonus if you’ve had similar Marriott products from Chase or previous Starwood Preferred Guest cards from American Express. Be sure to review the card’s offer details page to ensure you’re eligible.
Main benefits and perks
Where the card shines the most is in the perks it offers:
- Marriott elite status: Primary cardholders (authorized users aren’t included) receive complimentary, automatic Marriott Platinum Elite status, including perks like upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access.
- Annual free-night award: Each year after your card renewal month, you’ll receive a free-night award worth up to 85,000 points (previously 50,000 points). That’s much more valuable than the free-night certificates that come with the lower-tier Marriott cards, which are capped at 35,000 points. Some of the best uses of the certificate include five-star hotels such as The Ritz-Carlton Macau and The St. Regis Langkawi, where rooms routinely top $500 per night — though Marriott’s dynamic pricing may impact the ability to book some of these properties.
- $300 in restaurant credits: Cardmembers receive up to $25 in statement credits each calendar month when they use their card at eligible restaurants worldwide. This equates to a total value of $300 each year. (A spokesperson for American Express has confirmed that this credit applies to worldwide restaurants, is automatically applied and does not require registration prior to using this benefit.)
- Property credit of up to $100: When you book a paid stay of at least two nights at participating Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties with the special “$100 property credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate,” you’ll receive a credit of up to $100 for incidentals.
- Priority Pass Lounge access: As is pretty standard among premium travel rewards cards, the card comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you and two guests unlimited access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. Additional guests are charged $32 per lounge visit (enrollment required).
- Travel protections: This card offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance* as well as trip delay insurance* for trips delayed by more than six hours due to a covered reason. You must book a round-trip ticket and pay entirely with your card to be covered. (Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.)
- Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: Like many other premium cards, the Bonvoy Brilliant will reimburse you when you charge the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to the card (up to $100). Unlike the Priority Pass membership, which essentially becomes useless if you already receive the benefit through other cards, if you already have Global Entry or PreCheck, you can use this credit to cover a friend or family member’s application fee (enrollment required for select benefits). This benefit is available to cardholders once every four years. Remember, Global Entry includes PreCheck, so it’s typically the smarter choice.
- Shopping protections: Purchases made with the card can get up to one year of extended warranty coverage* and 90 days of purchase protection.* This applies to warranties of five years or less on covered purchases in the U.S. or its territories or possessions. (Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.)
- Elite night credits: Cardholders will receive 25 elite qualifying night credits per year (up from 15 previously). This benefit can be stacked with the nights you earn with a Marriott small-business card, allowing you to fast-track up to 40 elite nights per year.
- Annual Earned Choice Award: Earned each calendar year (starting January 2023) after making $60,000 in purchases. This is separate from the Choice Benefits you’d unlock by reaching 50 and 75 elite-qualifying nights. You can choose from the following:
- 5 Suite Night Awards.
- An 85,000-point free night reward.
- $750 off a mattress or box spring from Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques.
*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.
How to earn points
The Bonvoy Brilliant’s earning structure is similar to that of the regular Marriott Bonvoy Amex and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, but with two additional bonus categories: dining at U.S. restaurants and select airfare purchases.
Cardholders earn 6 Bonvoy points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per dollar on other purchases.
The non-Marriott earning rates are a bit low, so you’ll probably want to pair the card with one or more other cards that offer superior bonus categories, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and other travel purchases. There are also some other great options for your everyday spending.
How to redeem points
There are many lucrative ways to use Marriott Rewards points. The first and most apparent redemption is for free stays. With the ability to book at more than 7,500 properties across 30 brands in over 130 countries, you’ve got a lot of choices. The Marriott portfolio has many fantastic hotels, including some of the world’s most over-the-top, luxurious properties.
These include a number of Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties, some of which are all-suite, such as the St. Regis Maldives, and others in dreamy destinations like the Al Maha Resort in the desert outside Dubai. Rooms at top-tier properties like these typically cost 100,000 points (or even more) per night. That may seem like a hefty price in points, but it isn’t that bad, considering room rates can be $1,500-plus per night most of the year.
A reminder that Marriott ditched its award chart in favor of a dynamic pricing scheme back in March 2022, though it did opt to keep 97% of hotels within their previous off-peak to peak pricing bands through the end of 2022. Keep this in mind when you’re searching for properties, especially when it comes to using the 85,000-point certificate.
Fortunately, Marriott allows you to book awards in advance even if you don’t have all the points you need, so if you’ve got your eye on the perfect redemption, you can book immediately and earn the points you need within 60 days of booking or up until 14 days before your arrival (whichever comes first).
Just note that these Points Advance reservations only confirm the availability; the actual rate could fluctuate up until you redeem the points to finalize the stay.
But you can get more than free hotel nights with these points. Unlike Hilton and Hyatt points, there’s the potential for some great value when turning Marriott points into airline miles. Marriott points can be transferred to a whopping 40-plus frequent flyer programs. All but three partners have a pretty solid 3:1 point-to-mile transfer ratio and you’ll also enjoy a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred — dropping the effective transfer rate to an even-better 2.4:1.
Which cards compete with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant?
The Bonvoy Brilliant Amex is Marriott’s only premium cobranded credit card available to new applicants, so there’s no card that directly competes or conflicts with it. However, if you’re not loyal to the hotel chain, you might consider another premium hotel card, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. It carries a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) and offers many of the same benefits, including automatic elite status, automatic statement credits and an annual award night. That card also provides better returns on bonus category spend.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: The best hotel credit cards
A more direct competitor of the Bonvoy Brilliant is The Platinum Card® from American Express. The card offers the overlapping benefit of Priority Pass lounge access and it’s a 1:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy (enrollment required for select benefits).
However, that card costs a little bit more a year with its $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). The Platinum card doesn’t offer the opportunity to earn Bonvoy Platinum status (only Gold), come with a free-night certificate or include the $25 monthly restaurant credit. Given that the Bonvoy Brilliant essentially costs $350 a year after factoring in the restaurant credit, it’s easier to make a case for carrying both cards to get the annual free-night certificate, better return on hotel purchases and shortcut to a higher status level — along with enjoying all of the perks of the Marriott Bonvoy program.
If you’re a Marriott loyalist in need of a cobranded credit card or are looking to change from a different Marriott card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is an ideal choice.
Its earning rates are not as lucrative as those of some of its competitors, but the large welcome offer coupled with impressive built-in perks — like $300 in restaurant credits and an annual free-night certificate of up to 85,000 points — make it easy for even an infrequent traveler to get tremendous value out of the card.
Although you shouldn’t have trouble finding a hotel at which to redeem points, the program’s many airline transfer partners also make it a great choice for racking up points to redeem for free flights.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox.