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Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex worth the annual fee? Here’s how to decide

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Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. 

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is Marriott’s most premium credit card on offer through American Express and with that comes some top tier benefits like Platinum elite status conferred to you automatically as well as a money saving free night award good for stays at some of the most luxurious properties in the brand, along with a myriad other benefits, but is that enough to overcome its high annual fee?

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

See Rates and Fees

Intro Bonus

Earn 185,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months from account opening (90,000 points higher than usual).

Annual fee $650
Regular APR 20.99%–29.99% variable

Reward Rates
  • 6xEarn 6X points on Marriott purchases
  • 3xEarn 3X points at restaurants worldwide
  • 2x Earn 2X points on all other eligible purchases

Pros

  • 6X points on Marriott purchases can stack up to 21X with free Marriott Bonvoy membership and the included Platinum Elite status
  • 1,000 bonus points per stay can add up quickly for frequent overnighters
  • 25 elite night credits annually
  • The $300 dining statement credit, 1 Free Night every account anniversary and Priority Pass Select membership can be worth a combined $1,500+ in value alone

Cons

  • The astronomical annual fee may cause heart palpitations
  • The welcome bonus is merely OK in the realm of high-fee travel rewards cards
  • Credits are doled out in increments making them harder to use

  • $300 dining statement credit (up to $25 per month)
  • $100 property credit for a minimum two-night stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis
  • 1 free night every account anniversary
  • 1 earned choice award after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee credit
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select to 1,200+ airport lounges for you and up to two guests
  • Secondary car rental loss and damage Insurance, trip delay/cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage insurance
  • Foreign transaction fee: None

Learn more

For whom is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card worth It?

Because the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card has such a high annual fee, it tends to work best for those cardholders who have a few lofty goals in mind, like earning status with Marriott Bonvoy, using free night awards, and generally taking advantage of the majority of this premium card’s benefits.

Travelers who want status

For those who value the perks of earning automatic Platinum status with Marriott Bonvoy, this card can prove quite valuable. Free in-room WiFi, 4 p.m. late checkout, room upgrades and lounge access at properties that have them is available to you just by having this card that confers Platinum status before you even set foot at a Marriott Bonvoy property. Additionally, cardmembers receive 25 Elite Night Credits towards the next level in the program, Titanium Elite status, which comes with its own premium perks.

High spenders

For those who tend to charge high amounts to their cards on an annual basis, the card unlocks an earned choice award after spending $60,000 in purchases within a calendar year. Options include 5 Nightly Upgrade Awards, 1 Free Night Award up to 85,000 points per night or $1,000 off the purchase of a bed from any Marriott Bonvoy retail brand. 

With the card, you’ll also earn more the more you spend. That goes for both purchases at Marriott Bonvoy properties, which earn 6X points as well as purchases at restaurants or flights booked directly with airlines, which earn 3X points. All your other purchases will earn 2X points.

Travelers who enjoy a luxurious free night

For those who would like to turn this card’s steep annual fee into a free stay at a luxury hotel, the card comes with a Free Night Award every year after your renewal month. With it, you can book a free night at any participating Marriott Bonvoy property priced at 85,000 points per night or less. If the redemption for your desired dates is higher than 85,000 points per night, you can top up an additional 15,000 points. When used strategically, this can help you save many hundreds of dollars depending on the hotel and dates you choose, and more than cover for the annual fee.

Travelers who enjoy premium travel perks

The card comes with perks usually reserved to premium travelers like a fee credit toward your membership in the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck trusted traveler programs, so you can breeze past airport security or passport control. Additionally, you receive a Priority Pass Select membership granting you and up to two guests access to any of the more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world.

For whom is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card not worth it?

There are a few specific groups of people who should seriously consider their options before deciding to apply for a brand-specific premium hotel credit card like this one. These people will find it slightly harder to realize value from many of the benefits offered by this card and therefore, might find better value in other, more personally rewarding credit cards.

Cardholders who are averse to high annual fees

For people who cannot get past the very high annual fee, there is no amount of benefits that may be able to assuage their financial concerns. Many of the benefits are straightforward in the way they can help take the sting off the annual fee, but other perks more on the softer side can be a little harder to see value in, like room upgrades from Platinum status and free internet.

Free agents

Those who have no loyalty to Marriott Bonvoy and are happy to book whatever hotel offers the most convenience when it comes to either location, pricing or amenities, might not see much value in a Marriott Bonvoy branded card that offers brand specific benefits in general. With such a premium annual fee, only three benefits work outside of the hotel: the $300 dining credit, the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit, and the Priority Pass Select membership, the latter two can both be obtained via other general travel cards or even independently.

Cardholder who don’t want to track monthly recurring or Marriott Bonvoy property credits

For those who do not care to play the coupon book game, requiring them to spend their annual $300 dining statement credit in increments of $25 monthly installments, this may not be a card for you. The monthly credit cannot be rolled over or cashed in on its entirety and it forces you to keep a mental calendar to take advantage of it in full.

Similarly, the $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit comes with some important language to consider. It is an up to $100 credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® brands within Marriott Bonvoy and only applicable when you book directly using a special rate for a 2 night minimum stay. This is quite restrictive and corners you into using this discount at two of the most exclusive -read expensive- brands within the portfolio.

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, see this page 

How to Maximize Rewards with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

The easiest way to maximize your Marriott Bonvoy points is by using your card to pay for purchases within the bonus categories, which will allow you to accelerate your earning up to 6X depending on the category.

When it comes to maximizing your redemptions, Marriott offers a very valuable benefit in its fifth-night-free perk. This allows you to book a 5-night stay using points, but only pay for four of those nights, making that redemption even more valuable. There is no cap to the amount of times you can use this benefit during the year.

Additionally, some night redemptions are priced as PointSavers, allowing for lower than normal rates at select properties on specific dates where you will be able to extend the value of your points much further. Marriott also maintains a peak/off-peak calendar in which properties charge more or less depending on demand and seasonality—if you want to get more value from your points, being flexible with your dates can truly pay off.

The takeaway

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is a bold choice among all of the Marriott credit cards, mostly because of the bevy of benefits offering you boundless opportunities to build your balance of Bonvoy points. Marriott Bonvoy loyalists who are able to squeeze the most value out of some of its best perks will be very likely to wipe off the cost of its steep annual fee.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to other hotels?

Marriott Bonvoy points cannot be transferred to other hotel chains, but you can book rooms at any participating property in one of the 30 Marriott brands, ranging from luxury hotels to extended stay properties. Marriott Bonvoy points can however, be transferred to airline programs, including some that have limited transfer partners such as Alaska Airlines. 

How do I use the $100 property credit?

In order to take advantage of your $100 property credit, you must book the “$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate” when booking your stay at either The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® for a minimum of a two night stay, and use your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card to pay at checkout. The credit is only valid for qualifying purchases on property including dining, spa services and hotel recreational activities as long as they are not managed by a third party.

Where do I use my Free Night Awards?

You can use your annual Free Night Award from the Brilliant card at any hotel priced at 85,000 points per night or less. The higher the nightly rate, the more value you will be obtaining from your award, considering you can’t use its value partially and keep the balance. However, if you find a night you’d like to use your award for that prices anywhere between 85,000 and 100,000, you are still able to use your Free Night Award plus up to 15,000 additional points in order to book that room.


Please note that card details are accurate as of the publish date, but are subject to change at any time at the discretion of the issuer. Please contact the card issuer to verify rates, fees, and benefits before applying. 

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefits guide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company. 

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