Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Hits the road often, whether for work or play See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
If you have two or three trips to take this year and would enjoy staying within the Marriott Hotel network, this card will improve your travel experience. With automatic Gold Elite status and statement credits you can earn by spending money at Marriott hotels, this card offers many benefits for Marriott fans.
There’s even more value for frequent fliers, as this card’s airport lounge access and TSA Precheck/Global Entry credit add lots of value and counteracts a high annual fee that might deter some applicants.
Airport lounge access
Lots of Marriott loyalty perks
Annual fee is easy to offset by using benefits
Strict welcome offer restrictions
Low points value
- Airport lounge access: Holding this card gives you Priority Pass Select Membership, which means you and two guests can visit more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide for free. This benefit is valued at at least $429, which just about offsets the card’s annual fee.
- Lots of Marriott loyalty perks: Hotel-branded credit cards always reward loyalty, but this one does an exceptional job. Between statement credits earned for Marriott purchases, free award nights, and complimentary Gold Elite Status perks, those who enjoy the brand can get a lot out of this card.
- Annual fee is easy to offset by using benefits: The statement credits alone are worth $400 and we believe the welcome offer is worth around $1,400. And that doesn’t even factor in the TSA Precheck/Global Entry application credit or airport lounge access membership, a combined value of more than $514.
- Strict welcome offer restrictions: If you currently have or recently had another Marriott-branded credit card, you’re probably not eligible for this card’s welcome offer.
- Low points value: It's a good rule of thumb that points or miles are a good value when worth 1 cent (or more) each. However, based on our calculations, Marriott Bonvoy points are only worth about 0.64 cents each when used for Marriott hotel stays, which isn't great. More on this below.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express Welcome Offer
Spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening this card and earn 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. This $1,430 value is a solid offer compared to other premium hotel cards, including other American Express cards.
To offer some flexibility during COVID-19, American Express is giving cardholders who open an account before May 31, 2020 six months to earn this welcome offer instead of the typical three. If you already have this card but opened your account after Dec. 1, 2019, you'll also have an extra three months to earn your bonus, if you haven't already.
Earning Points & Rewards
This card rewards Marriott purchases the most. You’ll earn 6 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott hotels, which is a network of more than 30 brands and 6,700 participating hotels worldwide.
Also, since cardholders are automatically upgraded to Gold Elite Status, you get 25% more bonus points on all participating brand stays. So if you spend $500 on a hotel reservation, you’ll earn 4,250 points: 3,000 points for using this card and 1,250 as a Gold Elite member.
If you spend $75,000 in a calendar year with this card, you’ll be upgraded to Platinum status and earn 50% more bonus points on all eligible Marriott stays.
This card’s rewards earning rate drops for other categories, though. You’ll get 3 points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. It’s great you can earn some additional points on airline purchases, as that’s not true for all hotel-branded credit cards, but this card offers less back on everyday purchases than some similar cards.
There are opportunities to earn additional points with Marriott Bonvoy travel partners, such as rental car and cruise companies. You’ll also earn 5,000 bonus points by transferring 60,000 points to an airline miles partner.
Points do not expire as long as your card is actively used, and there isn’t a limit on the number of points you can earn at most properties.
You can redeem points in a number of ways. Unsurprisingly, editors at The Balance have found that you’ll get the best value for points by using them for free hotel stays. We’ve calculated that this card’s points are worth 1.43 cents, on average, when used for award stays at Marriott properties. That’s a decent return—in general, redemption values over 1 cent are considered good value for rewards points or miles.
Still, 1.43 cents is an average value. The points cost of an award stay will depend on the hotel category and location, demand, and other factors. Hotels are categorized into eight tiers, with category 1 as the most affordable. In general you’ll get the most value from your points by using them for reservations at pricier, more luxurious Marriott hotels.
You can also transfer points to airline loyalty programs—more than 40 in all, including all major U.S. carriers. Unfortunately, Bonvoy points transfer at 3 to 1 with most partner airlines. That’s a poor transfer ratio and most transfers will dramatically reduce the value of your points. Currently, your best choice among domestic airlines is United, and after you make the transfer and redeem them, your points will be worth a paltry 0.76 cent each, based on our estimation of the average dollar value of United miles.
Other redemption options include:
- Rental cars, flights, travel packages, and cruises booked through the Marriott Bonvoy website
- Marriott Bonvoy Moments (culinary, entertainment, sports and other lifestyle events)
- Online shopping and gift cards
- Charity donations
Note: Marriott Bonvoy points cannot be redeemed for cash, checks or statement credits.
To see how the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express’ points stack up, check out our in-depth analysis of what credit card points are worth.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Spend $5,000 to get the welcome offer bonus points right away. Also start taking advantage of the luxury travel perks, such as airport lounge access, and apply for TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry so you can get your credit for that fee. That will help make up for the annual fee.
Since Global Entry ($100 application fee) includes TSA Pre-Check ($85 application fee) and you’re reimbursed for either, you might as well get the more expensive Global Entry.
Then, to maximize your earnings, use this card to make hotel reservations at Marriott hotels, which should be easy because of how large the brand network is. Spend $300 at a hotel for fun additions such as a spa day or date night dinner to get your statement credit, too. If you transfer your points to an airline and get an expensive flight for a relatively small number of points, you’ll get the most value for your points.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card’s Excellent Perks
This card has many benefits we consider more valuable than what credit cards typically offer (though these perks are more common among premium travel cards like this one). Besides those we’ve already mentioned, you’ll get:
- $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit: Receive up to $300 back for eligible purchases made at participating hotels.
- $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit: Book a two-night stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis through the Marriott Bonvoy site and receive a credit of up to $100 per booking for use on those properties.
- 15 Elite Night credit: Up to 15 Elite Night credits will be credited to your Marriott Bonvoy member account within 60 days after opening this card. These count toward the amount of stays needed to reach the next Elite Member status threshold.
- Gold Elite Status: This gets you room upgrades, late checkouts, and a 25% point bonus on all Marriott purchases.
- Baggage insurance plan: Covers replacement costs up to $3,000 per covered individual, per trip for a lost carry-on bag when trip transportation was paid in full with this card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card’s Other Features
- Premium roadside assistance (free towing and other services)
- Auto rental collision damage waiver
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Purchase return protection
- Extended warranties
- Free access to Boingo Wi-Fi at participating airports
- ShopRunner membership
American Express is ranked No. 2 for customer satisfaction among credit card issuers after scoring 838 out of 1,000 points on the 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. One feature that stands out is MyCreditGuide, a tool that lets you monitor and learn about your VantageScoreⓇ 3.0 and TransUnion credit report. MyCreditGuide alerts you to changes in your credit report and simulates how different behaviors can impact your credit score.
American Express cards come with standard security protections, as well as the ability to instantly lock your account by logging into your online cardholder account. It will automatically unfreeze after seven days unless you clear the lock first. Lost and stolen cards are replaced for free.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Fees to Watch Out For
This card charges typical transaction and penalty fees, most of which are easily avoided with smart card use, but take note of the $450 annual fee. High annual fees are typical among premium rewards cards, but they’re still something you should carefully consider. International travelers won’t have to pay foreign transaction fees, though.