Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Review

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The best thing about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express card is its wide selection of travel perks and more than 40 airline transfer partners. With a competitive welcome offer and high earnings rate for Marriott purchases, it provides value even for occasional travelers, despite its high annual fee. 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

overall rating
3.7
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.24% - 26.24% variable
Annual Fee $450
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 6X points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3X points at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2X points everywhere else.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
1.6
for Fees
2.0
for Rewards
4.5
for Credit
3.7

Earn 75,000 bonus points with the Marriott Bonvoy after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Who is This Credit Card Best For?

  • Avatar for Deal Seeker Persona
    Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
    Deal Seeker
  • Avatar for Road Warrior Persona
    Hits the road often, whether for work or play
    Road Warrior
  • Avatar for Adventure Seeker Persona
    Loves to explore places and experience new things
    Adventure Seeker
  • Avatar for Brand Loyalist Persona
    Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty
    Brand Loyalist

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.

Pros

  • Airport lounge access

  • Lots of Marriott loyalty perks

  • Annual fee is easy to offset by using benefits

Cons

  • Welcome offer bonus restrictions

  • Low points value

Pros Explained

  • 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 $1,050. 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. 

Con Explained

  • 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 $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening this card and earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. This $1,050 value is a solid offer compared to other premium hotel cards, including other American Express cards. 

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.

Redeeming Rewards

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 1.4 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, 1.4 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.

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

Spend $3,000 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 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. 
  • Travel accident insurance: Provides coverage up to $500,000 for you and your family while traveling on a plane, train, ship or bus. 

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

Customer Experience

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. 

Security Features 

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. 

For Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
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CURRENT CARD
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
overall rating
3.7
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.24% - 26.24% variable
Annual Fee $450
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 6X points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3X points at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2X points everywhere else.

Our Methodology

  • At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
  • For every review on The Balance, we hold the credit cards to these standards, and we set the bar high. While we recognize the appeal of splashy features like six-digit sign-up bonuses, our approach ensures that credit cards with the best combination of value, affordability, and accessibility receive the highest scores. See our full methodology for more details.