The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card is Marriott and Amex’s new premium hotel card. This card used to be the American Express SPG Luxury Card. But it has since taken on Marriott Bonvoy branding and a longer name.

I’m going to refer to this card as “the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card” or simply “the Brilliant Card” for short. I don’t like that Marriott gave this card such a long name. But I both companies (Marriott and Amex) had to be mentioned in the branding, hence the six-word card name.

Keep reading to see if this card is worth applying for or upgrading to.

 

Earning

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card has a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. It also has an annual fee of $450 (NOT waived the first year).

This card earns 6x points per $1 spent on Marriott purchases. It also earns 3x points at Restaurants and on Airfare (booked directly with the airline). You will also earn 2x points on all other purchases. This card’s earning structure gives you more chances to earn points than the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card. It’s also the best earning structure among the non-business Marriott cards.

Existing Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers can register to earn 25,000 points for every $25,000 in eligible purchases on the card. This can be done up to four times per year. However, given the value of Marriott points, I don’t recommend registering.

 

Burning

Hotel Redemptions

This is the most obvious and basic way to redeem Marriott points. To determine how much a night is worth in points, you can use the table below:

Category Standard Off-Peak

Peak

1 7,500 5,000 10,000
2 12,500 10,000 15,000
3 17,500 15,000 20,000
4 25,000 20,000 30,000
5 35,000 30,000 40,000
6 50,000 40,000 60,000
7 60,000 50,000 70,000
8 85,000 70,000 100,000

 

Transfer Partners

Transfer partners are a lesser known redemption option for this card. More than 40 airlines are partners with Marriott, including United, Emirates, Delta, China Eastern, and Lufthansa. The transfer ratio is three Marriott points per one airline mile.

 

Perks

As a Tier IV travel card, the Brilliant card includes some benefits that can make life easier when away from home. You can justify the card’s annual fee with enough use of the perks.

Free Nights

You will receive a free anniversary night after holding your card for one year. The annual free night can be redeemed for rooms costing up to 50,000 points (Categories 1-6). There are many properties that lie between Categories 1 and 6, so the night is very accessible. The free night can only be earned and redeemed after holding the card for 12 months.

A second free night can be earned after spending $60,000 on the card. I don’t recommend spending that much on this card unless its completely done at Marriott hotels. And for most people, that’s a very tall (if not impossible) task.

It’s possible to justify the card’s annual fee with a free night. This is because there are many properties with rooms costing upwards of $450 per night. For example, I wanted to book a vacation for later this year at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. I went there last summer with my family and we loved it. I checked the rates to find that one night in a standard double bed room cost upwards of $600. The Westin Kierland is a Category 5 property. Therefore, if I got this card and used the free night, I would justify the annual fee and then some.

Complimentary Gold Status

Marriott Gold Status is the chain’s lowest valuable status. With it, you’re getting a 25% points bonus for Marriott purchases. Room rates and gift shop purchases are included.

Gold Status also gives you a guaranteed 2:00 pm checkout time and an enhanced room upgrade (if available at check-in). Just note that room upgrades are not guaranteed and that each Marriott property is different. You will also receive between 250 and 500 points as a “welcome gift” upon checking in.

Gold status is also a perk with the American Express Platinum Card. Therefore, Platinum card-members might find this card redundant to the Brilliant Card.

The more upscale Marriott Platinum Status can be obtained by spending $75,000 per year on the card. You can also receive this higher status organically by staying at Marriott hotels at least 50 nights per year.

$300 Annual Statement Credit

This perk is probably the easiest way to justify most of the Brilliant Card’s annual fee. You will receive the first $300 of Marriott hotel purchases each card-member year back as a statement credit. The credit is available upon approval of the card and the year resets upon card-member anniversary.

According to Amex.com, not all properties participate in compensation for the credit. This can be an inconvenience, especially for Marriott loyalists who often go to the same hotel repeatedly.

Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access

Priority Pass access is a common perk amongst Tier IV cards and this one is no exception. You will receive access to thousands of Priority Pass airport lounges around the world as long as you have the Brilliant card.

Boingo Airport Wi-Fi Passes

This perk gives you 10 passes per card-member year. The wi-fi passes perk are nice for families and travelers on the go.

Global Entry / Pre-TSA Fee Credits

You will receive a credit once every 4-5 years to waive the fee for either program. I suggest going with Global Entry because Pre-TSA comes with that membership automatically.

Secondary Car Rental Insurance

This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental after your regular insurance’s policy kicks in. American Express cards only provide secondary coverage. Secondary coverage means that you must go through your own car insurance company first before calling Amex to activate this benefit.

No Foreign Exchange Fees

You will save 3% on all purchases made outside the United States with the card.

Return Protection

If you’re unhappy with a purchase, this benefit enables you to get your money back with the backing of Amex. American Express is the best in the credit card industry in helping cardholders with returns. This card comes standard with all American Express cards.

Travel Insurances

Cardholders may take advantage of Amex’s Trip Delay, Trip Cancellation, and Trip Interruption Insurances starting in January 2020.

You can receive up to $10,000 if your air travel gets cancelled or interrupted for a qualifying reason. Furthermore, you can be reimbursed up to $500 if your flight gets delayed at least six hours. One use of any of these insurances can justify the card’s annual fee.

 

Rules & Regulations

Like all American Express cards, this card is subject to Amex’s Once Per Lifetime Rule. This rule states that you can only receive a sign-up bonus on any card once. The key is to apply for this card when a balance is struck between maximum points and minimum spend. If you cannot afford the spend to hit the bonus, apply when the threshold is lower.

This card is NOT considered a new product, despite and because of the re-branding. Therefore, you will not be able to receive a sign-up bonus if you have already done so for the former SPG Luxury Card.

 

Similar Cards

Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

This card from Chase is a stripped-down version of the Brilliant Card. It offers complimentary Silver Status and a more restrictive (Categories 1-5, up to 35,000 points) free night. Like it’s “bigger sibling”, it offers a 75,000-point bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

This Brilliant card will offer you much more value than the pedestrian Boundless Card. However, the latter card has a lesser $95 annual fee (waived the first year).

American Express Platinum Card

American Express’ charge card has a slew of perks for travelers that outdoes almost every other card in the industry. Some of those perks include Marriott Gold Status and airport lounge access (including Priority Pass and Amex’s Centurion Lounges).

However, the Platinum Card earns Amex’s own Membership Rewards (MR) points instead of Marriott Bonvoy points. It earns 5x MR points on Airfare (booked directly with the airline) and one point for all other purchases. There are no other direct bonus categories with the Platinum Card. However, you can pool points if you have other MR-earning cards already.

The Platinum Card is the better card for those who aren’t loyal to Marriott. It’s also the best option for those who care about perks more than earning.

American Express Hilton Aspire

The Hilton Aspire is a fantastic alternative to Hilton loyalists and those who don’t like Marriott’s new branding. It has a sign-up bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors (HH) points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

The Hilton Aspire earns 14x HH points on Hilton purchases. It also earns 7x HH points for US Restaurants, Flights (booked directly with airlines or via amextravel.com), and Car Rentals (booked directly with car rental agencies). All other purchases earn 3x HH points.

This card also has perks that rival those of the Brilliant Card. Complimentary Hilton Diamond Status is probably the card’s signature perk. Diamond Status comes with a free fifth night if you use points to pay for the first four nights. It also comes with

The card also gives you one free night every year as well as the opportunity to earn a second free night. All you have to do is spend $15,000 compared to the $60,000 on the Brilliant Card. That’s ¼ of the spend! It’s also a much more plausible goal for many people.

 

Final Draw

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is probably the only viable option for Marriott loyalists given the current circumstances. It’s by far the best earner of the Marriott cards. And it also offers the best set of perks. However, the card’s sign-up bonus is expensive, which could be offsetting for some.

Nonetheless, the Brilliant Card is my favorite of the revamped Marriott cards. Given my current lineup, I would pass on this card. However, it would the only card I’d consider if I wanted a Marriott card in the future.

 

Apply Today: American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card