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.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card has a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus is a limited time offer that expires on April 24. 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 was carried over from the old SPG Luxury Card. It also gives you more chances to earn points compared to the regular Marriott Bonvoy Card.
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. But I don’t recommend registering given the value of Marriott points. Registration begins on February 24.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The regular Marriott Bonvoy 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”, the Brilliant Card offers a 100,000-point bonus after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
This Brilliant card will offer you much more value than the regular Marriott Bonvoy Card. However, the regular card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year).
American Express’ top 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.
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.
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.