The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is Marriott and Amex’s premium credit card. It used to be the American Express SPG Luxury Card. But it took on Marriott Bonvoy branding and a longer name in 2019.
Despite its incredibly long name, the Brilliant Card is the only personal Marriott credit card worth considering. Its best suited for serious Marriott loyalists and those who want some nice travel perks. That’s because it has a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card earns 6x points per dollar spent on Marriott purchases. It also earns 3x points per dollar for dining and airfare (booked directly with the airline); as well as 2x points on all other purchases. This earning structure gives you more chances to earn points than the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card. It’s also the best earning structure among the personal Marriott cards.
Existing Marriott Bonvoy cardholders 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, I don’t recommend registering given the value of Marriott points.
Plus, Amex and Marriott are offering a sign-up bonus worth 75,000 points for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card. This bonus can be earned by spending $3,000 within the first three months. This is the same bonus offered on the Boundless Card from Chase.
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 premium 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 Brilliant Card. Spending that much for one night is not recommended for most people.
It is possible to justify the Brilliant 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 at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. I went there in the summer of 2018 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 Elite Status
Marriott Gold Elite 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 Elite 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.
However, Gold status is also a perk with the American Express Platinum Card. Therefore, Platinum cardholders 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 among 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.
In January 2020, Amex added Trip Delay, Trip Cancellation, and Trip Interruption Insurances to their mid-tier and premium credit cards. The Brilliant Card was included because its a premium credit card.
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 Marriott 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.
American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card offers 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 Membership Rewards (MR) points instead of Marriott Bonvoy points. It earns 5x MR points for 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 point-earning cards already.
The Platinum Card is the better option for those who aren’t loyal to Marriott. It’s also the best option for those who care about perks more than earning points.
American Express Hilton Aspire
The Amex Hilton Aspire is a fantastic alternative to Hilton loyalists and those who don’t like Marriott. Amex is also offering a sign-up bonus worth 150,000 Hilton Honors (HH) points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
Plus, the Hilton Aspire earns 14x HH points per dollar on Hilton hotel purchases. It also earns 7x HH points for US restaurants, airfare (booked directly with airlines or via amextravel.com), and car rentals (booked directly with car rental agencies). All other purchases earn 3x HH points.
The Hilton Aspire Card also has perks that rival those of the Brilliant Card. Complimentary Hilton Diamond Elite Status is this card’s signature perk. Diamond Elite Status comes with a free fifth night if you use points to pay for the first four nights. It also comes with a 100% points bonus, a free night every year, complimentary room upgrades (including suites), and the chance to gift Gold Elite Status to a family or friend.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is the only viable Marriott credit card. That’s because it offers the best set of perks and the best earning structure of the personal Marriott credit cards. And it also offers the best set of perks. However, there are better credit cards out there for those who want transferrable points.
Apply Today: American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card