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Review: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

The refreshed Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card offers lots of new benefits but with a hefty $650 annual fee.
Travel on Point(s) has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel on Point(s) and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Review: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

The refreshed Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card offers lots of new benefits but with a hefty $650 annual fee.

Travel on Point(s) has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel on Point(s) and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is Marriott's recently-refreshed premium co-branded Amex card. The card's recent changes look great at first glance. But once you dig in and consider the state of the Marriott Bonvoy program generally, the changes are not all positive. The Bonvoy Brilliant is now a card that can still benefit the most diehard Marriott loyalists. But for the majority of the rest of us, the card is not worth keeping.

Current Offer

The revamped Bonvoy Brilliant card offers the opportunity to earn 150,000 Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months. The card has a $650 annual fee, which has been increased from $450. The annual fee is not waived in the first year. For cardholders who opened the Bonvoy Brilliant before September 22, 2022, the new $650 annual fee will take effect on the first renewal date on or after January 1, 2023.

According to the terms and conditions, the welcome offer for the Bonvoy Brilliant is not available to those who (i) have or have had The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card from JPMorgan or the J.P. Morgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, or the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a new Card Member bonus or upgrade offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase, or the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase in the last 24 months.

Earn Rate

The Bonvoy Brilliant earns bonus points in the following categories:

  • 6x on Marriott purchases
  • 3x at restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2x on all other eligible purchases

Benefits

The benefits and perks of the Bonvoy Brilliant include:

  • Complimentary Platinum Elite status
  • A free night award worth up to 85,000 points annually (you can top the award off with up to 15,000 points)
  • 25 elite nights toward status annually (previously this card offered 15)
  • Up to $300 per year in restaurant credits, in the form of a $25 credit each month
  • Up to $100 in credit for certain charges when you book direct with Marriott on a special rate for a minimum of a 2-night stay at either The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis
  • $100 statement credit for the application fee for Global Entry (every 4 years) or TSA PreCheck (every 4.5 years)
  • Priority Pass Select membership (enrollment required)
  • A Choice Rewards benefit when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year (you can choose from five suite night awards, a free night award worth up to 85,000 points, or $750 off a bed from Marriott Bonvoy boutiques)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Our Analysis

At first glance, the Bonvoy Brilliant‘s changes look pretty good. What's not to like about complimentary Platinum Elite status or increasing the free night certificate value to 85,000 points? Well, when everyone has Platinum Elite status, no one has Platinum Elite status anymore. Marriott's notorious stinginess towards its elites should only worsen as the pool of Platinum Elite members increases exponentially with Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders. Also keep in mind that the complimentary Platinum status from this card does not get you the Choice Rewards benefit you would earn from actually hitting 50 nights to earn Platinum Elite status organically.

And the 85,000-point FNC is merely Marriott acknowledging that a 50,000-point FNC isn't very valuable anymore. Indeed, Marriott allows you to top off FNCs with up to 15,000 points, thereby admitting that its repeated devaluations have reduced the value of FNCs. Nowadays, it's hard to find a good Marriott property charging less than 85,000 points per night. On this note, the Bonvoy Brilliant card essentially charges you $350 for a 85,000 Bonvoy points (assuming you use up the entire $300 restaurant credit). Is paying $350 for 85,000 Bonvoy points a good deal? Hardly.

The card's earning structure remains weak as it was left intact with the refresh. Earning 3x Bonvoy points at restaurants pales in comparison to many other credit cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred(review) earns 3.1x Ultimate Rewards on dining, and the American Express Gold Card(review) earns 4x Membership Rewards at restaurants. The same goes for earning 3x Bonvoy points on flights. Again, we'd rather earn 2.1x with the CSP (or 3x with the Chase Sapphire Reserve(review)) or 4x MRs with the Amex Gold. After all, transferrable currencies like Chase URs and Amex MRs are way more valuable than hotel points.

The $300 restaurant credit replaced the $300 statement credit for purchases at Marriott properties. Overall, the statement was more helpful at Marriott properties since it meant a free or deeply discounted room. Granted, the vast majority of us dine out more often than we stay at Marriott hotels. But splitting the $300 restaurant credit into $25 monthly increments is pretty annoying. It harkens back to when so many different Amex cards had monthly credits that became a hassle to track. Still, most folks will have no problem redeeming this credit as long as they remember to do so every month.

But not all is lost for the Bonvoy Brilliant. The increase to 25 elite night credits from 15 is certainly a nice change. These 25 elite nights will continue to stack with the 15 elite night credits offered through the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card (but not with the 15 nights offered by any other personal Marriott card). This means cardholders who have the Bonvoy Brilliant and the Bonvoy Business will earn up to 40 elite night credits per year. That's over halfway to the 75 nights required for Titanium Elite status. The 25 night credits makes the Bonvoy Brilliant card indispensable for most of those who are chasing Titanium Elite status.

Final Thoughts

The refreshed Bonvoy Brilliant has become a useful credit card for those seeking Titanium Elite status. The card no longer holds much value beyond the 25 elite night credits it offers annually. It's hard to justify the card's $650 annual fee in light of the direction that Marriott Bonvoy is headed. Devaluation after devaluation. The adoption of dynamic award pricing. And now, the dilution of Platinum Elite status when Marriott was already stingy with existing Platinum members. Twenty-five elite night credits from a card is a lot, but with a loyalty program like this, why bother?

What are your thoughts about the revamped Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card? Join the discussion in our Facebook group!

Travel on Point(s) has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel on Point(s) and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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