Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Review: Is it Worth the $450 Annual Fee?

On Feb 13, 2019, Marriott refreshed the Amex SPG Luxury card to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. The card has a hefty $450 annual fee but comes with a handful of benefits to offset the cost like a $300 hotel credit and a free anniversary night. Is the card right for you?

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $450

  • Welcome offer: 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after $5,000 of purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    • Offer ends: 4/24/2019

  • $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit each card member year for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels

  • Free night award (worth up to 50,000 points) each card account anniversary. Expires 12 months from issuance, and the stay must occur before the certificate expires.

  • Spending Multipliers:

    • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points on eligible purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels

    • Earn 3X Marriott Bonvoy points at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines

    • Earn 2X Marriott Bonvoy points on all other purchases

  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status

    • Earn Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 on the card in a calendar year

  • Unlimited airport lounge access via Priority Pass Select (enrollment required)

    • Visits for you and up to two guests per visit

  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® credit (every 4 years)

  • No foreign transaction fees

Welcome Offer and Eligibility

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has a 100,000 point welcome offer after spending $5,000 on the card within the first 3 months of account opening.

There are a few application rules to be aware of:

  • Amex “Once in a Lifetime” Rule: If you have/had the Amex SPG Luxury (it’s effectively the same card), you will not qualify for the welcome offer.

  • The “One Lane Rule” applies to all of the refreshed Marriott Bonvoy cards. You won’t qualify for a welcome offer if:

    • Have/had in last 30 days = Chase Ritz-Carlton

    • Added in the last 90 days = *Chase 6 card list

    • Welcome / upgrade bonus last 24 months = *Chase 6 card list

*Chase 6 card list: 

  • Marriott Bonvoy Premier + Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

  • Marriott Bonvoy Premier + Marriott Rewards Premier Plus

  • Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business + Marriott Bonvoy Premier Business

Effective Annual Fee

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card has a $450 annual fee, but it also comes with a $300 hotel credit. The Bonvoy credit can be used for anything that goes into your bill including room rate, dining, activities, spa services, etc.

The effective annual fee, assuming that you use the full $300 credit, is $150.

  • $450 - $300 = $150

What are Marriott Bonvoy Points Worth?

The expected value of Marriott Bonvoy points depends on how you plan to redeem them. Points can be redeemed towards hotel stays or transfer to airline partners.

Marriott Bonvoy Points Valuation: Airlines

In the past, you could transfer 20,000 SPG Starpoints to get 25,000 airline points from a transfer partner. Based on the new program, 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott Bonvoy points. The airline transfer rate for Marriott Bonvoy points is 60,000 Bonvoy points to 25,000 airline points.

  • SPG transfer rate: 20,000 SPG Starpoints = 25,000 airline points

  • SPG to Bonvoy: 1 SPG Starpoint = 3 Marriott Bonvoy points

  • Marriott Bonvoy transfer rate: 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 25,000 airline points

The best airline transfer partners (to me) are ones you can’t earn points for:

  • Korean Air

  • Japan Airlines (JAL)

  • Alaska Airlines

To maximize the value of points, the optimal strategy would be to redeem points for business or first class flights on the above partner airlines.

Marriott Bonvoy Points Valuation: Hotels

The point valuation for hotels will be different for everyone because it depends on where you plan to redeem them.

View the Marriott redemption chart here: https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

Hotel Point Valuation Formula:

  • Total cost (with taxes) / total points = cents per point

2 night example:

= 2 nights * $500 / 2 nights * 50k Bonvoy
= $1,000 / 100k Bonvoy
= 0.01 * 100 = 1 CPP

5th night free example:

= 5 nights * $500 / 200k Bonvoy
= $2,500 / 200k = 1.25 CPP

In the spreadsheet below, I used an example of Marriott hotels in Langkawi, Malaysia. Feel free to make a copy of the calculator and edit the numbers in the YELLOW boxes.

Access a copy of the cents per point (CPP) calculator here: http://bit.ly/2DEnPr4

In the example above, the Ritz-Carlton Langkawi retails for $500/night. The cost would be $2,000 for four nights, or you could use 200,000 points for the stay. When you use points, the CPP valuation is 1 CPP.

To see what the CPP value is for your redemption, pick a property from the Marriott link and edit the YELLOW boxes in the spreadsheet to reflect the number of nights and cost of the property.

Where To Redeem the Free Night Award

Cardmembers will receive a free night award on their account anniversary. The free night award can be redeemed on properties worth up to 50,000 points.

View the Marriott properties here: https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change