Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant annual fee worth it?

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With all the Marriott hotel brands offered under the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program, there are lots of reasons to collect Marriott points right now. More hotels mean more ways to use Marriott points.

One of the best ways to earn Marriott points is with a Marriott credit card. While there are several Marriott credit cards to choose from, the most premium card that packs the most value is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

While the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex benefits are plentiful and the limited-time welcome offer is better than ever (up to 125,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements through Jan. 13, 2021!), the card’s annual fee is $450 (see rates and fees). Let’s examine the card to see if it’s actually worth that fee.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant annual fee can be worth it for the amazing travel experiences you could unlock, like a visit to the St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya. (Photo by Elena Koromyslova/Shutterstock)

Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant annual fee worth it?

Don’t let the annual fee scare you off. Many premium travel credit cards like this one are loaded to the brim with ongoing benefits that can save you much more than you’ll pay in fees. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is no exception.

To best understand the value that this card has to offer, I’ll break down all the features of the card and try to put an annual cash value on it. This way you can easily see what these perks are worth to decide if it makes sense for you to get this card.

Welcome bonus of up to 125,000 Marriott points

Value: At least $1,000

Through Jan. 13, 2021, you can earn up to 125,000 bonus Marriott points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 points after your first cardmember anniversary. 

Since Marriott points’ value is .08 cent apiece, we can value this welcome bonus at $1,000. Depending on how carefully you spend your points, the value of this welcome bonus could be much higher.

Earning a card’s welcome bonus is the fastest way to rack up points quickly. Just keep in mind that you can only earn the bonus for a specific American Express credit card once per lifetime, and the Marriott credits cards have some extra restrictions because they are issued by both Chase and Amex.

You aren’t eligible for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card’s bonus if you:

  • Have or have had the Ritz-Carlton card in the past 30 days (it’s not open to new applicants)
  • Have opened any of the following cards in the past 90 days or have earned a welcome bonus or upgrade bonus from any of these cards in the past 24 months:
    • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
    • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card (not open to new applicants)
    • Marriott Bonvoy Premier Card (not open to new applicants)
    • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (not open to new applicants)
    • Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
    • Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Plus Business Card (not open to new applicants)
    • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (not open to new applicants)

Up to $300 Statement Credit at Marriott Hotels

Value: $300

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express card offers up to a $300 statement credit every year that can be used toward Marriott hotel stays or any hotel room charges. In addition to using it towards the cost of a room, it can even be used to cover hotel restaurants, spas and other Marriott purchases. Just make sure you make all charges to your room and then use your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card at checkout.

Each year on your account anniversary, the $300 credit will reset, allowing you to enjoy another complimentary $300 of Marriott expenses. There is no rollover on this credit, so to get the most of it (the full $300) you just need to spend $300+ at Marriott throughout each year. It is “use it or lose it,” but you have a full year to use it, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Considering the $450 annual fee again, this $300 credit alone makes the annual fee effectively just $150 per year if you spend $300 on Marriott hotels each year anyway.

Joseph and his wife used the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant for their trip to the St. Regis Maldives. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Annual free night

Worth: $500

Another fan favorite perk of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is the annual free night credit. This credit is exactly what it sounds like, and offers you one free night per year at a Marriott hotel after you renew your card.

The credit is limited to a single night worth up to 50,000 Marriott points. Because we estimate Marriott points to be worth 1 cent each, we placed the value at $500. As an example of what you can book, Category 6 hotels generally cost 50,000 points per night, like the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection (which can easily cost $500 per day). However, during off-peak dates, Category 7 hotels price at 50,000 points as well. That means you could use this free night at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua during off-peak dates, which can easily cost $900+ during those same dates.

Again, remember that the annual fee is $450, and this perk alone can be worth more than that. That means that just this single perk can justify the annual fee for many of us.

Up to $100 Property Credit at St. Regis & Ritz-Carlton Stays

Value: $100 per 2+ night stay

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant has a perk that can rack up value really quickly for anyone who frequents Marriott’s finest hotels. With this benefit, you get an up to $100 property credit whenever you stay two nights or more at a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotel.

To get the credit you must book the room through Marriott’s website or over the phone (800-450-4442) using the “$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate.” You also must pay for the room using your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card (which of course you should be doing anyway). If you book by phone reference the “$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate” member rate. You must confirm you are booking the correct $100 property credit rate at the time of booking.

This credit will automatically apply to any room charges you accrue throughout your stay at these hotels. You can’t use the credit towards the cost of the room, taxes, fees, etc., but can use it for the hotel bar, spa, restaurant, room service and other charges to make your stay more enjoyable. Just remember to have all expenses charged back to your room.

Best of all, there is no limit to how often you can get this credit. It is only limited to one credit per stay of two nights or more. This means that if you frequent these luxury hotels, you can quickly gain hundreds of dollars in value.

Complimentary Marriott Platinum elite status

Value: At least $50 per hotel night

As a Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cardholder, you receive complimentary Platinum Marriott Bonvoy elite status for the 2021 status year. Offer ends 1/13/2021. This status offers tons of unique perks that will make your stay at Marriott hotels nicer. Some of the best features of Platinum Elite status include:

  • 50% bonus points on eligible hotel purchases
  • 4 p.m. late checkout (when available)
  • Welcome gift of points, breakfast or an amenity, depending on the hotel
  • Lounge access (if there is one)
  • Room upgrade, including suites (when available)

It is hard to put a monetary value on this, but for me, it significantly improves my stay. Just the fact that you occasionally get a room upgrade is often worth $30 to $50 per night. The premium internet is generally sold separately at $5 to $10 per night. Plus, the 500-point welcome bonus is worth $4.50 on average.

I would say that this status perk is worth about $50 per night if you are staying at mid-scale or fancy hotel brands. And even more if you’re upgraded to a suite.

Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership

Value: $28 to $56 per airport visit

Priority Pass is available on lots of credit cards now, including the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card. With this membership, you can visit participating Priority Pass airport lounges across the world (there are more than 1,300).

This is one of the best ways to make your airport travel more comfortable. Airport lounges generally have comfortable seating, free snacks and drinks and free Wi-Fi (although exact accommodations vary greatly between lounges). Another Priority Pass benefit is accessing participating airport restaurants that will give Priority Pass members ~$28 towards food (which can be doubled when traveling with a guest).

While it is hard to put a value on the airport lounge visits, a day pass is usually around $30 per person, and with Priority Pass Select you can bring yourself plus two guests. In lieu of a lounge, you can use a Priority Pass restaurant, which is worth up to $56 when traveling with a guest per airport visit.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit

Value: $25 per year with Global Entry

Like many other premium travel cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card will reimburse you for the cost of a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application.

TSA PreCheck allows you to use special priority lanes (that are usually shorter) at airports to get through security faster. Global Entry allows for the same, but also lets you speed through customs when entering the U.S. from abroad. It normally costs $85 for TSA PreCheck and $100 for Global Entry, and they both last five years. But you can enroll in either of these programs and be reimbursed for the application fee via a statement credit when you use your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card to pay the application fee.

You can only use this credit once every four years (4.5 years for TSA PreCheck). It is usually best to apply for Global Entry if you can, because it includes TSA PreCheck and the extra cost is covered by the card. Since you can earn this $100 credit once every four years with Global Entry, I will put the value of this perk at $25 per year ($100/four years).

Bottom line

The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is Marriott’s most premium personal travel credit card. But with the $450 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant annual fee, it is easy to question whether this card is worth the annual cost.

Your exact mileage will vary depending on your travel habits, but even travelers who stay with Marriott just a few times a year can benefit from this card and make up the cost of the annual fee through the welcome bonus and perks and benefits. The more you travel with Marriott, the more you stand to gain from this card.

You can read our full Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Credit Card review for all the details, but here’s a recap of the card’s most valuable perks:

  • Up to $300 statement credit (worth $300)
  • Annual free night credit (worth ~$500)
  • $100 property credit at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton (worth $100 per stay)
  • Complimentary Platinum Elite status (worth ~$50 per night)
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership (worth $28 to $56 per airport visit)
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit (worth $25 per year)

The value of the perks offered by this card is definitely more than worth the cost of the annual fee, even for casual travelers. This doesn’t even take into account the limited-time large welcome bonus (potentially worth $1,000+ if you know the best ways to use Marriott points).

Let us know what you think of this card in the comments.

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

For the rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, please click here.

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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