Marriott Bonvoy Boundless vs Bonvoy Brilliant: Which increased bonus is right for you?
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If you’re looking to open any of the best hotel credit cards, the Marriott brand is a fantastic place to start. There are four Marriott credit cards to choose from — but if you’re like most of us, you’re trying to decide between the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — especially now that they’re both offering increased welcome bonuses!
Let’s take a side-by-side look at the most important benefits of each card to help you decide which is the best fit for your lifestyle.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless vs Brilliant
|Card||Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card|
|Welcome bonus||Earn 5 free nights after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening (worth up to 250,000 points).||Up to 125,000 points: Earn 100,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus another 25,000 points after your first anniversary of card membership. |
Plus, you’ll get complimentary Platinum status for 2021.
Offer expires Jan. 13, 2021.
|Ongoing earnings||6 Marriott points per dollar spent at participating Marriott hotels|
2 Marriott points per dollar spent on all other purchases
|6 Marriott points per $1 at participating Marriott hotels|
3 Marriott points per $1 at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines
2 Marriott points per
$1 on everything else. Terms Apply
|Annual fee||$95 annual fee, which is not waived for the first year||$450 (see rates and fees)|
|Benefits and perks||Complimentary Silver elite status|
15 elite night credits per year
Award night every card anniversary
|Up to $300 in statement credits for Marriott purchases charged to your card each year. In other words, the first $300 you spend at Marriott each year is reimbursed|
TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit (worth up to $100)
Priority Pass Select membership (a value of at least $429 per year)
Best welcome bonus (Winner: It depends)
First, the eye candy. It’s hard to beat the thrill of having not one but two great offers to choose from.
For a limited time, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant offers up to 125,000 bonus points. You’ll earn 100,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 points after your first anniversary of card membership. This offer expires Jan. 13, 2021.
We estimate Marriott points value to be 0.8 cents each on average, so you shouldn’t have trouble receiving $1,000 from this bonus — and it’s possible to squeeze much more value from your points. I’ve got this card and used the points for a portion of my stay at the St. Regis Maldives. We received a value of 2.3 cents per point for that stay. If you can achieve a similar value, this bonus would be worth $2,875 to you!
In comparison, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless comes with 5 free nights after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening (worth up to 250,000 points). It’s definitely possible to get $2,500 in value from this bonus because nights at higher-end Category 6 and 7 properties (that run 50,000 points per night) often cost $500+ per night.
So, when deciding between the two cards, it comes down to whether you want the flexibility of points or know you’ll be able to maximize the value of 5 free nights. You’ll get a ton of value from both cards, whichever you choose.
Best points earning (Winner: Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant)
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless earns:
- 6 points per dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
- 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant earns:
- 6 points per dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
- 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
- 2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
- Terms Apply
The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant edges out the Bonvoy Boundless here because of the bonus points Brilliant cardholders can earn at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airline.
Best annual fee (Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless)
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless comes with a $95 annual fee, while the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant incurs an annual fee of $450 (see rates and fees). The discrepancy between these annual fees isn’t quite as wide as it appears once you factor in the up to $300 annual Marriott credit with the Bonvoy Brilliant. It effectively brings the card’s annual fee down to $150 per year for anyone who intends to spend $300 per year with Marriott.
Best travel benefits (Winner: Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant)
These cards have several similar benefits, such as 15 annual elite night credits and basic rental car insurance (though they’re far from the best credit cards for car rentals). But they differ in very important areas — I’ll outline them below.
Both cards offer an annual free night every year upon renewal. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless comes with a free night certificate valid at participating Marriott hotels that cost up to 35,000 points per night. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant earns a free-night award valid at select Marriott hotels that cost up to 50,000 points.
The credit cards also come with varying degrees of Marriott Bonvoy elite status. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless comes with automatic Silver Elite Status, which offers perks like:
- 10% points bonus on paid stays
- Priority late checkout (based on availability)
Whereas through Jan. 13, 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant comes with Platinum Elite Status for the 2021 status year, which provides:
- 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)
In addition, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant also has these added perks:
- Up to $300 in statement credits for Marriott purchases charged to your card each year. In other words, the first $300 you spend at Marriott each year is reimbursed
- TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit (worth up to $100)
- Priority Pass Select membership (a value of at least $429 per year)
- up to $100 in property credits for qualifying charges when you use your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card to book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotels
Best foreign transaction fees (Winner: It’s a tie)
Neither of these cards charge foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees for Marriott Brilliant), so they’re perfect to take on your next overseas excursion.
The benefit of waived foreign transaction fees is particularly handy for hotel credit cards. When you reserve a hotel stay in a foreign country, you can be subject to foreign transaction fees — even if you’re reserving the room from the U.S. You won’t have to worry about this with either card.
Best worldwide acceptance (Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless)
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is a Visa credit card, which means it’s accepted by 44 million merchants in more than 200 countries worldwide. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is an American Express credit card, which is currently only accepted by 31 million merchants in over 130 countries. While you’ll likely never run into trouble with either card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless has a clear edge.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless has a very manageable annual fee, and it comes with fantastic perks that make it a no-brainer to keep year after year (such as the annual free night certificate, worth up to 35,000 points). Plus, it’s offering an incredibly valuable intro bonus right now — 5 free nights after meeting minimum spending requirements. Read our review of the Marriott Boundless card for all the details.
However, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant offers better travel benefits, worth potentially $1,000+ each year you hold the card. And that doesn’t account for the $1,000+ in value you can get from its current increased offer of up to 125,000 points after meeting spending requirements. So although it has a higher annual fee, it’s a great deal, too. Especially given that you’ll have more flexibility when earning points, as opposed to free nights.
Let us know which card you choose! And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card comparisons and analysis delivered to your inbox.
For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, click here
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! :)