Hilton Aspire vs. Bonvoy Brilliant

If you're new to hotel loyalty and want to get the most value right away, the Aspire is the card you want.

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Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy both have fierce loyalty from travelers for the many benefits and perks that their elite statuses can provide.

Some travelers choose to hold co-branded hotel credit cards with both programs in order to achieve solid elite status perks with either chain. While both of their premium credit cards have a similar annual fee of $450 and include complimentary elite status, statement credits and free night certificates, the specifics of these benefits vary. Terms apply.

Let’s get into the details of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card versus Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card to help you decide which card is right for you.

The hotel cards, side by side

Here's how the cards stack up on the basics:

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Annual fee

$450

$650

Welcome offer

Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Rewards

  • 14x points on Hilton Honors property spending.

  • 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express travel.

  • 7x points on select car rentals.

  • 7x points on dining in the United States.

  • 3x points on everything else.

Terms apply.

  • 6x points on Marriott Bonvoy property spending.

  • 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines.

  • 3x points on dining at U.S. restaurants (including delivery and takeout).

  • 2x points on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

Other benefits

  • Hilton Diamond elite status. Enrollment required.

  • Annual weekend free night certificate.

  • $100 statement credit to use at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties.

  • $250 annual airline incidental credit. Enrollment required.

Terms apply.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite.

  • 25 Elite Night Credits annually toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status.

  • Up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 back per month) for dining purchases at restaurants worldwide.

Terms apply.

Why the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card wins

Better elite status

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with instant top-tier Diamond status once enrolled in the Hilton Honors program. With this status, you’ll receive a food and beverage credit (free breakfast at international hotels), potential room upgrades, more bonus points for each stay, late checkout when available and access to club lounges.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, on the other hand, gives mid-tier Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status once enrolled.

Free night certificate

With the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card you’ll receive an annual weekend night certificate good for any Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. It can be redeemed for a standard room at a wide range of properties, from your local Hampton Inn to your favorite Waldorf Astoria. Terms apply.

You can more than offset the cost of the annual fee this way, but remember that the hotel has to have availability for you to redeem the certificate, and availability can be limited.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card puts some restrictions on where you can use the certificate, so Hilton’s hands-off approach lets you maximize the value of this perk. Terms apply.

Statement credit

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers a $100 statement credit to use at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties when paying for your stay with the card at hiltonhonorsaspirecard.com for at least two nights.

When paired with the free weekend night certificate, this offers substantial value when compared with the annual fee of this card. Terms apply.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Unfortunately, the travel credit is limited to certain brands so if you want to use this at a city-center business hotel, you’re out of luck.

Airline credit

In addition to the hotel credit, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers a $250 annual airline incidental credit that you can put toward bag fees, onboard food and beverage, seat assignment charges and other costs. Once you select your chosen airline, all qualifying charges with that airline made to the card will be rebated up to $250. Enrollment required. Terms apply.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card does not offer this perk.

Bonus categories on spending

NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cent each. When you use the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you’ll earn bonus points on certain categories:

  • 14x points on Hilton Honors property spending.

  • 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express travel.

  • 7x points on select car rentals.

  • 7x points on dining in the United States.

  • 3x points on everything else.

Terms apply.

These are sizable earnings when using the card for purchases, though like with any card, check what’s in your wallet to see if another card offers more bonus points on a particular category.

Travel benefits

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with multiple travel benefits. It offers Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. Enrollment required.

There are also no foreign transaction fees, and cardholders are eligible for a variety of protections like trip delay or bag delay insurance. The card also has a secondary collision damage waiver to use when renting a car. Terms apply.

Why you still might want the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card card

Instant elite status

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you’ll get complimentary Gold Elite status upon enrollment in the Marriott Bonvoy program. This mid-tier status level comes with potential room upgrades, late checkout and bonus points with each stay. Terms apply.

While it is not the same top-tier status that comes with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, if you mostly stay at Marriott Bonvoy properties, this is an easy way to climb the elite status ladder.

Free night certificate

After holding the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card for one year, you’ll receive an annual free night certificate that you can use at any property with a standard room redemption cost of up to 50,000 points. Through late 2023, you can also add 15,000 points of your own to secure a property that is valued up to 65,000 points (sort of an olive branch from the program in light of its recent removal of award charts). Terms apply.

Unlike the Hilton Honors free night certificate, there is no restriction on when you can use it (Hilton specifies weekend nights only), but there is a limitation on the type of property where you can redeem this certificate since it’s capped at 50,000 points (or 65,000 if you add more points).

You can still secure excellent value with this perk, but the value limitation means that you’ll have to be strategic in where you use it.

Better statement credit

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with a $300 statement credit to use at Marriott Bonvoy properties when you use the card to pay for your stay. Paired with the free night certificate, you can more than cover the cost of your annual fee this way. The credit can be applied to any Marriott Bonvoy hotel. Terms apply.

As previously noted, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card only offers a $100 statement credit and it can only be used at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties, which restricts the value a bit for some travelers. Marriott’s offer is more generous.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Marriott’s statement credit perk is changing in September. You’ll be able to use the credit for Marriott Bonvoy properties through September 21, 2022. After that, the $300 credit can be used for eligible restaurant purchases worldwide.

Bonus categories on spending

NerdWallet values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent each. When you use the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you’ll earn bonus Marriott Bonvoy points on certain categories:

  • 6x points on Marriott Bonvoy property spending.

  • 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines.

  • 3x points on dining at U.S. restaurants (including delivery and takeout).

  • 2x points on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

Don’t be put off by the lower earning rate when compared with Hilton Honors. Each program’s points carry a different weight when it comes to redeeming them, and this card’s earning potential is not to be overlooked. Still, it’s always wise to see if another card in your wallet has a higher bonus point earning rate on certain categories so you don’t leave points on the table.

Travel benefits

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you'll have a variety of travel protections, like trip delay and cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance and a secondary collision damage waiver to use when renting a car. Terms apply.

You'll also be able to enroll in Priority Pass Select, giving you unlimited access to more than 1,000 airport lounges globally. Other benefits include no foreign transaction fees while traveling overseas and a credit to use toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fees. Terms apply.

Which card should you get?

While the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card carries more weight in its benefits and credits, it won’t make sense to become a cardholder if you aren’t a frequent Hilton guest. The card’s most popular perk is instant Diamond status, and it is one of the only ways to get top hotel elite status without ever staying in a hotel.

If you are a Marriott loyalist, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card will get you bonus points on spending. Its many perks, protections and credits add up to more than cover the cost of the annual fee.

Depending on where you stay, either card is beneficial, but if you’re starting hotel loyalty from scratch, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card wins.

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, see this page.

All information about Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.


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