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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 high annual fees, complimentary elite status, statement credits and free night certificates, the specifics of these benefits vary. Terms apply.
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
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 two 85K Free Night Awards after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Card in your first 6 months. Each award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy. Card Members could enjoy a value of up to $1,200 when redeeming each reward. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/1/2023. Terms Apply.
Credits and status benefits
» Learn more: The best hotel credit cards right now
Why the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card wins
Lower annual fee
Although both cards have high annual fees, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee, which is $200 less than the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card’s $650 annual fee.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has $600 of annual cash-back credits ($250 airline credit, $250 Hilton resort hotel credit, $100 Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels credit), which could cancel out the annual fee if you take advantage. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, on the other hand, only has $400 of annual statement credits ($300 dining credit and $100 St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton credit), thereby only reducing the card’s annual fee to $250, which is still high.
Even if you ignore each card’s annual $100 credit that can only be used at the fanciest properties, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card’s annual fee can be completely offset with the other credits, while you’d still pay about $350 to hold the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.
From a pure cash maximization perspective, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card wins.
More flexible free night certificate
With the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you’ll receive an annual free night certificate good for any day of the week. 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 note that the hotel has to have standard room availability for you to redeem the certificate, and availability can be limited. In other words, if you only see premium rooms available, you will not be able to use the certificate.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card also offers an annual free night award, but it caps the redemption level at 85,000 Bonvoy points. You can add up to 15,000 Marriott points to expand the level of your award so that you can secure a property valued at up to 100,000 points. Hilton's slightly easier approach allows you to potentially extract more value from this perk.
» Learn more: Is the Hilton AmEx worth the annual fee?
$250 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.
» Learn more: Should I be loyal to a single airline?
Higher bonus categories on spending
NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.5 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.
These are sizable earnings when using the card for purchases, though like with any card, check your wallet to see if another card offers more bonus points on a particular category.
» Learn more: Hilton versus Marriott — Which one is right for you?
Why you still might want the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
Easier to use statement credit
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card comes with a $25 monthly dining credit, which totals $300 per year. The credit can be used for restaurant purchases worldwide, which is really convenient. Terms apply.
All credits offered by the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card are associated with Hilton hotel stays or a designated airline, which restricts the value a bit for some travelers. Marriott’s offer is much easier to use.
25 elite night credits
When you get the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you’ll receive 25 elite night credits deposited into your Marriott account. Because you already get automatic Platinum status with the card, which normally requires earning 50 elite nights per year, the true value of the elite night credit is for those looking to attain Titanium.
Since you need 75 elite nights to earn Titanium status, the credit of 25 nights means that you would only need to earn 50 elite nights. If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, you earn an additional 15 elite night credits, so achieving Titanium would only require 35 elite nights. Earning these nights could be feasible, especially if you’re a Marriott loyalist and are able to time your stays during a promotion that allows you to earn double elite nights.
» Learn more: Marriott elite status: what you need to know
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card offers a statement credit for either Global Entry ($100 credit) or TSA PreCheck ($85 credit), while the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card does not. Each membership lasts for five years, and you’re able to renew it during your fourth year and receive the statement credit.
Many other travel credit cards offer the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, so if you don’t already have one of these credit cards and you’re trying to decide between the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, the Marriott card is the better choice.
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 perks are the numerous annual cash-back credits that offset the annual fee and instant Diamond status.
If you are a Marriott loyalist, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card also offers top-tier Platinum status and an easy-to-use $300 annual dining credit. But its higher annual fee detracts from its winning points.
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.
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.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card