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.
Elina Geller
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein and  Elina Geller 
Updated
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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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 high annual fees, 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 the 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

$550.

$650.

Welcome offer

Earn 180,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 1/17/2024. Terms apply.

Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership. 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 restaurants worldwide.

  • 2X points on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

Credits and status benefits

  • Hilton Diamond elite status. Enrollment required.

  • Annual free night certificate.

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

  • $189 in statement credits per calendar year for Clear Plus membership.

  • $200 back annually on eligible flight purchases.

  • $400 in annual statement credits on eligible Hilton Resorts spending.

Terms apply.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status.

  • Annual free night award (up to 85,000 points).

  • 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.

Other benefits

  • Priority Pass select lounge access.*

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • Travel insurance benefits.

  • Complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status. Enrollment required.

Terms apply.

  • Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

  • Priority Pass select lounge access.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • Travel insurance benefits.

Terms apply.

*Existing cardholders who enrolled in Priority Pass on or before Jan. 31, 2023 will no longer have a membership as of Feb. 1, 2024. Cardholders who enroll between Feb. 1, 2023 and Jan. 31, 2024, will continue to have membership through Oct. 31, 2024. Terms apply.

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 $550 annual fee, which is $100 less than the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card’s $650 annual fee.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers more than $875 in annual cash-back credits ($200 flight credit, $189 Clear credit, $400 Hilton resort hotel credit, $100 Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels credit), which more than 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.

What's more, you can earn an additional free night certificate when you spend $30,000 on your card in a calendar year. This certificate's not as high a value as the automatic annual night given the spend requirement, but it's a nice perk.

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.

Terms apply.

$200 flight credit

In addition to the hotel credit, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers a $200 flight credit for fares booked directly with an airline or through AmEx Travel. Note it's a maximum of $50 in statement credits per quarter.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card does not offer this perk nor a flight credit perk.

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.

Terms apply.

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.

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

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
NerdWallet rating 

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, airfare Clear membership 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. 

One of the key benefits of Marriott’s Titanium status is matching to United’s Silver elite status, which offers a baggage allowance and the ability to choose a free economy plus seat at check-in.

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.

Granted, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card now offers a statement credit for Clear membership, but some travelers might not find membership in this security clearance program to be as valuable as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership.

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.

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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