Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AmEx Worth Its Annual Fee?

You get high-value perks with this premium hotel credit card.

Keith M. RossoOctober 23, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...
Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

At first glance, a $450 annual fee hotel credit card might not seem like a good fit. But sometimes you have to pay more to get more. Depending on your travel and spending habits, you can maximize the benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card to get value well above the $450 annual fee. Here’s how. Terms apply.

Earn the welcome bonus

The most valuable perk of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is the welcome bonus. Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021. Terms Apply.

Marriott’s 7,000-plus hotels are divided into eight categories, ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 points per night. Use your welcome bonus points at a lower-end property and you’ll have enough for multiple award nights. Or blow it all on a single night at a luxury property in the Marriott portfolio.

Get the $300 annual hotel credit

Each cardmember year, you can earn up to $300 in statement credits on paid stays at Marriott Bonvoy hotels. Simply pay for a room with your card and you’ll see up to $300 of the charge wiped off your statement. This credit also covers incidental expenses you incur during your stay, like restaurant purchases, as long as they’re charged to your room and paid for with your card. This credit essentially takes $300 off the $450 annual fee, leaving your out-of-pocket cost at just $150. Terms apply.

Book the free night award

Every year after your account anniversary, you’ll receive one free night award, which you can redeem at hotels at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Terms apply.

The value of this perk varies depending how much your hotel room would normally cost. But it’s a safe bet you can get $100 to $250 worth of value by redeeming the free night at a Category 6 Marriott hotel.

You can use Marriott’s award night search tool to find hotels that meet the 50,000 point limit. Some hotels charge resort fees, which are not covered by the free night award, though the card’s $300 annual Marriott credit can offset these charges. Terms apply.

Enjoy Marriott Elite status

Between now and Jan. 13, 2021, new cardmembers can get Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status as part of a special offer. The Platinum status is good only for 2021. Normally, as a Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Cardholder, you automatically earn Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status which otherwise would require you to stay 25 nights in a year. This tier of elite status offers benefits like:

  • 25% more bonus points on eligible hotel purchases.

  • 2 p.m. late checkout.

  • Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi.

  • Room upgrades (if available).

  • Welcome gift of 250 or 500 bonus points (varies by brand) at check-in.

You can earn Platinum Elite status if you charge $75,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year.

The value of elite status benefits can vary depending on how often you travel. But even an occasional room upgrade or late checkout can certainly enhance your Marriott stay and the value of this card. Terms apply.

Save money with AmEx Offers

American Express cardholders can save money on select purchases by activating AmEx Offers, which include limited-time deals and discounts on purchases with participating retailers when you use the card. Offers change regularly but can include deals like $25 off a $75 meal subscription service or $200 off $1,000 furniture purchase. Terms apply. Depending on the deal, it’s possible to pair an offer with other discount codes so you can save even more.

The bottom line

Paying a $450 annual fee for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card isn’t for everyone. But certain types of travelers, especially Marriott loyalists, can get more than $450 worth of value from the card each year. The $300 annual Marriott credit and free night award alone can provide enough value to make the card worth its fee. Plus, cardholders can earn a valuable welcome bonus and save money with AmEx offers. Terms apply.

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 2020, including those best for:

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.