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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.
» Learn more: The complete guide to the Marriott Bonvoy program
How to make the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AmEx annual fee worth it
Earn the welcome bonus
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with a hefty welcome bonus. Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.
Marriott has more than 7,000 properties in 131 countries. The properties are divided into eight categories, ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 points per night. Use your welcome bonus points from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card 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.
» Learn more: How to find and book hotels
The welcome bonus is enough for three standard or off-peak nights at a Category 4 property, which cost 25,000 points per night. Some examples of Category 4 hotels include the Westin Calgary; W Bangkok; Arelauquen Lodge in Bariloche, Argentina; and the Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki, Finland.
Get the $300 annual Marriott 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 (e.g., restaurant or spa purchases) incurred during your stay 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.
» Learn more: Your guide to the Marriott Bonvoy award chart
Book the free night award (worth 50,000 Marriott points)
Every year on your account anniversary, you’ll receive one free night award, which you can redeem at hotels that cost up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Terms apply.
The 50,000-point free night award can be used to book a room at a Category 6 hotel (standard rate) or a Category 7 hotel (off-peak rate). The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is a Category 6 hotel, where the nightly rate is often more than $400 a night, making it an excellent use of your free night certificate. Generally, 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 $400 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. Annoyingly, 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 Gold Elite status
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.
In addition, each year you'll receive 15 elite night credits, which can help you re-qualify for Gold Elite status (25 elite night credits required). You can earn Platinum Elite status if you charge $75,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year or work your way up to 50 elite night credits.
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.
» Learn more: Questions to ask before joining a hotel loyalty program
Secure $200 in statement credits for U.S. restaurant purchases for 6 months
New cardmembers will receive up to $200 in statement credits at U.S. restaurant purchases during the first six months of card membership. This is a great perk, and can easily wipe $200 of the $450 annual fee. Terms apply.
» Learn more: How to use credit card credits without overspending
Spend the $100 Marriott property credit
The card also comes with a $100 property credit that can be used when you book a two-night minimum stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis. Although these properties are quite pricey so the credit won't be useful for everyone, for those who do like these properties, the credit can be a great way to offset costs. To take advantage of this benefit, call Marriott at 800-450-4442 and mention the member rate named "$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate" when booking. 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 a $1,000 furniture purchase. Terms apply.
Depending on the deal, it’s possible to pair an offer with other discount codes and a shopping portal so you can save even more money.
» Learn more: How to earn and double-dip with online shopping portals
What makes the $450 annual fee worth it
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 easily offset the annual fee and actually get more value than the annual fee from the card each year.
The $300 annual Marriott credit, $100 property credit and free night award alone can provide enough value to make the card worth its fee each year. In the first six months, you also benefit from the $200 U.S. restaurant statement credit. Plus, cardholders can earn a valuable welcome bonus and save money with AmEx Offers (enrollment is required). Terms apply.
To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, see this page.
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 2021, 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