Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AmEx Worth the $650 Annual Fee?

You get high-value perks with Marriott's most premium hotel credit card.
Elina Geller
Keith M. Rosso
By Keith M. Rosso and  Elina Geller 
Edited by Meghan Coyle
Is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

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The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card just got a bunch of new perks, and an increased annual fee to match. So is it worth paying $650 for the upgraded Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card?

The answer depends on your travel and spending habits. Here’s how you can maximize the benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card to get value well above the $650 annual fee. I Terms apply.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card new perks

The welcome offer

The revamped Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with the following welcome offer. 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.

Marriott has more than 8,100 properties in 139 countries. The properties range from 5,000 to 100,000 points per night, and rates vary per night based on demand. Use your welcome offer 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.

Since Marriott no longer has an award chart based on hotel category, the bonus can be used on many different redemptions. Also keep in mind that when you book five nights on points, you get the fifth night free.

The boosted offer on the updated card is getting a lot of new perks, potentially to compete with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which although has a lower annual fee of $550, is Hilton’s most expensive card and similarly offers cardholders top-tier elite status and a free night award that you can redeem at most of the fanciest properties. Terms apply.

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An annual dining credit at restaurants worldwide

Previously, Marriott offered $300 in statement credits on paid stays at Marriott Bonvoy hotels. However, that credit has been replaced with a $300 statement credit (up to $25 per month) on restaurant purchases worldwide.

The new credit is much more versatile since it's much easier to spend $25 a month at restaurants anywhere in the world than it is to spend $300 at Marriott hotels.

This credit essentially takes $300 off the $650 annual fee, leaving your out-of-pocket cost at $350. Terms apply. Although there’s still a significant fee remaining, a few of the card’s other perks help offset the fee.

A Free Night Award up to 85,000 Marriott points

Marriott also changed the Free Night Award on the card. Cardholders now receive one Free Night Award worth 85,000 points, up from the previous 50,000 points. Terms apply.

The increased Free Night Award significantly expands your redemption opportunities to include properties costing up to 85,000 Bonvoy points. NerdWallet’s baseline valuation of Marriott points is 0.8 cent each, which means you can expect to book an award night worth about $680. However, you can get much more value than that at some properties, such as the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in California.

A guest room at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay (Photo courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay)

On the dates we checked, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay ranged from 83,500 to 10,000 points per night. To compare that to the cash cost, on the night when the property cost 83,500 points, the nightly rate was $1,033 per night.

It's also worth noting that this property charges a daily resort fee of $50, which is not waived on stays booked with points.

If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, one of the new perks is automatic Platinum status, which includes free breakfast. Terms apply. A bed and breakfast rate at this property goes for $1,117 for the one night stay.

If you used points for this stay, you’d extract a value of 1.3 cent per point, which is nearly double NerdWallet’s valuation of of 0.8 cent per point.

Because you won’t get any points back if you don’t use the full 85,000 points on one night, it’s a good call to target award nights that are almost the exact amount of the free night certificate.

Marriott Platinum Elite status

The biggest improvement on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is the automatic elite status. Terms apply. Previously, the card would provide Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. However, now cardholders will receive Platinum Elite status, which is a huge upgrade (30 times better, according to NerdWallet’s valuation of Marriott elite status). This status level would otherwise require you to stay 50 nights in a year. Platinum Elite status offers benefits like:

  • 50% more bonus points on eligible hotel purchases.

  • 4 p.m. late checkout.

  • Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi.

  • Enhanced room upgrades, including Select Suites (if available).

  • Welcome gift of points, breakfast or an amenity (varies by brand) at check-in.

  • Lounge access at hotels that have lounges.

The switch from Gold to Platinum is a key perk offered on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, particularly for the breakfast benefit and lounge access, which can save a lot of money since breakfast at a hotel can go for $25 or more at hotels.

25 elite night credits

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card now offers 25 elite night credits, which is 10 more than the previously provided 15 elite night credits. Terms apply. Since you already receive Platinum status from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, the true benefit of this perk is aiming for Titanium status.

Titanium Elite status requires a stay of 75 nights, and offers some additional perks above Platinum such as complimentary United Silver status (worth $1,129.70), 75% bonus points on Marriott stays and a 48-hour room guarantee. With the 25 elite night credits provided by the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you’d need to stay 50 additional nights to achieve Titanium. Although this isn’t an easy feat for everyone, it's a good fast-track option for certain Marriott die-hards, and that’s exactly who the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is targeting with the increased elite night credit offer.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you already have the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, you get 15 elite night credits from that, so you’d only need to earn 35 more elite nights to achieve Titanium, which although steep is slightly more doable. Terms apply.

Annual Choice Award after spending $60,000 on the card.

Since you already receive an Annual Choice Award by having Platinum Elite status, you’d essentially be earning another award if you can spend $60,000 on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. The Annual Choice Benefit allows you to choose one of the following perks:

  • Five Suite Night Awards.

  • A $1,000 discount on a bed from Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques.

  • A Free Night Award up to 85,000 points.

Terms apply.

This benefit can be hit or miss since some people have reported difficulty using the Suite Night Awards. A good alternative for most cardholders is probably the additional Free Night Award

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card’s existing benefits

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, the credit can be a great way to offset costs for those who do stay. 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.

The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

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. There are even ways to get additional AmEx Offers to show up in your account. 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.

What makes the $650 annual fee worth it

Paying a $650 annual fee for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card isn’t for everyone. But certain types of travelers, especially Marriott loyalists, can actually get more value than the annual fee from the card each year.

The $300 annual dining credit brings the annual fee down to $350. NerdWallet values the free night credit (worth 85,000 points) and Platinum Elite status at almost $4,000 altogether, but it’s up to you to decide if you’ll use both benefits enough to justify the rest of the annual fee. Terms apply.

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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