Home Credit Cards Amex It's goodbye to my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™️ American Express® Card

It’s goodbye to my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™️ American Express® Card


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I’ve often said that the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is a great card to hold if you’re someone who stays with Marriott more than once or twice a year and up until now that statement could stand up to scrutiny. From later this year, however, one of this card’s key benefits will be changing and that change has altered how I view this card. In fact, it has altered my view so much that I think that it’s time for me to part company with the Brilliant Card.

The issue

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with a hefty $450 annual fee (rates & fees) but up until now, that fee has been relatively easy for me to justify thanks to two of the benefits that the card offers – an annual free night certificate worth up to 50,000 points and an annual $300 Marriott credit that’s usable at any Marriott property in the world (terms apply).

For me, the $300 credit has been as good as cash back (because I always spend at least $300 with Marriott every year) so the credit has, effectively, been reducing my out-of-pocket cost of holding the card to $150 – an effective annual fee of just $150 is pretty easy to justify when there’s still the free night certificate to take into consideration.

Not for much longer.

From 22 September 2022, Amex is removing the $300 Marriott credit and replacing it with a $25 monthly credit for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide, and for me, this will change the value proposition offered by the card.

A key thing to keep in mind here is that there are a lot of other benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card that others may find attractive but that make little difference to how I view the card.

  • I don’t really care about the 6 points/dollar that the Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers for spending with Marriott because I already hold the Ritz-Carlton Card (no longer open to new applicants) which offers the same earning rate.
  • I don’t really care that the Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a Priority Pass Select membership because I have a number of other cards that offer this benefit.
  • I don’t really care that the Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers 15 Elite Night credits per year because I already get these from my Ritz-Carlton Card and Marriott doesn’t recognize Elite Night Credits earned from more than one consumer card.
  • And I don’t really care that the Bonvoy Brilliant Card offers a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit because I already get this from the IHG® Rewards Premier credit card (review) and the Platinum Card® from American Express (review).

The reason why I’ve been holding Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card for these past few years is that I’ve been using it as a vehicle to get a free night certificate worth 50,000 Bonvoy points for a net cost of just $150. For me, that offers good value.

Going forward, getting the cost of holding this card down to a net $150 is going to be considerably more tiresome than it is right now.

I’ll be going from a situation where I’m given a $300 statement credit that I can use in a single hit at one of my preferred Marriott properties, to a situation in which I’m being asked to remember to use my card to pay for at least $25 of restaurant spending every month. That’s annoying and inconvenient.

I already have a very good credit card that I automatically reach for when I need to pay for any restaurant spending (the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card) and I don’t want to have to remember to use a different card every now and again just to recoup part of that card’s annual fee.

For some people, the new way in which the Bonvoy Brilliant card’s $300 credit will work probably won’t change much and these people will be happy to keep the card in their wallet or on their smartphone and set reminders for themselves so that they don’t forget to use the card to trigger the credit every month.

For me, however, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card won’t be worth the extra effort (especially as I already have to remember to make sure I use up all of the various credits that the Platinum Card® from American Express gives me) so my Bonvoy Brilliant card has to go.

My plan

There are two options open to me and one may be more obvious than the other.

The obvious route to go down is the one that sees me calling American Express, canceling my card and getting my prorated annual fee refunded – simple.

The less obvious route to go down is the one that sees me downgrading my Bonvoy Brilliant Card to a card that American Express doesn’t publicize – the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card.

This is the card that everyone who held the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card was transitioned to after Marriott engulfed Starwood Hotels, but because Amex now only has the right to issue high-end Bonvoy Cards and Bonvoy Business cards (Chase issues the regular Bonvoy cards), this is a card that is no longer open to new applicants.

You can, however, downgrade to it.

All the details of the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card will appear on Traveling For Miles in the next few days but for the purposes of this article, all you really need to know is this: It charges a $95 annual fee and offers cardholders an annual free night certificate valid at properties costing up to 35,000 points/night.

I’ll be taking the downgrade option.

My reasoning is simple:

  • Even if most of the benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card are surplus to my needs, I don’t mind paying $95 in exchange for a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points – I’ll always get value out of this.
  • By downgrading and not canceling, I will be keeping open a card that gives me access to Amex Offers.
  • By downgrading and not canceling, I keep open the possibility that Amex will offer me a lucrative upgrade bonus at some point down the road.

A recent upgrade offer

It could be argued that by canceling the card I’d open up the possibility that Amex will let me get another lucrative welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card somewhere down the line and that this would be a good way to go…but I disagree.

If I choose to cancel in the hopes of being allowed to get another lucrative welcome offer, I don’t get to enjoy any added benefits while I wait for something that may never happen.

If, however, I choose to downgrade, I get to enjoy a yearly 35,000 free night certificate in exchange for a $95 annual fee while I wait for something that may never happen.

I prefer option 2.

Now that I’ve decided to get rid of my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card I won’t be waiting until the end of my cardholder year to downgrade. I’ll be downgrading in the next few days (whenever I have the time to call Amex).

I’ve already used up my annual $300 Marriott credit, I’ve used up the card’s 50k free night certificate, I don’t need any of the card’s other benefits, and by downgrading now I get a partial rebate of the Brilliant Card’s annual fee worth approximately $180.

Why would I wait? My Brilliant card is history 😁

Bottom line

Amex’s decision to replace the Bonvoy Brilliant Card’s annual $300 Marriott rebate with a $25 monthly restaurant credit has changed how I view the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card…and not in a positive way.

While I could still probably get a lot of the card’s annual fee back by diligently making sure that I use it to pay for $25 of restaurant spending every month, I can’t be bothered.

For some, the Bonvoy Brilliant Card will remain a card that’s well worth its annual fee but as I rarely transition a ‘sock drawer card’ (a card I hold for the benefits that it offers and not its earnings) to a ‘wallet card’, and as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card doesn’t give me any compelling reason to do so, it has to go. It was a good ride while it lasted.

Are any other holders of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™️ American Express® Card reconsidering the card’s value or are you still happy to keep it in your collection?

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Good luck on getting a bonus to upgrade someday. I’ve been waiting since the very beginning and haven’t ever been offered one.

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