Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card (Now Bonvoy Brilliant) Review


There’s yet another Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, this time a luxury version from American Express that comes with a whopping $450 annual fee. Let’s find out if it’s worth paying that.

Update: In what seemed like no time at all it was renamed the “Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card” as a result of Marriott’s name change.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Highlights

  • 100,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • $300 SPG/Marriott statement credit each year
  • Priority Pass Select Membership
  • Complimentary Gold Elite Status
  • Free Night Award
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓
  • $450 annual fee

Perhaps the biggest draw to the new SPG Luxury Card is the 100,000 sign-up bonus when you muster $5,000 in spending during the first three months of card membership.

Of course, it might look better than it actually is because 100,000 points is really only worth about 33,333 old Starpoints.

It’s not necessarily bad, but not necessarily great either, especially when you consider the fact that there’s a $450 annual fee now.

Back when, you could snag 30-35,000 Starpoints with an annual fee below $100.

That being said, let’s look at the additional benefits that are being offered to make paying the annual fee worthwhile.

First and the foremost, you get a $300 annual statement credit during each year of card membership for purchases made at participating SPG and Marriott hotels.

In other words, you can go to the spa or eat at the restaurant, charge it to your room, then pay for it using this new credit card and get $300 of it refunded via statement credit.

So in a sense it could make your entire hotel experience free.

For example, say you book the Marriott Wailea in Maui using points earned via this card. You’ll probably still spend a good amount of money on drinks, food, and other amenities during your stay.

This credit could offset some or all of those purchases for you. Of course, you’re paying for it via that annual fee…and it’s fairly restrictive unless you know you’ll be staying at a participating property.

To that end, it seems this card is geared toward the individual who is actually a frequent traveler or guest of SPG/Marriott brand hotels.

Earning Points with the Bonvoy Brilliant Card

  • 6 points per dollar spent at SPG and Marriott brand hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2 points per dollar on all other purchases

Continuing on along the same theme of needing to be a frequent traveler or hotel guest, the SPG Luxury Card earns the most points at, you guessed it, SPG/Marriott brand hotels.

You get a healthy six points per dollar spent at such locations, which I suppose could be beneficial if you’re using all the amenities, as noted.

Technically, you could spend money at the hotels, earn the points, and get a statement credit for those purchases, at least for the first $300 per anniversary year.

My assumption is a lot of folks will use points to book these hotels, as opposed to paying cash, so the 6X category will really only come into play when paying for extras.

Again, great if you’re a frequent hotel guest. If not, you’re probably not going to earn many points in this lucrative category.

The more practical 3X category earns three points per dollar at restaurants and on flights booked direct with airlines. So you can actually accrue a decent amount of points if you eat out and fly a lot.

Lastly, you get two points per dollar on all other eligible purchases, which while seemingly better than 1X, means the points aren’t as valuable.

When you can earn twice the amount of something for the standard amount of work, it means they’re worth less when redeeming. And that’s basically the case here. Hotel rewards are pricey.

The highest category is currently 70,000 points per night, with an even higher 100,000-point category coming in 2019. Ouch!

That means if you want to stay at the highest level, your seemingly massive sign-up bonus will only cover a single night.

So don’t get too excited about the sign-up bonus or the relatively high-earning bonus categories. It might not get you all that far.

What Else the Bonvoy Brilliant Card Offers

  • Priority Pass Select Membership
  • Complimentary Gold Elite Status
  • Free Night Award up to 50k points
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓

Like most other high-end credit cards, you get the usual perks including Priority Pass Select Membership and a Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.

It should be noted that the Priority Pass Membership is limited to two guests per visit. Additional guests will be charged $27 per visit.

You also get a free night award up to 50,000 points, which isn’t going to be your higher-end hotels in most cities across the world. We’re talking the Courtyard Marriott in many cases.

The card comes with complimentary Gold Elite status as well, which includes things like enhanced room upgrade, 2pm checkout, and 25% bonus points on stays, along with premium in-room internet access.

For me, that’s not enough. When you’re spending $450 per year you should get Platinum Elite status with lounge access, but I digress.

Lastly, there are no foreign transaction fees, as you might expect with such an expensive credit card.

Note that you must apply before August 26th, 2018 to get the welcome offer if you have/have had The Ritz-Carlton Reward credit card in the past 30 days.

Or received the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, The Marriott Reward Premier Credit Card from Chase, or The Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days.

Or if you received a welcome/upgrade offer for those three cards in the last 24 months.

Put simply, you get a short window to get the bonus on the SPG Luxury Card even if you’ve had related cards recently. Otherwise you’ll need to wait to earn the bonus on this card.

Those without any of the cards above don’t have to worry about the deadline. However, the 100k offer apparently ends October 31st, 2018, so you might want to act quickly if interested.

The good news is you don’t have to worry about the 5/24 credit card rule since this card is issued by American Express as opposed to Chase.

It’s a pass for me at the moment because I have plenty of Marriott points and no plans to use them anytime soon.

100,000-Point Upgrade to Bonvoy Brilliant for Existing Cardholders

Hold the phone. American Express is offering to upgrade existing SPG cardholders to the luxury version with a solid 100k sign-up bonus when you spend $5k in three months.

In other words, you can get the big sign-up bonus without applying for a new credit card (and the associated ding on your credit report).

This might also be handy for those trying to get back below 5/24, or simply to stay there.

If you log on to your account, you should see the upgrade offer either at the top of the page or within the Amex Offers section.

I had the offer and decided to go for it, despite the hefty $450 annual fee. I plan to stay at a Marriott so my effective fee is $150 at worst with the $300 credit.

Plus, I’ll get those 100k Marriott points to add to my already large stash, along with a free 50k night (which includes some actually decent vacation destinations.).

I used the 50k free night at the Courtyard Marriott in Sedona, which while not an amazing hotel per se, was charging over $500 per night. So the value was great!

For those who don’t have Priority Pass via another credit card, you’d get that as well. And you can get a $100 credit for TSA or Global Entry, another way to cut into that annual fee if there’s a family member who still needs it.

All in all, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is not a bad deal, but obviously you’ll need to take advantage of the $300 credit to make it worthwhile.

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *