Brilliant Timing with Bonvoy


Sometimes, luck is on your side, even when unexpected change happens. After the news broke about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card going through extreme changes, I was upset and realized I should be happy!


Today, I'll discuss what used to be the most beneficial Marriott Bonvoy card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card. The Brilliant card is one of the most "churned" hotel cards because of the overwhelming first-year value. For those who are okay with paying a $450 upfront annual fee, the Brilliant card is the perfect example of a "sock drawer" card. Well, this may all change after September 22nd, but we'll discuss more on that below.


Why the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card

After a one-year trial to see if Marriott Bonvoy was worth it to put most of our hotel spending towards them, we’re now entirely invested to their loyalty program. The Bonvoy Brilliant card fits perfectly with our spending at Marriott properties with the $300 Marriott spending credit and the 50k FNC yearly benefit.


Knowing that the Brilliant card is a perfect fit has been true since November '21, when we decided to stick with Marriott as our primary hotel chain. At that point, both the Bonvoy Brilliant card and Bonvoy Business card had the same 75k SUB, so we decided to get Tash the Bonvoy Business for the added Bonvoy points for the summer, a 35k FNC yearly benefit, and no credit inquiry. We agreed on the Bonvoy Business for two reasons.


One, the SUB for the Bonvoy Brilliant tends to be more lucrative than the Bonvoy Business. American Express has promo SUBs yearly, so we decided to wait for a higher SUB before applying for it.


Two, the Bonvoy Business card doesn't add a credit card to your credit profile because it's a business card. ***more on the importance of business cards soon.***

Perfect Timing

When we were on the market to open another Marriott Bonvoy card, the timing was perfect because the Bonvoy Brilliant card SUB was at 100k Bonvoy points plus an 85k FNC. In terms of value, that’s at least $1,600 towards Marriott properties.

Now, the timing has become perfect because the change will ultimately give us at least $2,200 in value for the first year of the card with the new restaurant credit included. Marriott and Amex have already announced that the change will happen on September 22nd. The $300 Marriott credit will change to the restaurant credit, if used or not.

How did I come up with this evaluation? Here’s the math:

  • Marriott Bonvoy points are valued at 0.8 CPP, but for how we use Bonvoy points for us, the value is 1 CPP

  • $300 Marriott credit

  • $225 Restaurant credit

  • 100k SUB ($1,000 with a 1 CPP value)

  • 85k FNC ($650 and higher room rate)


Role in Our Wallets

The Bonvoy Brilliant card would have played a significant role in our travel card lineup before the Marriott property credit change. We planned to use up the credit in our first few stays yearly. The 50k FNC is worth at least $400 per year at a Marriott property, which also will play significant role.


Because the change is new, we have one year to think it over if we’ll be able to utilize the restaurant credit organically. We spent the $300 Marriott credit in the first month, so we’re in no rush.

New Credit, New Problem

The $300 Marriott credit earned 6x back with an elite bonus added for Marriott property stays. The new credit has a US-based restaurant bonus, but we’re in Europe 10 - 11 months out of the year. Marriott properties, on the other hand, give 6x back worldwide.

The $300 restaurant credit gives 3x back at US restaurants but only 1x back at international restaurants. Because the credit is $25 monthly credits, usually, we’ll only be able to use two total monthly credits getting 3x back.

The $300 Marriott credit would give us at least 7,000 Bonvoy points, while the new restaurant credit will only give us 400 Bonvoy points (900 points if in the US at 3x). That’s $3.20 vs. $56 in value (Bonvoy points at .8 CPP).

Ok, $56 is not a huge deal, but we’re into travel credit cards to get every ounce of value possible. That $56 made the effective annual fee $94 when adding the $300 Marriott credit and points that come from using it. Not including the 50k FNC, but it still gives us a reason to think about keeping the Bonvoy Brilliant card.

Conclusion

We're happy with the change is coming after we spent the $300 Marriott property credit and having the restaurant credit as an added bonus. We're not satisfied with the switch in credits, but I understand why Marriott wants the change. In my opinion, Marriott wants Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders to spend more on a monthly bases instead of using the card as a "sock drawer" card.


Random and unexpected changes come with the travel hacking game. Most travel credit cards go through good and bad changes because each company evaluates what works best for them while trying to keep consumers happy.


We must take the good and the bad and figure out how to leverage everything. I'll keep you updated on our decision when the time comes, but for now, we're lucky to have gotten the Bonvoy Brilliant card in time with an elevated SUB and a bonus credit for the first year.

Until next time, before you pack your bags, don’t forget to PACK YOUR POINTS!

I am not a financial advisor and highly recommend doing your own homework about the credit card you want to apply for! All of the content on my website, page and channel are for entertainment purposes only.

If you’d like my opinion or help in forming an idea of what works, I’m here to help.

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