In my decade-long quest for travel rewards, I’ve had just about every credit card. I enjoyed the thrill of a new sign up bonus and the travel perks each card gave me.
Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Blue Business® Plus credit card from American Express, and the Citi Premier® card have paid for themselves many times over, earning a permanent place in my wallet. Even the cards that I didn’t keep beyond the first year offered benefits that were worth it in the short term.
But there’s one credit card that not only didn’t work for me, but that I deeply regret applying for: the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
I applied for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card in December 2020, when it offered an attractive welcome bonus. Usually, the card automatically includes Marriott Gold Elite status, which is temporarily upgraded to Marriott Platinum. I had some major expenses coming up and thought this would be a great opportunity to leverage those expenses for a new credit card welcome bonus, top up my Marriott Bonvoy balance, and achieve guest status. elite with a chain of hotels with which I had made several reservations.
But things didn’t go as I had planned. Since hotels continued to limit elite services and benefits for much of the year, I found myself using fewer benefits from this card than I had anticipated. Admittedly, it’s been difficult to get the full value of any hotel credit card during the pandemic. Here’s why I regret buying the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card:
Platinum status was less valuable during the pandemic
When I applied for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, it came with a limited-time benefit that really sweetened the offer: Platinum Elite status. As Marriott Bonvoy’s second-highest elite level, this elite level offers valuable perks like free breakfast, lounge access, a welcome gift, and room upgrades. Typically, these would be incredibly valuable. But the pandemic has caused hotels to cut many of these services.
While I should have expected this to be the case when I applied for this card in December 2020, I thought things would return to normal much sooner. I have stayed at several Marriott hotels this year and up until the summer every hotel I stayed in had reduced breakfast. The club lounges were closed and, as the hotels were suffering financially, they weren’t as generous with room upgrades as they normally would have been.
In the end, the Marriott Platinum status on this card ended up not being as convenient as I had hoped. It became one of the reasons I regretted asking for this card.
Marriott Bonvoy points will soon devalue
During the pandemic, Marriott has temporarily lowered all reward redemption rates to off-peak levels. At the same time, consumers have been stocking up on points from credit card sign-up bonuses and point sales, with little opportunity to redeem them. That could change as travel demand rebounds, but an abundance of dots in the market could also lead to devaluation. This is exactly what Marriott recently announced.
Starting in March 2022, Marriott will eliminate its current rewards table and switch entirely to dynamic pricing. This means that the number of points required for a reward night will be entirely dependent on the rates paid and demand. This could be disastrous, especially at high-end properties where points have historically offered the best value.
The hospitality industry has taken a financial hit since the pandemic. As travelers prepare to use their Marriott points, the program seeks to reduce the financial impact of these redemptions. Increasing redemption rates through dynamic pricing is one way to mitigate this.
Coupled with my current limited ability to travel, getting a co-branded Marriott credit card was not a good decision on my part. Let alone one with a welcome bonus of over 100,000 points (soon to be devalued) and a $450 annual fee.
I can’t justify Marriott reward redemptions when the rates paid are so low
Marriott’s rewards chart is quite inflated, with premier reward nights up to 100,000 points. Although Marriott eliminated peak prices during the pandemic, I still struggled to justify redeeming points when the rates paid were low.
Even though travel has rebounded and hotel rates have gone up, I haven’t found much value in redeeming Marriott points. I tend to travel during off-peak times when fares paid are low and premium hotel rates are relatively high. Redeeming points hasn’t made sense to me for the past year and a half.
That may change in 2022 as travel continues to rebound and hotel rates rise. Until then, I’m afraid we’re facing point devaluation and the value of Marriott points will plummet. It’s pure speculation at this point, but judging by how Marriott relied on the Bonvoy program to generate revenue during a crippling pandemic, I might not be far off.
Didn’t use the card’s $300 resort credit this year
Last year, American Express threw us all a bone when it expanded the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s $300 annual hotel credit for restaurant purchases. Unfortunately, this ended on August 31, 2020. Since I received my card in December of the same year, I have had trouble using the credit.
Credit is valid on on-site hotel expenses, including dining and spa services, to name a few. Unfortunately, this does not apply to prepaid hotel rates, which I always book as they are cheaper than standard rates. As a result, I had trouble redeeming the $300 resort credit on the Bonvoy Brilliant card. This makes the $450 annual fee even harder to swallow.
The annual fee is high
I knew this when I applied for the card, but the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant $450 annual fee is quite high. I don’t mind paying high annual fees if they are more than offset by the benefits I receive, but this year I was unable to get enough value from the card.
In the end, paying $450 and only getting about half the value of the benefits wasn’t ideal. This will certainly factor into my decision to renew the card when the annual fee is due in December. For now, I’m leaning against it.
Pros: Won hundreds of dollars in Amex Offers credits
Everything about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card was not disappointing. The card came with a $20 monthly dining credit and gave me access to Amex offers, saving me $234 on essential purchases so far.
It’s hard to have too many regrets when the card has essentially paid for itself this year. Still, I don’t know if I will renew it when the annual membership fee expires. The key takeaway here is one we can all learn from: don’t ask for a credit card just because the welcome bonus and a key perk sound appealing. Consider the long term benefits and usefulness of the card if you are no longer able to use these few benefits.
At the end of the line
The pandemic has certainly changed the way I use my credit cards and the benefits they offer. In the case of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, I misjudged the usefulness of the card and ended up not enjoying it as I normally would. I still have a good stash of Marriott points that I will eventually use, and the $20 monthly dining credit has certainly helped me.
Hindsight is 20/20 and knowing how this year has gone for me in terms of travel, I probably wouldn’t ask for this card again.