Bonvoy Brilliant: Grab the awesome bonus now or wait for better?


Are the rumored Bonvoy Brilliant changes real?  Yesterday Marriott and Amex may have tipped their hand when they unveiled limited time enhanced welcome bonuses for their Bonvoy cards.  In particular, the Bonvoy Brilliant welcome bonus now includes an 85K free night certificate.  Where have we heard of such a thing before?  Oh yeah… among the rumored upcoming changes to the Bonvoy Brilliant card (which I detailed here) was the idea that the card would offer annual 85K free night certificates instead of 50K as they do today.

To be clear, the new Bonvoy Brilliant welcome bonus doesn’t promise earning 85K free night certificates each anniversary.  The details still say that the annual certificate is 50K.  But here’s the thing… 85K free night certificates have never existed before.  Now they do.  To me, that lends extra credibility to the rumors in general…

Rumored Changes

I detailed the rumored changes to the Bonvoy Brilliant card in the post “The Rumored Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card. Is it worth $650?”  Please see that post for full details and analysis.  For now, though, here’s a summary of what would change if the rumors are true:

Rumored New Current
Annual Fee $650 $450
Statement Credits $300 Dining ($25 / Month) $300 Marriott Spend
Free Night Award 85K Certificate 50K Certificate
Free Night w/ Spend 85K Cert after $50K Spend N/A
Annual Card Choice Award After $50K Spend: Choose 50K points, 40% bedding discount, gift set, gift Gold status, or 15% off Ritz Yacht Collection N/A
Automatic Elite Status Platinum Elite Gold Elite
Elite Status w/ $75K Spend Titanium Elite Platinum Elite
Automatic Elite Credits 25 Elite Nights 15 Elite Nights
Earnings from Spend Same as current 3X airfare charged by airline; 3X US restaurants, 6X Marriott; 2X on all other eligible purchases
Travel benefits Same as current Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests + Global Entry fee credit


85K free night certificates

85K free night certificates are way more useful than 50K certs.  50K certs can be used at any hotel up to category 5, or category 6 hotels at off-peak or standard pricing, or category 7 hotels at off-peak pricing.  Sometimes you can get great value, but it can also be hard at times to find a desirable property that meets those conditions.  With an 85K cert, though, all category 1-7 hotels will be fair game and even category 8 hotels would be bookable except when peak priced.

50K certs can often be used at excellent hotels, but they can be extremely frustrating when category 6 hotels of interest are peak priced.  With 85K certs, we’ll be able to book almost any Marriott hotel in the world.

When will the new features kick in?

If the rumors are true (that’s still a big “if”), my bet is that the new card structure will be unveiled in early November.  The reason is that the current enhanced welcome bonus is valid through November 3rd 2021.  If Amex is going to increase the annual fee, they’ll wait until after the current offer is over.

UPDATE: VIS points out that the Bonvoy Brilliant card is already earning $20 per month through December 2021.  This leads me to believe that the card changes won’t happen until January 2022.

Now or later?

Assuming you can qualify for the current Bonvoy Brilliant welcome bonus, it may seem like a no-brainer to go for it while its available.  After all, it’s the best bonus we’ve ever seen for this card.  And, if the rumored changes are true, by signing up with the current offer, you’ll lock in a year with the lower $450 annual fee.  Plus, you’ll still get all of the enhanced benefits once the changes kick in.

On the other hand… If the rumors are true, I think it’s very likely that Amex and Marriott will unveil the changes alongside a new and even more compelling welcome bonus.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see something like 150,000 points plus three 85K certificates.  Or maybe five 85K certificates and no points.  These are obviously just guesses, but I do believe that they’ll have to unveil a big and compelling bonus in order to get people to look past the $650 annual fee.

I’m not eligible to sign up for a new Bonvoy Brilliant card, but if I was eligible I’d probably wait to see what happens.  But either way is a gamble.  Worst case for those who wait would be that Amex would increase the annual fee and offer a smaller welcome bonus.  I don’t think that combination is likely, but it is possible.

UPDATE: Thanks to a conversation in the comments of this post, I’ve changed my recommendation.  For those eligible, your best bet is to sign up for the current offer, ideally close to when the offer expires (i.e. before November 3rd 2021).  The reason is that the current Bonvoy Brilliant card offers $300 in Marriott hotel credits per membership year.  If you sign up while that’s in place, you’ll have 12 months to use those credits even if the card is changed as rumored.  And if the rumored change does happen, you will likely be able to double dip.  I expect that the $25 per month dining credits (which replace the $300 per year Marriott credits) will be available to you as soon as the card changes are implemented.  Depending upon how quickly that happens after you sign up, you might get about 10 months of dining credits ($250) along with your $300 in Marriott credits.  Another way to look at it: the current offer is about $450 better than it appears when compared to whatever offer comes out with the revised card: $200 lower annual fee first year, plus $300 in Marriott credits, minus a couple months of dining credits ($50).  The new offer may be better than the current offer, but will it be more than $450 better?  It might be, but that’s a heck of a gamble.

Are you eligible?

Marriott has bizarre rules about which cards and card bonuses you may be eligible for.  The post “Are you eligible for a new Marriott card?” breaks down the rules into readable chunks.  But for those who aren’t interested in clicking through to that post, here’s the relevant section for the Bonvoy Brilliant card…

Navigate this chart to figure out if you qualify.  If you answer “No,” to all of the following questions then you should be eligible for the Bonvoy Brilliant welcome bonus…

What do you think? What will you do?

I’m interested in hearing what others think. Do you agree that the emergence of 85K free night certificates suggest that the rumored changes are more likely to be real?  And, if you’re thinking of signing up for a Bonvoy Brilliant card, will you go for the current offer or wait and hope for better?  Please comment below.

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