Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Battle of the top-tier hotel cards – The Points Guy

American Express offers two premium cobranded hotel credit cards: The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.

Both cards carry pricey annual fees — $550 and $650, respectively (see rates and fees and rates and fees, respectively) and come with similar benefits, such as automatic elite status and annual free-night certificates.

Is one card better than the other? Let’s look side-by-side to see which should earn a place in your wallet.

*The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant comparison

THE POINTS GUY

Here are the basics of each of these two cards in the major categories:

Perk/benefitHilton Amex Aspire*Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
Annual fee$550 (see rates and fees)$650 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus180,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months. Offer ends Jan. 17.95,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months
Earning rates
  • 14 points per dollar at Hilton hotels
  • 7 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or AmexTravel.com and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply
  • 6 points per dollar at Marriott hotels
  • 3 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply
Credits
  • Up to $200 statement credit (up to $50 a quarter) on eligible flight purchases made directly with an airline or through amextravel.com
  • Up to $400 (up to $200 biannually) in statement credits for eligible purchases at participating Hilton resorts
  • Up to $100 on-property credit for incidentals for eligible, paid two-night stays at Conrad and Waldorf-Astoria locations
  • Up to $189 in statement credits per year when you sign up for a Clear Plus membership
  • Up to $300 in statement credits for restaurants worldwide (up to $25 in statement credits each month)
  • Up to $100 on-property credit for eligible paid, two-night stays at St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton locations
Elite statusAutomatic Hilton Honors Diamond status

Complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status after enrollment in the Emerald Club program

Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status (enrollment required for select benefits)
Free-night certificatesAnnual free night certificate at almost any Hilton property worldwide after opening your account and on your card-opening anniversary each year.

Earn a second free night after spending $30,000 in a calendar year

Earn a third free night after spending $60,000 in a calendar year

Annual free night (up to 85,000 points) after card renewal
Other benefits
  • Travel and shopping protections
  • Cellphone protection
  • Access to Amex Offers
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)
  • 25 elite-night credits
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership (with guest privileges; enrollment required for select benefits).
  • Travel and shopping protections
  • Access to Amex Offers
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant welcome offer

With the Hilton Amex Aspire*, you’ll earn 180,000 points after you spend $6,000 within the first three months of account opening. Offer ends Jan 17.

Meanwhile, with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, you’ll earn 95,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months.

THE POINTS GUY

Based on TPG’s latest valuations, 180,000 Hilton points are worth $1,080, compared to $765 for the Brilliant offer. Despite Marriott points being valued higher than Hilton Honors points, the Aspire’s* large welcome offer is something not to ignore.

Winner: Hilton Aspire*. The large welcome offer gives it an edge over the Marriott Brilliant.

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Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant benefits

What makes both cards shine is the extensive perks that they offer.

The Aspire* card comes with several statement credits, which, on their own, more than offset the card’s annual fee. Each year, you’ll get a up to $200 statement credit (up to $50 a quarter) on eligible flight purchases made directly with an airline or through amextravel.com. Plus, you’ll get a up to $100 credit for incidentals when you book at least a two-night paid stay at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard. And you’ll get an up to $189 Clear Plus membership credit.

You’ll receive one weekend night at almost any Hilton property worldwide after opening your account and again on your cardmember anniversary, and you can earn a second and third free night by spending $30,000 and $60,000 on the card in a calendar year, respectively.

Related reading: Hilton Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Which card is best for traveling families

(Photo courtesy Conrad Hotel, Dublin)
CONRAD DUBLIN

The card’s most valuable travel perk is automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status for the primary cardholder. Diamond status comes with perks like bonus points, executive-floor lounge access, free breakfast and room upgrades — and it’s worth about $2,000 annually, based on our estimate. A useful perk of the card is cellphone protection, which will reimburse cardholders for damaged or lost phones up to $800 a claim with two claims a year that carry a $50 deductible each time.* Additional terms and conditions apply.

**Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

As for the Bonvoy Brilliant, you’ll get up to $25 in statement credits for restaurant purchases charged to your card each month.

You’ll also enjoy an on-property credit of up to $100 on eligible two-night paid stays at St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton locations. Primary cardholders receive automatic Platinum Elite status. Platinum status includes perks like upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access.

Cardholders can fast-track to a higher status level with 25 complimentary elite-qualifying-night credits per year. The card also comes with an annual free night award worth up to 85,000 points. Like many other premium cards (but not the Aspire*), the Bonvoy Brilliant comes with a Priority Pass membership (with guesting privileges; enrollment required for select benefits) and will reimburse you when you charge the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to the card (up to $100).

Winner: Tie. Both cards offer a free night certificate and strong travel and shopping protections. Aspire* cardmembers receive top-tier elite status without reaching any minimum spending, but Brilliant cardmembers’ statement credits are easier to use.

Earning points on the Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

With the Hilton Amex Aspire* you’ll earn 14 points per dollar spent at hotels in the Hilton portfolio. Based on TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point, that’s an 8.4% return on spending. However, in actuality, the return on paid stays is even greater.

Because the card comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status, and one of the benefits of that status is a 100% point bonus for Hilton stays (or 20 points per dollar spent at most Hilton properties), you’ll actually be earning a total of 34 points per dollar on most Hilton stays as a cardholder, meaning an over 20% return.

THE POINTS GUY

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, you’ll earn 6 points per dollar spent at participating Marriott hotels, 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. With TPG’s valuations in mind, that’s essentially a return of 4.8% on Marriott purchases, 2.4% on restaurants and flights and 1.6% on everyday spending.

Winner: Aspire*. It earns more on accommodation.

Redeeming points on the Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

With the Aspire*, your Hilton points can be redeemed for gift cards and transferred to airlines (at a roughly 10:1 ratio), but you’ll get the most value out of your points by sticking with hotel stays. Since Hilton has dynamic pricing, you should get fairly consistent value from your points year-round. However, nothing can stop a property from suddenly increasing its standard award price.

An option worth considering when staying at top-tier properties is to use points to subsidize paid stays with the Points & Money option — this will get you an outstanding redemption value of up to 1 cent per point.

Related reading: Maximizing redemptions with Hilton Honors

ANDREA ROTONDO ST. REGIS PUNTA MITA/THE POINTS GUY

As for the Bonvoy Brilliant, you can redeem points toward free stays at more than 6,900 properties across 30 brands in 130 countries. The program has many sweet spots, including legacy SPG suites-only properties such as the St. Regis Maldives and the Al Maha in Dubai for 70,000-100,000 points per night.

Credit card writer Danyal Ahmed has utilized his Bonvoy points and the program’s fifth free night perk to book a stay at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC in Dubai over the weekend spanning New Year’s Eve.

Related reading: Maximizing redemptions with the Marriott Bonvoy program

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. Marriott has a larger portfolio and various brands suited for all types of travelers.

Transferring points on the Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

Marriott points stand out from other hotel-points currencies because there’s also potential for great value when turning points into airline miles. Marriott points can be transferred to more than 40 frequent flyer programs, mostly at a pretty solid 2.4:1 ratio, factoring in the 5,000-mile bonus given for every 60,000 points transferred.

Hilton Honors points can also be transferred to select airline partners. However, the ratio is poorer than Marriott’s (usually 10:1).

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. Whether you’re looking to redeem points for free stays or free flights, there are many ways to get tremendous value out of Marriott Bonvoy points.

Should I get the Hilton Amex Aspire or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant?

The right card for you ultimately depends on which hotel chain you’re more loyal to. If you’re not loyal to either brand, we recommend picking the Aspire Card* for better earning rates and benefits like top-tier elite status, and resort and airline-fee credits. However, it’s also easy to get value from the Bonvoy Brilliant thanks to its more flexible statement credits and annual free night certificate.

Bottom line

Alternatively, given the automatic elite statuses and array of perks across the world’s two largest hotel loyalty programs, you could also make a case for carrying both cards. Both cards make maximizing benefits easy and offer statement credits to help offset their high annual fees.

To learn more, read our full reviews of the Hilton Aspire* and the Bonvoy Brilliant.


Apply here: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant


For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, click here.

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