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Compare the Features and Benefits of United℠ Explorer Card and
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

Detailed Comparison Overview

Key Facts
Annual Fee
Avg. Min. Credit Score
Ongoing APR
Balance transfers fees
Best Multiplier
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
Bonus Offer
Rating
Review
Key features
Unique Card Benefits
Airport Lounge Access
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
Trip Protections
Purchase Protection
Extended Warranty
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
Free Checked Bags
Priority Boarding
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
Concierge Services
Free Access to Credit Score
Annual Statement Credits
Grants Hotel Status
Free Annual Hotel Night
Earns Transferable Points
Secondary Car Rental CDW Waiver
Return Protection
No Fees for Authorized Users
Metal Card
Amex Offers
Annual Fee
$0 Introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $95
Avg. Min. Credit Score
670-850 *
Ongoing APR
21.99%-28.99% (Variable)
Balance transfers fees
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Best Multiplier
2x Airfare

On United flights only; otherwise earn 1X

2x Dining Out / Food Delivery
2x Hotels
1x Everything Else
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
$0.012
Bonus Offer

Earn 60,000 United MileagePlus® Miles after spending $3,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months of opening an account, plus the Annual Fee waived for the first year. Offer ends August 7, 2024.

Rating
YBCC Card Rate Stars Filled
YBCC Card Rate Stars Empty
(4.05) Our Review

Our ratings are determined by the authors and editors on our team. Each individual card feature is compared against all other cards we offer and the total score is an average of those 4 ratings.

Review

The United Explorer is one of the best credit cards out there for occasional United flyers. That’s because you’ll get useful perks, such as free first checked bags, priority boarding privileges, a 25% food and beverage discount on board United operated flights, and even get a taste of airport lounge access with two anniversary United Club passes. Plus. the annual fee is waived the first year, then just $95 thereafter.

Consider this scenario: Even if you only fly United a couple of times per year, the Explorer Card is worth it for the free checked bag benefit alone. Keep in mind, this applies to the primary card holder and one companion on the same reservation, as long as you use the card to pay for your ticket. At $35 for one checked bag, and $140 for a round-trip flight for two people, it’s easy to get value that exceeds the card’s annual fee.

In addition to the sign-up bonus earned after account opening, the United Explorer card earns a decent 2X miles on United Airlines purchases, 2X miles on dining, including eligible delivery services, 2X miles on hotel stays when booked with the hotel and 1x miles on all other purchases. Also, the card helps to fast track your United elite status goals with 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for every $12,000 you spend on purchases (up to 1,000 PQPs in a calendar year). These PQPs can be applied toward your Premier status qualification — up to the Premier 1K level.

And don’t forget the ability to earn PQPs towards elite status from spend. You’ll earn 25 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for every $500 you spend on purchases – up to 1,000 PQPs per year.

If you’re in need of extra miles besides flying on United flights, keep in mind that Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to the United Mileage Plus program at a 1:1 ratio to help you top up your miles balance.

While the United Explorer card is a fantastic option for the occasional United flyer, those that travel more often with the airline might want to consider other options, including United’s other, more premium, credit cards.

In more simple terms, the Explorer card fits the “occasional United flyer” once or twice per year mold, while the $250-per-year United Quest fits the “semi-frequent United flyer.” Then, there’s the United Club Infinite Card for the “frequent United flyer.” If you’re looking for a United Club membership and need more than just two one-time passes, you’ll probably be better off with the United Club Infinite Card, which comes with a full United Club membership but also charges the highest annual fee of the United cards at $525.

Read more
Unique Card Benefits
yes
Airport Lounge Access
yes
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
yes
Trip Protections
yes
Purchase Protection
yes
Extended Warranty
yes
No Foreign Transaction Fees
yes
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
yes
Free Checked Bags
yes
Priority Boarding
yes
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
yes
Concierge Services
yes
Free Access to Credit Score
yes
Annual Statement Credits
no
Grants Hotel Status
no
Free Annual Hotel Night
no
Earns Transferable Points
no
Secondary Car Rental CDW Waiver
no
Return Protection
no
No Fees for Authorized Users
no
Metal Card
no
Amex Offers
no
Annual Fee
$650 (Rates and fees)
Avg. Min. Credit Score
670-850 *
Ongoing APR
20.99%-29.99% (Variable)
Balance transfers fees
-
Best Multiplier
6x Hotels

6X points only applies to Marriott Bonvoy hotels and resorts booked directly through Marriott. Otherwise, earn 2X

3x Airfare
3x Dining Out / Food Delivery
2x Everything Else
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
$0.006
Bonus Offer
Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms apply.
Rating
YBCC Card Rate Stars Filled
YBCC Card Rate Stars Empty
(3.7) Our Review

Our ratings are determined by the authors and editors on our team. Each individual card feature is compared against all other cards we offer and the total score is an average of those 4 ratings.

Review

The Marriott Bonvoy program offers five different co-branded credit card options, from both American Express and Chase. If we start from the top, there’s the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, with a considerable $650 annual fee. But the luxury hotel card comes with a substantial number of perks that make sense for the ultra-Marriott loyalist.

For starters, the card offers complimentary Platinum elite status, which typically requires 50+ nights at Marriott hotels per year. At this elite tier level, you’ll enjoy 50% bonus points at Marriott hotels (on top of the card’s earning rate), room upgrades up to select suites upon availability at most brands, and a welcome gift like amenities, points, or even breakfast. Enjoy a guaranteed late checkout of 4pm at most properties (resorts and convention centers are excluded). You’ll also get 25 annual elite night credits which can help you qualify for that next tier of Marriott status — Titanium or Ambassador Elite, anyone?

Even more interesting is that if you also have the Marriott Bonvoy Business® Card, you’ll earn 15 more elite nights on that card for a total of 40 elite night credits. With Titanium status, which also confers United Airlines Silver elite status, available at 75 nights, you’ll need to stay just 35 nights to achieve it.

As you can expect, this card is quite rewarding for hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, offering 6x points at Bonvoy properties. The card’s rewards rate is easy to memorize as it also provides 3x points at restaurants worldwide and 2x points on all other eligible purchases, but unfortunately it falls flat compared to other luxury cards on the market with those rates, given that we peg the value of a Bonvoy point around 0.6 cents each.

Still, if you’re a heavy spender, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card offers another unique benefit. Once you spend $60,000+ on the card per calendar year, you’ll get access to the Earned Choice Award Benefit. From here, there are some incredibly valuable options like 5 Suite Night Awards, an additional free night award (worth up to 85,000 points), or a $1,000 off a bed from Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques. Perhaps the most lucrative awards are the former two options, as the suite night awards and free night certificate can be of excellent use at some of Marriott’s most bespoke properties.

Even if you don’t anticipate $60,000+ of card spend per year, don’t fret. You’ll still get a free night award just by renewing the card and paying the annual fee on your account anniversary. This free night award will land in your account after the card renewal month, and is worth up to 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. You can “top off” with up to 15,000 more points from your account if you want to book a night that costs between 85,000 and 100,000 points.

As mentioned above, we estimate Marriott Bonvoy points to be worth about 0.6 cents each so with the 85,000 point certificate, you’re expected to receive at least a $510 value (or more!) for a property of your choice. Use your free night awards wisely, and you can land free nights at some of the most luxurious properties in Marriott’s expansive portfolio.

Not to mention, the card also comes with an up to $300 dining credit, which is distributed in up to $25 monthly credits. You’ll get a reimbursement for restaurants worldwide, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be getting this $300 rebate on your favorite eateries. (Terms apply.)

Bonvoy Brilliant Dining Credit

Finally, the Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application credit (terms apply), up to a $100 Marriott property credit for eligible stays (terms apply), and a swathe of essential travel and purchase protections to boot.

Simply put, if you have a Marriott Bonvoy member account and want top-notch perks when staying at Marriott properties, look no further than the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card.

Rates and Fees for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

Read more
Unique Card Benefits
yes
Airport Lounge Access
yes
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
yes
Trip Protections
yes
Purchase Protection
yes
Extended Warranty
yes
No Foreign Transaction Fees
yes
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
yes
Free Checked Bags
no
Priority Boarding
no
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
no
Concierge Services
no
Free Access to Credit Score
no
Annual Statement Credits
yes
Grants Hotel Status
yes
Free Annual Hotel Night
yes
Earns Transferable Points
yes
Secondary Car Rental CDW Waiver
yes
Return Protection
yes
No Fees for Authorized Users
yes
Metal Card
yes
Amex Offers
yes

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