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Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant vs Hilton Aspire: Which Premium Hotel Card is Best?

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Marriott and Hilton are two hotel heavyweights, each with their own pros and cons. It's only fitting that they both have a portfolio of co-branded credit cards to fit the needs of nearly any traveler. 

But how do the hotel chain's top credit cards stack up against one another? There's the *bonvoy brilliant* and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card for each hotel chain's most loyal guests.

These aren’t introductory cards for the average Joe or Jane but rather powerful weapons for the more-frequent traveler. And while the hefty annual fees may scare some off, they come with top-of-the-line hotel (and general travel) perks that could easily justify the higher out-of-pocket cost.

We'll break it down, category by category – whether you're a road warrior looking for a premium hotel card or a leisure travelers looking for a taste of the good life – to help decide which card suits you best.

 

*bonvoy brilliant*

 

Learn more about the *bonvoy brilliant*

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Similarities & Differences

No matter which premium hotel card you choose, you can't go wrong with either the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant or Hilton Aspire – they're both excellent options for frequent travelers.

Here's a breakdown of what you get with each card:

All information about the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

 

*Bonvoy Brilliant*Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Welcome Offerbonus_miles_fullEarn 175,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual Feeannual_fees (see rates & fees)$550 (see rates and fees)
Free Night AwardsAnnual free night award each year upon renewal (beginning in year two) for properties costing 85,000 points per night or lessAnnual free night award each year (beginning in year one) for any standard room
Hotel Elite StatusMarriott Bonvoy PlatinumHilton Honors Diamond
Statement Credits$300 annual dining credit (up to $25 per month)$400 Hilton Resorts Credit (up to $200 semi-annually), $200 flight credit (up to $50 quarterly), and a $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit each calendar year
Earning Points6x points at Marriott hotels, 3x at restaurants worldwide and on flights (booked direct), and 2x on all other eligible purchases14x points at Hilton hotels, 7x for flights (booked direct or through amextravel.com) and car rentals (booked direct), and 3x points on other purchases
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry ReimbursementYes, up to $100 every 4 years for Global Entry or up to $85 every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheckNone
Priority Pass Select Lounge MembershipYes, unlimited complimentary access for primary cardholder and two guestsNone
Foreign Transaction FeesNoneNone

 

As you can see, these two cards have a few things in common – yet a few key differences could be enough to make one a better fit than the other, depending on your personal situation.

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Welcome Offer

To start, opening a new travel rewards card is all about the welcome offer. At first glance, one of these bonuses dwarfs the other – but does that tell the full story?

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

bonus_miles_full

 

Hilton Aspire

Earn 175,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. This offer ends July 31, 2024! 

 

Winner: Which Card has the Better Welcome Offer?

In some situations, bigger really is better – and that's certainly the case here. While you could certainly make a case that Hilton points are less valuable than Marriott points – and you'd be right – that doesn't change the fact that with the current offers, you'd have an extra 80,000 points by opting for the Aspire Card over the Bonvoy Brilliant.

That big limited-time welcome offer makes it the clear winner in this category. 

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Free Night Awards

Let's be honest, free hotel nights are the real reason for getting a co-branded hotel card in the first place. And while you can use the points you earn from the cards' welcome offer or through spending to book a free night, there's no easier way to get one than the annual free night certificate that comes with either card.

Simply let your card renew, pay the annual fee, and bingo: You've got a free night that's good for the next 12 months. But exactly where you can use that free night varies depending on which card you get. 

Let's take a look. 

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card you'll get an annual free night award that can be used at any Marriott property costing up to 85,000 points per night. Additionally, you can “top off” your award with up to 15,000 more points – meaning it can really be used at properties costing up to 100,000 points per night, albeit with an added cost. 

By being able to book rooms that cost up to 100,000 points per night, most (but not all) of Marriott's more than 8,000 hotels are at your disposal. Including bucket list properties like the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli and Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa. Considering both of these hotels routinely go for north of $1,000 per night, that alone makes the Bonvoy Brilliant's annual free night award quite valuable. 

 

st regis maldives vommuli final

 

Critically, you won't get your first free night award until you renew your card. That means in year one if you want a free night with Marriott, you'll need to use the points from your welcome offer, spending on the card, or staying with the hotel chain. 

One last thing to note about Marriott free night awards is that depending on where you're traveling, you may still be on the hook for a resort fee. At $30 to $50 (or more) per night, these resort fees can take some of the value out of a “free” night stay.

 

Hilton Aspire

While many hotel chains offer annual free night certificates on their credit cards, you typically don't get that certificate until you renew for a second full year of the card. And in many cases, hotel chains block you from using those certificates at more-expensive properties.

That's not the case with the Hilton Aspire Card. After opening your new card account – and each year you renew – you'll receive a free night certificate valid at almost all Hilton properties around the globe. There are just a handful of properties that aren't eligible. One note: After opening your account, it typically takes a month (or slightly more) for this free night certificate to hit your account.

In the past, Hilton free night certificates required you to stay on a weekend: Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. But no more: You can now use these certificates any day of the week – not just on weekends!

You can also earn a second free night if you spend $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year … and then another if you spend $60,000 or more – for a total of three free night certificates per year.

 

hilton aspire card free night certificate

 

But it's not just the ease and speed of earning these certificates that makes them so valuable. Unlike other hotel chains that place caps on which tiers of properties you can book using these certificates, there's no cap on how much a hotel night can cost in points to use Hilton free night awards. Whether it's a Hilton Garden Inn in Des Moines, Iowa, or the Waldorf Astoria resort in Maui, so long as you can find standard award availability, you can book it.

Read our guide on the best ways to redeem Hilton free night certificates!

Earlier this year, Thrifty Traveler executive editor Kyle used his Aspire Card's free night certificate for a free night at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui: a dreamy property in French Polynesia that typically costs 120,000 points a night … or $1,000 or more! And with Diamond status from his Aspire Card, he was even upgraded to an iconic overwater villa.

 

conrad bora bora overwater villa

 

Read more: How the Hilton Aspire Card Saved Me $866 in Bora Bora

Another great example is the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, an amazing property down in Mexico that generally costs anywhere between $1,000 or $2,000 a night. This benefit alone can easily justify your annual fee because of how many properties it can be used at.

 

Winner: Which Card Has the Best Free Night Award?

Being able to use your annual free night at any property, without a restriction on what it costs is pretty sweet – and rare in the world of hotel credit cards. Add in the fact that you get access to your free night right away in year one and the annual night that comes with the Hilton Aspire is clearly the winner here. 

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Hotel Elite Status

Earning top hotel status used to require spending 50-plus nights in hotels away from home. But these days, hotel elite status is more attainable than ever … so long as you have the right credit card.

That's right, all it takes to get top-tier (or near top-tier) elite status at Marriott or Hilton is to open one of these co-branded credit cards.

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

While not the absolute highest level of Marriott elite status, holding the *bonvoy brilliant* is enough to get you Platinum elite status. And that's pretty darn good.

With Marriott's Platinum Elite status you can expect things like early check-in, guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, enhanced room upgrades (including suites), 50% bonus point earning on stays, lounge access, and a welcome gift that includes breakfast.

 

Marriott Platinum Elite Benefits

 

Like most elite status levels, some of what you get with Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status is fluff and some is substance. The highlights of this status level are no doubt the free breakfast (for two), late check-out, and the chance at a room upgrade.

Much like Hilton's Diamond status, room upgrades in the U.S. are harder to come by than when traveling abroad. Fortunately, Marriott gives its properties less wiggle room to deny travelers with status an upgrade. Even when a suite isn't available for an upgrade, getting a room on the executive floor or even one with a better view is still a nice benefit of Platinum Elite status.

Marriott's free breakfast benefit is about as confusing as its credit card eligibility rules, but you can generally expect free breakfast to be offered as a welcome gift choice at all of Marriott's premium and luxury brand properties … but not at The Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, and Autograph Collection hotels. Other brands in these categories may not offer breakfast as a welcome gift, but do provide it in their club lounge (assuming they have one). Furthermore, brands like Fairfield Inn and Residence Inn offer complimentary breakfast to all guests, which is why it's not available as a welcome gift.

The other big benefit of Marriott's Platinum Elite status is a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out. This is subject to availability at resort and convention hotels but at all other properties, it's implemented just as it sounds: Guaranteed. A late check-out can be key for anyone with an evening flight or business meeting late in the day. Having the option to return to your hotel room to regroup after being out sightseeing – or even just having a secure place to store your luggage – is a huge benefit of this status level.

 

25 Elite Night Credits

Even though the Bonvoy Brilliant comes with complimentary Platinum Elite status, it also gives cardholders 25 elite night credits each year.

Why does that matter? 

If you're aiming for a higher level of elite status (Titanium), those 25 elite nights will get you there quicker – and they're enough to put you halfway to earning Platinum status outright. With that comes an annual choice benefit for things like five nightly upgrade awards – which can be used to get you into a better room, including suites. You could also choose to gift Silver elite status to someone else or have a charitable donation made in your name, amongst other things.

These 25 elite night credits will also count towards earning lifetime elite status, if that's something you're pursuing. 

 

Hilton Aspire

With Hilton, Diamond elite status is as good as it gets – and getting there is as easy as opening the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Having Hilton Diamond status means you'll be eligible for room upgrades, executive lounge access, and a 100% points earning bonus on stays, among other perks.

Of these benefits, the potential for an upgraded room (including one-bedroom suites) is probably the most exciting. They're not guaranteed – it's up to individual hotels and suite upgrades can be particularly hit-or-miss, so you may simply be moved to a room with a better view or location. Generally, these Hilton upgrades are much harder to come by in the U.S. than abroad.

 

hilton diamond status benefits

 

On top of the benefits you get for having top-rung Diamond status, you'll also be eligible for all the benefits of the lower status levels: Gold and Silver.

One crucial benefit of Hilton Gold status is a daily food and beverage credit at U.S. properties – or daily breakfast (for two) at international hotels. While this benefit has changed a bit over the years, being able to grab a bite to eat in the morning before heading out for the day – or even a night-cap when you get back to the hotel – can be a big time and money saver when traveling.

Related reading: Why the Hilton Amex Aspire is the Best Hotel Credit Card

 

Winner: Which Card is Best for Hotel Elite Status?

You'd think that since that Hilton Aspire comes with top-tier Diamond status it would be the clear winner. But when you look at the benefits that come with each level of status, they're nearly identical. 

The fact that Hilton Diamond members no longer get free breakfast at U.S. properties is disappointing, but so is the fact that Marriott excludes some brands from the breakfast benefit altogether. Outside of that, the status that comes with both cards is good enough for hotel lounge access and a shot at an upgraded room. 

With all that being said, this category is a draw.

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Annual Fee

Any time you're considering a premium travel rewards credit card, you should expect a premium price tag – and that's certainly true with these two cards. 

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

A couple years back, Amex did what Amex does and hiked the Bonvoy Brilliant's annual fee by $200. In exchange, travelers got a new monthly dining credit and a more valuable free night award. 

That means that nowadays, holding Marriott's top credit card will cost you a whopping $650 per year. That puts it in the same orbit as the bank's flagship, *amex platinum* – and that's not necessarily company you want to keep.

 

Hilton Aspire

Similarly, the Hilton Aspire went through a revamp of its own last fall. Part of the shakeup involved added resort credits, a new quarterly flight credit … and you guessed it: A higher annual fee.

Holding the Hilton Aspire Card doesn't come cheap at $550 – but with all the credits you get, it seems like a downright bargain compared to the Bonvoy Brilliant.

 

Winner: Which Card Wins on Fees?

Not only does the Hilton Aspire cost $100 less per year, it also comes with more offsetting credits to justify the high annual fee (more on that next). While I wouldn't consider either card to be budget friendly, the Hilton Aspire should be the clear choice for anyone concerned about cost. 

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Travel Credits

This is a big one. With both cards carrying an annual fee of more than $500, using the perks and annual travel credits that come with the card is essential to justifying such a high cost.

Both cards include credits that can help earn some of that money back … but one packs just a bit more punch than the other.

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

$300 Dining Credit

One of the Bonvoy Brilliant's biggest selling points has nothing to do with the hotel chain at all: It's an easy-to-use monthly dining credit. Weird … I know. 

Each month you hold the card, you'll get up to $25 in statement credits for eligible restaurant purchases worldwide. Unlike most Amex credits that require jumping through a bunch of hoops to use, this one's quite simple. All you need to do is make a purchase with your card that codes as dining and you'll automatically receive a statement credit for up to $25.

Just know, these statement credits don't roll over from month-t0-month – any unused credit will expire when the calendar turns over. You can, however, use it to purchase a restaurant gift card or reload your Starbucks account if you're scrambling to use it at the last minute. 

 

$100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit

With the Bonvoy Brilliant, you get a $100 property credit when staying at select Marriotts and paying with your Brilliant card. 

Before you get too excited by this, there are plenty of “gotchas” to be aware of. 

For starters, you need to book a specific rate type known as the “$100 Property Credit, Luxury Credit Card Rate.” Yes, that's really what they named it. The second big catch is that it's only eligible at two of Marriott's luxury brands: The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis … and it requires a two-night minimum stay. 

 

ritz carlton istanbul
Photo courtesy of Marriott.

 

If you're able to check all of those boxes, you can use this $100 credit to pay for dining, spa services or recreational activities that are charged to your room and not managed by a third-party. You can't use it for property fees, gratuities, or the cost of your room. 

I'd have to imagine that this benefit is close to worthless for most cardholders, but if it somehow fits with your travel plans, getting a $100 property credit surely isn't a bad thing. 

 

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Credit

The Bonvoy Brilliant comes with up to a $100 credit to cover the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every four years or four and a half years, depending on the program you go with. 

This perk might seem a bit redundant, as a lot of travel credit cards offer a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck these days. But even if you're already enrolled in one of these trusted traveler programs, it could still be useful when it comes time to renew. Or you could even pay the application fee for a friend or family member and make their next airport experience a little less stressful.

 

global entry kiosks

 

Here's how it works: Just pay the application fee with either card and poof – the credit kicks in to automatically cover the cost. Once enrolled, membership lasts for five years and that means as long as you keep either card open, you’re set to keep your enrollment up to date with either program.

Can’t decide? Go for Global Entry, as that also comes with TSA PreCheck benefits as well as getting you into a designated customs and immigration line when returning to the U.S. from abroad. Just beware that signing up for Global Entry can be a much more time-consuming process than TSA PreCheck.

 

Hilton Aspire

Annual $400 Hilton Resort Statement Credit

Each year you hold the Hilton Honors Aspire card, you get up to $400 in Hilton resort statement credits to use at select Hilton properties around the world. It's broken up into two chunks: You'll get $200 the first half of the year (January through June) and then another $200 in the second half of the year (July through December).

This credit alone eats up more than half of the card's annual fee, and it's incredibly easy to use. It works at hundreds of participating Hilton properties around the globe – and not just spots with the word “resort” in them but Waldorf Astoria locations in Las Vegas and Dubai, Conrad locations in Mexico and the Caribbean, and some everyday Hilton's across the U.S. and around the world. Check out the full list from Hilton.

 

hilton resort credit at conrad

 

Just charge your dinner, activities, or trip to the spa to your room, pay with your Aspire card at checkout, and voila – the credit kicks in. Even some room rates will qualify for this resort credit so long as you don't prepay. Whatever you charge, these credits typically kick in within a week or less.

Read next: How the Hilton Aspire Card Saved me $866 in Bora Bora

 

$200 Annual Airline Credit

Top Amex credit cards are practically notorious for Amex airline fee credits, which have gotten harder and harder to use. But that's no longer the case with the Hilton Aspire Card.

The card's longtime $250 airline fee credit – to use on costs like seat selection, baggage, and award ticket taxes – went out the door when the card was revamped last fall. In its place, Amex added an entirely new setup for airline credits.

Hilton Aspire cardholders now get up to $200 in what they call “flight credits,” meaning they can easily be used for airfare outright. Just use your Hilton Aspire Card to pay for a ticket (or seat assignment, upgrade – whatever!) directly with the airline or through amextravel.com and the credit automatically kicks in.

The downside here is that it's now a quarterly benefit, with $50 available every three months. These are use-it-or-lose-it benefits: Any unused credits don't roll over. 

On the plus side, you don't have to pre-select a specific airline to use up these credits anymore – any carrier will do.

 

$100 Waldorf Astoria & Conrad Hotels On Property Credit

It's not the easiest-to-use perk on the Aspire Card, but it can still add up.

When you book a paid stay of at least two nights at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad Hotels through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard, you will receive a $100 credit for incidental charges. This credit can be used for almost anything charged to your room during your stay. Taxes, fees, gratuity, and the room rate itself are not eligible for the credit.

Again, this has to be for a paid stay. If you're planning on using your Hilton Honors points to stay at either a Waldorf Astoria or Conrad Hotel, you won't be able to take advantage of this credit.

 

$189 CLEAR® Plus Credit

The Hilton Aspire Card offers a $189 credit annually to sign up for CLEAR® Plus, the privately run airport security program. That covers the entire cost of the $189 membership.

After a recent price hike, adding adults to your CLEAR® Plus Family Plan cost another $99 a year, though minors can come with you for free.

 

clear benefit

 

While they may seem duplicative, CLEAR and TSA PreCheck (or better yet, Global Entry) provide a fantastic one-two punch. You use CLEAR to cut to the front of the PreCheck, then PreCheck itself gets you through faster by saving you the trouble of removing shoes, a belt, a light jacket, liquids, or electronics.

Just charge your CLEAR Plus enrollment to your Aspire Card and voila – you're set. A statement credit for the full amount should kick in automatically within a few days.

Read more: Is CLEAR Plus Worth It? A Review of the Security Fastpass Program

 

Winner: Which Card Provides the Best Travel Credits?

Both cards come with tangible, money-saving benefits to help offset their high cost – but one clearly offers more than the other. With the Hilton Aspire Card, you can easily get your money back year-after-year, and then some. 

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Lounge Access

Nothing makes the airport more enjoyable – or at least tolerable – than popping into airport lounges during your travels. While there are plenty of airline-specific lounges that require spendy memberships or top elite status, there are also networks of independent airport lounges scattered across the globe. And few are better or more expansive than Priority Pass, with more than 1,400 lounges worldwide.

 

turkish airlines lounge priority pass

 

The best part? Getting into Priority Pass lounges is complimentary if you hold the right credit card.

But only one of these premium hotel cards is up to the task. While the Hilton Aspire used to come with a Priority Pass Select Membership, that benefit was axed last fall as part of the card's refresh. Nowadays, the Bonvoy Brilliant is the only hotel credit card that includes Priority Pass lounge access. 

And it's not just complimentary lounge access for one person, Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders can also bring in two free guests to the lounges with them. If you don't have another high-priced credit card in your wallet with lounge access, getting it as an added perk with your premium hotel card is a nice benefit. 

While the experience at these lounges varies, you can generally expect a quiet place to relax before your flight, or during a layover, with complimentary snacks and drinks. Some of the better Priority Pass lounges have full buffets or table-service dining. Others include amenities like spa services, showers, sleep rooms, and there's even one with a swimming pool … complete with tarmac views! 

 

VIP Lounge Pool (PUJ)
Photo courtesy of Lounge Buddy

 

Related reading: Everything You Need to Know About Priority Pass Lounges

 

Winner: Which Card Offers the Best Lounge Access?

Considering only one of these cards comes with any level of lounge access, determining a winner here is easy. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is best for anyone looking to avoid the chaos of a crowded airport terminal and make a long layover more enjoyable. 

 

*bonvoy brilliant*

 

Learn more about the *bonvoy brilliant*

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Earning Points

When it comes to earning points, it's important to maximize every dollar you spend.

Both of these cards offer big bonuses when using them at the individual hotel chains' properties, but what about everywhere else?

Let's take a closer look.

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, you'll earn an 6x Bonvoy points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy. That makes this a go-to card for any traveler who regularly pays out of pocket for Marriott stays. 

You'll also earn 3x points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines. All other eligible purchases earn 2x points per dollar spent. 

 

Hilton Aspire

With the Hilton Aspire Card, you will earn 14x points per dollar spent on made directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. You'll also earn 7x points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines (or amextravel.com), car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and at U.S. restaurants.

Outside of those bonus categories, the Hilton Aspire earns 3x Hilton Honors points on all other purchases.

 

Winner: Which Card Earns More Points?

This one is a no-brainer. With a 3x base earning on all other purchases and up to 14x points in bonus categories, you'll clearly rack up points faster with the Hilton Aspire than you would with the Bonvoy Brilliant. 

Having said that, there are far better cards for your day-to-day spending than either of these. Aside from your hotel stays, I wouldn't recommend swiping either one more than you need to. 

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® vs Hilton Aspire: Redeeming Points

Enough about earning points. Let's get to the fun stuff: Using them for free hotel nights (or flights).

 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

With over 8,000 hotels worldwide, you shouldn't have any issue finding somewhere to use your Marriott points. But thanks to Marriott's dynamic pricing model, exactly how many points you'll need for a free night will vary from property-to-property, and even from night-to-night. 

Taking a look at The Laylow, an Autograph Collection hotel on Oahu's famed Waikiki Beach, a free night for most of the upcoming winter goes for 67,000 points per night. 

 

The Laylow Points Booking

 

If you instead booked that with cash, you'd be on the hook for $444 per night. That means, in this case, you'd be getting nearly .7 cents per point in value ($444/67,000 = .66). 

 

The Laylow cash booking

 

Thanks to Marriott's fifth-night free benefit, you can get even greater value from your points when booking stays in five-night increments. Marriott takes the cheapest of your five nights and subtracts it from the total amount of points needed. In this case, you'd be able to book a five-night stay at The Laylow for 268,000 points, instead of the $2,220 cash price. 

But that's just one example – depending on the property, you might be able to do far better. 

Take this Courtyard by Marriott in Fargo, ND, for example. A random August night here only costs 11,000 Bonvoy points. 

 

Courtyard Fargo points booking

 

Meanwhile, the going cash rate for that same exact night is $172. In this case, you're getting a whopping 1.56 cents per point in value ($172/11,000 = 1.56). 

 

Courtyard Fargo cash booking

 

While Fargo isn't likely a destination that's on many travelers' bucket lists, there are plenty of similar properties all over the country (and world) where you can get great value from your Marriott points. The key is to do the math ahead of time before deciding where to book – but at a bare minimum, you should be able to get .7 cents per point in value. 

 

Turn Your Bonvoy Points into Airline Miles!

Hotels aren't the only thing you can use Marriott points for, though. 

Although not a flexible currency like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy surpasses the banks with a whopping 40-plus airline transfer partners. You could argue that Bonvoy points are some of the most flexible in the points and miles world. And that only increases their value.

The only caveat is that they transfer at a 3:1 ratio to most airlines. Still, this is one of the few (if not the only) hotel point currencies that can make sense to transfer to airlines. Marriott goes further by adding a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer. 

However, a few airlines won't provide that 5,000-mile bonus. If you are transferring points to American Airlines AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, Avianca LifeMiles, or Korean Air Skypass, you won't get that bonus.

If you have some extra Marriott points laying around and need another way to earn airline miles, this is a highly underrated method that has become one of my favorite way to keep earning miles.

Read more: Save Points When Booking Flights: Transfer Them to an Airline Partner 

 

Hilton Aspire

When it comes time to use your Hilton Honors points, you should be able to find a redemption that fits your needs. While not quite as big as Marriott, Hilton currently boasts of more than 7,000 properties worldwide – raging from the most luxurious Waldorf Astorias to a run-of-the-mill Hilton Garden Inn. 

Unlike Marriott, Hilton still uses standard room pricing for what a free night will cost so there's generally more consistency. However if a standard room isn't available, you might see pricing in the hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of points per night. Don't even bother crunching the numbers on those bookings. 

In order to keep things fair, let's look at similar properties within Hilton's portfolio that we used for our Marriott examples. 

If you wanted to use points to stay at the iconic Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, it would cost you 70,000 points for a standard room. 

 

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki

 

The cash rate for this same night and room type comes out to nearly $585 when all the taxes and fees are added in. That means that you're getting a relatively-impressive .84 cents per point ($585/70,000 = .84).

 

Hilton Hawaiian Village Wakiki cash booking

 

That's actually quite good value for your Hilton points. And just like with Marriott, you can do even better when booking in five-night increments, thanks to the hotel chain's fifth-night free benefit. In order to get this perk, you need to have some level of Hilton elite status but since that's included with the Hilton Aspire Card, you should be all set to take advantage. 

Heading back north to Fargo, you could instead opt for the Hilton Garden Inn for your one-night stay. In this case, you'd only need 30,000 Hilton points for a free night – less than half what's required in Hawaii. 

 

Hilton Garden Inn points booking

 

While paying 30,000 points for a free night might seem like a good deal, the cash rate for that same exact night is only $144. In that case, you're only getting .48 cents per point in value ($144/30,000 = .48), which isn't great. Again, this isn't specific to this property, but it is indicative of what you'll find for value with many Hilton properties around the globe. 

 

Hilton Garden Inn cash booking

 

But here's the kicker: With Hilton, there is some real upside. Since standard award nights typically top out at 150,000 Hilton Honors points per night, you can do some cherry-picking and get even greater value from your points. Far-flung destinations like Bora Bora and the Maldives are a great way to wring the most value out of your Hilton points … so long as you can find a standard award. 

 

Winner: Which Card's Points are More Valuable?

It's no slam dunk but since Marriott Bonvoy points are typically worth more than Hilton points, they get the slight edge in this category. Add in the fact that they can also be transferred to nearly any airline in the world and it makes the case for Marriott even stronger. 

 

*bonvoy brilliant*

 

Learn more about the *bonvoy brilliant*

 

Bottom Line

By the numbers, the Hilton Aspire Card takes five categories, while the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant takes two – and one category was too close to pick a winner.

So does that make the Hilton Aspire the clear-cut winner? Maybe.

Every traveler can – and should – weigh each of these categories differently. Depending on your own individual travel patterns and more importantly, hotel preferences, one of these cards might make more sense for you than the other. At the end of the day, they're both top-notch cards for the given hotel chain and can be worth carrying … despite they're substantial annual fees. 

 

*bonvoy brilliant*

 

Learn more about the *bonvoy brilliant*

 

hilton aspire card

 

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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