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Update: Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
Marriott just officially announced today that starting June 22, Gold and Platinum elites will receive complimentary continental breakfast seven days a week at participating JW Marriott, Autograph Collection , Renaissance and Marriott Hotels in the U.S. and Canada. In the past, breakfast at hotels in the U.S. and Canada was only available during the week, but globally the weekend breakfast was included.
Platinum Elite members will also “enjoy a new flexibility with their Platinum Arrival Gift: Soon you can choose 500 points or a $10 food and beverage coupon to be used during your stay, with our compliments.” Additionally, any time the lounge is closed, Gold and Platinum elites will have a choice of continental breakfast for two in the hotels’ restaurant or 750 points. Though this is definitely an enhancement it is not game changer in my opinion.
I always shudder at the “participating” hotel language in hotel promotions and announcements. Sadly, in this case, all of Marriott’s lower-tier hotels, like Courtyard by Marriott and Springhill Suites, are excluded from this.
Additionally, resorts are also excluded, so don’t think you’re entitled to this benefit at any of their 34 resorts in Florida for example, though some may still give the benefit as a courtesy.
Why I’ve Never Been a Marriott Buff
Growing up my Dad was a big Marriott fan and I remember staying at the Marriott Marquis Time Square every summer on award nights and thinking how awesome it was to be able to travel to fancy places for “free”. When I first started traveling for business, I assumed I would just follow in Dad’s footsteps and stay at Marriotts. However I soon learned that the promotions were always lackluster in comparison to other chains (and this was in the days of Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights and Starwood’s mega choice promos). I also didn’t think that Marriott Gold status benefits (after 50 nights) or Platinum (after 75) were any better than Starwood and Hyatt’s top tier-statuses that were achieved after 25 stays or 50 nights. I value suite upgrades, especially on personal vacations, and they aren’t even offered as a Marriott Platinum benefit!
However, Marriott does have a huge following and always wins awards at the Freddie Awards. I think they mostly deliver on reliability and consistency, which is valuable for business travelers.
Taking out elite status, promos and credit card bonuses Marriott falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to the amount you need to spend to get a top-tier award night based solely on hotel spend:
Club Carlson: $2,500 for a free night at a top-tier Carlson property like a Radisson Blu (50,000 points earned at 20 points per dollar)
Hyatt: $4,400 for Hyatt (22,000 points at 5 points earned per dollar spent)
Marriott: $4,500 at Marriott (45,000 points at 10 points per dollar spent)
Priority Club: $5,000 at Priority Club (50,000 points at 10 points per dollar spent)
Hilton: $6,333 for a free night at a top-tier Hilton (95,000 points at 15 points earned per dollar spent)
Starwood: $15,000 for a Starwood Category 7 property (30,000 points at 2 points per dollar spent) or $7,775 for Cash & Points for 15,000 points (at 2 points per dollar) plus the $275 copay.
Getting Breakfast-Worthy Elite Status Via Credit Card Spend
Marriott makes it possible to attain top tier status by spending on co-branded credit cards. The Chase Marriott Premier Visa gives 15 elite nights every year and 1 Elite night credit for each $3,000 in net purchases, with no limit. So to get Gold with just spend, you’d need to spend $105,000 and Platinum would require $180,000 in spend! The card has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus plus a free category 1-4 night and gives a category 1-5 every year you keep the card open, so it’s a no-brainer for Marriott loyalists since that annual fee night and 15 elite night credits is easily worth the $85 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
Comparatively, the Citi Hilton Reserve gives instant Gold status for just having the card (free breakfast) and Diamond status at $40,000 in annual spend. The card comes with two free weekend nights at almost any Hilton hotel and each year you get an additional free weekend night for spending $10,000, which makes the annual fee of $95 well worth it in my opinion.
Starwood gives Platinum members (25 stays/50 nights) an option of continental breakfast and the Starwood Amex gives 2 stays/5 nights towards elite status and Gold status at $30,000 in annual spend. You can get the business version as well as and start each year off with 4 stays/10 nights towards qualification with both cards. The sign-up bonuses on both cards are currently 10,000 points after first purchase and 15,000 additional points after $5,000 in spend within 6 months. The $65 annual fee is waived the first year.
The Chase Hyatt Visa gives Platinum status for having the card open (no breakfast) 2 stay credits/5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in each calendar year and an additional 3 stay credits/5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 in each calendar year. The sign-up bonus is 2 free nights and a category 1-4 free night every year, making the $75 annual fee well worth it in my opinion.