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Whether you qualified for elite status in 2014 or fell short, the new year presents an opportunity to assess just how much that status means to you, and whether to pursue it again this year. Today, TPG Contributor Nick Ewen evaluates each level of Marriott Rewards elite status to help you decide.
Hotel status can be quite valuable, but that value isn’t always easy to quantify. Last week, I analyzed each level of elite status in the Hilton HHonors program, and today I’ll take a crack at Marriott, offering my thoughts on just how much Marriott Rewards elite status is worth.
While this analysis is similar to the recent posts analyzing the value of airline elite status, there are some notable differences. For starters, it’s much easier to switch your loyalty from one hotel chain to another, given the global reach of their various brands. The same cannot be said for airlines, as you might be a hub captive or fly regularly to a city that’s only served by one or two airlines.
Another key difference is the level of complexity that many hotel loyalty programs provide. Airline elite status benefits are more consistent; they generally don’t change based on the departure city or arrival city. Hotels are the opposite. You may earn the same number of points when you stay at a JW Marriott or a Fairfield Inn, but the on-property benefits (and thus the value you get from each night’s stay) can vary widely.
In addition, these valuation for Marriott also apply to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program, as the qualification criteria and benefits for each level are identical to those of the Marriott Rewards program.
As a reminder, I’ll be making a number of assumptions as I analyze the value of hotel elite status. For Marriott, I assumed the following:
- You qualify by hitting the night qualification thresholds exactly. I’m sure many of you easily surpass those requirements for each level, but given how easy it is to shift those “extra” stays to other chains, I’m going to stick with this conservative estimate.
- Your average stay is 2 nights. While stays aren’t a part of the qualification criteria for elite status, they do come into play with benefits that only happen once per stay (rather than per night). This is slightly higher than my assumptions for Hilton (for which I used 1.5), but I’m assuming that Marriott Rewards members typically stay longer, since there’s no incentive to “hotel hop” in a given destination.
- Your average rate per night is $175. Unlike Hilton HHonors, award stays don’t count toward elite status, so this assumption takes that into account.
- Approximately half of your nights are in higher-end (full service) hotels like Marriott and Renaissance locations, while the other half are in budget properties like SpringHill and Courtyard. Again, this is a conservative estimate.
Your stay and spending patterns may be quite different, so feel free to adjust these numbers up or down. There’s no single right way to conduct this type of analysis; running the numbers for yourself is an important step in determining whether it’s worth going for the next level.
Finally, I rounded valuations to the nearest whole dollar for simplicity. Read on to see what I determined.
Marriott Rewards Silver ($60)
As the lowest level within the Marriott Rewards program, Silver status is granted after just 10 nights. Since you receive 15 elite credits each year simply by holding the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (or the business version), that’s an easy route to automatic Silver status as well. This is definitely an easy level of status to obtain, but personally, I’ve been treated very well as a Silver member in the past. For my valuation, I’m assuming 10 nights, split evenly between full-service and discount properties (5 nights and 3 stays each).
- 20% points bonus ($25): As a Silver Marriott Rewards member, you’ll earn an additional 20% points (on the base rate) for every stay. TPG’s most recent valuations of points and miles pegged Marriott points at 0.7 cents apiece, so with 10 nights at $175 per night, you’re looking at 3,500 points more than a standard member would earn, giving you a value of $24.50.
- Priority late checkout ($25): Unlike Hilton HHonors, which offers late checkout “subject to availability” to all members of the program, Marriott restricts late checkout to elite members. In most cases you’ll only be get an extra hour or two, but your checkout could be extended as late as 4pm (as I did the one time I requested it as a Silver member). I’m assuming a value of $25 for each late checkout and a 10% utilization rate for this benefit (rounded up to 1 stay a year), as there will likely be stays where a late checkout is unnecessary.
- Gift shop discount ($10): I’ve generally found hotel gift shops to be incredibly overpriced, but if you absolutely need (or want) something, it can be a nice benefit. This is only available at the full-service properties, and you likely won’t use the benefit during each stay. To stay conservative, I’ll assume a $2 discount for each of the 5 nights you stay at those locations.
Marriott Rewards Gold ($948)
Like Hilton HHonors Gold, Marriott Rewards Gold Elite is generally known as a very valuable mid-tier status, which isn’t surprising given the high qualification requirements (50 nights). In addition to the 15 elite credits from the Marriott Rewards Visa, you also get another credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card, so that’s one shortcut to status. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card is another option, as it offers Gold status for the first year (and then each year thereafter when you spend $10,000). For this analysis, I’m assuming exactly 50 nights split evenly between full-service and discount properties (25 nights and 13 stays each). As you’re about to see, the jump from Silver is huge.
- 25% point bonus ($153): As a Marriott Rewards Gold member, you earn a 25% bonus on the the base rate. With 50 nights at $175 per night, that’s 21,875 more points than a regular (non-status) member. At 0.7 cents per point, that’s worth just over $153.
- Priority late checkout ($75): Using the same assumptions as above for Silver elites ($25 per use and 10% utilization ratio), you would take advantage of this benefit 3 times during your 26 stays, for a total value of $75.
- Gift shop discount ($50): This is the same benefit offered to Silver members, but as a Gold member, you have more stays/nights during which to take advantage of it. At $2 per night for the 25 nights at full-service properties, you’re looking at $50 in benefits.
- Guaranteed lounge access/breakfast for yourself and one guest ($250): To me, free breakfast is a hugely valuable benefit, and meals can be pricey at certain properties (though the policy does explicitly exclude resorts). Just like Hilton HHonors, I’ll use a conservative estimate of $10 per night for each stay at a full-service property.
- Room upgrades ($300): As another similarity to Hilton, Marriott Rewards Gold members are entitled to a complimentary room upgrade at full-service properties. This might only mean a room with a desirable view (which could sell for little to no premium), but it could also mean a massive suite. I’m using the same assumptions I used for Hilton: an average value of $50 per night, with a conservative success rate of 25% (rounded down to 6 nights).
- Complimentary premium tiered internet service ($100): Last year, Marriott
- announced that all Marriott Rewards members would receive free internet at the vast majority of their properties (matched shortly thereafter by SPG and Hyatt). This new benefit officially went into effect today! However, Gold Elite members do have access to premium complimentary internet. You may not need (or want) this option, but I’ve found that premium internet can mean a huge jump in speed compared to the standard option. This applies to both full-service and discount properties. While a higher speed may be invaluable to some, I’ll assume a conservative value of $2 per night.
- Guaranteed room type ($20): As a Gold member, you’re given guaranteed priority for your requested room type, subject to availability. I usually find that this type of policy is rarely needed, but it helps if a property decides to play games with room assignments.
Marriott Rewards Platinum ($2,110)
As the top tier in the Marriott Rewards program, you can earn Platinum Elite status by staying 75 nights (or combining paid nights with elite credits from the Marriott Visa as explained above). There aren’t a ton of additional published benefits beyond those offered to Gold members, but you’ll be able to utilize them more frequently. For this analysis, I’m assuming exactly 75 nights, with 38 in full-service properties and 37 in discount locations (19 stays in each).
- 50% point bonus ($459): As a Platinum member, you’ll earn 50% more points on each stay, so with 75 nights at $175 apiece, you’ll earn 65,625 more points than a regular Marriott Rewards member. Using TPG’s valuation of 0.7 cents per point, that’s a value of just over $459.
- 48-hour guaranteed availability ($25): Marriott Rewards offers top-tier elites guaranteed room availability within 48 hours of a stay, but like Hilton, these rooms are often exorbitantly expensive. Still, this benefit can be useful during periods of high demand.
- Priority late checkout ($100): Using the same assumptions as for Silver and Gold elites ($25 per use and 10% utilization ratio), you would take advantage of this benefit 4 times (rounded up from 3.8) during your 38 stays, for a total value of $100.
- Gift shop discount ($76): Using the same analysis as for Silver and Gold above, at $2 per night for the 38 nights at full-service properties, I value this benefit at $76 for Platinum elites.
- Guaranteed lounge access/breakfast for you and one guest ($380): The lounge access and breakfast policy for Platinum members is the same as that for Gold, so at $10 per night across 38 nights, your yearly value is $380.
- Room upgrades ($500): The published upgrade policy is the same for both Gold and Platinum members at full-service properties, so while higher tiers should be given priority (in theory), the letter of the law doesn’t differentiate between the two. As a result, I’ll use the same estimate of $50 per night with a success rate of 25% (rounded up to 10 nights).
- Complimentary premium tiered internet service ($150): Using the same assumptions as for Gold elites ($2 per night), this benefit is worth $150 for Platinum elites.
- Guaranteed room type ($30): As discussed above, this policy would (hopefully) rarely be needed, but since Platinum requires 50% more nights than Gold, I’m assigning 50% more value to this benefit.
- Platinum arrival gift ($190): All Platinum members receive an additional gift upon arrival at Marriott properties—generally the choice of bonus points or a food and beverage amenity. Discount properties range from 200-400 points, while full-service ones offer 500 points. The food/drink item will vary from property to property, but is a $10 credit at full-service locations in the U.S. and Canada. I’ll thus estimate this benefit at $5 per stay.
- Complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver status ($200): Back in 2013, Marriott and United launched their RewardsPlus partnership, and as a Marriott Platinum Elite member, you can enjoy automatic Premier Silver status when you register here. TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele valued Silver status at $1,000 last month, but that analysis assumed that you fly 20% more than the amount needed to earn status “the hard way.” As a result, I’m valuing this benefit for a Marriott Platinum member with the occasional flight on United.
As you can see, Marriott Rewards elite status offers some great value, and both the Gold and Platinum levels outshine their Hilton counterparts (Gold and Diamond, respectively). That isn’t surprising, given that attaining either of these Marriott levels requires more nights than Hilton, as the included benefits clearly show.
You may value some of these benefits more or less than I do; I encourage you to make your own assessments, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below. Hopefully this analysis will help you as you decide whether to push for the next level!
How much do you value elite status with Marriott Rewards?