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If you’re wondering whether it’s worth meeting the requirements for a specific hotel program status, it helps to know what sort of value you can expect as an elite member. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen continues the hotel portion of his series on elite statuses by examining how much value you can get with the different levels of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs.
Here at TPG we’re constantly asked questions like, “Is it worth it for me to earn ____ status with ____ airline/hotel chain?” This is a relatively challenging question to answer, as there are many factors that come into play when deciding your ideal program. Last month, I kicked off an update of last year’s series that quantified the value of elite status at the various hotel chains by looking at the Hilton HHonors and Hyatt Gold Passport programs. Today, I’ll continue the series by examining the elite tiers of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs.
If you’re relatively new to the points and miles hobby, you may be a bit confused as to why I’m grouping Marriott and Ritz-Carlton together. The reason is simple: Though the two programs are technically separate, they really function as a single loyalty currency with reciprocal benefits across the entire portfolio of brands. In other words, Marriott Rewards Platinum status and Ritz-Carlton Rewards Platinum status confer the exact same benefits when you stay at any Marriott or Ritz property.
That being said, you’re technically only allowed to be a member of one program, so you can’t stack elite credits or pursue promotions with both. So you’ll need to pick one of the programs first if you want to get a credit card to help you toward status. If you want to take advantage of the increased sign-up bonus on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, you need to be a member of Marriott Rewards. If (on the other hand) you want to open the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card, you need to belong to Ritz’s program.
In addition, I have a couple of disclaimers before we get to the analysis. First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level. You probably have your own way of calculating how much value you can get from these programs; if you travel exclusively for work and rarely spend time in your room, you may not care about upgrades, and if you aren’t a big breakfast eater, the free breakfast benefit probably won’t matter much either. Just like with any analysis, feel free to adjust the numbers to make it more relevant to your own personal situation.
Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch or if you suddenly have a drop-off in your travel, the calculations become significantly more complicated.
This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making. To really hit a value for benefits, I have to assume a certain amount of traveling and a certain amount of spending with the given hotel chain. For the sake of the hotel portion of the series, I’m making the following assumptions:
- You complete 20% more nights than the minimum required for a given status level.
- You spend an average of $150 per night on qualifying charges (just like IHG, Marriott Rewards uses nights instead of stays when calculating elite status qualification).
- Your average stay is two nights.
- You spend 60% of your stays at full-service properties (like Marriott) and 40% at discount properties (like SpringHill or Fairfield).
As always, be sure to adjust these numbers based on your given travel patterns. Those who stay almost exclusively in Ritz-Carlton properties may wind up paying significantly more per night, while those who typically travel outside of major metropolitan areas will probably stay in more discount properties.
Three final bits of information: For the sake of this analysis, I’m valuing any bonus points earned based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg Marriott points at 0.7 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler. Finally, I’m not including benefits offered to all guests, like the complimentary internet perk that kicked in as of January 2015.
So, all that being said, where do the three levels of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards program land? Here’s my analysis:
Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Rewards Silver Elite ($70)
The lowest level in the two programs is Silver Elite status, which is typically earned after 10 nights. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, courtesy of the 15 nights you get toward elite status each year. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 12 nights/6 stays (seven/four at full-service, five/two at discount properties) and spending $150 each night (so a total spend of $1,800).
- 20% point bonus ($25): Silver members will earn a 20% point bonus on paid stays, and since regular members earn 10 points per dollar, this equates to an additional 2 points per dollar. With $1,800 in spending, you’d take home an extra 3,600 points, worth $25.20.
- Late check-out ($25): As a Silver member, you’re able to request a late check-out on the morning of your departure, though it’s subject to availability. The value of this truly depends on how frequently you need it, so I’ll peg it at a conservative $25.
- Elite reservation and guest services lines ($10): Silver members also have access to priority telephone numbers when booking reservations (1-800-228-2100) or when needing assistance with your account (1-800-321-7396). This may get you an agent a bit more quickly than someone without status, but since you can accomplish most of these tasks online, it isn’t the most lucrative benefit.
- Discounts ($10): The final Silver perk is a 10% discount at participating Marriott-operated gift shops and a 10% weekend discount off rates at participating Courtyard and SpringHill Suites locations. While you could get a good amount of value out of this, I’ll stay conservative and peg this at $10.
Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Rewards Gold Elite ($1,845)
The middle level in the two programs is Gold Elite status, which is typically earned after 50 nights. It’s also included as an automatic benefit for the first year on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card and can be maintained by spending $10,000 on the card each account year thereafter. You can also spend your way to Gold status on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card; you get 15 nights toward elite status each year plus another credit for every $3,000 you spend (so “automatic” Gold status requires $105,000 in spending). For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 60 nights/30 stays (36/18 at full-service, 24/12 at discount properties) and spending $150 each night (so a total spend of $9,000).
- 25% point bonus ($160): As a Gold member, you’ll get a slightly higher bonus than Silver Elites (25% more points than a regular member). This works out to an extra 2.5 points per dollar spent, so with $9,000 in spending, that equates to 22,500 bonus points, worth $157.50.
- Late check-out ($75): Gold members enjoy the same late check-out benefits as Silver members, though will likely utilize it more frequently.
- Elite reservation and guest services lines ($10)
- Discounts ($50): Same benefit, more frequent usage
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($50): While all Marriott Rewards members enjoy free internet, Gold Elites can access faster networks at participating brands. I’ve personally found that these networks aren’t a huge upgrade over the standard speeds, so I’ll peg this at a conservative $50.
- Room upgrades ($1,200): Gold members are eligible for complimentary upgrades at check-in, which may include corner rooms, those on higher floors or even suites. This perk is also available at all properties, including discount ones. I’ll use the same $50-per-stay valuation that I used for Hyatt and Hilton, but I’ll adjust it down to $25 per stay for discount properties.
- Lounge access/free breakfast ($300): You’ll also be granted automatic access to the lounge or free breakfast at most full-service properties, though this doesn’t apply to resorts nor is it available at Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard and AC Hotels. I’ll use the same $20 per stay I used for Hilton but assume that only 50% of your stays take place in applicable properties.
Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Rewards Platinum Elite ($3,245)
The top level in the two programs is Platinum Elite status, which is typically earned after 75 nights. You can also “purchase” this status by spending $75,000 in an account year on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card or by spending $180,000 on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 90 nights/45 stays (54/27 at full-service, 36/18 at discount properties) and spending $150 each night (so a total spend of $13,500).
- 50% point bonus ($475): Platinum members enjoy the highest bonus of Marriott elite members, earning 50% more points than a regular member. This works out to an extra 5 points per dollar spent, so with $13,500 in spending, that equates to 67,500 bonus points, worth $472.50.
- Late check-out ($100): Same benefit, more frequent usage
- Elite reservation and guest services lines ($10)
- Discounts ($75): Same benefit, more frequent usage
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($75): Same benefit, more frequent usage
- Room upgrades ($1,800): Platinum members have the same upgrade benefit as Gold members, so I’ll use the same estimates I use above ($50 per stay at full-service, $25 per stay at discount properties).
- Lounge access/free breakfast ($460): The lounge access/breakfast benefit for Platinums is also the same as it is for Golds, so I’ll keep the $20 per stay valuation and assume that roughly half (23) of your stays happen in these properties.
- 48-hour guaranteed availability ($25): Platinum members are guaranteed a room when booking at least 48 hours prior to arrival. However, like other chains, Marriott restricts this to stays outside of special events, and the rates will likely be quite pricey. Nevertheless, if you absolutely have to stay at that particular property, it can be quite nice to have.
- Platinum arrival gift ($225): The final Platinum perk is an arrival gift that varies by brand. It’s generally a choice between bonus points or a food and beverage amenity, so it’s up to you to decide which makes the most sense for you. I’ll assume a value of $5 per stay.
Is It Worth It?
Given these values, is it worth it for you to push for status with Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards? As with any analysis, there isn’t an easy answer to that question, as it entirely depends on your travel patterns. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help make this decision:
1. How much will you be traveling in the future? If you go out of your way to earn a given elite status level, it would be a shame to not utilize the benefits as much as you’d like.
2. What’s the incremental value of one level over another? If you’re close to qualifying for the next level, consider the additional (or enhanced) benefits you’d get. There’s no sense in taking a mattress run to earn status when the additional perks you’d get don’t matter to you.
3. Would you sacrifice price or convenience for elite status? One of the hardest things to quantify in this hobby is whether or not it’s worth booking with your preferred hotel chain if it isn’t the most convenient or cheapest. If you’re attending a conference in a hotel that isn’t your favorite brand, only you can decide whether you should look elsewhere.
While the answers to these questions won’t give you an absolute answer, they can help bring out the key considerations to be made as you’re deciding whether you want to push for the next status level (or whether you want to earn status at all).
Whether or not Marriott/Ritz-Carlton status is worth it depends on various factors, but it’s worth noting that both programs will likely see significant changes when Marriott merges with SPG. Until then, I hope this post has given you a framework to utilize as you try to evaluate whether either one should be your preferred chain.
For more information about Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, be sure to check out the following posts:
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Marriott Rewards
- Maximizing Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages
- Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to Marriott
- Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to Ritz-Carlton
- Marriott Details its New Cash + Points Awards
How do you value Marriott or Ritz-Carlton elite status?