When Do Purchased Points Count Toward Lifetime Status?
"Reader Questions" are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
We here at The Points Guy definitely prefer earning points for free over paying for them, but sometimes there's a good reason to buy points. TPG reader Thomas wonders if this might be one of those good reasons...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Thomas"]If I purchase miles from Marriott, do they count toward lifetime status?[/pullquote]
I'm going to be completely honest, Thomas — when I first read your question, my immediate reaction was "nope, they don't." That's because, at least when it comes to airlines and many hotel chains, purchased points and miles aren't usually considered qualifying points from a lifetime or elite status perspective.
But when I started to research the answer to confirm my original suspicions, I was surprised to find out that even though it's not noted in the program's terms and conditions, multiple reports indicate that Marriott does in fact count purchased points — along with any and all points that reach your account in any manner — toward lifetime elite status.
Now, there are two important qualifiers to keep in mind on this. First, you can only buy up to 50,000 Marriott Rewards points per calendar year. Since lifetime status at the lowest level Marriott Silver requires 1.2 million points plus 250 nights at Marriott hotels, you're not going to be able to come anywhere close to simply buying lifetime elite status via purchased points.
The other quirk of the Marriott program — again, one that isn't specified in the terms and conditions but which has been widely reported — is that any points you might transfer to someone else as well as points used to buy back your elite status in a given year are deducted from your lifetime total. Award night redemptions don't have the same effect so you don't have to worry about that, but if you're thinking about buying back status, you might want to consider the effect on your lifetime points.
Other hotel programs such as Starwood base lifetime status not on points but on nights and/or years of elite status, so this interesting Marriott quirk doesn't apply. And if you're wondering, both Hilton and Hyatt use "Base Points" when awarding lifetime status based on points, which Hilton defines as "every US dollar spent on your room rate and other eligible room charges" and Hyatt specifies as either dollars "spent by the Member on an Eligible Rate" or "payment of Eligible Incidental Charges and Eligible Non-Stay Charges." Everything else is "Bonus Points" and doesn't count at either chain.
Yep, sometimes in answering a question from a reader, I learn something myself. Thanks for teaching me a new trick, Thomas, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own — or teach me something new! — tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.