Loyalty Programs Behaving Badly: Marriott Hotels That Can Refuse to Serve Elites Free Breakfast

Feb 10, 2018

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At TPG, we like to focus on getting the most value out of loyalty programs as they currently work. There’s no value to readers for us to pine over what once was the case. However, sometimes loyalty programs make such negative changes that we have to take a step back to discuss. In the second edition of this overdue series, we call out Marriott for its elite-unfriendly policy of ignoring its own elite perks at certain hotels.

One of the perks of Marriott Rewards Gold (50 nights) and Platinum (75+ nights) elite status is “Guaranteed Lounge Access/Breakfast.” This perk alone contributes $300 of our $1,985 valuation for Gold elite status and $460 of our $3,760 valuation of Platinum elite status. However, there are some properties where elites won’t get the “guaranteed” lounge access or breakfast… and that list is growing.

The Perk

To review the details of this perk: Gold and Platinum Elite members plus one guest get free daily continental breakfast, light snacks and beverages inthe Executive Lounge at JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott Hotels and Delta Hotels. Resorts and other brands are excluded.

If the elite member books more than one room, the benefit “only applies to the one guest room in which the Gold Elite member or Platinum Elite member is staying.”

Exceptions and Compensation

For European hotels without a lounge, hotels will “offer a daily choice of breakfast for two in the restaurant or 750 points” — unless breakfast is included in the room rate already. If so, no extra points are granted.

If the hotel lounge isn’t open in qualifying hotels in the US and Canada, Platinum and Gold Elite members are entitled to a “daily choice of continental breakfast for two in the restaurant or 750 points.” If a qualifying hotel doesn’t have an open lounge and complimentary breakfast is not offered, Marriott’s elite terms and conditions say “elite members will be compensated $100 USD for the inconvenience.”

Except…

Marriott lists 20 hotels on its website which can close its lounge at anytime without notice. In the event these hotels do so, they won’t give elites breakfast and won’t give you $100. Instead, elite members will get just 1,000 points. Here are those hotels:

  • The Algonquin Hotel Times Square, Autograph Collection
  • Boston Marriott Copley Place
  • Boston Marriott Long Wharf
  • Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile
  • JW Marriott Essex House, New York City
  • JW Marriott New Orleans
  • JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square
  • JW Marriott Washington, DC
  • The Lexington New York City, Autograph Collection
  • Monterey Marriott
  • New York Marriott Marquis
  • Philadelphia Marriott Downtown
  • Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel
  • Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel
  • Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel
  • Renaissance New York Hotel 57
  • Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel
  • Renaissance New York Times Square
  • Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel
  • San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina

That’s right — at some of the brand’s best properties, elites may end up with no more points than anyone could have gotten for tweeting a NFL trivia answer any one of 12 Sundays this NFL season. Those 1,000 points are worth just $9, which isn’t going to get much of a breakfast for two around any of these hotels.

If you’ve stayed at one of these hotels recently and got breakfast, you might be in for a surprise the next time you show up. The Internet Archive shows that this list keeps getting longer. Seven of the current 20 hotels on the list were added to the list in 2017:

  • Monterey Marriott
  • Philadelphia Marriott Downtown
  • Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel
  • Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel
  • Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel
  • Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel
  • Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel

We reached out to Marriott about these exclusions. In a statement to TPG, a Marriott spokesperson explained the hotel’s position:

It’s all about providing a truly exceptional experience. Marriott Rewards guarantees lounge access to Gold & Platinum members at our full-service hotels. In cases where the hotel does not have a lounge, the lounge is closed or the hotel cannot deliver an acceptable experience based on overcrowding, we do allow hotels to provide breakfast in the restaurant or additional bonus points.

It seems to be Marriott’s take that providing breakfast at these hotels wouldn’t be “a truly exceptional experience” due to overcrowding. That excuse for ignoring a stated elite benefit seems to be a bit thin.

So, Gold and Platinum elites should keep this list of hotels — and check the list of exclusion hotels posted in the online elite benefits page — in mind when booking a Marriott stay. It could end up that your hotel will skirt its responsibility to provide lounge access and/or breakfast to elites.

Credit Card Perks

If you want 75,000 Marriott points, you can stay as an elite at these 20 hotels 75 times… or you can sign up for the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and spend $3,000 in the first three months after signing up for the card. And unlike those hotel stays, the card is free for the first year. After the first year, you’ll get a free Marriott night at a Category 1-5 hotel, which should easily make up the $85 annual fee.

While the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card will score you Marriott Silver status, the best way to fast-track to Marriott Gold Elite status is through the Platinum Card from American Express. Although the card technically only scores you Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, you can match SPG Gold status to Marriott Gold Elite status. And, that’s on top of a bunch of other perks that comes with the card such as up to $200 in Uber credits, a $200 airline fee credit and more.

If you have a nomination for the Loyalty Programs Behaving Badly series, shoot an email to tips@thepointsguy.com. Please limit your nominations to issues affecting many travelers, not just one-off issues.

Feature photo courtesy JW Marriott Essex House New York

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