Battle of the hotels: Why I think Marriott is the best
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Editor’s note: It’s no surprise that TPG writers and editors are loyal when it comes to travel. So we decided to do a battle that covers the top four U.S. hotel groups. Check out the episode of the Talking Points podcast to hear us defend our picks. And click on the links below to read which hotels we chose and why.
Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Hilton is the best
Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I stay most often with IHG
Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Hyatt is the best
At TPG, we like to pit different travel programs and products against each other to see which ones are the best. This time around, we're comparing hotel chains and loyalty programs. I drew the task of explaining why Marriott Bonvoy is my top pick.
That wasn't entirely random. I've had Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for the last few years, and even though I've had plenty of technical issues with the program since its merger with SPG, I'll still have Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status at least through 2020. I'm sort of a Bonvoy gal, even though it's been a love-hate relationship at times.
Here's why I like Marriott and why it might be the best hotel program for you.
I love Marriott's many properties. The St. Regis New York, The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, The St. Regis Aspen Resort, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and, of course, The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort are just -- awesome. These are the luxurious hotels and resorts that many of us could never afford with cash. But they can become a reality using Marriott points. It was much nicer when the Marriott award chart temporarily topped out at 60,000 points per night for these high-end properties, but even with the current award chart, Marriott points can do what my cash budget cannot.
I'm stashing away points for a 40th birthday celebration at The St. Regis Maldives. The Park Hyatt Maldives is certainly nice and a great value at 30,000 Hyatt points per night ... but it's not The St. Regis.
Even if you aren't going for upscale stays, Marriott has Category 5 ski-in/ski-out properties such as The Westin Snowmass Resort and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas, the Category 6 Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, and historically rich spots, including the Westin Moana Surfrider in Hawaii.
This means that the free-night awards you get each year from cards, such as Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (worth up to 35,000 points) and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (worth up to 50,000 points), are awards you'll actually look forward to using.
Top-tier elite status is easy to earn
When it comes to loyalty programs, life is better at the top. Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status is actually easy to earn and it comes with some fantastic perks. Whereas Hyatt's great Globalist status requires 60 nights per year, Marriott Platinum status only requires 50 nights per calendar year. On top of that, having a Marriott credit card gets you 15 elite qualifying nights, which means you only need 35 additional nights to earn Platinum status. Stack that with award stays (which count toward status) and targeted promotions for double elite-status nights, and your 50 nights add up quickly.
With a Marriott credit card, earning Platinum status requires less than three award or paid Marriott nights per month -- fewer if you get a promotion for bonus elite nights on your account.
With Marriott Platinum comes lounge access, five annual Suite Night Awards, a higher points-earning rate, a shot at space-available suite upgrades and a stay bonus, which usually is bonus points or ... free breakfast.
I'm happy to admit that I'm a free-breakfast junkie, especially at nicer hotels and resorts where the food is usually good but pricey. Although it's not an across-the-board standard, Marriott has improved over the years when it comes to free breakfast as a check-in option for Platinum Elites. At the Westin Moana Surfrider, we enjoyed a lovely full breakfast buffet by the ocean at no charge thanks to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status. If that wasn't enough to fill us up, we were also able to duck into the Moana Surfrider Club Lounge -- also with an ocean view.
At my favorite Marriott brand, The St. Regis, free breakfast is a Platinum check-in amenity option and can sometimes be redeemed as room service. At The St. Regis New York, we enjoyed a truly indulgent room service breakfast thanks to Platinum status.
Marriott is everywhere
Marriott's worldwide reach is impressive. It has 30 brands, more than 7,000 properties and a presence in 131 countries. With its extensive number of locations around the globe, if you want to use or earn Marriott points and Elite status, you probably can. Although Hyatt is gaining ground, its footprint is still just a fraction of Marriott's, so it's harder to earn or use Hyatt points. As of September 2019, Hyatt lists less than 1,000 properties, making a Marriott hotel about 7x easier to find.
Upgrades -- OK, maybe
I'm stretching a little bit here, but technically speaking, you can book Marriott suites with points, get upgraded to a suite for free with Platinum status or use a Platinum Suite Night Award to confirm a suite. I've certainly been upgraded to a suite at a Marriott thanks to my status.
There's no question that Marriott Suite Night Awards aren't the same as Hyatt Globalist confirmed suite-upgrade certificates, but remember that Hyatt has fewer properties. Marriott has more properties and potentially more opportunity to use an upgrade certificate. Suites are great when they are available.
Many of my most enjoyable hotel stays in the last few years have been at Marriott properties. But the best isn't all in the past. Several of my most anticipated stays are also at Marriott properties. Combine the ability to book a luxury stay with points, Marriott's many hotels around the globe, and the relative ease of earning top-tier status with even a moderate amount of travel, and Marriott Bonvoy comes out on top as the best hotel program for my family.
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