The ultimate guide to choosing your Marriott Choice Benefits
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information
We’re now almost two years into the new Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Despite a number of IT snags and program devaluations, many travelers (myself included) are happy to stay loyal to Marriott and continue to maintain Bonvoy elite status.
Marriott’s highest three tiers of status unlock a variety of perks — including free breakfast, bonus points and suite upgrades — but one favorite among members is the Choice Benefits program. Marriott awards one of these perks after qualifying for Platinum status (by reaching 50 nights in a year) and another when reaching Titanium (after reaching 75 nights in a year). This is a great reward for those who qualify organically as opposed to other methods — like lifetime elite status or a status challenge — as you’ll only be offered a choice benefit if you actually reach the 50- or 75-night threshold.
Today we’re going to take a look at the different choice benefits Marriott offers and talk about which one you should select.
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Overview of Choice Benefits
Let’s start with a quick overview of this program. For starters, there are two “rounds” of Choice Benefits that are awarded at specific thresholds of stay activity during the year. The first comes when you reach 50 elite-qualifying nights in a year and earn Marriott Platinum Elite status. Then you’ll earn another selection — with slightly different options — when you hit 75 nights and qualify for Titanium Elite status. Note that award nights do count toward this total, as do the up to 30 elite night credits you’ll earn from holding Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. You can earn 15 elite night credits each year by holding any personal Marriott card and another 15 by holding any Marriott business card, for a total of up to 30.
This means that you only need to spend 20 nights and 45 nights in a participating property each year to unlock Choice Benefits at Platinum and Titanium status (respectively).
To make your selections, visit this page on Marriott’s website, sign in to your account and choose your benefit.
Just be sure to choose carefully, as all selections are final once made. You must select your Choice Benefit(s) by Jan. 15 following the year in which you qualified; if you don’t, Marriott will automatically select five Suite Night Awards for you.
Platinum Elite (50 Nights)
As noted above, you’ll unlock your first Choice Benefit when you qualify for Platinum Elite status (by earning 50 elite-qualifying nights). Your options for the 50-night Choice Benefit are as follows:
- Five Suite Night Awards
- Gift of Silver Elite status for a friend/family member
- 40% off your favorite mattress
- Five elite night credits
- A $100 charity donation
Most of these benefits are pretty tough to value, but there are a few choices that don’t make much sense. For starters, gifting Marriott Silver status isn’t worth much. As the lowest tier of Marriott elite status, Silver doesn’t offer many benefits beyond a 10% points bonus and late checkout. TPG Editor Nick Ewen only values it at $45, and there are much better ways to help your friends and family enjoy their dreams of elite travel. Silver status is complimentary with the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card ($125 annual fee, see rates and fees) and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, while both The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees) and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees) offer automatic Gold elite status to cardholders.
40% off a mattress could be a great value, but since so few people are in the market for a specific hotel’s bed, this option isn’t applicable to many travelers. The $100 charity donation is a nice touch, but there are better ways to maximize points and miles for charitable contributions.
That leaves us with the two benefits that likely appeal to the largest number of members: the five Suite Night Awards and the five elite night credits. The elite night credits can come in handy if you find yourself just a few nights short of leveling up to Titanium elite status, so you might want to look at your upcoming travel plans for the rest of the year before you make your selection. However, note that these nights count in the year in which you earned the status, even if you wait to select them until after Jan. 1. In other words, if you reach 50 nights in November 2019 but then wait to select the elite night credits as your choice benefit until Jan. 5, 2020, they will still count in 2019; they won’t help you get started toward requalification in 2020.
The final option is Marriott’s Suite Night Awards (SNAs), a holdover from the SPG program and the go-to Choice Benefit selection for many members. Each SNA is valid for a one-night upgrade to select suites designated by each individual property — meaning that you’d need six certificates to request an upgrade for a six-night reservation. Many members save these upgrades for stays at luxury properties like St. Regis, W and JW Marriott hotels, and it also may be worth trying to identify properties that make higher-category suites available for upgrade.
I’ve had great success using my SNAs to lock down a three-bedroom, duplex suite at the Westin Xi’an, a massive deluxe terrace suite at the Sheraton Sydney and a beautiful ocean-view suite at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island. When used selectively like this, each Suite Night Award can net you at least a few hundred dollars in value (based on the cash price of the room to which you’re upgrading). Arguably the best feature of SNAs is the fact that they clear up to five days before your stay begins, so if you’re traveling to a popular destination during peak season, you can use these to lock in upgrades that might not be available by the time you arrive.
Titanium Elite (75 Nights)
Marriott Titanium elites earn a second Choice Benefit each year after reaching 75 qualifying nights (or 45 actual nights spent in a hotel when you factor in the 30 nights you can earn from a Bonvoy credit card). The choices for the 75-night award are as follows:
- Five Suite Night Awards
- A free night award (worth up to 40,000 points)
- Gift of Gold Elite status for a friend or family member
- 40% off your favorite mattress
- Five elite night credits
- A $100 charity donation
As you can see, the choices here are relatively similar though slightly improved. As we did above, we’ll again skip over the charitable donation, 40% mattress discount and the gift of Gold elite status (given how easy it is to earn via credit cards). Instead, let’s focus on the more valuable options.
While some travelers might select the five elite night credits as the 50-night award to help reach Titanium elite status, it could also make sense for Titanium members to select five elite night credits as the 75-night benefit in order to close the gap and reach Marriott Ambassador status. The top tier of Marriott’s public elite program, Ambassador status requires 100 nights and $20,000 in annual Marriott spending to qualify. For frequent travelers, earning access to a personal ambassador to coordinate your stays has the potential to be incredibly valuable.
Like the 50-night threshold, you then also have the ability to select another five Suite Night Awards, bringing your grand total to 10 for the year. As noted above, this could be a great option if you’re hoping to enjoy upgraded accommodations on certain trips — especially to luxury resorts.
Finally, Marriott offers a 40,000-point free night as a Choice Benefit for Titanium elites. Note that this is slightly more valuable than the 35,000-point certificates associated with most of the Bonvoy credit cards, since it covers both standard and peak award rates at Category 5 properties along with off-peak dates at Category 6 hotels. Based on TPG’s valuations, 40,000 points are worth $320, so this is certainly a valuable option. However, after spending 75 nights in Marriott hotels and hopefully holding at least one or two Bonvoy credit cards, you might have enough points or certificates in your account to cover your travels. This is especially true if you’re traveling primarily for business (as most Titanium elites are), as your work travel will typically get you plenty of points for your personal vacations.
Choice benefits in 2020
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic causing most travel to be canceled for the year, many Marriott elite members won’t be spending as many nights in hotels this year. In addition to extending elite status for another year, Marriott has launched a unique promotion that may still help you earn a Choice Benefit or two for 2020.
Over the coming month, Marriott will be depositing 50% of the elite night credits you needed to earn the status you held last year into your account at the following rates:
|ELITE STATUS TIER EARNED IN 2019||ANNUAL TIER REQUIREMENTS||50% ELITE NIGHT CREDITS (ENC) DEPOSIT|
|Ambassador Elite||100 Qualifying Nights AND US$20,000 stay spend||50 Elite Night Credits|
|Titanium Elite||75 Qualifying Nights||38 Elite Night Credits|
|Platinum Elite||50 Qualifying Nights||25 Elite Night Credits|
|Gold Elite||25 Qualifying Nights||13 Elite Night Credits|
|Silver Elite||10 Qualifying Nights||5 Elite Night Credits|
|Member||Not Applicable||Not Applicable|
This means that someone who held Ambassador elite status in 2019 will be able to select a Choice Benefit in 2020 even if they don’t spend a single night at a hotel, thanks to the 50 elite night credits Marriott is gifting them. When you add in the fact that many people traveled in the first quarter before the pandemic spread globally and the up to 30 elite night credits you can earn from Bonvoy credit cards, you might be able to select both a 50 and 75 night Choice Benefit this year.
While the selections are the same as always, you may be tempted to make a different choice than usual based on how much travel you expect to do in the coming year. Suite Night Awards and free night certificates all expire, and it would be silly to select those benefits if you’re not going to be able to use them. This might be the one year where selecting the $100 charitable donation makes sense, or if you’re really missing your time on the road, splurging to buy a mattress from your favorite Marriott brand.
Marriott’s Choice Benefits are a great way to reward elite members who spend a lot of time in Marriott hotels each year. When you reach both 50 and 75 qualifying nights, you’ll have plenty of different options from which to pick, but they aren’t created equally. Many travelers will be best off selecting the five Suite Night Awards — as I did last year and plan to do again this year — though the five elite night credits as well as the free night award at 75 nights could be solid options as well.
Featured photo by Nattakit Jeerapatmaitree/Shutterstock.
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For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
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