How to select the best Marriott annual choice benefit by the Jan. 8 deadline
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Marriott Bonvoy elite status offers some impressive benefits. The perks get particularly compelling once you accrue 50 elite nights in a calendar year to reach Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status. After all, once you reach Platinum Elite status, you’ll unlock perks like breakfast, lounge access and upgrades at many of the Marriott Bonvoy brands.
There’s also the annual choice benefits. Once you reach 50 elite nights in a calendar year, you’ll also be able to choose an annual choice benefit. And once you reach 75 elite nights in a calendar year, you’ll be able to select a second annual choice benefit.
The options for 50-night and 75-night annual choice benefits are slightly different. But, the deadline for selecting these annual choice benefits is Jan. 8 of the year after you reached one or both of these thresholds — and if you don’t choose by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on this date, Marriott will select for you.
If you earned Marriott Platinum Elite or Marriott Titanium Elite status in 2020 — including those who qualified using nights from credit cards and the one-time deposit of elite nights last year — your deadline for making your selection(s) is Friday Jan. 8, 2021. So, today I’ll take a closer look at each of the annual choice benefits.
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Overview of Marriott Bonvoy annual choice benefits
One of the perks available to Marriott Bonvoy elite members is an annual choice benefit. Specifically, once you reach 50 elite nights in a calendar year, you can choose an annual choice benefit. And, once you reach 75 elite nights in a calendar year, you can select a second annual choice benefit.
As noted above, you must select your annual choice benefit(s) by Jan. 8 of the year after you reached the elite night threshold(s). For example, if you earned 50 elite nights in 2020, you have until Jan. 8, 2021, to select your annual choice benefit. If you don’t choose a benefit by the deadline, you’ll receive Suite Night Awards by default.
To select your annual choice benefit(s), visit this page on Marriott’s website. You’ll need to sign in to your Marriott Bonvoy account before you can choose your benefit. However, note that you can’t change your selection once you make it. Likewise, you can’t change the choice if you miss the deadline.
How to accrue Marriott Bonvoy elite nights
Earning 50 or 75 elite nights in a calendar year may sound daunting. However, Marriott does provide multiple avenues to reach these thresholds outside of completing actual nights in participating Marriott properties. For starters, award nights count as elite nights. And you can earn up to 30 elite night credits by holding select Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. Specifically, you can earn 15 elite night credits each year by having a personal Marriott card and another 15 elite night credits by holding a Marriott business card.
So, suppose you have a personal Marriott card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card and a business Marriott card like the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. In that case, you’ll get 30 elite night credits each year through these cards alone. Then, you’d only need to spend 20 nights with Marriott Bonvoy in a calendar year to earn Platinum Elite status — which then unlocks an annual choice benefit selection. Likewise, you’d only need to spend 45 nights with Marriott in a calendar year to earn Titanium Elite status and a second annual choice benefit.
The coronavirus pandemic provided another shortcut to Bonvoy elite status. In 2020, Marriott deposited 50% of the elite night credits you needed to earn the status you held in 2019 into your account. So, you may have obtained an annual choice benefit in 2020 even if you didn’t stay with Marriott Bonvoy frequently. For example, I accrued 50 elite nights and earned Platinum Elite status after staying with Marriott just seven nights in 2020. And, TPG Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz earned Marriott Titanium status and accrued 75 elite nights after just three hotel stays in 2020.
Platinum Elite (50 nights)
As noted above, you’ll unlock your first annual choice benefit when you qualify for Platinum Elite status. After all, you need 50 elite nights to earn Platinum Elite status. Your options for the 50-night annual choice benefit are:
- Five elite night credits
- 40% off a mattress
- Gift of Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status for a family member, friend or colleague
- $100 donation to WE
- Five Suite Night Awards
Most of these benefits are pretty tough to value. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these options. I’ll start with the options that are unlikely to make sense for most elites.
Gift Marriott Silver Elite status
Giving status to someone else might initially sound like a good option. But, Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status isn’t worth much. In fact, TPG Senior Editor Nick Ewen only values Silver Elite status at $45. After all, the primary perks of Silver Elite status are a 10% points bonus on paid stays and priority late checkout.
So, if you know someone who wants elite status with Marriott Bonvoy, you may instead want to encourage them to sign up for a credit card. This is because cardholders of the following cards get automatic Marriott Bonvoy elite status:
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card ($125 annual fee, see rates and fees): Silver Elite status
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card ($95 annual fee): Silver Elite status
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card (no annual fee): Silver Elite status
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees): Gold Elite status, including for Platinum Card authorized users
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($595, see rates and fees): Gold Elite status
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees): Gold Elite status
Plus, as noted above, it’s now possible to earn up to 30 elite night credits through Marriott Bonvoy cards each year. So, earning Platinum Elite status or higher may be well within reach even for infrequent travelers.
$100 charity donation
You can select a $100 charity donation to WE as your annual choice benefit. Marriott says WE has worked to reduce poverty in developing communities for more than 25 years. In particular, your donation would go toward Marriott’s collaboration with WE to empower future generations of the Kabolwo farming community in Kenya.
The $100 charity donation is a nice touch and could be the right decision if you can’t use any other annual choice benefit options. However, I’d prefer to earn points and miles on a charitable donation to a charity of my choice and maintain my ability to select one of the other benefits.
40% off a mattress
If you love the bed at a particular Marriott brand, you can buy a new one for your home. And, if you’re going to buy a Marriott mattress for your house, you should select the annual choice benefit that provides 40% off a Marriott brand mattress. Although this annual choice benefit can be a great value, relatively few people are in the market for a specific hotel’s bed. As such, this option doesn’t apply to many travelers.
Five elite night credits
One option that can make sense for some travelers is five elite night credits. In particular, the elite night credits can come in handy if you find yourself just a few nights short of leveling up to Titanium elite status. However, these nights count in the year in which you earned the status. So, selecting five elite night credits for your 2020 annual choice benefit won’t help you qualify for elite status in 2021.
Five Suite Night Awards
The final annual choice benefit option is five Suite Night Awards. Each Suite Night Award is valid for a one-night, confirmable upgrade to select suites and premium rooms designated by each property. So, you’d need six Suite Night Award certificates to request an upgrade for a six-night reservation.
Many members save these upgrades for stays at luxury Marriott Bonvoy properties. But, it also may be worth trying to identify properties that make higher-category suites available for upgrade. However, not all Marriott hotels offer Suite Night Award upgrades, and some may restrict availability. So, if you have a particular property in mind when selecting this annual choice benefit, check whether the property participates before making your selection.
Titanium Elite (75 nights)
After you reach 75 elite nights, you’ll earn Marriott Titanium Elite status and get a second annual choice benefit. The choices for the 75-night annual choice benefit are:
- Five elite night credits
- 40% off a mattress
- Gift of Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for a family member, friend or colleague
- $100 donation to WE
- Five Suite Night Awards
- Free night award worth up to 40,000 points
As you can see, the choices here are relatively similar to the choices available after hitting the 50-night threshold. I’ll skip over the charitable donation, Suite Night Awards and 40% mattress discount since discussing these options would be the same as in the previous section. Likewise, I won’t further discuss gifting elite status, since it’s relatively easy to obtain Gold Elite status via credit cards.
However, let’s take a closer look at the other two options.
Five elite night credits
Earlier in this article, I considered how some travelers might select the five elite night credits as the 50-night annual choice benefit to help reach Titanium elite status. But, it could also make sense for Titanium Elite members to select five elite night credits as the 75-night benefit to reach Marriott Ambassador Elite status. After all, Ambassador Elite status requires 100 elite 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.
If you’re looking to select a 2020 annual choice benefit by Jan. 8, 2021, this option will only make sense if you ended 2020 with between 95 and 99 elite nights and at least $20,000 in annual qualifying spend with Marriott — and given the major downturn in travel last year, this should apply to very few members.
Free night award worth up to 40,000 points
The final option, unique to the 75-night annual choice benefit, is one free-night award worth up to 40,000 points. This free night award is slightly more valuable than the 35,000-point free night award certificates associated with many of the Marriott Bonvoy cards. After all, you can use a 40,000-point certificate for peak nights at Category 5 hotels as well as for off-peak nights at Category 6 hotels.
Based on TPG’s valuations, 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points are worth $320. So, this is undoubtedly a valuable option. However, if you already have lots of Marriott Bonvoy points and outstanding free-night awards to cover your travels, you may want to choose another benefit.
Which annual choice benefit should you choose?
While the selections haven’t changed, you might want to make a different choice than usual if you don’t plan to travel much this year. After all, Suite Night Awards and free night awards offered as 2020 annual choice benefits expire on Dec. 31, 2021.
If you expect to travel in 2021, it will likely make sense to choose the free night award or Suite Night Awards. Both options can provide significant value. But, if you’d be able to use the Suite Night Awards before they’d expire and would get considerable value from these upgrades, this is likely the more valuable option.
However, if you are only five or fewer elite nights shy of qualifying for Ambassador Elite or Titanium Elite status, choosing the five elite night credits is an obvious choice. Likewise, if you plan to buy a Marriott brand mattress, the 40% off discount is likely your best bet.
You may be wondering what my husband and I select for our annual choice benefits. After all, in 2020 he earned Titanium Elite and I earned Platinum Elite. We both picked five Suite Night Awards for our 50-night threshold benefits. And he selected a free night award for his 75-night threshold benefit. We haven’t mastered how to maximize Suite Night Awards yet — and there’s a lot of variability across Marriott’s properties — so we decided the free night certificate would provide more value.
Marriott’s annual choice benefits are a great way to reward elite members. There are ample options to choose from at both the 50-night and 75-night thresholds. But, the options aren’t created equally. So, it’s worth considering which benefit will be most valuable for you.
Finally, be sure to make your selections soon. If you don’t do so by Friday Jan. 8 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, the program will automatically select Suite Night Awards for you.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.
For the rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex, please click here.
For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For the rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.
For the rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
Featured photo of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy.
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