Maximizing the RewardsPlus Partnership With Marriott and United

Apr 18, 2019

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Over the years, we’ve seen a number of reciprocal partnerships form between airlines, hotels and other travel service providers. These partnerships can be a great way to incentivize members to utilize a partner program when traveling and can also extend elite status benefits for loyal members. A number of these partnerships ended abruptly when Starwood Preferred Guest was absorbed by Marriott (including SPG’s crossover agreements with Delta, Emirates and Uber), but one that’s still going strong is the RewardsPlus partnership between Marriott and United.

Today we’ll take a look at everything you need to know to maximize RewardsPlus, which offers select Marriott and United elites reciprocal benefits when traveling with the other company. I was able to leverage this partnership back in 2017 to earn three different elite statuses in the course of a single month, though there have been a few changes since Marriott Bonvoy became the new norm.

RewardsPlus Benefits

Image courtesy of Marriott
Eligible United and Marriott elites can match their statuses through RewardsPlus, opening up added perks when flying or staying in a hotel like the Marriott New York Downtown. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Most of these crossover programs offer some form of bonus points or elevated perks, but RewardsPlus is relatively unique in that it actually offers reciprocal elite status. Here are the details:

  • If you hold United Premier Gold status (or higher), you can enjoy complimentary Marriott Gold Elite status. This includes a 25% point bonus, upgrades to enhanced rooms and a welcome amenity upon check-in at participating brands.
  • If you hold Marriott Bonvoy Titanium or Ambassador Elite status, you can enjoy complimentary United Premier Silver status through the RewardsPlus program, which comes with a 40% mileage bonus, access to Economy Plus/preferred seating at check-in and more.

Actually matching these statuses is quite easy, as it can be done online. However, there are actually two different websites for doing so, depending on which status you’re trying to match. If you currently have United elite status and you’re looking to match to Marriott you can start at this link, which looks like this:

Simply click Sign up to double your status, login using your United Mileage Plus credentials and follow the on-screen prompts.

If you’re an eligible Marriott elites and are looking to unlock benefits with United, you should start here.

Simply click on Join RewardsPlus, login with your Marriott Bonvoy account information and then follow the on-screen prompts.

So when it comes to these status matches, which side has it better? It’s probably safe to say that Marriott Titanium and Ambassador Elites get the more lucrative end of the deal here. United Premier Silver status isn’t the most rewarding status out there, but it can be a real upgrade for non-frequent flyers. However, it’s impossible to earn without logging at least 25,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) or 30 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs) a year, and spending $3,000 Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs). While you can get out of the revenue requirement by spending $25,000 a year on the United Explorer Card, the only way to earn enough PQMs or PQSs to qualify is by actually flying.

Marriott Gold status, on the other hand, is relatively easy to earn. For starters, it’s given as a complimentary benefit if you hold any of the following credit cards:

Earning Marriott Gold status normally requires 25 elite night credits a year, but you can get 15 credits by holding any of the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards (note that you’re limited to one set of 15 credits per Bonvoy account, not per credit card). This means you’d only need to spend 10 nights in Marriott hotels a year to earn Gold status, which is a small feat compared to flying 25,000 miles with United.

Either way, United Silver status is much harder to earn than Marriott Gold, making this program more lucrative for Marriott elites.

How to Maximize RewardsPlus

Transferring Marriott points to United miles might make sense with a 10% bonus, especially if you’re looking to book a Polaris seat. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

The good news is that many of the benefits of the RewardsPlus partnership aren’t limited to elite members. Any member can earn a 10% bonus when converting Marriott points to United MileagePlus miles, and this is on top of the standard 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. If you’re transferring in 60,000-point increments, this brings your ratio up to 3:1.35, which is a nice bonus to have.

You’ll receive this same bonus if you select to earn United miles as part of a Marriott Hotel+Air package, though these redemptions got seriously devalued with the integration of Marriott and SPG. As a result, you might be better off using this opportunity to pick up some hard-to-earn miles in a program like Alaska Mileage Plan or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. You can also convert MileagePlus miles to Marriott points at a 1:1 ratio, though this generally represents a pretty poor value. Based on TPG’s valuation of United miles (1.3 cents each) and Marriott points (0.8 cents each), you’d be sacrificing some significant value in this way.

If you’re starting from scratch and thinking about leveraging a status challenge or status match to unlock the perks of the RewardsPlus partnership, unfortunately that likely won’t work. While these are great ways to shortcut your way to elite status, any temporary elite statuses are not eligible for RewardsPlus matching. This means that if you have temporary United Gold elite status while you’re completing a status challenge, you can’t sign up for reciprocal status through RewardsPlus just yet. You’ll need to wait until you’ve completed the challenge and earned “full” United Premier status.

Note that there’s one final way to leverage the RewardsPlus partnership: booking Marriott hotels paired with United flights. This is listed on United’s page for the partnership:

It also appears in the MileagePlus deals & offers section of your account:

You must login to view the full details, and you must have an existing United reservation to start to take advantage of this. The terms and conditions indicate that Marriott Gold Elites and higher will earn 500 bonus miles per completed Marriott stay booked through United’s site, and only rooms booked with a “Member Rate” or “Exclusive Member Rate” are eligible. However, you’ll definitely want to compare this offer with booking through an online shopping portal, as United frequently offers 10x miles per dollar spent on Marriott reservations.

Bottom Line

I personally don’t fly United more than once every year or two, but when I do, it’s nice to enjoy all the perks of Premier Silver status despite not being loyal to the airline. There are only so many perks a hotel or airline can offer internally, so it’s nice to see brands like Marriott and United working on additional ways to make your elite status matter in more places. With competitors set to follow in the footsteps of the RewardsPlus partnership, it’ll be interesting to see if additional benefits are on the horizon.

Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy

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