I tested Marriott's new Day Pass program: Here's how it helped me find solitude (and elite status)
Work from home has worn out its welcome.
Living and working in the same space — especially now that it's cold and snowy in the Northeast — is beyond old, and I desperately needed a bit of quiet and a change of scenery.
That's why, after months of ignoring the "office for a day" programs created by Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott, I could suddenly see the appeal. I never thought cabin fever would drive me to want to sit inside a hotel room for eight or nine hours, but here we are.
And, with the start of a new elite-qualifying year, why not rack up a night or two?
Hilton and Hyatt both offer elite-qualifying night credits for their "office" stays. Marriott, however, explicitly states when booking: "Day Pass does not qualify for Elite Night Credits or select Elite Benefits depending on property."
So, of course, we needed to test Marriott's program to see what we got and if this was a value compared to booking a normal room that would be guaranteed to give guests the elite credit.
Booking a Marriott Day Pass
All Day Pass rooms need to be booked through Marriott's dedicated website, which eventually leads to a booking page where you enter your credit card.
At TPG, we love maximizing our points and miles and always want to use the best possible credit card. I worried the charge wouldn't code as "travel" or a Marriott hotel since I was making the purchase at idaypass.com and not Marriott.com. But, I took a chance and still put it on my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, which earns 6 points per dollar at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
The Marriott Day Pass offers:
- 6 a.m. check-in and 6 p.m. check-out
- A private workspace away from home for one guest per room
- Enhanced Wi-Fi and connectivity
- Complimentary bottled water
The program also does offer Bonvoy points based on the base room rate.
For my stay, I picked the AC Hotel New York Downtown, which had an unbeatable $59 rate. (The room came to $71 when adding New York City's high lodging taxes.)
The AC is a new, modern property near the South Street Seaport — the perfect spot to take a midday walk away from my "office" and look out at the Brooklyn Bridge and, well, anything that wasn't my apartment uptown.
I added my Bonvoy membership number at booking. I'm currently Titanium Elite and was hoping for a nice upgrade. The reservation, however, never showed up in my app or online at Marriott.com. That wasn't a promising sign for an upgrade.
Comparing the Day Pass to regular Marriott stays
Just to see if Marriott's Day Pass program was the best value, my colleague, Laura Motta, booked a normal night at the same hotel at the same time for about $92 with taxes and a guarantee of the elite-qualifying night. Given the ongoing pandemic and low hotel occupancy rates, we wanted to push this and see how long of a stay she could get.
After dropping my daughter off at school, I hopped on the subway and arrived at 9 a.m. The hotel didn't have my Bonvoy number, but added it to my reservation and gave me a corner room. Minutes later, the reservation showed up in my app.
I inquired about the free snack that was supposed to come with the rate and the front desk clerk had no clue what I was asking about. As a Titanium member, I was offered a $10 credit to the grab-and-go pantry or 500 bonus Bonvoy points. I chose the latter to see if they actually posted. (They did.)
Laura's official check-in time wasn't until 4 p.m. But, given the pandemic, our hunch was right and, by 8:45 a.m., she was already settled in her room. The next day, she was granted a late check-out of 4 p.m. So, for only $20 more, she was able to squeeze out a 31-hour stay compared to my 12-hour limit.
The room was nice and filled with light. There was a bed, a desk and a chair. And that's about it. A tiny fridge contained two 8-ounce bottles of water. (Click through the photos below to see just how small they were.) There was also a machine for coffee and tea.
The lobby and second-floor lounge and breakfast area were nice but I wasn't about to linger inside an enclosed space. In normal times, I might have spent a few hours working from a couch on the second floor.
The Wi-Fi speeds in the room were good. I was getting a download speed of 272 Mbps and an upload of 120 Mbs. And the silence was golden.
As 6 p.m. approached, I packed up my laptop and prepared to head home. I checked out at the front desk. But the next morning, the Marriott app still had me checked in. I hit a button and was checked out. Minutes later, my folio was emailed to me.
Elite nights and Bonvoy points
Three days after leaving the hotel (two days after checking-out again via the app), I noticed the points from my stay posted to my account.
At most Marriott properties, members earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible hotel charges. My base rate of $59 earned me 590 points. As a Titanium Elite member, I get an additional 75% bonus, so 443 points — plus, those 500 bonus points as my welcome amenity. In total, I got 1,533 Bonvoy points, which TPG currently values at $12.26.
As I noted above, I was concerned about which credit card to use and how that would code. It turned out that the only card that mattered was the one I used at the check-in desk.
The charge appeared on my American Express bill as "AC FRANCHISED A34 New York NY," coded as a Marriott property and earned me 6 points per dollar.
But the biggest victory of all came when the points posted and I noticed I gained one elite-qualifying night.
Back in October of 2019, I wrote about what had to be the cheapest Marriott mattress run in Manhattan, a $99 "crash pad" at the Moxy Times Square that can only be booked on the same night through the rooftop bar.
Well, my $59 Day Pass stay is now the new champion.
Now, remember, the elite nights are not guaranteed. But is that just a pesky warning? Or did I get lucky? There was only one way to find out. So -- in true TPG fashion -- I decided to get a day pass for another hotel.
Testing the Day Pass program — again
For the second shot at this, I decided to stay in one of Marriott's largest and most-popular hotels, the New York Marriott Marquis. This property has nearly 2,000 rooms and is normally bustling with tourists or conference attendees. But during my February pandemic stay, it was nearly deserted.
The $109 rate ($128.57 with taxes), was nearly double what I'd paid for my day at the AC Hotel, but it's a much larger property that has 57 suites. And I felt good about my chances for an upgrade, especially when the reservation actually appeared in my Marriott app.
When I arrived at the hotel, sure enough, I was upgraded to a one-bedroom suite on the 38th floor overlooking Times Square. It would have been the perfect room for New Year's Eve. Instead, I was seeking silence and a chance to get some work done.
Before heading up to my room, I was given a snack bag containing two bottles of Fiji water, a 2-ounce bag of dark chocolate espresso beans and a 2-ounce bag of mixed nuts. Plus, I was told there was free coffee and tea available until 10 a.m. Perfect.
Room 3838 was large, comfortable and just what I needed to work and unwind. I was getting a download speed of 233 Mbps and an upload of 256 Mbs.
This time, when I checked out around 4 p.m., I was given a copy of my bill. The next morning, the stay wasn't listed in my app anymore. This hotel seemed to know that it was a true day-only stay.
Elite nights and Bonvoy points
So, how about those points and the elite-night credit?
I earned 1,090 points on the base rate, 818 points as my Titanium bonus and 1,000 points as my welcome amenity.
As for the elite nights, I wasn't expecting any for this stay. This time, the hotel knew more about the Day Pass program and had checked me out that afternoon. But, to my surprise, I ended up with an extra elite night from the stay.
The charge to my Bonvoy Brilliant card also coded properly, earning me 6 points per dollar for my Marriott stay.
Marriott's terms and conditions explicitly say you might not earn an elite-night credit, but I got lucky — twice.
I would not book this as a mattress run, but it's a great program for people who are in desperate need of a brief, quiet escape.
The difference in price between a day pass and a regular stay isn't much at some hotels. If you're truly looking for a retreat, a full night might be a better option. With hotel occupancy levels at historic lows, extremely early check-in and late checkout times are very likely to be honored.
For travelers just looking for elite nights, consider the new Marriott Bonvoy global promotion. Members who register will earn double the number of points and elite night credits for all stays of two nights or more. The promotion will run from Feb. 16 through April 27, 2021. Just remember to register.
You could also fast-track your points and status with one of the many Marriott credit cards. You can find out more in our guide to all the Marriott Bonvoy cards.
Working in a hotel room was a nice change of pace. It was quiet and a much-needed change of atmosphere. But for me, the biggest challenge was that I found it very odd to work next to a bed. I was way too tempted to just curl up and take a nap.