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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
The Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs were formally integrated on August 18, 2018. All members now have a single loyalty account number and elite status tier across the combined portfolio of properties, though the legacy names remain. However, as of February 13, 2019, these last vestiges of the pre-merger programs will fade into memory, as Marriott Bonvoy officially launches on this date.
If you currently hold (or plan to earn) elite status in Marriott’s program, you can expect a number of perks across the various brands that fall under the Marriott umbrella. While I analyzed the combined program shortly after it launched last summer, today I’ll update that entry to continue the 2019 iteration of our series that considers just how much value you can get from the major hotel loyalty programs here in the US.
Before going any further, let me start with my usual disclaimer: The calculations that follow represent just one way to estimate the value of elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program. You may not be a big breakfast eater and thus don’t care about that benefit, or you could travel for work and not value getting an upgrade to a larger room at check-in. Please feel free to adjust the numbers based on your own personal travel patterns and how much value you’d enjoy from each applicable benefit.
In addition, these numbers are all based on the value of benefits you’d get after achieving the given status and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch, you won’t enjoy the benefits from day one, so I’ve included a spreadsheet toward the end of the analysis to help identify the incremental value you’ll get as you progress up the elite status ladder.
Finally, I want to highlight the key assumptions I’m making to arrive at final values for each level of new Marriott elite status:
- You complete 20% more nights than the minimum required for the given level.
- You spend an average of $150 per night.
- Your average stay is 2 nights.
I’ll also use a similar assumption for new Marriott that I used in earlier analyses:
- Your stays are split evenly between full-service properties (like Westin and Renaissance) and limited-service properties (like Fairfield or Springhill).
As always, be sure to adjust these numbers based on your individual travel patterns.
Two final reminders… for the sake of this analysis, I’m basing the value of any bonus points earned on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg Marriott points at 0.9 cents apiece. I’m also rounding all valuations up to the nearest $5 to make the numbers a bit simpler.
So given all of that information, where do the levels of the new Marriott program fall on the value spectrum?
Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite ($45)
The lowest tier in the new Marriott program is Silver Elite status, which is typically earned after 10 nights. It’s also included as an automatic benefit thanks to the 15 elite night credits you’d earn per year on four different cobranded credit cards: Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, the Marriott Premier Plus Business Visa Signature, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. However, note that all of these cards will be changing in Feb. 2019.
In short: all are rebranding under the Marriott Bonvoy name, and two (the SPG Amex and Marriott Business Card) will be closing to new applicants. Check out our overview of these changes as well as our FAQs on the changes for complete details.
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 6 stays covering 12 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott, Ritz and SPG properties.
- 10% point bonus ($15): Silver members in the Marriott Bonvoy program will earn 10% more points than regular members. This is an extra 1 point per dollar spent at the majority of properties (though only 0.5 extra points at Element, Residence Inn and Towneplace Suites locations). With 12 nights and an average rate of $150 per night, this works out to an additional 1,800 points, worth $16.20.
- Late checkout ($20): As a Silver member, you’re also able to request a late checkout by calling the front desk on the day of departure and letting the agent know your planned departure time. Unfortunately it’s subject to availability and doesn’t have a published time, so I’ll peg this at a conservative $20.
- Elite reservation line ($10): You also have access to an elite member reservation line as a Silver member. However, I’ve rarely needed to call any hotel elite member lines in my years of travel, so I’ll peg this at just $10.
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite ($855)
The second tier in the new Marriott program is Gold Elite status, which is typically earned after 25 nights. Note that this level is most comparable to the old Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. There are also a number of credit cards that either include this status or allow you to earn it:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express provides automatic Gold Elite status.
- The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card (which will rebrand as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from American Express in February) provides automatic Gold elite status.
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (no longer open to new applicants) provides automatic Gold elite status.
- The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card (rebranding as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card in February) allows you to earn Gold Elite status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
- Both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Amex cards (rebranding in February) allow you to earn Gold Elite status when you spend $35,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Note that all Marriott/SPG/Bonvoy-branded cards also award you 15 elite night credits every year, allowing cardholders to earn Gold status with just 10 elite-qualifying nights. Note that you’re limited to a total of 15 credits per Marriott Bonvoy account. If you have more than one of these cards, you can’t stack them to reach higher levels of elite status.
For this analysis I’ll assume that you complete 15 stays covering 30 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott, Ritz and SPG properties.
- 25% point bonus ($100): As a Gold Elite member in the new program, you’ll earn 25% more points than a regular member, which works out to 2.5 additional points per dollar spent at most hotels. Since I’m assuming 30 nights with an average rate of $150 per night, that works out to an additional 11,250 points, worth $101.25.
- Priority late checkout ($50): Gold members also enjoy a priority late checkout of up to 2pm, though it is subject to availability. Since there’s a stated time (in contrast the the aforementioned Silver perk), I’ll bump the value up slightly.
- Elite phone line ($25): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($30): Even though all members enjoy free internet when booking through a Marriott channel, Gold members can take advantage of faster speeds with complimentary enhanced internet access. I typically find that hotel Wi-Fi is decently fast, though if you like to stream videos or engage in other high-bandwidth activities online, the faster speed can make a difference. I’ll use the same value for this perk from previous posts: $1 per night.
- Upgrades to enhanced rooms ($600): Gold members are also eligible for space-available upgrades to enhanced rooms at check-in. This may include rooms on higher floors, rooms with special amenities or rooms on the Executive Floor, but it explicitly excludes suites (per the terms & conditions). Since this perk is similar to what Hilton Gold members receive, I’ll use the same valuation of $20 per night.
- Welcome gift ($50): If you’re a Gold Elite member, you’ll receive a welcome gift of extra Marriott points at check-in, either 250 points for limited-service properties or 500 points for full-service locations. Given the assumed split above, you’d earn an average of 375 points (worth ~$3.38) for each of your 15 stays.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite ($3,090)
The third tier in the new Marriott program is Platinum Elite, which normally requires 50 nights. This is comparable to Gold status from the legacy Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs and comparable to Platinum status from the legacy SPG program. You also have a few ways to earn this status through credit cards:
- By spending $75,000 in a cardmembership year on the now-discontinued Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
- By spending $75,000 in a calendar year on the SPG Luxury Amex
- By spending $105,000 in a calendar year on the old Marriott Premier Card (note that this only applies to the old version that is no longer open to new applicants; the new Marriott Premier Plus doesn’t include any way to get to Platinum aside from 15 nights of elite status credit every year)
For this analysis I’ll assume that you complete 30 stays covering 60 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott, Ritz and SPG properties.
- 50% point bonus ($405): As a Platinum Elite member, you’ll earn 50% more points on your paid stays than a regular member would at most brands, and this would result in 5 additional points per dollar spent. Since I’m assuming 60 nights with an average rate of $150 per night, you’ll take home an extra 45,000 points, worth $405.
- Priority late checkout ($125): Platinum members have a significantly more generous late checkout policy than lower-tier elites, as it’s guaranteed for 4pm with just a few exceptions: It’s subject to availability at resort & convention hotels and Design hotels, and it’s not available at all when staying at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club and participating Vistana properties. Nevertheless, it’s a nice perk to have where it’s guaranteed, so I’ll bump it up in value accordingly.
- Elite phone line ($50): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($60): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Upgrades to enhanced rooms, including suites ($1,350): Platinum Elite members enjoy space-available upgrades to enhanced rooms when checking in, and this includes suites (though not at Ritz-Carlton properties). However, it does exclude Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, participating Vistana properties, Aloft hotels and Element hotels. The big difference between Marriott and Hilton’s policies is that Marriott’s terms & conditions use the verbiage “best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in” as opposed to the “may include” language that Hilton uses. As a result, I’ll bump the valuation slightly and peg this at $35/night for full-service stays though use a much lower $10/night for limited-service properties.
- Welcome gift ($600): Things get a bit tricky with how the combined program handles welcome gifts for Platinum Elite travelers. It sounds simple enough on the surface (“Points, breakfast offering or amenity”) but quickly gets complicated when you look across the 29 brands. Breakfast is included for everyone at certain brands, provided as a welcome gift for Platinum members at others and available through the lounge as a separate Platinum perk for still others (see next bullet). For a full breakdown of these perks, check out this chart (warning: PDF link), and note that some amenities are up to the individual brands. However, I’ll peg this gift at $10 per night.
- Lounge access ($150): A handful of brands in the new Marriott program include lounges, and as a Platinum Elite member, you’re guaranteed club lounge access at the following properties: JW Marriott, Marriott, Delta Hotels (not resorts), Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Sheraton, Le Meridien and Westin. For the legacy Marriott brands, if the lounge is closed or the property doesn’t have a lounge, you’re entitled to either breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant or 750 points. See this chart (warning: PDF link) for full details. In all cases, lounge access is in addition to the welcome gift noted above at applicable hotels. At the time of writing, these brands make up roughly 25% of the combined program’s portfolio, so I’ll assume a value of $10 per night for 15 of the 60 nights.
- Guaranteed room type ($100): Another nice perk of Platinum status is a room type guarantee, part of the broader Elite Benefits Guarantee that the Marriott Bonvoy program offers. If you book a room and the hotel can’t honor your bed type request, you’re entitled to compensation of $25 – $100 (depending on the brand of property). Ideally your request would always be honored, but it’s nice to have the insurance policy for when it isn’t.
- Annual choice benefit ($250): One of the new additions for legacy Marriott members at this level is an annual Choice Benefit selection. We detailed these at the end of July 2018, and if you reach 50 elite-qualifying nights in a calendar year, you can choose from five elite night credits, five Suite Night Awards (SNAs), a gift of Silver elite status to a friend or family member, a $100 gift to UNICEF or 40% off the price of a Marriott-branded bed. I’d recommend the SNAs, as you’ll be able to confirm a base-level suite up to five days before check-in. I’ll peg these at $50 apiece.
Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite ($5,450)
The next tier in the Marriott Rewards program is Titanium Elite status (which is known as Platinum Premier status until Feb. 13, 2019). This level is typically earned after 75 nights (and is thus comparable to old Marriott Platinum). For this analysis I’ll assume that you complete 90 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott, Ritz and SPG properties.
- 75% point bonus ($910): Titanium members earn a 75% bonus on paid stays when compared to a regular member with no status, which works out to 7.5 extra points per dollar spent at the majority of hotels in the combined portfolio. Given my assumption of 90 nights with an average rate of $150 per night, that’ll give you an additional 101,250 points, worth $911.25.
- Priority late checkout ($175): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Elite phone line ($50): Same benefit, though I can’t see Titanium members getting any more value out of it than regular Platinums.
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($90): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Upgrades ($2,225): The room upgrade benefit for Titanium members is almost identical to that which is offered to regular Platinum members, with one exception: suites are included at Ritz-Carlton properties. As a result I’ll follow the same valuations ($35 per night at full-service properties and $10 per night at limited-service hotels) with an extra $200 for the additional possibility of suites at Ritz-Carlton hotels.
- Welcome gift ($900): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Lounge access ($225): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Guaranteed room type ($150): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Annual choice benefits ($500): When you reach 50 elite-qualifying nights in the new Marriott program, you can select one of the above choice benefits, but reaching 75 elite-qualifying nights opens up another choice benefit. You can have the same choices as previously noted with one change and one addition: You can gift Gold elite status to a friend/family member instead of Silver, and you also have the added option of 1 free night award (valid at properties costing up to 40,000 points). Even though the free night is intriguing, I personally think the additional SNAs is the way to go, and I’ll stick with my valuation of $50 per night.
- 48-hour guaranteed availability ($25): Another way that Titanium membership differs from the regular Platinum level is the guaranteed availability policy, allowing you to book a room at just about any property with 48 hours of notice. However, these last-minute rooms are often quite pricey, and the program allows exceptions for “limited dates or special events.” It also has the same exclusions for late checkout (resorts, Vacation Club, Residence Club, Design Hotels and Vistana properties) so you probably won’t feel the need to use this regularly, if at all.
- United Premier Silver status ($200): The RewardsPlus partnership lives on with the Marriott Bonvoy program, so as a Titanium traveler, you’ll be able to link your Marriott account with your United MileagePlus account and enjoy automatic United Premier Silver status. I pegged this level at $930 in my valuation of United elite status earlier in the year, though the true benefit depends on how frequently you actually travel on United. I’ll assume some conservative use and assign a value of $200.
Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite ($7,590)
The top tier in the new Marriott program is Bonvoy Ambassador Elite (currently termed Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador through Feb. 13). In order to qualify for this tier, you must reach 100 elite-qualifying nights and $20,000 in qualifying spend. For this analysis I’ll assume that you complete 120 nights, again split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties, but in order to reach the $20k mark, I’ll bump your nightly rate up to $175.
- 75% point bonus ($1,420): Same benefit, but with 120 nights and an average rate of $175 per night, you’ll earn an additional 157,500 points, worth $1,417.50.
- Priority late checkout ($225): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Elite phone line ($50)
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($120): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Upgrades ($3,000): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Welcome gift ($1,200): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Lounge access ($300): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Guaranteed room type ($200): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Annual choice benefits ($500): You won’t get any additional choice benefits for surpassing 100 nights, so I’ll keep this at the same valuation.
- 48-hour guaranteed availability ($25): Same benefit, though I don’t see it being used more frequently at this level.
- United Premier Silver status ($250): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Ambassador service ($200): The first unique benefit for reaching this top tier is ambassador service, which works similarly to that which was offered to 100-night legacy SPG Platinums. The thought behind this perk is to provide the program’s most loyal members with a single point-of-contact to handle anything, from reservations to special occasions to off-the-wall requests. Some may use their ambassador frequently, while others may be unimpressed, so I’ll peg this at a conservative value of $200.
- Your24 ($100): The second (and final) unique benefit for Ambassador Elites is the Your24 benefit, which allows you to choose your check-in and check-out time. This used to be granted to 75-night and 100-night SPG Platinums, so bumping it solely to this elite level is a bit disappointing for many loyal Starwood Platinums. That being said, the flexibility it provides is subject to availability, and many reports indicate that it’s hit-or-miss, so I’ll peg it at just $100.
What If I’m Starting From Scratch?
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, all of the numbers above represent values for those of you who have already earned these status levels. However, many of you may be starting from scratch without any status at all in the new Marriott program. If this is the case, you won’t enjoy any benefits until you have spent 10 nights and earned Silver Elite status. After that, you won’t enjoy additional benefits until you hit 25 nights to earn Gold Elite status. How can you quantify this climb up the ranks?
Just like I did for my airline elite status series, I have attempted to answer this by converting the above calculations into a value per night, as follows:
- Marriott Bonvoy Silver: $45 / 12 nights = $3.75 per night
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold: $725 / 30 nights = $28.50 per night
- Marriott Bonvoy Platinum: $3,540 / 60 nights = $51.50 per night
- Marriott Bonvoy Titanium: $6,125 / 90 nights = $60.56 per night
- Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador: $8,390 / 120 nights = $63.25 per night
I then created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate how much value you’d get from the different levels of new Marriott status given a certain number of nights. All you need to do is change the number in cell A2 to represent the number of nights you expect to stay across all 29 combined brands in 2019, and the spreadsheet will update accordingly.
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 60 nights. If you’re starting from scratch, you’d get no benefits for the first 10 nights, then enjoy Silver benefits for the next 15 nights (at a rate of $3.75 per night), then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 25 nights (at a rate of $28.50 per night), and finally enjoy Platinum benefits for the final 10 nights (at a rate of $51.50 per night). This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll spend 60 nights in Marriott, Ritz and/or SPG hotels in 2018, you’d be able to get $1,283.75 worth of perks from the program.
Again, feel free to update the numbers for each tier (loaded into the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet) based on your own personal valuation.
Is It Worth It?
So given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status (or the next tier of elite status) with the new Marriott program? Just like with any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this, as it depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:
- How much will you travel in the future? When you’re pursuing elite status, it’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Platinum, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.
- What’s the incremental value of one tier over another? Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.
- How well does Marriott’s geographical coverage match your typical travel patterns? There’s really no point in pursuing elite status with a hotel chain if you can’t feasibly stay at one (or more) of its properties on a regular basis. Be sure to consider the new Marriott’s various hotels in and around your common destinations.
- How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many tradeoffs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you stay at a hotel under the Marriott umbrella if there was another brand that was cheaper and/or more convenient to where you need to be? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn elite status with the new Marriott program (or elite status with any hotel chain, for that matter).
- Is a credit card a better option? As mentioned above, there are a multitude of credit cards that include elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program. As a result, you may be better off simply opening one of those and utilizing the benefits without worrying about qualifying (or requalifying) the hard way.
These questions are also not easy to answer, as there are many different factors that come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you determine whether or not new Marriott elite status is for you!
Earning and then maintaining hotel elite status can be quite valuable, and with the Marriott Bonvoy program, you now have another massive worldwide chain at which to do so. While it isn’t easy to to quantify the value of the benefits that these statuses offer, I hope that this post has given you a framework to help decide if it’s worth devoting yourself to the 29 brands under the Marriott umbrella in 2019 and beyond.
Featured photo by Shutterstock.com
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