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If you’ve ever held elite status with a hotel chain, you’ve probably experienced how it can make your stays more enjoyable and rewarding thanks to the array of perks offered. However, it can be challenging to peg an exact value on these perks. Today I’ll continue my yearly series that analyzes the elite status tiers of the major hotel programs in an attempt to quantify the value of the benefits each one offers. After starting with Hilton Honors, Starwood Preferred Guest and World of Hyatt, I’ll now turn my attention to Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
At this point, you may be wondering why I’m considering both Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards in the same post. Even though they’re technically distinct programs, they offer the same elite benefits across the various brands under the Marriott umbrella. In other words, you shouldn’t notice any difference in treatment at a Marriott property, regardless of whether you’re a Ritz-Carlton Platinum member or a Marriott Platinum member. You also can only be a member of one of the programs, which is critical to keep in mind if you’re hoping to utilize the included elite status benefits on cards like the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card or Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.
However, at the time of writing, this same reciprocity does not apply at Starwood properties. Even though the merger was finalized in 2016, the Marriott Rewards and SPG programs continue to operate independently. That being said, you can link your accounts and enjoy reciprocal elite status across the combined footprint of hotels. I did include this as a benefit where applicable below; you just can’t earn Marriott elite status by staying at SPG properties (or vice versa).
Before getting any further into the analysis, let me remind you that the calculations that follow represent one way to estimate the value of elite status in the Marriott Rewards 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 need a large room courtesy of a free upgrade. You should feel free to adjust the numbers based on your own personal situation and how much value you would get out of each perk.
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 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 1.5 nights.
I’ll also use a similar assumption for Marriott that I used in earlier analyses:
- Your stays are split evenly between full-service properties (like Marriott 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 Rewards 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 three levels of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs fall on the value spectrum?
Marriott Rewards Silver ($75)
The lowest tier in the Marriott Rewards program is Silver Elite status, which is typically earned after 10 nights. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, thanks to the 15 elite night credits given to all cardholders. For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 12 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott and Ritz properties.
- 20% point bonus ($30): Marriott Silver members will earn 20% more points than regular members. This is an extra 2 points per dollar spent at the majority of properties (though only 1 extra point at Residence Inns and Towneplace Suites). With 12 nights and an average rate of $150 per night, this works out to an additional 3,600 points, worth $32.40.
- Late checkout ($25): 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. While this is available at all Marriott hotels (excluding Marriott Vacation Clubs), it’s subject to availability, so I’ll peg this at a conservative $25.
- Elite reservation and guest services lines ($10): You also have access to two elite member phone lines as a Silver member: one for reservations and the other for guest services. I’ve rarely needed to call any hotel elite member lines in my years of travel, so I’ll peg this at just $10.
- Discounts ($10): Silver Elite members can also enjoy a 10% discount at participating Marriott gift shops along with a 10% weekend discount at participating SpringHill Suites and Courtyard properties. If you regularly buy items from a hotel gift shop or frequently need to stay at these two brands on Fridays or Saturdays, this could be a nice perk, but I’ll keep it at a low $10.
Marriott Rewards Gold ($2,665)
The middle tier in the Marriott Rewards program is Gold Elite status, which is typically earned after 50 nights. There are also three credit cards that allow you to earn Gold:
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card provides automatic Gold status for the first year (and every year thereafter when you spend $10,000).
- The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card allows you to earn an additional elite night credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card each year (in addition to the 15 given automatically), allowing you to spend $105,000 on the card for “automatic” Gold status.
- The Platinum Card from American Express provides automatic SPG Gold status, which can then be matched to Marriott Gold status.
For this analysis I’ll assume that you complete 60 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott and Ritz properties.
- 25% point bonus ($205): As a Marriott Gold member, 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 60 nights with an average rate of $150 per night, that works out to an additional 22,500 points, worth $202.50.
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($60): Even though all Marriott Rewards 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.
- Room upgrades ($1,800): Gold members are also eligible for space-available room upgrades at check-in, and the program’s terms and conditions include suites in this perk. It’s also included at all Marriott and Ritz hotels with the exception of Marriott Vacation club. I’ll use the same $35/night valuation I’ve used for similar perks at other chains for the full-service locations but drop the valuation to $25/night for the limited-service properties.
- Lounge access/free breakfast ($300): As a Gold member, you’re entitled to guaranteed club lounge access at most full-service properties, including JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott and Delta Hotels. This includes continental breakfast, and in the event the lounge is closed, most properties will provide this benefit in the hotel’s restaurant. I’ll assume a valuation of $10 per night across all of the full-service stays.
- Guaranteed room type ($100): Another nice perk of Gold status is a room type guarantee, part of the broader Elite Benefits Guarantee. 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.
- Guaranteed late checkout ($100): Gold members also enjoy a guaranteed late checkout of up to 4pm, and this can actually be requested in advance through the Marriott mobile app. However, like with other programs I’ve already covered, it does exclude resort and convention hotels, and it’s also not available at Marriott Vacation Club locations. This is a notable difference from the perk offered to Silver members, so I’ll peg it at $100.
- Discounts ($25): Same discounts as Silver members, more frequent utilization
- Elite phone lines ($25): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- SPG Gold status ($50): As I mentioned earlier, the still-in-process merger of Marriott and Starwood includes the ability to match your status across the two chains, and Marriott Gold will grant you Gold status in the SPG program as well. This includes a number of benefits like upgrades to “enhanced” rooms, bonus Starpoints and late checkout. While it’s not the most valuable hotel elite status out there, it’s still nice to have if you’re visiting one or more SPG properties in 2018.
Marriott Rewards Platinum ($4,780)
The top tier in the Marriott Rewards program is Platinum Elite status, which is typically earned after 75 nights. You can also receive Platinum membership through credit cards: by spending $75,000 in a year on the Ritz-Carlton card or by spending $180,000 in a year on the Marriott card. For this analysis I’ll assume that you complete 90 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service Marriott and Ritz properties.
- 50% point bonus ($610): Marriott Platinum members earn 50% more points than a regular member, which works out to 5 extra points per dollar spent at most hotels. Given my assumption of 90 nights with an average rate of $150 per night, that’ll give you an additional 67,500 points, worth $607.50.
- Arrival gift ($180): As a Platinum member, you’ll also enjoy a welcome gift upon check-in. It’s typically a choice between points (200 – 500, depending on the brand) or a food and beverage amenity. Since 350 points, the middle of the above range, are worth just over $3, that’s how I’ll value this benefit for each of your 60 stays.
- Complimentary enhanced internet ($90): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Room upgrades ($2,700): The room upgrade benefit for Platinum members is the same as that which is offered to Gold members, so I’ll follow the same valuations: $35 per night at full-service properties ($1,575) and $25 per night at limited-service hotels ($1,125).
- Lounge access/free breakfast ($450): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Guaranteed room type ($150): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Guaranteed late checkout ($150): Same benefit, more frequent utilization
- Discounts ($25) and Elite phone line ($25): Platinum members have the same 10% discounts and elite phone line benefits as Gold and Silver travelers, but I can’t see them utilizing these perks more frequently.
- 48-hour guaranteed availability ($25): One way that Platinum membership is different than Gold is the guaranteed availability policy, allowing Platinum members to book a room at just about any Marriott hotel 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,” so you probably won’t feel the need to use this regularly, if at all.
- United Premier Silver status ($200): Another nice perk for Marriott Platinum members is automatic United Premier Silver status through the RewardsPlus partnership. I pegged this at $985 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.
- SPG Platinum status ($200): A final benefit of Marriott Platinum relates to the Marriott-SPG merger, since Platinum status with Marriott translates into Platinum status with Starwood Preferred Guest. This includes very similar benefits to Marriott Platinum, including room upgrades and a welcome amenity (breakfast is one of those options). Obviously the true value of this depends on how frequently you stay at Starwood hotels in 2018, but I’ll assume a conservative valuation of $200.
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 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton status at all. If this is the case, you won’t enjoy any benefits until you have spent 10 nights and earned Silver status. After that, you won’t enjoy additional benefits until you hit 50 nights to earn Gold 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 Silver: $75 / 12 nights = $6.25 per night
- Marriott Gold: $2,665 / 60 nights = $44.42 per night
- Marriott Platinum: $4,780 / 90 nights = $53.11 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 Marriott (or Ritz) 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 in 2018, and the spreadsheet will update accordingly.
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 80 nights. If you’re starting from scratch, you’d get no benefits for the first 10 nights, then enjoy Silver benefits for the next 40 nights (at a rate of $6.25 per night), then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 25 nights (at a rate of $44.42 per night), and then enjoy Platinum benefits for the final 5 nights (at a rate of $53.11 per night). This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll spend 80 nights in Marriott or Ritz hotels in 2018, you’d be able to get $1,625.97 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 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton? 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 Marriott’s 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 Marriott 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 Marriott (or elite status with any hotel chain, for that matter).
- Is a credit card a better option? As mentioned above, both Marriott and Ritz-Carlton offer credit cards that include elite status. 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 Marriott elite status is for you!
Hotel elite status can be quite valuable, and there are many reasons why you might want to pursue it with Marriott. This is an especially good time to do so, as earning Gold or Platinum status in the Marriott Rewards program also comes with Gold or Platinum status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. While it can be challenging to quantify the benefits that these statuses offer, hopefully this post has given you a framework to help decide if you should go after Marriott or Ritz-Carlton status in 2018.
Featured image courtesy of the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.