How and why TPG’s hotel reporter is going for Marriott Platinum status next year
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If we haven’t met yet, I’m Tanner Saunders, TPG’s new hotel reporter. I love hotels and most things about them. If I could, I would love to live in a hotel, almost like Tinsley Mortimer in “Real House Wives of New York.”
But as much as I love hotels, I have to admit that I’m behind when it comes to elite status at the four major hotel brands. The reason? Well, much of my career has been spent staying at boutique hotels without loyalty programs or staying nights for hotel reviews at previous jobs that were comped. (TPG does not accept free stays. When the site reviews a hotel, it pays its own way and the writer travels incognito.)
In the past, I didn’t achieve status in the major programs but I’m ready to change that.
After sitting down with a handful of the experts here at TPG, I learned a lot about different ways to earn elite status at the brands and the routes to get there that made the most sense for me in terms of future travel, spending habits and the credit cards I have (or don’t) in my wallet at the moment.
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Here’s my tentative plan to earn elite status next year. Now, just wish me luck on the journey.
Where I’ll be loyal
Probably the hardest part of determining how to earn elite hotel status is asking the first question of where I’ll go for status. Across all of the four major programs — Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards and World of Hyatt — there are brands that I love to visit and could be worth the benefits that come with certain status levels. They also each have hotels in locations I love that could help me on the way.
But after looking over each program, my main goal for 2022 is to at least hit Platinum Elite with Marriott Bonvoy.
Why Marriott Bonvoy?
The reason is obvious: Historically, Marriott hotels have been some of my favorite places to stay thanks to brands I personally find exciting and like to spend my money on. In fact, Edition hotels is my favorite luxury brand, and I’ve stayed at properties from Miami to Shanghai. And some of Marriott’s less expensive brands, like Moxy and Aloft, have always been great stops for me in my trips around the world.
The second reason I’m aiming for Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite is that I find the benefits of the program most in line with what I want out of having elite status, including the choice of a welcome gift, lounge access, complimentary breakfast, 4 p.m. late checkout (when it’s available) as well as the annual gift choice that includes five suite night award certificates.
Look, I love hotel breakfast, I love hotel suites and I really, really love a late checkout. So, I think this all makes sense for me.
How I plan to get there
There are a lot of different ways you can earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status. In fact, there are still ways you could earn it in 2021, including gaining immediate Gold status and following the path to Platinum with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
The threshold for Platinum Elite with Marriott Bonvoy is 50 nights. Due to the pandemic, Marriott gave elites bonus elite nights earlier in 2021, so it’s safe to stay I missed out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’ll be tossing travelers another bone next year.
For me, I think it’s time to open a Marriott cobranded credit card, and after researching all of them I think my best bet is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Currently, this card offers a great bonus of three free nights up to 50,000 points each after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. It earns a solid up to 17 total points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program and 2 points per dollar on basically everything else.
Where it makes sense to me is that the card comes with automatic Silver Elite status, or phrased differently, the card comes with 15 elite night credits per calendar year. That means every year I have the card I instantly get 15 nights that count toward the total 50 I need for Platinum Elite. But, that also means I have to stay another 35 nights at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties to get the status I’m aiming for.
The good news is that I’m a hotel reporter, and it’s literally my job to stay at hotels. While a fun part of my job is getting to check out the best new hotels around the world, the other reality is that there are a lot of nights where I need a comfortable place to sleep that doesn’t come with the price tag of a luxury vacation.
For me, hitting those 35 nights will most likely be by resting my head at the Alofts, Moxys, Courtyards and Fairfield Inns of the world. I’m a big fan of booking a hotel near an airport for an early morning flight, especially if I’m flying out of Newark, which isn’t the easiest to get to from my Brooklyn apartment. Luckily, there are plenty of Marriott properties, including the Marriott Newark, which usually ends up being less expensive than an uber.
The other reason I’m taking this route is that having to make up for those 35 nights will be a fun challenge to learn how to maximize promotions that might pop up next year. Of course, only time will tell what these could be.
Of course, reaching these 35 nights will still be a challenge. That’s over an entire month of hotel stays and over an entire month of hotel stays focusing on one brand, but once I hit the milestone, don’t you want to know if I think the perks were worth the effort?
Where I want to stay
No matter how I end up getting Platinum Elite, what won’t change are the hotels I know I’m already ready to visit.
At some point into 2022, I want to head to Iceland to check out the new Reykjavik Edition, a hotel that we included in our list of best new hotels this year. For me, Iceland has always been a dream trip, and having one of my favorite hotel brands enter the country is a dream come true.
And then there’s the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Island, a luxury resort that oozes with glamour (and Instagram photo opportunities). After basically two years of foregoing a big family vacation, we have the Maldives on our minds.
Two other places on my travel list for 2022 are Nashville and Italy, both of which are home two new W hotels. Luckily for me, most of my closest friends live in Music City, so I make frequent trips there. A trip in October left me high and dry as the W Nashville was totally sold out, but I’ll be heading back there in February for a wedding.
As for Italy, that trip is still a little up in the air as we see how COVID-19 restrictions change over the next few months, but if the plans go as scheduled we’ll try to hit up the new and whimsical W Rome. There are a bunch of other incredible Marriott properties dotting Italy that might end up totally changing how decide to travel around the country once we get to go.
Starting a journey to elite status with a hotel brand is exciting — and overwhelming. It requires you to ask yourself questions about how and why you travel, where you’ve stayed before and where you might end up going in the future.
Ultimately, I won’t let this goal stop me from staying where I want to stay if the Marriott Bonvoy stars don’t align for me in a certain location. I will, though, let this challenge guide me over the next year, and hopefully that path ends with free breakfast.
Featured photo courtesy of the Viewline Resort Snowmass/Marriott
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