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Why this is the year to push for higher Marriott Bonvoy elite status

Sept. 04, 2020
10 min read
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I didn't see the value of hotel elite status for many years, so I acted as a free agent and used online travel agency rewards programs to rack up rewards. But, now that I live and work from the road, I've come to value having elite status with several programs. One of these programs is Marriott Bonvoy.

While some travelers threatened to leave Marriott after the Starwood merger, my husband JT and I began staying with Marriott more. We'd planned to rely on the Gold Elite status provided by The Platinum Card® from American Express. But, we spent enough nights at Marriott hotels in 2019 for JT to earn Titanium Elite status. From upgrades to breakfast and guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, Platinum Elite -- and then Titanium Elite -- status proved to be very valuable to us.

I still only have Gold Elite status with Marriott, though. This isn't much of an issue since JT and I often travel together. But, Marriott has provided a unique chance for us this year. Specifically, in 2020 I can earn higher Marriott Bonvoy status with fewer nights and less lost perks than usual. Here's how and why I plan to do it.

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Bonus Elite Night Credits

Back in April, Marriott announced it would extend elite status through Feb. 2022. Then in June, Marriott announced aid for elites looking to earn higher elite status in 2020. Specifically, Marriott would deposit bonus elite night credits into members' accounts equal to 50% of the nights required for the status earned in 2019. So, here's the breakdown:

Marriott Bonvoy status earned in 2019Annual elite status requirements50% bonus Elite Night Credits deposited in 2020
Silver Elite10 nights5 Elite Night Credits
Gold Elite25 nights13 Elite Night Credits
Platinum Elite50 nights25 Elite Night Credits
Titanium Elite75 nights38 Elite Night Credits
Ambassador Elite100 nights and $20,000 annual qualifying spend50 Elite Night Credits

These bonus elite night credits hit accounts in late July. Marriott provided these bonus Elite Night Credits regardless of how you earned your Marriott Bonvoy status in 2019. As an Amex Platinum authorized user, I got 13 Elite Night Credits thanks to my Gold Elite status.

Related: Here's what hotel loyalty programs might look like after coronavirus

Credit card Elite Night Credits

(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

If you're keeping track, I'd need 50 nights to earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status. Taking the bonus Elite Night Credits into account, I'd only need 37 nights in 2020. But it gets better. In March, it became possible to earn up to 30 elite nights per year with Marriott credit cards.

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Granted, I don't have any Marriott credit cards yet, but I've finally dropped below Chase's 5/24 rule. So, I plan to apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card this year. Ideally, I'll get 30 more Elite Night Credits if I'm approved for both cards. This means I will only need to stay seven nights in 2020 to earn Platinum Elite status.

But, even if I'm only able to get one of these cards, I'll only need to stay 23 nights in 2020 to earn Platinum Elite status. This would be feasible, given the nights I've already stayed this year as well as my schedule for the rest of this year.

Related: Reader question: Does elite status from a credit card get you less recognition?

Decreased elite perks

Daily elite drinks and snack at the Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

We started booking Marriott stays using JT's account because he began traveling for work first and we've continued booking stays under his account for the Titanium Elite perks. But, some of the best Titanium Elite perks aren't consistently available now.

For example, many hotels have closed their lounges, while others have diminished breakfast offerings.

Plus, we prefer staying at extended-stay brands with more space and a kitchen during the coronavirus pandemic. But, Titanium Elite perks don't offer that many more perks than Gold Elite perks at extended-stay hotels. So, we aren't forfeiting many perks on these stays by booking with my account instead of JT's.

Related: 8 ways for elite status perks to remain relevant during the pandemic

Inexpensive hotel nights

We paid just $60 per night at the JW Marriott Medan. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

When the pandemic began, I expected to see hotel prices slashed. But, the price floor for Marriott brands in the U.S. has only dropped to $50-$60 per night. For example, you can book the Fairfield Inn & Suites Rapid City for as little as $52 per night. Meanwhile, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Houston Hobby Airport goes as low as $53 per night. If you're looking for a place to isolate, there may be a Fairfield Inn near you offering a low rate.

But, even if you don't want to isolate at a Fairfield Inn, the nightly cost is relatively low enough at many Marriott hotels now. So, it may be easy to justify booking a Marriott instead of another hotel brand. For example, on a recent trip to Boulder, CO, I found a great Element hotel for about $100 per night, including taxes and fees.

If you need to stay near LAX, the Sheraton and Westin are both just over $100 on some nights. If you're able to travel internationally in 2020, you may be able to snag some very low rates.

Related: Battle of the hotels: Why I think Marriott is the best

Why I want my own Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status

Marriott Platinum status will provide benefits at properties like The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You may be wondering why I want my own Platinum Elite status. After all, my husband already has Titanium Elite status and we usually travel together. Plus, Titanium Elite status offers better category bonuses than Platinum Elite status. So, why not just continue to enjoy the perks of Titanium Elite status and focus on re-earning this status for him in 2021? Well, let me tell you a story.

Soon after I wrote eight reasons why hotels are not designed for couples, a reader emailed me. Her husband had earned lifetime status in several programs, but she'd earned no status of her own. So, when he died, she had no status herself. Her advice was for each spouse to earn elite status in different programs. For example, one uses Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards Club, while the other focuses on World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors.

This email got me thinking. I hadn't put much value into earning lifetime status. After all, it's relatively easy to reach hotel elite status through credit cards. For example, I can get Hilton Diamond status by simply having the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. With consumer and business Marriott Bonvoy cards, you only need to stay 20 nights each year to earn Platinum Elite status. But, the credit card landscape could change. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Since Titanium Elite status doesn't provide many perks over Platinum Elite status, we decided I'd earn Platinum Elite status this year. And, we both plan to re-earn at least Platinum Elite status in the years to come. Since we live on the road as digital nomads, it's relatively easy to rack up nights at Marriott hotels. And, this way, we're both working toward lifetime Platinum Elite status with Marriott.

Related: Two-player mode: Credit card strategies for couples

Bottom line

If you earned Marriott Bonvoy status in 2019, 2020 might be the year to qualify for a higher status. Once you've reached a higher status, you may find yourself staying more often with Marriott. As a result, you may find it easy to keep your status in future years.

In my case, 2020 is a good opportunity for me to snag valuable Platinum Elite status. If you're uncertain whether it's worth it for you, take a look at the number of nights you'd need to stay in 2020 as well as the cost of Marriott hotels for any trips during the rest of 2020.

Featured image by (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.