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Why I dropped Marriott after 35 years of loyalty 

Aug. 12, 2021
8 min read
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My love affair with Marriott started in 1986. I was a year out of college and was attending a conference at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. I didn’t know anyone and spent a lot of time alone, but the staff made me feel very welcome.

I was so impressed with that service that I decided to write a personal letter to then-CEO and chairman Bill Marriott Jr. Imagine my surprise when I received a personal reply from the man himself. That one thing turned me into a loyal Marriott fan, with Silver or Gold status on and off through the years.

I spent three-plus decades as a devoted Marriott fangirl, but after Marriott acquired Starwood in 2015 and the hotel experience began to change, a few incidents had me rethinking my loyalty. After 35 years, I accepted it was time for me to find a new brand to love and went on a transformational journey through several programs to find the perfect combination of loyalty perks and inviting hotel accommodations.

Why I said goodbye to Marriott

It all started with the Starwood acquisition in 2015. There are always growing pains after deals of this magnitude, but my post-acquisition stays at Marriott brands still felt different. Issues started popping up, such as staff forgetting my long-standing request for non-feather pillows (due to allergies) and rooms that weren’t as clean.

A turning point came in 2016 when Marriott mishandled what was possibly a case of bedbugs in my upgraded room at a Washington, D.C., hotel. After the discovery, I immediately asked for a new room, along with my clothes and luggage to be cleaned. The hotel refused to clean my clothes and wanted to move me to a downgraded room. Thank goodness it wasn't bedbugs -- but the mattress was still disturbingly dirty -- and we were able to eventually come to a resolution. But it only came about after unnecessarily protracted negotiations. The whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth for the brand.

Then Marriott quietly got rid of two helpful Gold benefits -- a dedicated phone number for reservations and no blackout dates for points redemptions. This change seems small in the general scheme of things, but it felt like the program was being devalued -- even before the pandemic.

Gold elite benefits under the new Marriott Rewards loyalty program.(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)
Gold elite benefits under the old Marriott Rewards loyalty program. (Screenshot courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

With the pandemic came even more changes that I hoped would be temporary. In an interview with TPG executive editor Scott Mayerowitz, Marriott CEO Anthony “Tony” Capuano acknowledged the "friction" between what returning guests desire and what owners need to do to run a successful business.

Marriott's loyal guests "want everything to be the way it was" before 2020, Capuano explained, but owners and franchisees have borne a disproportionate weight from the impact of the pandemic. “They’ve lost billions of dollars of revenue. Suggestions about getting back to ‘normal,’ they look at you like you have three heads and they say, ‘You’ve got to be more sensitive to the steep climb we have in front of us.’”

To me, this sounded like the Marriott that I knew and loved wasn’t coming back, leading me to the decision that it was finally time to make a permanent change.

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How I chose a new hotel brand to love

After my breakup with Marriott, I needed to switch my loyalty to a new brand to get the best value from any upcoming hotel stays. I have automatic Gold elite status at Marriott and Hilton through my Platinum Card® from American Express. As I rebounded, I found myself booking Hilton hotels more, thanks to perks including a dedicated phone line, a very generous 80% points bonus, a fifth night free (a perk that Marriott also has), a daily food and beverage credit (although I do miss the free breakfast) and two bottled waters.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hilton)

Related: How the pandemic has altered — or eliminated — hotel amenities we once took for granted

Then three things happened to make me switch my loyalty yet again. First, Hilton announced that it would no longer offer daily housekeeping at its hotels. During the pandemic, hotels made the switch to on-demand housekeeping. Hilton was the only chain (so far) to make the switch permanent, although Marriott has hinted at this, too.

Thompson San Antonio - Riverwalk exterior
The Thompson San Antonio-Riverwalk. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Second, I rediscovered Hyatt hotels. When I started at The Points Guy in May 2019, I was put up in the HGU New York, a delightful boutique hotel that’s part of Hyatt’s Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) brand. I also stayed at a few Hyatt Regencys and Hyatt Houses that were quite nice.

Then this year, I did a review of the Thompson San Antonio-Riverwalk, Hyatt's brand of luxury boutique hotels with a local focus. Despite a few operational issues I chalked up to pandemic-related issues, the hospitality I felt from the time I left my car in valet parking to the time I checked out was enough to convince me to finally make the jump to Hyatt.

The benefits of Hyatt Discoverist elite status. (Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt)

But my conversion was complete with the third thing -- accelerated elite status under the World of Hyatt loyalty program. Discoverist status (complimentary with the World of Hyatt Credit Card) now only takes five nights instead of the normal 10 to earn. I easily hit that milestone with my stays at the Thompson San Antonio and Hotel 50 Bowery this year.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt)

I’m only four nights away from hitting Explorist status through 2022 after stays at the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile, Hyatt Place Times Square and Hyatt Union Square. I have several Hyatt stays booked through the end of 2021, giving me a sporting chance to earn Globalist status.

I fully acknowledge that Hyatt has a smaller footprint -- with more than 1,000 properties in 68 countries across six continents. Marriott has more than 7,600 properties in 133 countries and territories, while Hilton has more than 6,600 properties in 119 countries and territories.

And that smaller footprint was definitely shown during a road trip from Baltimore to San Antonio where there were no Hyatts available anywhere near stops in Tuscaloosa, AL, or Meridian, MS. But despite that, Hyatt is still in many of the places I want to go -- plus I just earned a free room night after staying in five different Hyatt brands (Hyatt Regency, Hyatt, Hyatt Place, Thompson and Joie De Vivre).

Related: Hyatt’s best-kept secrets: 16 incredible hotels you’d never know belonged to World of Hyatt

Bottom line

It’s nice to know I have choices when it comes to hotels, thanks to my elite status with Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt. But I’m happy to have made the full switch to Hyatt, with its perfect balance of perks and an accelerated way to earn status. The hospitality I’ve felt in all my Hyatt stays this year reminds me of how I felt about Marriott back in the day.

After only a single stay, I became a huge fan of both the Thompson and SLH brands. In the future, I look forward to checking out the Andaz, Zilara and Ziva brands, all of which are favorites with TPG staffers. Considering how I travel, it’s entirely possible there may be places that don’t have Hyatt brands -- but that’s no problem, since I have my gold status with Marriott and Hilton as a back-up.

Although I’ve spent more than 200 nights in Marriott hotels, I could never quite keep up my Silver and Gold enough for lifetime status. Even if I had, I still would stick with my move to Hyatt because of what I’ve experienced with the brand so far.

Featured image by The Andaz Mayakoba Mexico. (Photo by Summer Hull/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.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023