What purchases count towards earning Marriott Ambassador elite status?

Dec 31, 2019

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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

While revenue requirements are now commonplace when it comes to earning airline elite status (and in the case of United, soon to be the only requirement), you can still earn most levels of hotel elite status without ever spending a dime, especially since award nights count towards elite qualification. The most notable exception to this would be Marriott’s top-tier Ambassador elite status, which requires 100 nights and $20,000 of spending each year to earn. TPG reader Madeleine wants to know what charges count towards that $20,000 requirement …

We are currently staying at the St. Regis Langkawi and are just $2,000 short of qualifying for Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador status. The room was paid for on points, but our tours and transportation were charged directly to the room. Will this spending count towards Ambassador status?

TPG READER MADELEINE

Marriott’s Ambassador status is a serious step up from the next rung, Titanium, which only requires 75 nights a year and no set spending amount. Ambassador elites enjoy nearly all of the same perks as Titanium elites — including a 75% points bonus, suite upgrades and free breakfast at most brands, and many more — but the biggest differentiator is in the name itself. Ambassador elites get a dedicated Marriott ambassador to coordinate all their travel, including notifying hotels of arrival and departure time and any special requests or special events like birthdays or anniversaries that are being celebrated. If something goes wrong, like points not posting correctly to your account, your ambassador can help sort it out so you don’t have to wait on hold.

Related: What is Marriott Bonvoy elite status worth?

$20,000 is a lot of money to spend each year, especially if you frequently use points to stay for free. As a point of comparison, I’m sitting at 74 nights on the year and just under $15,000 spent, though nearly a third of that came from one very expensive trip to the Maldives back in February.

With just a few days left in the year and a pretty high mark to reach, it’s important to make sure every dollar counts the way you expect it to. Here’s what the terms and conditions of the Marriott Bonvoy program says about Ambassador status:

“Marriott Bonvoy – Ambassador Elite:  100 Qualifying Nights and $20,000 U.S. dollars in qualified annual spend based on Qualifying Charges earned on Stays only.”

Unfortunately this doesn’t quite answer Madeleine’s question, but the “earned on stays only” piece is important as it tells us that if you eat at a restaurant at a Marriott property or grab drinks at the bar when you aren’t staying at the hotel, that spending likely won’t count. Meanwhile, Marriott defines the following as qualifying charges:

  • Qualifying rates for stays
  • Food and beverages (excluding alcoholic beverages where prohibited by law) and may exclude charges incurred at outlets that are not managed or operated by the Participating Property
  • Direct-dialed in-room telephone and direct-dialed in-room fax
  • In-room movies and video games

There are a few other specific examples, including a section noting that hotel restaurants are bars may count your spending towards Ambassador status even if you aren’t staying at the property, but you can generally think of the main categories as room rates, food and drink at the property, and other in room purchases like movie orders.

The next section includes a catch-all list of non-qualifying charges, that essentially includes anything not listed as qualifying charges. TPG Lounge readers were quick to point out that third-party tours and airport transfers, like the ones Madeleine asked about, rarely count towards Ambassador status. There’s no shortcut to her spending, but if she and her family are actually spending 100 nights or more in Marriott properties every year, it might be worth splurging on a couple of fancy dinners (which shouldn’t be that hard to do at a stunning St. Regis property) to make sure they lock in Ambassador status for the next year.

Bottom line

The value of Marriott’s Ambassador status seems to vary heavily based on the individual Ambassador assigned to you. While some people are underwhelmed by the service, those with good Ambassadors swear by it. Unfortunately Madeleine won’t be able to qualify by spending on third-party tours and airport transfers, so if she wants to enjoy Ambassador perks for 2020 she’ll need to consider indulging in a few pricey meals and drinks during her stay.

Thanks for the question, Madeleine, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.

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