Holding hotel elite status is one of the best ways to ensure an enhanced and consistent experience when you travel. Most rewards programs offer benefits ranging from free upgrades and late checkout to food and beverage amenities like complimentary breakfast, but how much value do you actually get out of hotel loyalty? We’re taking a look at Marriott Bonvoy — one of the largest hotel chain loyalty programs in the world — so you can decide for yourself.
Marriott rebranded its Marriott Rewards loyalty program in 2019, about a year after their acquisition of SPG. Since then, to put it nicely — the “Bonvoy” program has been in flux, with several changes and devaluations, and even questions around which properties were still honoring elite benefits (indicating that it’s a choice). Marriott received a fair bit of bad press following the merger and then again after the “Bonvoy” rebranding, and continues to receive criticisms for how (and if) its brands honor loyalty status benefits. However, it still remains one of the most popular hotel loyalty programs in the world due to its enormous footprint across the globe and some great benefits (when they’re honored) for elite tiers.
Marriott Bonvoy elite status tiers
Fast forward to:
Marriott Bonvoy has 5 tiers of elite status (not including basic membership) that are earned by staying a certain number of nights in a calendar year at Marriott hotels. Elite Nights can be earned with both cash or award nights, or through credit card benefits.
Each tier earns progressively more benefits all the way up to Ambassador Elite, with most of the significant benefits kicking in at Platinum Elite status. A full list of benefits is illustrated below:
Outside of basic membership, the lowest Bonvoy status tier is Silver Elite, which requires 10 Elite Nights to earn. In practice, there isn’t much of a difference between being a basic Member vs Silver Elite. The major status benefits are that you’re eligible to request late checkout (Marriott doesn’t publish a time unlike higher status tiers, so take that for what it’s worth) and you earn 10% bonus points for stays. Overall, we don’t see any reason to put forth effort to achieve Silver Elite status as it really has minimal value.
With that in mind, Silver Elite status is extremely easy to obtain, thanks to three Marriott co-branded credit cards that offer 15 Elite Night Credits each year as an automatic benefit:
- Bonvoy Bold card
- Bonvoy Boundless card
- Bonvoy Business American Express card
The 15 Elite Night Credits for these cards get you more than half way to Gold Elite status, which requires 25 nights.
Gold Elite is where Bonvoy status starts to offer any value. To earn it, you’ll need 25 Elite Nights. If you currently hold the Bonvoy Bold Card from Chase, Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase, or Bonvoy Business Amex Card, that means you’ll qualify after staying just 10 nights. By holding both a Bonvoy Personal card from Chase and the Bonvoy Business Amex card, you’ll have 30 Elite Night Credits, which is more than enough for Gold Elite status.
Gold Elites can request 2pm late checkout (subject to availability), are eligible for room upgrades (non-suites), and receive bonus points at check-in, in addition to a 25% points bonus for stays.
Additionally, there are two premium cards that offer Gold Elite status as an automatic benefit, in addition to 15 Elite Night Credits:
- American Express Platinum
- Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
The benefit of the 15 Elite Night Credits with these two cards is that it puts you only 35 nights away from Platinum Elite status, which is earned after 50 nights.
Platinum Elite is, in our opinion, the sweet spot in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Benefits for Platinum Elites are more similar to Titanium and Ambassador tiers than they are to lower status tiers. As a Platinum Elite member, you receive all the same benefits as Gold members, as well as the following additional benefits:
- 50% bonus points for stays
- Enhanced welcome gift – Unfortunately because of the number of brands within the Marriott portfolio, this varies by property. Without getting into the full details of which Marriott brands honor free breakfast, typically this benefit will come in the form of complimentary breakfast for two, bonus points, and/or a property amenity.
- Guaranteed 4pm late checkout – Getting priority late checkout is a fantastic benefit, but there are exceptions (ie resort and convention hotels). We’ll also note that we have had many experiences where hotel and corporate staff deny this benefit.
- Guaranteed room type – Effectively an insurance policy that compensates you up to $100 in the event your selected room type isn’t available.
- Lounge access – Access to club lounges. For legacy Marriott properties that do not have a lounge, you’re entitled to complimentary breakfast at the hotel restaurant or points compensation.
- Annual Choice Benefit – Choose from one of:
- 5 Suite Night Awards
- Gift someone Silver Elite status
- 40% off a Marriott-brand mattress
- 5 Elite Night Credits
- $100 charity donation
We’d recommend the 5 Suite Night Awards as they represent the greatest value out of the choices offered.
Earning Platinum Elite status is a little difficult since it requires 50 nights, but there are some shortcuts and alternatives that make it very doable:
1. Apply for both a Bonvoy personal and business credit card.
Currently, all Marriott co-branded cards offer 15 Elite Night Credits. While these Elite Night Credits do not stack for personal cards — you can double dip by having both a Bonvoy personal and business credit card. By having both you’d automatically get 30 Elite Night Credits, which means you’d only need to stay 20 nights in a calendar year to earn Platinum Elite status.
If you wanted to earn Platinum Elite with award stays, this could cost as little as 64,000 Bonvoy points to achieve. You could book four 5-night stays at a Category 1 Off-Peak PointSavers hotel, which would only cost 16,000 points per booking.
2. Spend $75,000 on the Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card in a calendar year.
Not only does the Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card offer complimentary Gold Elite status, but you can also earn Platinum Elite status after making $75,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year.
3. Spend $75,000 on the Ritz-Carlton card in a calendar year.
Unfortunately, the Ritz-Carlton card is no longer accepting new applicants, so this is only applicable to current cardmembers.
Titanium Elite requires 75 nights and is much harder to earn than Platinum Elite — and quite frankly, we don’t think it’s worth the effort. Titanium Elite members get three additional benefits on top of those that come with Platinum Elite status:
- 75% points bonus for stays
- 48-hour guaranteed availability – this benefit allows you to book nearly any Marriott property with 48 hours of notice. Frankly, this isn’t something we could ever see ourselves using, but it may be valuable for travel plan changes in the 11th hour (though you’ll be subject to whatever the last minute price is at booking).
- Enhanced Annual Choice Benefit – Similar to the Platinum Elite benefit, choose from one of:
- 5 Suite Night Awards
- Gift someone Gold Elite status
- 40% off a Marriott-branded mattress
- A Free Night Award up to 40,000 points
- 5 Elite Night Credits
- $100 charity donation
The best option here is either the Free Night Award, or the 5 SNAs, depending on your ability to successfully redeem SNAs.
One extra benefit that’s not very well publicized is the RewardsPlus partnership. This Marriott and United Airlines agreement grants some level of reciprocity that gives Titanium Elites complimentary United Premier Silver status.
Note: MileagePlus Premier Gold, Platinum, and 1K members are also eligible for status matches to Marriott Gold Elite.
While United Silver is the lowest status with United, it does offer some nice perks such as eligibility for upgrades, access to Economy Plus at check-in, and a free bag.
There’s unfortunately no real shortcut to Titanium Elite status beyond what we’ve already discussed. To earn it you’ll need to qualify for Platinum Elite status and then stay an extra 25 nights to reach 75 total nights.
The final and highest tier of Marriott Bonvoy status is Ambassador Elite. To earn the prestige of Ambassador, you’ll need at least 100 nights in addition to $20,000 in qualifying spend at Marriott properties. This top tier status gets all the benefits of Titanium Elite, and two extra perks:
- Ambassador Service – Get a dedicated, personal point of contact for bookings, reservation details, or other stay requests. Again, this is one of those benefits that we simply don’t see much value in having — but then again, there’s no harm in having an extra pen pal.
- Your24 – Marriott advertises this as their flexible booking tool that allows you to select your check-in and check-out time during your 24-hour stay. For instance, check in at 9pm and check out the following evening at 9pm. We could see value in this if you’re arriving late and want to have your room all day the following day, but of course this is subject to availability. You’ll want to contact your Ambassador to make the request, preferably after any SNAs you’ve used (if any) have cleared.
In our opinion, the biggest Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program sweet spot is Platinum Elite status. Platinum Elite is where most of the valuable benefits start to pick up, and we just don’t see a significant value in the lower or higher tiers.
The one thing to keep in mind with the Marriott Bonvoy program is that status treatment is fairly inconsistent and varies greatly by property, especially since the merger with SPG. Unfortunately, Marriott hasn’t made a very concerted effort to get all of their brands on the same page, and until that happens, there will be a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to honoring benefits.
We’ve had significantly better status recognition with legacy SPG properties, versus other portfolio brands like the Ritz Carlton or Renaissance hotels. In general, properties outside the USA and Canada offer much better loyalty recognition. In fact, one of our best experiences with status recognition was at a Courtyard in Bali, of all places.
Regardless, we do think there’s a lot of value to be had in requalifying for Platinum Elite status moving forward, especially since you’re only 20 nights away if you have the 30 Elite Night Credits from Marriott’s co-branded credit cards.
What do you think about the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program? Are you planning on requalifying for Elite status this year?