Marriott’s Double Points/Elite Credit Promo, Award Discount And Night Credit Windfall For Current Elites

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We’re almost halfway through January and I’d complained that Marriott still hadn’t shared what it would take to earn elite status in 2021. They’ve just rectified that.

They’re gifting current elites half the number of nights they need to re-earn their status, which for elite members is better than cutting the status requirement in half because these nights count towards lifetime status and for earning choice benefits.

They’re also running a double points and double qualifying nights promotion, reducing the spend required for top tier Ambassador status, and discounting award redemptions at the off peak level. And Marriott promises this is just “the first of many offers and program enhancements to be announced throughout the year.”

Free Elite Night Credits For Current Elites

In February Marriott is going to deposit half the elite nights into current elite member accounts that they’d need to re-earn their 2020 elite status tier.

2020 ELITE STATUS NORMAL REQUIREMENTS 50% ELITE NIGHT CREDITS DEPOSIT
Ambassador 100 Qualifying Nights and $20k stay spend 50 Elite Nights
Titanium 75 Qualifying Nights 38 Elite Nights
Platinum 50 Qualifying Nights 25 Elite Nights
Gold 25 Qualifying Nights 13 Elite Nights
Silver 10 Qualifying Nights 5 Elite Nights
Member Not Applicable Not Applicable

Marriott did this same deposit last year and the bonus elite nights counted towards lifetime status. For instance, lifetime Platinum is earned after 10 years of Platinum or higher and 600 lifetime nights and these bonus nights counted towards that 600 (the same way that annual credit card nights do).

As Platinum in 2020, earned in 2019, I should receive a 25 night elite credit deposit. That’s in addition to the 30 elite nights I received from their credit card. I have both a Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant(TM) American Express® Card personal card and a small business Marriott co-brand. And I keep my Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card because it now earns a separate 15 elite nights in addition to the 15 from my personal card. That’s 55 nights.

This should earn a Choice Benefit (for crossing 50 nights) too. And it gives me Platinum status for 2022. I’m inclined to pick 5 elite nights as my choice benefit, assuming that’s offered again, bringing me to 60 nights, I’m guessing I will quite easily hit Titanium this year – and it will help make up for the lifetime Platinum years and elite nights that disappeared from my account when the Marriott and Starwood programs merged.

Double Points And Double Elite Qualifying Nights

From February 16, 2021 through April 27, 2021, Marriott will award double points and double elite nights on stays of 2 nights or more.

On the one hand, they’re gifting me a re-up of my Platinum for 2022, and making Titanium really easy to upgrade to. On the other hand, hotels are empty and their promotion is ‘just’ double points, and excluding one night stays..?

Reduced Spending Requirement For Top Tier Ambassador

Marriott’s top tier of status requires 100 elite nights and $20,000 spend. In 2020 they made the elite nights much easier to earn, but didn’t reduce the spending requirement even with hotel room rates down. Someone might stay only half as many nights to earn Ambassador, but that just meant their average spend per night needed to be double what it was in non-pandemic times.

They’ve addressed that for 2021: a 30% reduction in the spending requirement, so that you’ll need 100 nights and $14,000 spend for the status which comes with ‘Your24’ 24 hour check-in/check-out when available instead of spending the full $20,000 this year.

A current Ambassador member with both a personal and small business co-brand credit card gets 80 elite nights without a single stay – so needs to stay just 20 nights (which really is just 10 nights if stayed during the promotion period). Charge enough incidental spend to the room and it becomes possible to re-earn Ambassador quickly, at least at hotels with enough service being offered to accomplish that kind of spending.

Of course after having laid off dedicated Ambassador agents and since Marriott isn’t managing to do a better job delivering upgrades when hotels are empty than during normal times Ambassador status may be a disappointment even at $14,000 in spend versus %20,000. The reduction in what was once truly personalized service is a shame.

Award Redemption Discount

Marriott will reduce the points price of redemptions claimed at the off-peak level by 10% for bookings made by February 21, 2021 for stays through September 30, 2021.

Here’s Marriott’s award chart:

It’s only off peak rates that are being discounted, and those represent a deal. They’re nights that Marriott is confident they won’t have to pay a hotel extra for award rooms as a result of the hotel being booked close to full.

Of course Marriott has been running high season rates (let alone standard) on way too many nights at way too many hotels during the pandemic, charging a premium for members to stay at empty hotels when hotels could really use the revenue from Bonvoy for those rooms. That’s not how this is supposed to work, but it’s a way for Marriott corporate to keep money, and avoid paying it out to property owners, by discouraging redemptions (or at a minimum only parting with cash when they’re taking the extra liability off their books).

According to a Marriott spokesperson, “it can take a little time for our new off-rates rates to updated throughout our systems, so the new pricing is now bookable, but may not show up in the shopping experience for the next few hours.”

The Big Gap In Marriott’s Elite Strategy

For current elites this is probably the most generous approach we’ll see from any of the major hotel chains. As a Platinum with two co-brand credit cards, they’re gifting me Platinum again without my having to stay a single night in a hotel, and they’re making it easy for me to earn a higher elite level. Elites without their card can apply for one (or a personal and small business card) and if approved get 15 elite nights for each.

And by the way through January 13 both the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant(TM) American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card have an opportunity for new cardmembers to receive Platinum status for 2021 as part of their initial bonus offer.

At the same time Marriott’s approach is vexing because it does little for those who do not already have status with Bonvoy. The people who are traveling now are disproportionately new customers, not elites. Business travelers aren’t traveling for business and are less likely to travel for leisure. The people who are traveling are once a year leisure guests who skew younger, often new to Marriott. Bonvoy should be trying to capture the business that is out there, and winning the business of new customers but this is the segment largely ignored by these moves.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This sounds great but it is worthless because they are giving away platinum status with credit cards. The tangible difference in on-property benefits between platinum and ambassador is minimum when club lounges are closed, most hotels aren’t providing housekeeping, and many hotel restaurants closed for breakfast. And once resume to semi-normal or normal the club lounges and restaurants are going to be overcrowded with everyone who achieved platinum status through credit cards, status matches and free night giveaways.

    This is a big, big problem.

  2. Great timely post. I earned Platinum status on 12/23/20. Do you think in February I will be gifted 25 nights for Platinum or the 13 nights for my previous Gold status? Thanks!

  3. You will be gifted based on your current status.

    My goal is to rack up as many nights as possible for lifetime platinum. Once I hit that, don’t plan on staying at a Marriott again.

  4. Such a terrible strategy on their part. I’ll take it since I’m current Ambassador, and the free 50 nights are nice. But I’m now already at 75 nights with almost no incentive to hit 100 and the $14K. It’s going to be a stretch for me to hit $14K, so instead I’m going to shift my nights to Hilton. Thus resulting in Marriott losing business from me, not gaining. Such idiots.

  5. “ My goal is to rack up as many nights as possible for lifetime platinum. Once I hit that, don’t plan on staying at a Marriott again.”

    Me too. Nothing like lifetime status I never use !!

  6. @Kyle: It’s actually a brilliant strategy because so many customers will have platinum, titanium and ambassador elite statues. These are customers who wouldn’t otherwise have that tier of status.

    As a result, nobody will get their elite status benefits and the cost to hotel owners and Marriott International will decrease. Don’t forget. Decreasing costs was one of the big reasons behind Bonvoy, according to public statements at the time by Marriott executives Arne Sorenson and David Flueck.

    What difference does it make if there are 100,000 platinum elite status customers or 200,000? Especially when it’s very likely that club lounges in domestic (North America) properties will remain closed for most or all of 2021. Similarly, we’re likely to see breakfast benefits — when returned chain-wide — to be watered down to grab-and-go sandwiches and the like. Don’t forget that some properties pre-coronavirus were already claiming a stale muffin or bagel with coffee was breakfast.

    I would not be surprised if some medium-sized properties by mid-2021 and certainly early 2022 will have 100-plus platinum, titanium or ambassador elite guests on a busy night.

    I know back in 2017 the front office manager at the J.W. Marriott Essex House (around 450 rooms) in New York City told me they averaged 75 platinums per week night. At the time, platinum was the highest published elite status in legacy Marriott. Pre-coronavirus, New York City hotels averaged 86% nightly occupancy. So, that’s 387 occupied rooms on average per night at the J.W. Marriott. Of that, nearly 20% of rooms were occupied by platinums.

  7. I’m lifetime Titanium (not offered anymore) which I’m really glad about since Platinum has been devalued with all the giveaways. If this is like last year I will get 38 nights deposited since I show as Titanium then you add the 15 nights I’ve already received for my Bonvoy credit card and I have 53 nights without a single stay. This will let me select 5 more suite upgrades for 2022 (already have the 5 for 2021 which I plan to use in Germany this coming September).

    Works out great for me. As for the person that said they were lifetime Platinum and switch to Hyatt. Retired so don’t travel on business anymore and Hyatt’s have a much smaller footprint for me. I’m Explorist (through MLife Gold match) but don’t focus on them. Having lifetime Titanium with Marriott plus credit card statuses or easy match to Diamond Hilton, Platinum IHG, Diamond Best Western/Wyndham and also get pretty much all my nights comped at Caesars properties due to my Diamond Plus status (through gambling not a match) make me a free agent with respect to travel which I love.

  8. What happens if your stay begins before the period begins? For example a point redemption booking from Feb 13th through Feb 28th? Would you get 15 nights or 27 nights? Anyone know? Thanks.

  9. They are clearly looking for business in 2022.

    Indeed, they might be making platinum quite easy to attain in 2021 for use in 2022. I expect that breaking out of the norms that have been set in 2020/21 (i.e., just about no business travel) will be slow to grow out of in 2022, but, culturally, physical presence will regain importance.

    I rather suspect that many of the people who are gaining cheap higher level status, whether through Hyatt, Hilton, or Marriott promotions may have at most 15 or 20 nights in hotels even in 2022, which mitigates the specter of status dilution (what does minting too many platinums matter when “unworthy” platinums show up only occasionally?).

    All of the programs are making efforts to ensure that whatever heads are in beds in 2022 are in their beds.

  10. Jim, above says:

    “My goal is to rack up as many nights as possible for lifetime platinum. Once I hit that, don’t plan on staying at a Marriott again.”

    That is perverse. Other than some sort of bragging rights, why would anyone make the smallest effort to attain at status level they do not intend to use?

  11. jfhscott says: “what does minting too many platinums matter when “unworthy” platinums show up only occasionally?”

    Excellent point. I hadn’t thought of that.

  12. “At the same time Marriott’s approach is vexing because it does little for those who do not already have status with Bonvoy.”
    I guess I have to disagree. The double points and double elite night credits (2+ nights) from Feb 16 to April 27 gives those folks time to enroll in Bonvoy, time to plan, and about 2 1/2 months to rack up both elite nights and points. Seems to cover them, and help all the rest of us on top of the 50% elite night credits to our accounts. I am fine with the update.

  13. This is far too little, Marriott. That reduction in Ambassador requirements won’t really move the needle. The 10% reduction for rewards is even less useful. The Marriott rewards chart got obliterated in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Giving back 10% is still an uncompetitive redemption chart.

    I even disagree with Gary’s assessment of the elite nights being added. Sure, for someone who is plat he/she will get a meaningful number of nights to reachieve plat, but for everyone who slipped to gold/silver, the number of nights awarded is not enough to encourage more stays.

    @FNT Delta Diamond

    >>Of that, nearly 20% of rooms were occupied by platinums.<<

    I've seen the occupancy lists at Marriotts, and the ones I saw had far more than 20% occupancy by platinums. The math is simple: a few elites staying a hundred nights/year have a far outsized impact in comparison to a horde of guests who only stay a few times a year.

  14. I’m still scratching my head and figuring out what Marriott is going to do to incentivize me to stay at their properties once I re-qualify for ambassador with only 35 actual butt-in-bed nights?

    I’ll be at 8 nights in real stays by the end of next week. That means I only need 27 more nights.

    For the sake of discussion, let’s assume I hit the spend. Will they give me more suite night certificates if I do a legitimate 100 nights and a legitimate $20,000 spend? Will my excess spend rollover to 2022 for 2023 status?

    It seems like this may not have been though through terribly well.

  15. @Joseph N: I was referring to property before-Bonvoy when platinum was the highest status in legacy Marriott Rewards. Today’s platinum was gold then.

    I have no doubt that moving forward at some properties upwards of 50% of guests will have platinum, titanium or ambassador status. If anyone the platinums and titaniums should be most annoyed by free giveaway nights since there is no dollar threshold for those statuses.

    If club lounges every return they will need to seriously consider stripping complimentary lounge access for platinums on every stay. It is unsustainable.

  16. I just reached Lifetime Platinum this year (a couple of years later than planned after the prior program goalposts were moved!). Historical perspective of Marriott program changes makes me think that it is possible (likely?) that Bonvoy management will offer a new Lifetime Titanium status to keep the current stable of LTPs engaged (sorry, current Lifetime Titaniums!). It would certainly keep my attention!

  17. As I said on View from the Wing earlier this month:

    If we are being honest the biggest problem isn’t Marriott International or even Bonvoy. Rather, the biggest problem is the structure of the company.

    The vast majority of all hotels across all brands worldwide are NOT managed by Marriott. They are managed directly by franchisees or third-party management companies hired to operate a franchisee’s hotel. Marriott only manages a minority of its hotels — most of them are Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Bulgari. Even properties branded as J.W. Marriott are no longer exclusively managed by Marriott. Likewise, a growing number of Ritz-Carlton properties are managed by franchisees or their operators.

    This is arguably the biggest problem. Marriott is a marketing company now, not a hotelier. It can’t control the guest experience because of its size and lack of management over most properties.

    Add to this way too many brands with vastly different standards and a loyalty program that requires a flow chart to understand and you have a recipe for disaster.

  18. @Mr Nomad,

    You earned your Platinum in 2020, and thus, Bonvoy will deposit 25 elite night credit into your account.

    I became Titanium on 12/30, and I expect to get 38 nights.

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