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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.
- Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM Credit Card from Chase
- Marriott Bonvoy BoldTM Credit Card no annual fee card from Chase
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant(TM) American Express® Card
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.