The Top 5 Reasons Marriott Rewards Doesn’t Value its Platinum Elite Members

Marriott’s top elite tier requires the most nights to achieve at 75. In contrast, you can become a Starwood Platinum or a Hyatt Diamond after 50 nights (or 25 stays).

And yet Marriott Rewards is less rewarding than Starwood and Hyatt — and arguably less rewarding than Hilton HHonors – for top tier elites.

  1. No guaranteed late checkout, late checkout is instead on request on day of departure.

  2. Award nights don’t count towards status. IHG Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton HHonors do. Hyatt’s new cash and points awards will. (Marriott will even be alone in not offering cash and points awards.)

  3. No confirmed suite upgrades — not at booking or even a few days prior to check-in. Elites aren’t even entitled to standard suites that may be available when they arrive.

  4. No breakfast at resorts or even at courtyard properties. Heck theu just got breakfast on weekends.

  5. Club lounges are getting crowded with United MileagePlus Premier Gold members and Ritz-Carlton credit card holders.

And yet Marriott members still love the program!

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, 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. One of the biggest ones for me is their blackout policy. Marriott claims to have no blackout dates, which is misleading and possibly false advertising. While Marriott Rewards doesn’t have any system wide blackout dates, individual properties can have them and they can cover any period they wish. This alone is a good reason to collect a sizable stash of Starwood points. I consider Marriott’s cash and points to be false advertising as well.

  2. Not to mention their award program requires significantly more points per night that are harder to earn than Hyatt and Hilton.

    Credit card spending only earns 1 pt per dollar which is in line with Hyatt and SPG – but Hyatt and SPG top hotels require significantly less points than Marriott top hotels.

  3. and this is why the Freddies have lost a lot of credibility for me… when marriott continues to win year after year

  4. All fair points. I am a plat at spg and Marriott(lifetime).
    Marriott is very consistent. Yes you have to stay at marriotts to rack up points, but the points have been relatively easy to come by with the quarterly bonuses of 50k. What I get from Marriott is consistency and they are ubiquitous. I have to admit, having the Ritz as the aspirational brand has been a boon for me. I enjoy the Ritz, even if it does take a lot of points. The service is outstanding, even if the rooms only fair. The service at the Ritz is barnone. Whatever you want is always accommodated. While I’ve had unbelievable rooms at SPG, the service has generally been hit or miss (Le Meridien Dead Sea being an extreme example). You never know what to expect. It both exceeds and disapoints depending on the property. The Marriott is consistent and there is something to be said for consistently meeting expectations. I understand why people disparage the program, but it works very well for me, and apparently a few others, but YMMV.

  5. I am Hilton Diamond; SPG Gold; IHG Platinum Ambassador and Marriott Plat. All our stays are leisure. No business travel involved. Your points are valid but +1 on jimltravels. And here’s why we use Marriott: We own a Marriott Time Share which credits us with Elite night stays so we earn somewhere between 14 and 28 nights a year for that. The Marriott Credit card gives 15 Elite night credits per year off the bat. The Mega Bonus is huge. Very easy to get free nights, and while it’s only to Category 5, the JW Marriott in Shanghai is a Cat 3, the JW in Bangkok is a Cat 5, and often we use Mega Bonus night mid-week when hotel prices are much higher. Marriott is widespread. We go a lot of places where there is no Hyatt or SPG property. And probably the most compelling reason to use Marriott is Executive Lounge Access is guaranteed at Gold, whether or not one is upgraded to the Executive Floor AND regardless of whether it’s an award stay or paid stay. Hilton Gold only allows Lounge access if you’ve been upgraded to a lounge floor; IHG doesn’t necessarily give any status perks on award stays; and I am an SPG Gold and other than getting free Internet as a “gold” gift, I usually don’t get anything–certainly not an upgraded room or lounge access.

  6. @ denise…

    sure, you do get access as a gold – but that takes 50 nights! for the same 50 nights you can be a Hyatt or SPG top tier elite and get the same benefit.

    comparing SPG gold to Marriott gold is apples and oranges. SPG gold = Marriott silver

  7. When IHG started to count the award nights towards elite qualification? I know SPG counts both C+P and full-points and Hyatt counts C+P after Jan 7 next year, but never heard of IHG counting award nights towards EQ

  8. @jay–I hear you, but because of being United 1K and also owning the Marriott Time Share, getting to Marriott Gold is easy for my husband and I, one way or another. So…now that we’re here, my reasons above are why it works for us…

  9. Agree with @Denise and @jimltravels. Consistency and availability are key to me. Not all of us are leisure travelers or travel to major urban areas for work all the time. I often travel to destinations without a SPG or Hyatt property and I know for a fact that I am not alone. If I was traveling to New York or San Francisco regularly I would likely drop Hilton and switch to Hyatt, but when traveling to Moosic Pennsylvania or Killeen Texas, its Hilton or Marriott and I am happy to have an option that lets me earn points

  10. I’d like to add to this since I am Platinum and spent 2 nights at Marriott this week: No breakfast, Platinum amenity is a joke – 400 points OR a bottle of water? Come on…

  11. Being a Marriott platinum last two years, I took the SPG Plat challenge this year and made it to platinum.

    Other than more points, I see zero value in SPG platinum.

    I have stayed at these SPG’s and got zero lounge access:

    Westin SFO Airport
    Westin Long Beach
    Westin Costa Mesa
    Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica

    Same Marriots had lounge access:

    Marriott SFO Airport
    Marriot Marina Del Rey
    Marriott Burbank
    Marriott Irvine

    This has been quite disappointing.

  12. I swear Marriott Rewards has many deer caught in the head
    light customers who are clueless about program value and just stay Marriott regardless how they get their status. Lucky Marriott
    If the program didn’t suck so bad I’d probably spend tens of thousands with some of the brands as well.
    Marriott has large herds of their cattle drinking the Kool-Aid religiously so that’s all that matters
    One woman who has been with Marriott for 15 years as a Platinum says they are the best and she voted them number one in the Freddie’s and elsewhere
    When I asked her why she thought it was better then other programs she replied I’ve never been in another program so I have nothing to compare it too.
    Wow talk about drinking the Kool-Aid. Is Jim Jones running the program lol
    I’m quite happy with my Hyatt,Spg,
    InterContinental’s and a splash of Hilton thrown in where it makes sense. Using selectively all these programs still deliver reasonable value
    I do like a handful of Marriott properties but avoid the poorly run program that’s run by their frugal,penny pinching,stingy greedy management
    Happy Holidays 🙂

  13. Marriott Plat bonus points – seriously – 200 points or so?? I get 1,000 at Hyatt and Hyatt points are a lot more valuable than Marriott by a long shot

    The value of the Marriott program for me continues to be the Megabonus bonus nights – sort of the “faster free nights-lite” – – and being Silver on United is an extra, although I rarely fly United these days . . .

  14. In general, I agree with your assessment. This year has been my first as Marriott Platinum. Having been a Hilton Diamond for many years and still maintaining HHonors Gold status, I have to say that Marriott Platinum is a bit underwhelming. For the amount of “investment”, I’d say that Hilton Gold is the better deal – with Hilton, I am always assured of free breakfast, free internet, upgraded rooms most of the time (usually to the exec floor with lounge access), and my award stays count as nights. Downside, of course, is that HHonors points are now severely devalued. Sure, I’ve received the occasional suite as a Marriott Platinum, but I’ve also been put in ‘upgraded’ rooms that were large rooms over, say, the hotel entrance. People like Marriott because they are ubiquitous and Megabonus promos offer easy free nights (although it should be noted – when you are Gold or Platinum, your targeted Megabonus is something like “stay 25 nights, get 35000 points” which can be difficult vs. the normal “stay 2, get 1 free offer” if you don’t have many trips planned during the promo period.) The whole “No free breakfast at Courtyard properties” is a big black stain on the program. It has actually driven me away from staying at CY, especially on personal trips with my family.

  15. It all depends on your perspective, and for me it comes down to location and price. As a state employee, I travel only 15-20 nights or so a year for business,and the MegaBonus offers make it easy for me to earn four or five free nights to take my family on vacation. Most of my travel is to places that don’t have SPG, Hyatt, or Club Carlson properties. IHG properties often don’t have rooms available at the government rate, so I am frequently left with a choice of Marriott or Hilton. Marriott’s regular MegaBonus offers are much more valuable to me for the free room offers than for the points I earn. I am MR Silver, and likely will never be anything above that, but I don’t need a fancy suite or special SuperPlatinumElite amenities. The weekend we spent last year at the Residence Inn in Pensacola was far more pleasant that the one we spent at a upper midscale hotel in Manhattan.

    Finally, your #4 is a joke: What percentage of Marriott properties are resorts or Courtyards? And if free breakfast is so important to you, why not stay at one of the far more numerous properties that does offer it?

  16. Im a bit confused on the no breakfast. Both courtyards ib Kuwait and Dubai have offered free breakfast during my stays.

    Also Im under the impression my award stay at courtyard Hongkong is eligible for free breakfast at the Exec lounge

  17. @sam – the official “brand-standard” is no free breakfast at Courtyard for Gold or Platinum Elites. However, some properties go rogue, particularly those outside the US. It’s hit or miss and probably best to check directly with the hotel. Sometimes you can also play dumb and get breakfast coupons at check-in i.e. “I thought that Platinum Elites get free breakfast” and if the desk clerk doesn’t know the Marriott Rewards program very well, you might score.

  18. I’m a Marriott Plat, I have been for years, and as others have stated, I’m happy with the Marriott program, I like the fact that no matter where in the world I’m spending time, I can ALWAYS count on things being consistent. I know what to expect from Marriott – My room at the Marriott Marquis will be very similar to my room at the Marriott Sydney. I cannot say that about Hyatt and I REALLY can’t say that about SPG properties.

    As for upgrades, I can count on one hand the amount of times I haven’t been upgraded – I was even upgraded to the presidential suite at the JW Marriott Hong Kong and the JW Marriott Bangkok once, and I was only a gold at the time of the Bangkok upgrade.

    While it’s nice to have additional benefits like confirmed suite upgrades at Hyatt, if I’m on a business trip, more often than not I spend almost zero time at the hotel other than getting few hours of sleep and a shower before leaving for the airport.

    Marriott Service and properties are consistent, and I appreciate that. – that’s why it works for me.

  19. @sam – CY HK offers a choice of continental breakfast in the lounge OR full breakfast in MoMa, their onsite restaurant. It’s very good, btw. Full American/European/Asian as well as a make it yourself ramen bar.

    Asia is where MR really shines.

  20. Marriott is great not because of elite benefits but because of GENERAL OVERALL VALUE consistently offering great value and consistent high quality. That is why most people choose hotels and not because they get free cheese and breakfast in some concierge lounge.

  21. I’m platinum with Marriott and have been for many years. I try to keep my hotel costs as low as possible when it’s on my company’s dime and I’m so rarely in the room that I just need a comfortable bed and a hot shower. Marriott is consistently the cheapest where I travel (primarily Fairfield and Springhill). I often look into Hyatt, SPG, and Hilton rates but they typically cost 20-50% more. I could also do independents or smaller chains but I’m hooked on having a stash of points with the big chains that I can use easily on international leisure trips.

  22. Also I think the title is misleading:

    “The Top 5 Reasons Marriott Rewards Doesn’t Value its Platinum Elite Members”

    Maybe it’s just me but I think that implies a list of reasons WHY they don’t value their platinum members. That would be an entirely different topic though one I’d also be interested in hearing. 🙂

  23. I have been a Marriott Gold more 3 years now, and while I’ll never make Platinum because I just don’t travel enough, I must say that I receive really great benefits as a Gold. Lounge access is key, free Wifi, and a surprising number of room upgrades considering I’m not at the toil level. Another thing I would point out in Marriott’s favor is that there is usually a property at all price ranges in most markets, as opposed to the fancier and pricier hotels in SPG…

  24. I strongly agree with Tkey. Marriott is just outstanding in Asia (although in a way, all of the chains are great in Asia). As both a Gold and Platinum I get suite upgrades 80% of the time. The JW HK gives me upgrades to a large suite with jacuzzi every time. The Courtyard properties are beautiful (not just HK. also Beijing, for example) and also give free breakfast. I am also an owner of Marriott Vacation Club Asia Pacific and similarly get elite night credit for those stays. I’ve also gotten free breakfast at every Courtyard I’ve stayed at in the Washington DC area (five in total) simply by asking nicely at check-in. I agree that the guaranteed benefits are lacking, but in practice you can often get more, especially in Asia. I can understand though how it doesn’t work for others.

  25. I’ve been a plat with Marriott for five years, gold for longer. I have never, ever, ever received an upgrade of any kind…the person above who can ‘count on one hand’ the number of times they’ve not been upgraded is an albatross in this program. The no free breakfast at CY is a big deal for me and I will either stay at a full service Marriott or move to another chain if the CY is my only option. that’s just flat out stupid. And no free breakfast at resorts is silly as well…that is a great example of how they don’t value their elites. What they are saying is: spend your corp’s $ with us and earn points, and when you go to use them you’ll spend your own $ to eat. insulting. And to the person above who claims to be an spg plat but has been denied lounge access, impossible. It’s not discretionary, it is required under their T&C.

  26. Marriott Plat & SPG Plat here. Got both with challenges in previous years. Was planning on dropping Marriott Plat this year until a few things happened:
    1) Got a massive unexpected suite upgrade at Marriott Wardman Park which also had a pretty good food spread in its club lounge – usually avoid full service Marriott’s, they are usually full of conferences, have to pay for parking, and don’t give you elite credits for multiple rooms but was really happy with this stay. This is a rare upgrade, but I’m usually not at properties where there are aspirational upgrades anyways. (Elite credits – other brands do, I think its more of a computer glitch than policy, policy says only 1 elite night per member).
    2) United Silver for Marriott Plat’s – I rarely fly United, but its great to have this for the few times a year I have to. And unlike Delta/SPG, its full Silver status so you have an actual chance at clearing upgrades (as much as any other United Silver at least) and free economy plus at checkin.
    3) Elite nights from credit card – signed up for 70k bonus, get 15 elite nights for the card itself, and I have been putting my Marriott spend on it which at ~$10k/yr gets me a few extra nights as well.
    4) Hilton Gold from Amex Platinum – I was considering doing an Hilton Gold ‘fast track’ through Amtrak Select Executive but since I got it through Amex that meant I didn’t have to do a ton of Hilton stays.

    Overall, I’m sure Hyatt treats you way better, but my travel often has me not in city centers, and usually pretty maxed out for hours of the day when I travel, so I want something as close as possible. I find Starwood + Marriott to be a good mix for that, but perhaps may try more Hilton this year.

  27. I agree on some of the points. I’ve been Marriott Platinum for a number of years. I have never had an issue with late check out. In fact, I have had checkouts as late as 11 PM and as early as 5 AM!
    For the lack of breakfast at Courtyards, from experience this only applies to properties in the US. I have found the international Courtyard properties significantly nicer than the ones in the States always offering great breakfasts for Platinums.
    As others have stated I find it easier to qualify because of the large number of properties at various price points.

  28. I had a problem with Marriott today and their “so called” rewards program. They were completely unhelpful and I want nothing more to do with Marriott or ANY of their other brands.

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