A few years ago I took part in Marriott’s Taste of Platinum Challenge (details here). The challenge offers a way to fast track to Marriott Platinum status by completing 9 stays in roughly three months (note: there is also a Taste of Gold Challenge that requires 6 stays). At the time I enrolled, Marriott gave you temporary Platinum status for the duration of the challenge. Today, they’ll only give you status once you complete the challenge.
Since completing the challenge, my approach to maintaining status has been to buy it back each year:
As far as I know, Marriott is the only hotel chain that lets you buy back status with points. Their current fees are as follows:
- Buy back Platinum: 40,000 points
- Buy back Gold: 25,000 points
- Buy back Silver: 7,500 points
You can’t buy up. That is, if you previously had Gold status, you can’t buy up to Platinum, but you can maintain Gold status for 25,000 points. And, if you were Platinum, but want to drop down to Gold, you don’t have to do anything: Marriott will usually give their elites a “soft landing” down to the next level of status.
In my experience, there aren’t huge benefits to Platinum status over Gold status. Both guarantee lounge access or free breakfast when the lounge is closed (except at resorts and certain exempted properties). And, both offer free high speed internet, room upgrades (theoretically), late checkout, etc.
Platinum status does offer a few real perks over Gold status though:
- A 50% bonus on points earned for stays (vs. 25% bonus with Gold status)
- Platinum arrival gift: choose either bonus points or a food and beverage amenity. While these vary greatly from hotel to hotel, these amenities are sometimes very nice.
- Early check-in: this isn’t an advertised benefit, but there have been a few times where I arrived very early at a hotel (as early as 9am, for example) to find that they had my room ready while they were telling others to come back at 3pm.
- United Silver Status: My favorite perk of Marriott Platinum status is via Marriott’s partnership with United, called RewardsPlus. Through this partnership, Marriott Platinum elites receive complimentary MileagePlus Premier® Silver status. Details here.
I find myself staying at Marriott properties often enough to enjoy elite status, but not anywhere near enough to maintain status. So, each year I have to decide whether to drop down to Gold (which would give me another year of the benefits I use most: lounge access & breakfast) or to pay 40,000 points to keep Platinum status. Last year, I paid the 40,000 points to keep Platinum status with Marriott and, therefore, to keep Silver status with United. This year I’ll do the same. Next year, I’m not sure I’ll make the same decision…
Price going up?
Take a look at the scanned image of a mailer I received regarding the buy back program. It says:
BUY BACK your Platinum Elite status for 40,000 points – a 20,000-point savings.
Where did that “20,000-point savings” part come from? As far as I know, buying back Platinum status has cost 40,000 points for at least the last several years. My guess is that this is an indication of what’s to come next year. I expect that in 2016 it will cost 60,000 points to buy back Platinum status. Gold status buy backs will probably increase as well. If you received a flyer offering to let you buy back Gold status, please take a look. My guess is that it lists 25,000 points as a 15,000 point savings. That is, I’m guessing (and admittedly have heard a rumor to this effect) that Gold status buy backs will cost 40,000 points in 2016.
I think that the current rates for Gold and Platinum buy backs are about right. To maintain Gold status, you have to give up enough points to otherwise secure a free night at a mid-tier (category 5) property. To maintain Platinum status you have to give up enough points for a near top tier (category 8) property. In exchange, you get to keep status benefits for another year. So far, I’ve felt that the buy back rates were worth the cost. I’m not at all sure that I’ll feel that way next year if Marriott really increases their buy back rates as expected. How about you?