Marriott Bonvoy: 7 nights to Platinum. What to do?

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Marriott has made it much easier this year to keep your elite status or reach next level status.  In addition to extending everyone’s current elite status into 2021, Marriott has added bonus elite nights to our accounts.  If you earned status in 2019 for the year 2020 (or got status for free from a credit card, lifetime status, or other means), then Marriott should have added elite nights to your account according to this formula:

Status earned in 2019 for year 2020
Regular requirement 50% elite night credits deposited in late July
Ambassador 100 nights + $20K spend 50 nights
Titanium 75 nights 38 nights
Platinum 50 nights 25 nights
Gold 25 nights 13 nights
Silver 10 nights 5 nights
General Member None None

I suspect that many readers received 13 nights due to having Marriott Gold status.  The reason I think that many readers have Gold status is that it’s super easy to get to Gold status through credit cards:

43 elite nights with no stays

Those who were gifted 13 elite nights due to having Gold status may have (or may be able to get) 43 elite nights without staying in a Marriott hotel.  Anyone with both a consumer and business Marriott card should be in that position: 15 elite nights from consumer card + 15 elite nights from business card + 13 promo elite nights = 43 elite nights.

If you don’t already have 30 elite nights from credit cards, you may still be able to get there by signing up for a credit card or two (Please note: I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea, I’m just listing what is possible)…

Consumer cards available for new signups

If you don’t already have a Marriott consumer card, you can sign up for any one of these to get 15 elite nights added to your account (note that signing up for more than one consumer card will not result in more than 15 elite nights):

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

FM Mini Review: The best use for this card is probably to downgrade from the Ritz or Boundless card to avoid the annual fee. That way, you can always upgrade again when you need the annual free night or other perks


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X Marriott Bonvoy ⚬ 2X travel ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: Automatic Silver status ⚬ 15 nights of elite credit each year

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
5 Free Nights
Earn 5 50K free night certificates after $5K spend in 3 months
(Offer Expires 10/28/2020)

$95 Annual Fee


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 6X Marriott Bonvoy ⚬ 2X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Earn Gold status when you spend $35K each year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Annual free night certificate for 1 night at a hotel redemption level up to 35K ⚬ Automatic Silver status ⚬ 15 nights of elite credit each year

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
125K points + Platinum Status
125K points + Platinum Status: 100K points after $5K spend in the first 3 months + Platinum status for 2021 membership year (2/1/21 to 1-31-22) + 25K points after first anniversary. Terms apply.
(Offer Expires 1/13/2021)

$450 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Decent ultra-premium option for Marriott fans, but Hilton fans may prefer the ultra-premium Hilton Aspire card.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: 3X airfare charged by airline; 3X US restaurants, 6X Marriott; 2X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus: Platinum Elite status with $75K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ 50K Free Night Award each year upon renewal ⚬ $300 Marriott Rewards statement credit per membership year ⚬ Gold Elite status ⚬ 15 elite nights credit ⚬ Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests ⚬ Global Entry fee credit ⚬ Free premium internet at Marriott properties

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Business card available for new signups

If you don’t already have a Marriott business card, you can sign up for this card to get 15 elite nights added to your account:

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
100K Points + Platinum Status + up to $150 statement credit
100K points after $5K spend in the first 3 months + Complimentary Platinum Status for 2021 membership year (2/1/21 to 1-31-22) + up to $150 in statement credits for eligible purchases on U.S. Advertising in select media in first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 1/13/2021)

$125 Annual Fee


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Phone
Biz
Brand

Earning rate: 6x at Marriott Bonvoy properties ⚬ 4x U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. suppliers and on U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ 2x on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

Big spend bonus: Marriott Gold elite status with $35K annual spend ⚬ Earn an additional free night (good for one night at a redemption level at or under 35K points, subject to resort fees) after you spend $60K on purchases in a calendar year

Noteworthy perks: 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary for a one-niight redemption level at or under 35K points (subject to resort fees) ⚬ Complimentary premium Internet access at Marriott properties ⚬ Terms Apply (Rates & Fees)

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

7 nights to Platinum

Elite Status Level Requirements Per Year Key Benefits
Silver Elite 10 Nights Late checkout, 10% point bonus
Gold Elite 25 Nights 2PM late checkout; 25% point bonus; welcome gift (points only); room upgrade; enhanced internet
Platinum Elite 50 Nights 4PM late checkout; 50% point bonus; welcome gift w/ breakfast option; room upgrade includes suites; lounge access; Choice benefit (such as 5 suite night awards) when you achieve 50 nights.
Titanium Elite 75 Nights All of the above, plus: 75% point bonus; United Silver Premier status via RewardsPlus; Ritz-Carlton suite upgrades; Additional Choice Benefit (such as 40K free night certificate) when you achieve 75 nights.
Ambassador Elite 100 Nights + $20K Spend All of the above, plus: Ambassador Service (dedicated Marriott agent); Your24 (Choose the 24 hours of your stay. For example, choose to check in at 9am after an overnight flight).
 

In my opinion, Marriott’s Platinum status is quite valuable whereas Gold status is not.  The question that I think many people are now facing is whether it is worth going out of one’s way to earn 7 elite nights this year to get from Gold to Platinum.  Is it worth paying for extra nights even if you don’t need a hotel stay?  We call this “mattress running”.

When you reach 50 elite nights, you’ll earn Platinum elite status plus a Choice Benefit selection.  I suspect that most will choose to take the 5 Suite Night Awards which can be used to increase your chances of a suite upgrade on a stay.

The Platinum elite benefits that I value the most are:

  • Free breakfast and/or lounge access at most (but not all) properties
  • 4PM late checkout
  • Free room upgrades, including to suites

How valuable is Platinum to you?

Before broaching the question of whether it’s worth going out of one’s way to earning 7 elite nights to reach Platinum status, I think it’s important to decide how valuable that status is to you.  If you had an option to buy Platinum status (plus a 50 night Choice Benefit selection) for the year 2021, how much would you pay?

The answer should be a combination of how much you value things like suite upgrades and how often you’re likely to stay at the Marriott hotels that offer these perks.  If you don’t think you’ll stay at Marriott hotels at all or you’ll only stay at low tier properties that already offer things like free breakfast to everyone, then your answer should be obvious: it’s not worth anything to you.  On the other hand, if you’re planning one or more trips and are likely to stay at high end Marriott properties, having Platinum status may be worth a lot.

Example

Suppose you and a partner are likely to spend 10 nights in Marriott hotels next year in properties where elite perks matter.  In that case, you might estimate how much you’d pay like this:

  • Free breakfast for two for 10 mornings: Maybe you’d be willing to prepay $10 per person, so that comes to $10 x 2 x 10 = $200.
  • 4PM Late Checkout: Maybe that will matter one time?  If so, maybe you’d be willing to prepay $25 for that benefit.
  • Free room upgrades, including to suites: In general, these are great when it works out but personally I wouldn’t necessarily recommend paying much extra for the chance of good upgrades. Let’s go low on this one: $25.
  • Choice benefit selection: The best bet is probably to pick 5 Suite Night Awards.  This gives you a better chance of landing in a suite for up to 5 of your 10 nights in Marriott hotels in 2021.  In some cases this can be extremely valuable.  Other times, not so much.  Let’s say that you have a 5 night stay planned where an upgrade is very important.  In that case, it might be worth paying $200 or more to increase your chances of a great upgrade.  $200.
  • Total you might be willing to pay for these perks in this example: $450

In the above example, you can see that it may be worth paying up to $450 to secure Platinum status for next year.  Each person should make their own estimates.

What if you prefer to pay points instead of cash?  Let’s take the Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) of Marriott points, which is currently 0.72 cents per point.  We can then turn the cash estimate into a points estimate:

  • $450 = 45,000 cents
  • 45,000 cents / 0.72 cents per point = 62,500 points.

In this hypothetical example, you might be willing to spend up to $450 or up to 62,500 points to reach Platinum status.

Earning nights with cash

Based on your own estimates of what you’d be willing to pay, you can calculate how much you’d be willing to pay per night to earn your 7 nights through mattress runs.  For example, if you estimate that you’re willing to spend $450 for Platinum status, then you would need to find hotels that cost no more than $450 / 7 = $64 per night after taxes.  Note that you do need to check into the hotel to earn the elite nights.

The trick is to find the cheapest 7 nights possible.  Search Marriott.com and make sure to try different combinations:

  • Weekends vs. Weekdays.  Some hotels are much less expensive on weekends.  Others are much less expensive on weekdays.
  • Vary the season.  Some hotels are much cheaper in the summer.  Others are cheaper in the winter.
  • Try discounts.  Make sure to re-run your searches with these various “special rates” available through Marriott.com (sometimes these make a huge difference!):
    • AAA / CAA
    • Senior Discount
    • Government & Military (note that public school teachers may qualify for the local or state government rate)
    • Corporate code: the company you work for may have their own corporate code that may offer terrific rates.

If you find that a property is cheaper on certain days of the week, it may make sense to book separate stays over a number of weeks in order to keep the price as low as possible.

Earning nights with points

Based on your point estimates above, you can calculate how many points you’d be willing to spend per night on a hotel that you plan to check into even if you don’t plan to stay overnight (e.g. you check in only to earn the elite nights).  Since Marriott offers 5th Night Free awards, you would only have to pay for 6 nights with points: 62,500 / 6 = 10,417 points per night.

Is that workable?  Take a look at Marriott’s award chart:

Ignore the PointSavers column for now since those rates are unpredictable.  As you can see, category 1 hotels are available for as few as 5,000 points per night and category 2 hotels are as low as 10,000 points per night.

If you have easy access to a category 1 hotel with off-peak pricing, you could earn 7 elite nights for only 5,000 x 6 (thanks to 5th Night Free) = 30,000 points.  A category 2 off-peak hotel would cost a total of 60,000 points.  If the best you could find is a category 2 hotel at standard rates, then 7 nights would cost 12,500 x 6 = 75,000 points.  That’s more than we estimated in the example above, but it’s not necessarily an unreasonable price to pay depending upon how much you value Platinum status.

Player 2 with 43 nights

In my case, I had earned 75 night Titanium status last year and so I was given 38 bonus elite nights this year.  Combined with a few Marriott stays in January and February, that put me well over Titanium again.  That’s super cool for me.  My wife, though, is in exactly the situation described above.  She has both consumer and business Marriott cards and so she started with 30 elite nights and was just given 13 more bonus elite nights.  She is now 7 elite nights away from Platinum status.  Should we mattress run to get her to Platinum?

Given that I have a higher level of status, there are only a few reasons that I can think of where it would make sense for my wife to spend more to achieve Platinum status:

  1. If she’ll be traveling on her own and staying at Marriott hotels, then it would be nice if she had Platinum status.  I don’t think this is likely.  Plus, we’ve had decent luck in the past with putting my Marriott number on her reservations for travel within the US.  This didn’t work in Toronto though.
  2. If she gets Platinum status, then the two free night certificates that come with her credit cards will be a little bit more valuable since we’ll get Platinum elite benefits during those stays.
  3. If we expect that we’ll need more Suite Night Awards, then it might be useful for her to reach 50 nights.  I’m pretty sure though that we won’t need more.

Conclusion

Thanks to Marriott’s bonus elite night promotion, many people have (or can get) 43 elite nights this year without stepping into a hotel.  43 nights is tantalizingly close to the 50 elite nights needed for Platinum Elite status. Those who think they are likely to visit Marriott hotels a decent amount next year, may get a lot of value from that status.  If that’s the case, it may make sense to mattress run your way to Platinum.  That is, even if you don’t need the hotel stays, you would book and pay for 7 nights in order to make it to Platinum.  Those nights could be booked with cash or with points.  As long as you book directly with Marriott, the nights will count as elite qualifying nights.

Don’t Rush

Even if you plan to mattress run your way to Platinum status, I recommend waiting.  You might find that something comes up where you actually want or need to stay in a hotel.  It would be much better to spend your cash or points on a stay that you actually need.  Also, it’s possible that Marriott will run additional promotions such as offering double elite nights or huge discounts.  Either way, by watching for these deals you may be able to earn 7 elite nights for far less.

See also:

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