Marriott Choice Benefit Valuations. Which to pick?

Update 1/11/21: The window for selecting 2020 Choice Benefits ended on 1/8/21.

If you have earned 50 elite qualifying nights with Marriott within a calendar year, then you are eligible to pick a “Choice Benefit”.  A second Choice Benefit is available for those who complete 75 nights.  Here’s the website for selecting your benefit:

Note that if you acquired Platinum status through a status challenge, credit card spend, etc., you won’t get to pick a Choice Benefit unless you also complete 50 nights within a calendar year.

Selection Deadline: January 8th, 2021

If you don’t make a choice by January 8th, you’ll get the “5 Suite Night Awards” choice automatically.

50 Night Choices

  • 5 Elite Night Credits: These add to your prior year total if you wait until January to make your selection.  In other words, the only good reason to select this choice is to get to the next level of status (75 night or 100 night, but 100 night status also requires $20K Marriott spend).  For example, if you earned 70 elite nights in 2020, this selection would bring you to 75 nights and you’d get Titanium status plus the opportunity to get another Choice Benefit.  Unless you are trying to earn lifetime status, there’s no other reason that I can think of to make this choice.
  • 5 Suite Night Awards: Each Suite Night Award is a one-night confirmable upgrade to a standard suite or select premium room, depending on the hotel’s availability of those rooms. The number of Suite Night Awards used must match the entire length of stay; it cannot be used for part of a stay (e.g., the first two nights of a five-night stay). Once Suite Night Awards are requested to be applied to a stay, Marriott will begin checking upgrade availability 5 days in advance of your stay, up until 2pm on the day of your arrival. If your Suite Night Award request doesn’t clear, you’ll get the awards back to be used later.
  • Gift Silver Elite Status
  • $100 Charity Donation: Make a $100 (USD) donation to UNICEF.
  • 40% off a Marriott bed: Get 40% off retail prices for Westin Heavenly Beds, St. Regis beds, etc.

75 Night Choices

  • 1 Free Night Award (Up to 40K Points): Certificate is valid through December 31st of the year after the elite nights were earned. For example, by picking this Choice Benefit based on having earned 75 elite nights in 2020, the certificate will be valid through the end of 2021.
  • Gift Gold Elite Status

The rest are the same as the 50 night choices:

  • 5 Elite Night Credits
  • 5 Suite Night Awards
  • $100 Charity Donation
  • 40% off a Marriott bed

How much is each choice worth?

What follows are my estimates of the value of each choice. Please note that the valuation assumes that you’ll actually make use of the benefit.  For example, getting 40% off a bed doesn’t do much good if you don’t intend to buy a new bed or if you don’t particularly want a hotel bed in your house.

Frequent Miler’s Choice Benefit Value Estimates:

  • 5 Elite Night Credits: $140
  • 5 Suite Night Awards: $250
  • 40% off a Marriott bed: $200
  • $100 Charity Donation: $80
  • Gift Silver Elite Status: $25
  • Gift Gold Elite Status: $75
  • 1 Free Night Award (Up to 40K Points): $250

Where did I get the above strangely precise valuations?  Below you’ll find my thinking about each…

5 Elite Night Credits: $140

This choice makes the most sense for those who are just short of earning Titanium Elite (75 night) status.  For example, if you have completed 70 nights at the end of the year, I think it’s a no-brainer to pick this choice to move you up to 75 night status.  With 75 nights, you’ll be able to pick another choice plus you’ll get extra benefits over regular Platinum:

  • 75% point bonus on stays (vs. 50% with Platinum 50)
  • United Silver Status via RewardsPlus

Note that the elite night credits aren’t worth much if you’re trying to get to 100 night status unless you’ll also complete $20K in spend at Marriott properties since $20K spend is an extra requirement of that status.

Value: Let’s assume that you could have alternatively earned 5 nights by booking a category 1 Marriott off-peak award for 5 nights at 5,000 points per night with the 5th night free.  Total cost: 20K points.  Given our current Marriott point valuation of approximately 0.7 cents per point (see our Reasonable Redemption Values), that translates to $140.

5 Suite Night Awards: $250

If your heart is set on a suite and you don’t want to pay the full cash rate, some Marriott properties let you pay a surcharge over the standard award rate in order to book the suite from the get-go.  For example, the US Grant in San Diego (which I stayed at previously) charges either $350 per night or 70K extra points per night for a standard suite:

Similarly, the Playa Largo resort in Key Largo Florida charges $175 per night or an extra 35K points per night for a suite (I’ve stayed at this resort too — it’s very nice):

Since there isn’t one standard rate for upgrading to a suite, we can’t use these prices directly to estimate the value of the suite night awards.  Plus, the above bookings are more valuable because they are guaranteed.  When you apply a suite night award certificate you may or may not actually get the upgrade you hoped for.  This can be a big problem if traveling with a family where the extra space is really needed.

Another issue with Suite Night Awards is that you may get upgraded to a suite even if you don’t use the certificates.  So you may use your certificates and not know whether they actually helped.

Value: To calculate a value for these certificates, let’s assume that a standard suite upgrade price is $250 per night.  And let’s further decide that the certificates are worth 20% of that amount since they are not confirmed at the time of booking and they’re not available to use at all Marriott hotels (you can’t use them at Ritz properties, for example).  20% of $250 = $50.  Since you get 5 certificates: 5 x $50 = $250.

40% off a Marriott bed: $200

The Westin Heavenly Bed is available through Marriott, but it’s also sold by Pottery Barn for the exact same retail price (I checked).  And at the time that I checked, a 30% off coupon (SAVEMORE) was available at Pottery Barn.  This Choice Benefit therefore gives you an additional 10% off.

Value: If you were to buy a king sized Westin Heavenly Bed and box spring from Pottery Barn at 30% off, it would cost $1676.50.  Via Marriott, the same bed would cost $1,437 after the 40% discount.  If we further assume that shipping and handling charges are the same, we can then say that this Choice Benefit would save you $1,676.50 – $1,437 = $239.50.  I rounded down this amount to a more reasonable valuation: $200 (and only if you would have bought this bed anyway).

$100 Charity Donation: $80

I don’t think that you can declare this donation on your taxes, so lets discount the value to $80.

Gift Silver Elite Status: $25

Silver status offers a 10% bonus on points earned per stay and an undetermined “late checkout”.  That’s about all.  Maybe this adds up to about $25?

Gift Gold Elite Status: $75

Gold status offers the following perks:

  • 2pm late checkout
  • 25% point bonus
  • Welcome gift (points only)
  • Room upgrade when available
  • Enhanced internet
  • Ability to transfer points to others for free.

None of the above benefits are super valuable, but they’re better than nothing.  I’m randomly valuing this at $75.

1 Free Night Award (Up to 40K Points): $250

This award is good for a free night at any hotel costing up to 40,000 points.  This means that you can use this certificate for any category 1-5 property, even at Peak prices, or at category 6 off-peak properties.

Value: I separately determined that 35K certificates are worth about $200 and 50K certificates are worth about $300.  In researching the value of 50K certificates, about 60% of the best uses for those certificates were at properties costing 40K points.  This means that it would not be surprising to get $300 or more value from a 40K certificate.  That said, I believe the best way to value them is to take the average value between $200 and $300: $250.

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Well….I obviously missed the deadline by 5 days. So I assume they must have given me the 5 nights of suite awards. I cannot seem to find where in my account they would be located. Does anyone know where they put them ?

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