Update: Marriott now only awards elite status after the challenge has been successfully completed.
It’s amazingly easy to get high level elite status with Marriott, temporarily. If you call and ask, they will likely offer you a Gold or Platinum status challenge. Unless you start the challenge on the first of the month, it lasts to the end of the current month, and three months after that. During that entire time, you will have Gold or Platinum elite status with Marriott. If you complete the challenge, you will keep the newly earned status for about a year (depending on when you start the challenge, you can keep the status longer or shorter). The challenge requires completing a set number of nights or stays at Marriott properties. If you don’t complete the challenge, you can try again a year later. In my mind, this is an awesome way to get high level elite status for a few months each year!
I called to see what kind of challenge I would be offered. They suggested the Platinum challenge. I could meet the challenge by completing 9 stays. Hmmm. I wasn’t planning to try to meet the challenge… I was just going to use it for temporary status, but it might be fun to go all in. What if I take advantage of the current “Stay 2, Get 1” summer promotion that I’ve registered for? Could I buy my way to Platinum status and earn enough free nights to make it worthwhile? What other Marriott promotions are on their way?
New Marriott Promotion
I logged into my Marriott account and found a new Megabonus promotion just like the current one. Between September 15 and January 15 2013, every two paid stays will earn 1 free night in a category 1-4 hotel. Sweet! I clicked the “register” button and now I’m good to go.
Frequent Miler’s Plan
By starting the Platinum Challenge mid-August, I will have the rest of August and all of September, October, and November to finish 9 stays in order to complete the challenge. During that time, I will get full Platinum benefits. I only have one known stay during that time, so I may need to “manufacture” as many as 8 stays… Here’s my plan:
- Find the cheapest local Marriott and book 8 separate 1 night stays. After a quick look, I’m sure I can book nights for $80 or less. Let’s assume $80 per stay for now…
- Book 3 stays before August 31 (the deadline for the first promotion). Thanks to 1 stay already planned, I’ll earn 2 free nights from the total of four stays.
- Book 6 stays between September 15 and the end of November (when the challenge ends). If I have any real need for stays before then, I’ll cancel booked stays as needed. From these 6 stays, I’ll earn 3 free nights.
- Pay for all stays with gift cards. I have Marriott gift cards that I bought for 20% off during the Daily Getaways earlier in the year.
- Earn extra points as a Platinum member. Platinum members earn 15 points per dollar for stays rather than 10 points per dollar usually earned.
Add it up
The following numbers are approximate because they do not take into account hotel taxes on the one hand, or highly discounted nights that I might find on the other:
- Total Cost: $80 x 9 = $720 – 20% off (via gift cards) = $576
- Free nights earned: 5
- Points earned: 640 x 15 = 9,600
Is it worth it?
If I was sure that I could effectively use the free nights before they expire (1 year after issue), then yes it could be a great deal. Category 4 hotels can easily go for $150 per night (and sometimes much more) which would make the 5 free nights worth $750. And, the points earned can be used toward another free night. Normally, I probably wouldn’t bother with this because the payoff is modest. However, I do know of some upcoming trips in which I may choose to stay at Marriott properties anyway. So why not go for it? Plus, it will make a good story for this blog