Marriott Challenge Checkpoint

Last month, in the post “Pursuing Platinum @ Marriott” I described my plan for securing Marriott Platinum status through Marriott’s Platinum Challenge.  I don’t stay at Marriott properties all that often, so I really don’t need Platinum status.  Plus, Marriott makes it ridiculously easy to get temporary Platinum status when you want it simply by enrolling in the Platinum Challenge (which you can do once per year).  Over at View from the Wing, Gary made a good argument for not trying to complete the Platinum Challenge (see “Why I’m Walking Away from the Marriott Platinum Challenge”).  But I’m going to do it anyway, just for fun.

In total, I need to complete 9 paid stays by the end of November in order to keep my Platinum status through February 2014.  Luckily, Marriott has run back to back “MegaBonus” promotions in which I can earn a free night certificate for every two paid nights.  This is great because it helps tremendously in offsetting the cost of “mattress run” stays  (where I book a night just for the stay credit).

Progress To-Date

In August, I completed two real stays towards the challenge, and two manufactured stays where I simply checked in for a one night stay without actually, you know, staying.  The manufactured stays cost $70.20 each (after taxes, based on $65 rates) and resulted in earning 1,175 points each (As a Platinum member, I earned 15 points per dollar, plus I took 200 points for my Platinum gift each time).  I saved money by using Marriott gift cards I had previously bought for 20% off.  Thanks to the summer MegaBonus, I also earned two free night certificates.

Manufactured Stays Costs & Benefits

Since two of the stays in August were ones I would have made anyway without the challenge, I’ll only consider the two manufactured stays as part of my costs & benefits:

Total Cost:  2 X $70.20 = $140.20 – 20% discount (due to gift cards) = $112.32

Total Benefits:

  • 2350 Marriott points.  Given the Fair Trading Price for Marriott points of .56 cents each, this amounts to a $13.60 rebate.
  • One free night certificate good for category 1 through 4 hotels.  I’ve previously argued that these certs are worth about $150 each.  More conservatively, we could say that these certs are worth about 20,000 Marriott points since that’s the price in points for a category 4 hotel night.  At the Fair Trading Price of .56 cents, this makes the value of the free night certificate equal to $112 (note: I would rather have points than certs since points don’t expire and are much more flexible, but this still seems like a reasonable estimate to me).
  • Total benefit estimate = $13.60 + $112 = $125.60

In all, the benefits of my manufactured stays are slightly more valuable than the cost, so I feel pretty good about that!

Going Forward

The next Marriott Megabonus promotion begins September 15th and goes until January 15, 2013.  As with the summer promotion, every two stays earns a free night (up to a maximum of three free nights).  My plan is to complete 5 of those stays before the end of November (in order to complete the Platinum Challenge) and then one more stay by January 15 in order to get my final free night.  In order to meet these goals, I’ll take advantage of real stays as circumstances warrant and I’ll manufacture stays when needed.

Platinum Benefits To-Date

In my four August paid stays, I’ve received the following Platinum status benefits in addition to the automatic 50% point bonus:

Marriott Downtown Anchorage: Club Floor room with Club Lounge access.  Used club lounge for a free evening snack.  We checked out too early the next morning to take advantage of free breakfast.

Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside Hotel: We arrived at the hotel at about 9 in the morning.  At the desk I was immediately told that they were not yet checking in guests, but after looking up my name in the system the story changed.  As a valued Platinum member they had a room ready for me!  Plus, they had upgraded me to a harbor view room.  For my Platinum arrival gift I chose cheese & crackers and a bottle of beer.  The photo below shows the view from the room and the bottle of beer.

2012-08-11 10.58.27

Courtyard Marriotts: My manufactured stays were at Courtyard Marriott hotels which do not seem to go out of their way to make Platinum elites feel special.  In each case all I got was my choice of a pantry item (e.g. chips, candy, etc.) or 200 points.  In both cases I took the points.

Inn at Bay Harbor:  In addition to the paid stays listed above, I stayed twice at the Renaissance Inn at Bay Harbor (Michigan) on points.  There, I received upgraded lake-side rooms, free breakfast for two, and for my Platinum arrival gift they delivered to my room a half bottle of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers.  My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon snack while sitting on our balcony overlooking Lake Michigan.  You might wonder why I used points for these stays instead of making progress towards the Platinum Challenge.  The fact was simply that the nightly rate plus resort fees was fairly exorbitant (depending on the night, $350 or more) so I decided to make use of points instead.

Overall, the Platinum benefits to-date haven’t wowed me, but they’ve been way better than nothing!  I’ve heard that in Europe the benefits are much better so I hope to test out that theory in London in November.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. “Marriott makes it ridiculously easy to get temporary Platinum status when you want it simply by enrolling in the Platinum Challenge (which you can do once per year).”

    Call me mistaken, this is merely from memory, but I think a given account can do it once every 15 months.

    • Gary: When I signed up for the challenge, Marriott told me that if I wasn’t successful I could try again in “one year”. I’m not sure if that means one year from the start of the challenge or from the end of the challenge.

      tj: My only recent experience with a cat 4 was a stay in Newark, NJ where the cheapest Marriott property I could find was over $165 per night. That being said, I’m sure you’re right that many/most category 4 properties cost less than that. As described in the post above, I dropped the valuation to $112 per night (based on Fair Trading Prices). $112 may still be a bit high, but I feel pretty confident that I can get that much value or more from the certs.

  2. Getting $150 for a cat 4 certificate is possible but really hard. There are few Cat 4 which are nice hotels and trade at $150. I’d say $100 is a better value to not kid yourself.

  3. I live in the US but spend a lot of my Marriott nights in Europe on business trips. In my experience, over there they treat elites much better because I consistently get nice upgraded rooms (usually better location or larger size with the occasional suite) and breakfast (even on the weekends and at properties where there is no lounge – but always check before you book to avoid being disappointed). When they don’t have a lounge, sometimes they will give you a bottle of wine or vouchers for a complimentary snack/drink in the bar. In the US, it seems like the upgrades happen less often – more hit and miss – and you can usually forget about breakfast if the lounge is closed on weekends. Also, some US lounges charge for alcoholic drinks – I’ve never seen that policy in Europe or Asia. Internet is always free, so that’s not a problem. The variation in benefits is one of the more frustrating things that I find with Marriott Rewards. I’ve also been Gold and Diamond with Hilton and in my opinion, their program is cookie-cutter consistent across their properties as far as elite benefits (breakfast, lounge, free drinks, etc.) and room upgrades (you usually get one, although it will typically not be a suite).

  4. I signed up for Platinum Challenge as well. I had 2 stays in DC in August. Thanks to my Platinum status and very good mood of check-in agent at JW Marriott, I got a “upgrade” to Presidential Suite, while staying on the government rate. I was really blown away when I walked in. This was the best stay ever in my whole life.

  5. I think it`s great to use Marriott cat. 1-4 certificate especially during summer in the US. In July, the rate at Fairfield Inn & Suites in Capitola, California (near Santa Cruz) was running at $199 + tax and since its a cat 4 hotel, it was a good redemption for us.

  6. The challenge is one year from the end of the challenge.

    I just lapsed mine a bit shy under the old 18 nights challenge (I was at 12 over 7 stays). The challenge netted me an extra 10K in points. Not bad for a 3 minute call.

    If I had the stay challenge I would have manufactured two more nights, but it wasn’t worth manufacturing 6 more. If one biz trip had moved into my window I would have made it, so I don’t think it was abusive.

    Back to silver. I am trying to build to an air+hotel package for 2014, as that is the best redemption. Probably get there in late 2013 as I am about 70K shy (already have the card, might get the ritz card if needed, although I don’t like the fee).

    Wish the bonus certs were Cat 1-5. Cat 4 is tougher to use in urban locations.

  7. Hmmm. This post makes me think it will be a good idea to have one manufactures night in Q4. I have a stay for a wedding at a Marriott. One more stay will give me a free night. Thanks!

    • Steve: Good idea

      smedleyb: You get counted for one “stay” after staying one or more consecutive nights in a hotel. If you stay just one night, that is 1 stay. If you stay 7 nights in a row, that is also counted as just 1 stay. So, you can maximize your earnings with this promotion by making your stays shorter. Two separate 1 night stays is better than 1 seven night stay. You can’t check out and back into the same hotel each day, but you could move back and forth between a second Marriott (if there’s one nearby).

  8. Point of clarification: the Marriott web page seems to define “stay” in the context of its Megabonus Promo as consecutive nights spent at a hotel. Is that true? If so, don’t you need to spend at least two nights to have it qualify as a “stay?”

    As it states: “A stay is defined as consecutive nights spent at the same hotel, regardless of check-in/check-out activity.”

    I’m confused!

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