Hacking your way to Marriott Platinum and United Silver status

Here’s how to go from no status to top-tier elite with Marriott and first-level elite with United…

Recently United Airlines and Marriott announced that they have teamed up to offer “RewardsPlus”.  With RewardsPlus, you can link your Marriott Rewards account to your United MileagePlus account in order to gain elite benefits:

  • United elite members (Premier Gold or higher) receive complimentary Marriott Gold Elite status (which is great because it gets you free internet and free lounge access at most Marriott hotels).
  • Marriott Platinum elite members receive complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver status (which provides access to Economy Plus seating, complimentary upgrades, free checked bag, etc.)

Linking the accounts will also give you these point transfer benefits:

  • Convert Marriott Rewards points to MileagePlus miles at a 20% discount.
  • Receive 10% more MileagePlus miles when you book the trip of a lifetime and redeem for a Marriott Rewards Travel Package–up to 12,000 more miles
  • All MileagePlus Premier members can convert their MileagePlus miles into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, up to 50,000 miles per year.  (Editor’s note: don’t do this!  United miles are worth much more than Marriott points!)

The benefit I’ll focus on today is the ability to get United Silver status if you have Marriott Platinum status.

Going from nothing to elite

The trick here is to fast track your way to Marriott Platinum status, then make use of the new RewardsPlus program to get United Silver status.  Here’s how…

Step 1: Signup for Marriott’s Taste of Platinum Challenge

Marriott offers two ways to fast track to elite status: the Gold Challenge and the Platinum Challenge.  The Gold challenge confers temporary Gold status and requires 6 stays to keep the status for the rest of the year and the year following.  The Platinum challenge confers temporary Platinum status and requires 9 stays to keep the status for the rest of the year and the year following. 

Of course, since the RewardsPlus program confers United Silver status to Marriott Platinum elites, it is the Platinum Challenge we’re interested in here.  Call Marriott Rewards to ask for the Platinum challenge.  If you are only offered the Gold challenge, tell them you’ll think about it and call back later.  Call back later and try again. 

Lately, Marriott has been reticent to give out Platinum challenges to just anyone.  They prefer to see some recent Marriott stays in your account.  If you’ve stayed recently at a Marriott property, wait until the stay shows up on your account before calling to request the challenge.  Anecdotally, it may also help to have the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card, but I haven’t seen evidence about that one way or another.

If you sign up for the challenge mid-month, the challenge will last for the rest of the month plus three full months afterwards.  If you signup on the first day of the month, then the challenge will last just 3 months.  So, the way to have the longest possible challenge is to signup on the second day of a month.

Step 2: Get United Silver status (maybe)

Once you are enrolled in Marriott’s Platinum Challenge, your account will show that you have Platinum status.  So, it should be possible at that point to get free Silver status from United!  Sign up here.

Step 3: Fulfill the Platinum Challenge

If you want to keep your Platinum status beyond the timeframe of the challenge, then you need to complete 9 paid stays (Note that two or more consecutive nights in the same hotel counts as only 1 stay).  If you have that much travel planned anyway, then that’s great!  If not, consider doing “mattress runs”.  This is where you find the cheapest Marriott property available and check in one night at a time just for the stay credit.  If you do it right, it can actually be pretty lucrative:

  • Sign up for Marriott’s latest 2 for 1 promotion.  Marriott regularly runs promotions in which you get one free night stay for every two paid stays.  It varies whether you’ll be offered free stays in category 1 through 4 hotels, or 1 through 5 hotels.  Either way, this is a valuable benefit.  Usually the promotion is limited to earning 3 free nights, but the promotions tend to run each quarter and if you straddle two promotions just right, it’s possible to earn more than 3 free nights.
  • Save money by buying discount Marriott gift cards (search GiftCardGranny.com, for example).  Note that you can’t use gift cards for prepaid rates, though.
  • Save money by booking through a cash back portal.  I recommend searching Cashbackholic.com to find the best options for Marriott.
  • Remember that, as a Marriott Platinum member, you’ll earn 15 points per dollar for all of your stays (instead of the usual 10 points per dollar).

Keep in mind that pursing Platinum status might not make sense for you.  It can be a lot of work to find the best hotel rates and to actually go check into each hotel just for purpose of meeting the challenge.  And, of course, regardless of the benefits you get, it costs money.

For a complete overview of the Platinum Challenge, please see this post:

For details about how (and why) I fulfilled the Platinum Challenge, see the following posts:

 

Step 4: Get United Silver status

In the unlikely event that step 2 didn’t work, you can be sure that once you’ve fulfilled the Platinum Challenge, you are unquestionably entitled to United Silver status.  Sign up here.

Easy Alternatives

You can get many of the same benefits as Marriott Platinum status and United Silver status just by signing up for a couple of credit cards:

  • With the United MileagePlus card ($95 annual fee), you get a free checked bag and priority boarding (but you won’t get complimentary upgrades or Economy Plus seating).
  • With the Ritz Carlton Rewards card ($395 annual fee), among many other benefits, you get Gold status which gives you free internet and lounge access at most Marriott hotels (but after the first year you have to spend $10K or more each year to keep Gold status).

If you’re not tied to United and/or Marriott, consider these alternatives as well:

  • The Priority Club Visa card gives you automatic Platinum status with IHG hotels (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, etc.)
  • The Hilton Reserve card gives you automatic Hilton Gold status.  Free internet & breakfast!
  • It is possible to earn high level Delta elite status through spend with a few Delta credit cards.  See, for example: Mileage running, from home.


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Comments

    • Mike: Why does the term “hacking” bother you? People commonly refer to techniques like these as “travel hacking”
      Alex: There have already been some reports of people getting Silver status while on their Platinum challenge. So, we’ll see!
      puck: I don’t think so, but it can’t hurt to try
      Jr: I don’t think so, but it can’t hurt to try

  1. I actually looked up the T and Cs to this two days ago, and it states that Marriott elites and united elites who earned their status thru the platinum trial or status challenge will not be eligible for this.

  2. Would it not make sense to transfer United Miles to Marriott at 1 to 1 if you had enough Marriott Points for a 50,000 mile travel package. You transfer over 70,000 United Miles to bump your Marriott TP to the 120,000 level and then with the linked accounts get a 10% bonus on the miles transferred back to Marriott. 70,000 miles United to Marriott then becomes 132,000 Marriott to United. After the 50,000 already in use from the Marriott account and the 70,000 from United you then have a 12,000 United mile surplus.

    • RowerN: Yes definitely! This would only make sense in some very limited situations, but if you fit that situation then its a great way to get a few extra miles. I think I’ll write this up. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • jim: Great question. The T&C states: “Complimentary status offerings are valid through January 31, 2014.” That’s not very long so I don’t know if that means the offer is good until then or the status is good until then. My guess is the former. So, I have no idea how long the status will last.

    • Chris: Marriott’s travel packages are a way to convert Marriott points to airline miles if you’re planning a 7 night award stay anyway. I liked the idea so much that I wrote it up and will post it Monday morning. Stay tuned!

  3. I called and got the plat challenge. Haven’t stayed at a Marriott in several years but have about 4k in points in the account. They said my account won’t be updated until tomorrow… so we’ll see!

  4. Can anyone provide a data point on how long it took you to see the UA silver status update once you received the registration complete confirmation? Thanks.

  5. I have no marriot stays coming up but will be flying international on united next year.
    If i get platinum challenge and sign up for united silver, How many months do i have to enjoy free united silver status or marriot platinum status without actual paid stays?

    • Jim: I don’t know how long Silver status will last. With Marriott’s Platinum challenge, you get Platinum status for 3 complete months. If you start the challenge mid-month, then you get status for the rest of that month plus 3 more complete months.

  6. As usual, misinformation to con unsuspecting readers to click your affiliate links. You will NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR SILVER STATUS WITH THE PLATINUM CHALLENGE!!!!!!!

  7. MileagePlus members who have trial Premier Gold or above status due to the “MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge program are not eligible for RewardsPlus complimentary status”.

    For Marriott Rewards members who are Platinum Elite (including Platinum Premier and Ritz Carlton Rewards Platinum), the RewardsPlus program offers complimentary Premier Silver status in the MileagePlus program (registration required). The status is valid through Jan 31, 2014. Marriott Rewards members who have temporary Platinum Elite status due to the Marriott Rewards Taste of Elite program are not eligible for RewardsPlus complimentary status.

  8. Sorry jason–wrong again and why the screaming? Is it because no one listens to your misinformation? There are no affiliate links in this post. Troll elsewhere.

  9. @Frugal Man
    I was already Marriot Plat on a challenge and signed up for the “joint venture” on Wednesday. Today I am United Silver! Probably won’t use the status before it expires, but sure was easy to get.

  10. still no answer about how long you get the UNITED SILVER status with the Marriott platinum challenge? is it just little over 3 months like the platinum challenge?

  11. I received platinum status challenge match, should I wait to sign up for the united silver status if i don’t need it now?
    If I sign up for the united silver in mid October, it should last until Oct 2014?
    Or doesn’t make difference?

    • JIM: Good question. I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that it doesn’t matter when you sign up for Silver. Might as well do it now before they close the loophole.

  12. I called and spoke with an impolite and over-stressed supervisor today, who offered the Gold challenge with an upgrade to Platinum once I reach 9 nights. She said under no circumstances will I be offered the Platinum challenge. Probably not worth my time from here on out, Marriot’s hold system is infuriating (‘An agent will be will you as soon as possible’ * 1500). I suspect this is to limit call volume.

  13. When I called today they wante to offer me the gold challenge. I have ten nights this year already and have 4 stays and 39 days booked already for the next 45 days. I told the marriott rep that was stupid I’m already booked to make gold. He begrudgingly gave me platinum. I already signed up for united and it was a done deal! However, I have a 30 day stay at a marriott booked and was wondering how to break that up to make it more stays without actually having to check out of my 2 bedroom suite each week?? Any advice??

  14. Ok, signed up for Platinum challenge by calling Ritz number (same program). Wonder how long my status with United will last. since I need to fly over to Europe in January and hoping for upgrade my economy tix to +.

  15. David Lujan: Unfortunately, I think you will have to check in and out of hotels to turn a 30 day stay into multiple stays. You could try calling Marriott Rewards and asking to speak to a supervisor to see if they can switch your challenge to one based on nights instead of stays, but they don’t usually offer that anymore.

  16. If I were to get United Silver status would the benefits of that status just apply to me or would they apply to those traveling with me (wife and child, say)? If the latter, do they need to be on my itinerary? Thanks!

  17. Anyone who has earned status the old-fashioned way – flying 200,000+ miles a year and spending the necessary number of nights in hotels – is negatively impacted by all these “faux elite” programs. A large group has petitioned United to increase the requirements for any form of premiere status – particularly the lowest levels – so that those of us with two million miles or more – and lifetime platinum Marriott status – are not co-mingled with those who use methods like those discussed here to get “status”. I suspect and hope that the programs, particularly the airline mileage systems on the legacy carriers, will only be relevant for the highest-level premiere status travelers in a few years as the industry consolidates and fares go up (finally – fares have needed to go up for a long time to reduce demand).

  18. Greg, do you know if this status challenge to United Silver trick still works? Any tips on getting the platinum challenge when you have 0 nights/stays with Marriot (i.e. leveraging my CC status, or talking them up)?

  19. I just got off the phone with Marriott Rewards. The CSR informed me that as of earlier this week (August 25th) they are no longer offering any kind of status challenges (gold or platinum). Furthermore, the CSR informed me that they do not (and never have done) status matches.

    Do you know of some other way to get status for ‘free’ with United? I’m trying to get upgraded to Economy+ on an upcoming flight.

    • Jonathan: if the Marrriott CSR was right then that is bad news. The only other option I can think of is to do a challenge with united but you would need status with another program to do so

  20. If it helps anybody out there, there is a Gold Challenge that is available as of today… I’m not sure about Platinum but perhaps I should call and inquire.

    The current GOLD challenge is called The Road to Gold – I was invited via email and registered online. For me, I have much travel coming up so any of these challenges will be easy, but for the rest of you… here are the details:

    https://www.marriott.com/rewards/promotion.mi?promotion=EE12

  21. I don’t know if you can still get the challenge but right now through 8-31-14 you also get 1,000 points to link your accounts.

  22. I have been able to hack into the marriott rewards program for free stays. It has been plentiful, but i would like to come clean. Is there a contact or program at marriott that would reward me for informing them of such?

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