Marriott bids adieu to tasty challenges

Who killed it?  Blame our frequent flyer community.  We did it. 

Until recently, Marriott offered “Taste of Gold” and “Taste of Platinum” challenges which made it extremely easy to earn meaningful elite status from Marriott.  Completing the Gold challenge required 6 stays in 3 months.  Completing the Platinum challenge required 9 stays.  By enrolling first in Marriott’s quarterly Mega Bonus promotions, the challenges almost paid for themselves even when paying for inexpensive stays just to complete the challenge.

A few days ago, a reader told me that Marriott was no longer offering these challenges.  So, I called to find out for myself.  I told the Marriott rep that my wife was considering the Platinum challenge (which was true – at least, I was considering signing her up for it when my status expires) and I was wondering if the challenge terms were the same as when I took the challenge.  The rep was quick to inform me that the challenges were no longer available.  He said that they had received complaints from existing Platinum members because their benefits were being diluted by all of these new members who didn’t really earn their status.  The most interesting part of the conversation (to me) was when the rep specifically said that “sites like Flyertalk” were telling people to call and ask for the challenge.  So Marriott discontinued the practice entirely.

Not to be deterred, I asked about the possibility of an outright status match.  Nope.  But, as a consolation prize, the rep offered to bump my wife up to Silver status for free.  How good is Silver status?  Well, it is slightly better than nothing.  In my experience, some hotels give Silver elites a small welcome gift (such as a small package of Oreos and a bottle of water).  With Silver status, I never received free internet access (unless it was free to everyone), but the Marriott web site says that you will get free internet in certain countries:

Free High-Speed Internet Access: Beginning May 1, 2011, complimentary Internet access at all JW Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott hotels in Australia, China (and Hong Kong), Guam, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Not available in meeting rooms and Business Centers.

Getting status

Meaningful Marriott elite status begins with Gold status.  That’s where you get free internet and free lounge access almost everywhere.  But, Gold status requires 50 paid nights in a Calendar year.  You could get much more rewarding top tier status with Starwood or Hyatt for the same number of nights.

So, what to do if you really want Marriott Gold status, but don’t plan to stay 50 nights?  Here are some ideas:

  • Get United Premier Gold (or higher) elite status and then sign up for RewardsPlus to get instant Marriott Gold status (details here).
  • Signup for the Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card to get free Gold status for a year.  You can keep Gold status past the first year by spending $10K per year on the card.  Ritz Gold status gives you the equivalent of Marriott Gold status when staying at Marriott properties.  The card is expensive, though ($395 per year).  Details of the best current offers can be found here.  Make sure to read the comments in that post. Some readers have found a lot not to like with that card.
  • Signup for the Marriott Rewards Premier card.  The card will give you 15 nights credit towards elite status.  That’s more than enough to get you to Silver status and 30% of the way to Gold.  You will also get one night credit for every $3000 spent on the card.  So, you can get to Gold status by spending a mere $105,000 on the card.  I don’t recommend that, though, even if you’re a big spender.  For most purchases, the card earns only 1 point per dollar, and Marriott points are much less valuable than points you could earn with other cards.
  • Earn elite stay credit by organizing meetings.  For each meeting with 10 or more guest rooms booked, you’ll earn credit for 10 elite nights.  Details can be found here.

Did I miss any good ideas?


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Pingbacks

  1. […] If I went with the first option (start the trial right before my trip), I most likely would not complete the challenge at all.  I have quite a few award nights planned for that period of time, but no paid nights.  And, it is unlikely that I’d be able to cram many additional trips into that 60 day period.  Of course, that would be OK.  I would get to enjoy Diamond Status when I really need it, and that would be that. However, this option would also entail a little bit of risk: there’s always the possibility that Hyatt would end their Diamond Trial program before I got around to signing up.  I don’t have any reason to think that’s likely, but you simply never know.  After all, Marriott abruptly ended their similar program last year. […]

Comments

  1. Kind of off topic but was hoping to gleen some valuable information on cash back cards. It’s time to add a couple to my arsenal. I was thing chase freedom for one, but feel free to turn me in another direction. Thank you

  2. Things change so quickly in this hobby. I actually was planning on doing the status challenge just for the breakfast for upcoming Marriott stay. We don’t have many paid stays coming up though. So my husband felt it was unethical. Yep, this community killed it, no doubt! Just look at the huge thread on Flyertalk on the whole subject. Marriott “cardinals” are watching!

  3. spend 320k on gift cards using Marriott card – earn 1.6 million points (5x Marriott points)
    go through topcashback to shopmarriott to get 6% CB ($19,200 CB)
    use
    Use 35k in GC to pay for 500 nights @70 dollars/night
    Leaving you with 285k in giftcards. Sell them to cardpool for 86% (giving you $245,100).

    so you paid 320k, you get back 264,300.
    Out of pocket cost is $55,700 for 1.6 million Marriott points and lifetime gold status. That doesn’t include the additional points/free nights from promos you would get for staying the 500 nights.

    :)

  4. Actually, it would be better than that. I forgot to account for the nights for spending.
    @ 320k spending, you would earn over 1,000 nights from spending on the card.
    so sell all 320k to cardpool. so the out of pocket would be 320-275.2-19200 = 19155.2 for lifetime gold status and 1.6 million Marriott points.

  5. Funny thing is, I’m actually considering it now.
    I’d be buying marriott points for just under 1.2 cpp, and that would give me lifetime Marriott Gold. the 1.6 million points could be turned into ….. 792,000 SW Miles or so, which, with companion pass, is worth like $25,000+ in airfare. Not including the 6-7 night cat 1-5 hotel certs.

    If I knew I was gonna spend 19k flying domestic in a year on SW, I’d do it.

  6. @TIS
    Elite Lifetime Status is determined by your total qualified nights stayed AND points earned throughout the course of your membership

    it’s not either or, it’s both

  7. The bold Not recommending spending for status made me wonder if my ~160K spent to get Plat was ill advised…I will give you Marriott points are probably the least valuable of any major loyalty program(except Skypesos) it is very hard to get a penny a point with Marriott…here is my reasoning..( fyi I had 1.2 million in spending to divvy up)

    1. Marriott/Chase was the only one willing to give large lines of credit(during the ’09 crunch) in my case $35K..Citi actually lowered my lines from 22K to 3K..I would max out my Amex SPG(5K) and pay it off and max it out again..that became a pain
    2. The Plat status has been very nice always club level and 25% of the time upgraded to suites(even before it became a maybe)
    3. This year just got UA silver and that got me Econ Comfort 3 times so far for free
    4. If you do pay to stay you making almost 15points per dollar spent

    So for a only leisure traveler with big spending ability it has been a win for me

  8. I’ve been both plat and gold with marriott. I see the value of platinum over gold to be minimial at best. No big loss for those that are able to at least earn gold through stays or the united partnership.

  9. @Steve – CB no longer valid for GC purchases. That ended Jan 1 2013. You can, however, get CB for booking the stays. Also, ending today, you can get a 10% bonus on the GC balance using AMT promo (so actually better than the 6% you were assuming).

  10. @Steve – I’m Platinum through a challenge, so you’ve got me thinking about your idea. Wouldn’t $320K / $3K (one night) result in just a little over 100 nights rather than 1,000 nights? Am I missing something? Thanks!

  11. Jimmy, it’s not that hard to get a penny a point with Marriott. Especially with their higher end hotels in category 8/9.

    And when you use the travel package for a 7 night stay, they let you convert up to 120K marriott points into any airline mile you want at a 1:1 ratio.

  12. “We did it.”
    Newsflash: We didn’t do anything. It was YOU and your fellow bloggers that told everyone to sign up for the challenge to get elite status with United. And here are my affiliate links to the Ink, Marriott, and United cards. Greedy bloggers…

    • Jason: I certainly don’t mind being accused of killing deals (it happens), but please do not accuse me of pushing affiliate links. I have not published an affiliate link in a blog post since December 2011.

  13. Free internet in only certain places? I have always had free internet in all Marriott brands anywhere that I have stayed and elite status had no factor in having internet service at any Marriott.

  14. Andy: I see that they have a business card which gives you 10 elite nights. Is there also a premier version of the business card? I expect that the two cards (personal and business) probably are stackable

  15. FM,
    I think you are right. Business Card does not have premier version. 10 night credit only. Plus, personal premier card — total 25 nights. So, still need 50 night stays to maintain marriott plat status.

    Chase is very tough to offer multiple cards. They hold too many cards but only allow me 4 cards.
    Andy

  16. The only thing I wanted to check is once you get bumped into Silver for free. Like i start at Silver due to the corporate tie up. Do I still get the 10 nights advantage in achieving the next status

    Like Gold in 40 vs 50

    and Platinum in 65 vs 75. This is important because I am doing 66 nights (combined over two rooms)

    That’s another thing – if you are doing two rooms per day – how is that viewed,

  17. Nishant: No, complementary Silver status does not give you 10 days towards the next level of status. I don’t know if you can get elite credit for more than one room. I know that you can get points for up to 3 rooms, though, so elite credit seems likely.

  18. Not sure if this is still looked at but I know I did when I was seeing if the challenge was still active, but… I just emailed ‘elite.member@marriott.com’ and was able to sign up for the Gold Elite Status Challenge. 6 paid stays from now until Jan 31 to retain Gold for 2015. Best option I have seen to not worry about your overnights expiring if you are close to the threshold of gold status.

    • Thanks Stuart. I know that they brought this back, but unlike before I believe that you don’t get Gold status until you’ve completed the challenge. Right? Previously, you were given Gold status for the duration of the challenge and then you could keep it if you completed the challenge.

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