Bye Bye Marriott Status Buy Back

Yesterday Marriott announced several changes to their rewards program for 2018:

  • Hertz Status: Platinum members get Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star® Status and Platinum Premier members get Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Presidents Circle® Status.
  • Elite Rollover Nights Last Chance: Elite nights earned in 2017 above those needed for the elite status you obtained will roll-over to 2018 (for 2019 year qualification), but elite nights earned in 2018 will not roll-over to 2019.
  • Status Buy Back Gone: “2017 is the final year for … Status Buy Back”.  In the past it has always been possible to use points to buy back the level of status you had the year before.

Hertz status is no big deal.  And, for me, the loss of rollover nights doesn’t matter.  It’s the end of status buy-backs that hurts.

In 2012 I earned Marriott Platinum status by signing up for a status challenge and completing it with 9 stays in roughly 3 months.  I described the challenge and my experience in meeting the challenge here: Four months Platinum with Marriott.  The Platinum elite status I earned in 2012 lasted through February 2014.  Then, in 2014 and each year after, I’ve bought back my Platinum status through Marriott’s annual Elite Status Buy Back offer.

With the Status Buy Back offer, each year I’ve been able to keep Platinum status by paying 40,000 Marriott points.  But, as confirmed with a Senior Director at Marriott, we will not have the opportunity to buy back our 2017 status next year.  Boo!

Is Gold good enough?

Amex Platinum cards come with free Starwood Gold status.  Simply by linking your SPG and Marriott accounts you get free Marriott Gold status as well.  And on the Marriott side of things, Gold status delivers many of the best benefits by itself:

  • Free enhanced internet
  • Free room upgrade when available
  • 4PM late checkout
  • Guaranteed lounge access and/or breakfast for two at most properties excluding resorts

The biggest problem with Gold status, though, is that it is nearly worthless in the Starwood program.  And, unlike Platinum status, Marriott Gold status does not give you United Silver status…

Platinum Advantages

Marriott Platinum status adds several advantages over Marriott Gold status:

  • Match to SPG Platinum (SPG Platinum is a very good elite tier whereas SPG Gold is nearly worthless)
  • 50% point bonus for stays (vs. 25% with Gold)
  • 48 hour guaranteed room availability
  • Welcome gift
  • United Silver Status (via RewardsPlus)

SPG Platinum status and United Silver status are two huge benefits that I wouldn’t want to give up.

Shortcuts for keeping Platinum in 2018

Marriott is expected to unveil a new combined program for Marriott and SPG in 2019.  We don’t know anything yet about how to get or keep status in 2019 and beyond, but for 2018 there are a number of options to get Platinum status in 2018:

  • Ritz Carlton Card $75K Spend
  • Complete a Marriott Platinum Challenge
  • Complete a SPG Platinum Challenge.
  • Qualify on stays with SPG
  • Qualify on nights with Marriott

$75K Spend

The Ritz Carlton card offers automatic Gold status for the first year and then lets you maintain Gold status each year thereafter with just $10K of credit card spend.  Further, they’ll grant you Platinum status with $75K spend.  The Ritz and Marriott rewards programs are identical programs with different names, so Ritz Platinum = Marriott Platinum.  When signing up for the Ritz card, you can even enter in your Marriott Rewards number so that you’ll get status directly with Marriott.  Then, of course, you’ll automatically get status with SPG as well.  Fortunately for those who don’t have the card yet, the Ritz card is not subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months. Some exceptions that do not fall under the 5/24 rule include: British Airways, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott Business, and Ritz Carlton.

Marriott Challenge

Marriott makes Platinum challenges available to members with Gold status.  Once you have Gold status, you can request a Platinum challenge as follows:

  1. Request a status match or challenge to Platinum.  It is very unlikely that you’ll get an outright match, but you may get approved for a Platinum challenge.
    • Call Marriott Rewards, or
    • Fill out Marriott request form online (here)
  2. Choose stays or nights.  One version of the challenge requires completing 9 stays.  The other requires completing 18 nights. Depending upon your plans, one or the other might be better. Note that a multi-night stay only counts as 1 stay even if each night is booked separately.  So if you plan to have multi-night stays, the 18 night challenge is probably better.  If no offered it right away, ask to switch to the challenge that you prefer.
  3. Complete the challenge by completing 9 stays or 18 nights in the specified time-frame.  The challenge requires actual paid stays booked through Marriott.  Award stays or stays booked through online travel agencies don’t count.

SPG Platinum Challenge

Another option is to earn SPG Platinum status and then match to Marriott Platinum.  Acquiring SPG Platinum status through stays usually requires 25 stays or 50 nights at SPG properties.  An alternative is to sign up for the SPG Platinum Status Challenge which only requires 18 paid nights.

There are a number of downsides to this challenge compared to earning status through 25 stays or 50 nights:

  • You must complete the challenge in a 3 month timeframe
  • Reward nights do not count towards the challenge
  • Amex SPG credit card nights do not count towards the challenge

However, it is now quite easy to request this challenge as there is a dedicated SPG Status Challenge website with all the information you need to contact Starwood for this challenge.  Unfortunately, there’s this restriction: “SPG members who reach SPG Gold or Platinum status by linking their SPG and Marriott Rewards® accounts will not be eligible for the Status Challenge offer.”

Qualify on stays with SPG

Another option for earning SPG Platinum status is to complete 25 stays in a calendar year.  Here are some reasons that this may be achievable even if you don’t have very many stays planned:

  1. Award stays count
  2. Up to 3 rooms count at once.  For example, if you book three rooms for 1 night at a cheap hotel, you’ll get 3 stay credits for that night.
  3. Amex offers both personal SPG and business SPG credit cards.  Both automatically give the cardholder 2 stays and 5 nights towards elite status.  This means that if you have both cards, you get 4 stays and 10 nights towards status.
  4. If you are staying multiple nights in the same city, you can change to a different SPG hotel each night in order to earn 1 stay per night.
  5. If you are staying multiple nights in the same hotel, you can alternate booking nights with another person in your group.  For example, if you plan to stay 5 nights, you could book nights 1, 3, and 5 as separate stays while your travel partner books nights 2 and 4.  Let the hotel know in advance that you’d like to stay in the same room the entire time.

Qualify on nights with Marriott

Marriott Platinum status requires 75 nights per year, but there are shortcuts for getting those nights:

  1. You can automatically get 15 elite night credits with the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card.
  2. You can get another 15 elite night credits with the Marriott Rewards Premier Business card.
  3. With either Marriott Rewards Premier card, you can earn 1 elite night credit with each $3K of spend.
  4. If you have any elite nights earned in 2017 above those used for the level of status you obtained, they will roll-over (for the last time ever) into 2018.
  5. You can earn 10 elite nights for each meeting or event that you plan and hold at Marriott hotels (details here).
  6. Award nights count.

What will I do?

On March 1 2018, my status will drop down to Gold.  Even though I don’t use SPG Platinum or United Silver status often, I like to have them.  Even more, when Marriott unveils their new combined program, I’d like to start with a high level of status.  My bet is that Gold status, or the equivalent, will be less rewarding in the new program.  So, I’ll look at each option and decide which I’ll use to get to Platinum status in 2018 for the 2019 elite year:

  • Ritz Carlton Card $75K Spend: This is possible. I hate the idea of spending that much and earning only 1.1 points Marriott per dollar (the Ritz card offers an annual 10% point bonus) since I value Marriott points at less than 1 cent per point.  On the other hand, I don’t seem to have any trouble manufacturing spend, so this would be a fairly easy option for me.
  • Complete a Marriott Platinum Challenge: If I think that I’ll have the opportunity to spend enough paid nights in Marriott properties, I may try this.  I don’t know if they’ll let me do the challenge a second time, but it may be worth a shot.
  • Complete a SPG Platinum Challenge: I don’t think I’m qualified for this challenge since the terms state “Status Challenges are not available to members who have earned SPG elite-level status within the five years prior to the current year.” and “SPG members who reach SPG Gold or Platinum status by linking their SPG and Marriott Rewards® accounts will not be eligible for the Status Challenge offer.”
  • Qualify on stays with SPG: I hate switching hotels every day so I probably won’t do this.
  • Qualify on nights with Marriott:  I have both Marriott cards, so I’ll start with 30 elite nights from the get-go.  Based on current reservations, I expect to earn just enough elite nights in 2017 to get Gold status for 2018 while rolling over maybe 3 nights.  If I naturally spend 25 nights at Marriott hotels in 2018, I’ll still be about 17 nights short of Platinum status.  Maybe I’ll organize two meetings to get this done.

Overall, my plan is to wait and see.  As travel opportunities come up, I’ll decide whether they would get me close to completing a challenge (in which case, I’ll try to sign up for the challenge).  By mid year I should have a better sense of what may work.  At that point, most likely, I’ll get that Ritz credit card and start spending like mad…

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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Comments

  1. Im in the same situation. As an american-canadian, I have been able to secure Platinum status every single year due to credit card elite nights. 3 cards (canada personal, us personal, us business) x 15 elite night credits = 45 nights first year. 35 roll over + same 45 credit card nights (signed up in january for all 3) = 80 nights by the end for January good for nearly 2 years. Following year, rince and repeat. By using the 3 free nights accordingly, this has costs me nothing at all. Usually use the 3 for a nice long weekend. Should have known this would come to an end. Bye-Bye free Marriott Platinum Status. Right now i am planning on having 48 nights at the end of this year. 38 will roll over, plus my 45 next year from credit card = minimum 83 nights next year…at least I get 2 more years of Platinum.

      • First year I get 45, 10 get me silver, and 35 roll-over. Next January I get another 45, which puts me at 80 nights for the year which gives me Platinum for that year and the following. Marriott Canada credit card is no longer taking applications.

  2. When did Marriott start giving a total of 30 nights credit for having both the personal and business cards linked to the same account?

    In the not so distant past, when I held both cards, Marriott always only awarded 15 nights credit to my account

    • It’s always been. You might not have gotten the other card appropriately linked to your Marriott account. Give them a call, I’m sure they can fix it quickly.

      • ok. Good to know!

        I dumped my Marriott Biz card long ago but back when I had it & questioned why I wasn’t getting the 15 nights for that card, I was told more than once it was because I already had that on my personal card.

        Glad to see that is no longer the case & if I end up ever needing that going forward. Luckily, I’ve been keeping gold thanks to UA.

      • wrong, it has been YMMV for as long as I remember…I got 30 my wife didn’t, got same cards within 3 months of each other…and if you didn’t get them to start with, it is unlikely you will get anyone to “fix” it to your liking…totally hit or miss.

    • That was my thought too. I sent Marriott a DM on Twitter and got this response:

      “Correct. You will be able to buy back status from 2017 up until 12/31/18. You will not be able to buy back your status from 2018 in 2019.”

    • The language was definitely ambiguous so I reached out to a senior director at Marriott who told me that there will NOT be an option in 2018 to buy back 2017 status.

      This was confirmed by Marriott Insiders via comments to their announcement: https://insiders.marriottrewards.com/blogs/exclusive-news/2017/11/28/your-end-of-year-program-preview#comment-82745

      The fact that Marriott’s Twitter team told Greg that he’d be able to buy back 2017 status in 2018 offers a glimmer of hope, but right now the score is 2 to 1 against.

      • The score is much different than 2 to 1. I confirmed via the Platinum Phone Desk (twice) , email in writing, and through Twitter twice (see here):

        Marriott Rewards on Twitter: “@NikoMetsPlus Hello, you will be able to buy back for 2018 but not a buy back for 2019. T…

        Marriott Rewards on Twitter: “@NikoMetsPlus This is correct. You will be able to buy back your status up until 12/31/18.…

        And, the Twitter desk has been informing other members of the information as well:

        Marriott Rewards on Twitter: “@sydneyboi You can buy back your status from 2017 in 2018. At the end of 2018 you will no …

        Marriott Rewards on Twitter: “@michele_fei Sorry for the confusion, Michele. You can buy back your status for 2018. How…

        If Marriott Insiders and the Bloggers are wrong, and Buy Back will be offered, then this is a absolutely horrible release from Marriott. Using the term “2017” is extremely confusing, and it takes multiple tries to get a straight answer, which I eventually got from five representatives of your company.

        If Marriott isn’t offering Buy Back, then this is borderline fraud if Marriott doesn’t honor their mistake. When five people from all the available channels (social media, phone, email) say one thing, and you base your travel on their confirmation, and it’s wrong (borderline fraud) then Marriott has got to bite it’s own bullet.

        After sending various emails that was escalated to a manager, I was again re-assured that it would be offered, so I made United travel (with the assumption of Silver) and have to waste hours on the phone and on forums to get a straight answer.

        Anyway, I have this in writing, and have it in writing from multiple Marriott representatives and will escalate this as high as it takes.

  3. 75k spend on the Ritz card is a really bad option, even with manufacturing spend. In exchange for that spend, you earn 75k Marriott/Ritz points (or 25k SPG points) plus the Platinum status. That same manufactured spend on Amex SPG would net 225k Marriott/Ritz points (or 75k SPG points).

    So you are effectively exchanging 150k Marriott/Ritz points (or 50k) SPG points in order to earn status this way. Not a good deal.

    • That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about it in terms of giving up SPG spend. But mattress running is usually a really bad deal too. I’m not sure there’s a great option here.

      Small point: the Ritz card earns 1.1 points per dollar due to the annual 10% bonus. So I’d earn a whopping 75K x 1.1 = 82,500 Marriott points (27,500 SPG)

    • @J I think this is a bit more complicated and everyone is different. I have the Marriott personal credit card, the Ritz Carlton card and the American Express SPG card, so I have all Marriott personal credit card options available to me. Let’s assume all spending is non-bonus to keep it simple. If I spend $75K on Ritz Carlton, I get 82,500 Marriott points (10% bonus at end of year). If I spend $75K on AMEX SPG , I get 225,000 Marriott points. So, my difference is 142,500 points. If I valued a Marriott point at $0.009, my value difference is $1282.50. $30K of spending on AMEX SPG gets me Starwood Gold which gets me Marriott Gold, so I am figuring out whether the difference between Marriott Platinum and Marriott Gold is worth $1282.50.

      What I have found, particularly when travelling outside the USA, after being Marriott Gold for many, many years and Marriott Platinum for three, is that there is a huge difference in the unwritten rules between Marriott Gold and Marriott Platinum, and it varies by hotel. The main difference is the value of the upgrades and the costs that you would otherwise pay that are thrown in for free for Platinums. I made up that difference just in one three-day trip to Fiji. I just got back from Sydney, and the Marriott waived about $750-$850 of fees for 4th person in a room and 3rd and 4th person in the lounge that I doubt would have been waived had I been just Gold. Add in the United Silver benefit of extra legroom seats 24 hours pre-flight and waived baggage fees for all passengers on the reservation, and that has saved me perhaps $1,000 this year. Then add in the lounge access and upgrades at Starwoods I have stayed at this year (worth several hundred dollars), and I am very value positive. I have not used Delta Cross-Over benefits, but that would have value as well. Then throw in the value of lounge access at Ritz Carlton through the certificates, and that was worth several hundred dollars to me this year. So add it all up, and for me, $75K on the Ritz Carlton card is very value positive compared to alternatives. Again, everyone is different.

      • I agree that it’s different for everyone. Just pointing out that the question to ask isn’t just “can I easily MS $75k on the RC card.” Rather, the question is, “is what I get in exchange for MSing $75k on the RC card more valuable than what I get for MSing the same $75k on a different card.” For most, I suspect the answer will be no. For some, the answer will be yes.

  4. I just realized that it should actually be super easy for me to re-qualify for Platinum in 2018 if I change my next 5 night Marriott stay to credit to my wife’s account instead of my own. I currently have 47 elite nights. If I don’t earn any more, I’ll come short of qualifying for Gold and I’ll roll over 37 nights (Silver = 10 nights). With those 37 rollover nights + 30 credit card nights I’ll start the year with 67 nights. I’ll only need 8 more to reach Platinum. Easy.

    Am I missing anything here? I’ve never bothered with rollover nights before since I’ve always bought back status in the past. Is there a chance that my SPG Gold status will mess things up? e.g. Since I automatically have Gold status thanks to SPG (and Amex Platinum), is there a chance that the nights above Silver status won’t roll-over?

  5. I’m trying to get SPG Platinum by the end of the year. I have a one night mattress run booked that should get me there if I get the 5 nights credit from the SPG Bus card. I applied and was approved 11/28/17. Anyone know how long it takes for those 5 nights/2 stays to credit to your account? Thanks!

  6. I just received a twitter response from Marriott Rewards regarding the buyback. It seems there is conflicting information coming internally from Marriott whether this will end in 2017 or 2018.

    Will I be able to buy back my status one last time for 2018?

    1 unread message
    Marriott Rewards
    Yes. The buy back program will not be available starting January 2019.
    -Leanne

  7. I definitely believe buyback will be available next year. Why would they implement this change with only a month left in the year? I stayed about half the time this year with SPG as I wanted to try the brand and knowing that I would be able to buyback Marriot platinum. I would have just gone with Marriott for all my nights if I had know this change; would have easily reached Platinum! Total fail!

      • I understand that it wasn’t a “guaranteed” benefit. However, I chose SPG those nights instead of IHG, Hilton, etc. I’m hoping I can combine my SPG/Marriott (they’re supposed to have fully merged, correct?) nights for Platinum status as I’m way over 75. Maybe a call to customer service next year if they don’t offer buy back?

  8. Any chance you get the Ritz Carlton card, spend the 10k to get Marriott Gold Status then earn platinum through stays or earn elite credits? Or do you have to spend 75k to get platinum?

  9. I think Marriott will have to offer a one year grace, though, they are deliberately misleading members on Twitter and via Email:

    https://twitter.com/MarriottRewards/status/935940733697175552

    https://twitter.com/MarriottRewards/status/935927860577095680

    https://twitter.com/NikoMetsPlus/status/935883236428910594

    Absolutely pathetic that Marriott does not know Marriott’s new policies, if in fact all of customer service (including the Platinum Phone Desk, is wrong).

  10. There’s some more stuff in the insiders thread now as well about Marriott telling people status buyback will go live once more. It’s very confusing. With such late notice in 2017, I hope there is one more buyback.

    For my part, I reached out to Marriott to see if I’d be eligible for any challenges (work/personal changes have reduced my travel this year). They wouldn’t promise anything, but their messaging made it seem like the elite desk would be extra understanding about not putting people down a tier if they didn’t requalify.

  11. From the other blogs and coverage I’ve read, it sounds like buyback will be available again for 2018 but not 2019. I hate the way they phrase it – so confusing.

    I’m a lowly Silver with Marriott and usually end up one night short of Silver status, which actually makes no difference for me in terms of whether I buy back or book a cheap award stay at the end of the year. If only those ten nights weren’t so spread through the year and I could actually try a status challenge…

    Thanks also for the summary of why marriott platinum benefits are so valuable. I’ll have to look more into that (getting fees waived, etc could be useful for some vacations I’d like to go on)

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