Marriott bids adieu to tasty challenges

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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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