Marriott Platinum Premier 75. Should I go for it?

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Starting August, Marriott resorts like The Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo Florida will offer free breakfast to Platinum elites.

Given Marriott’s announced new program, I’ve been thinking a lot about different options for earning high level elite status (see this post for ideas: Marriott SPG Windows of Opportunity).  The new program has three levels of meaningful elite status: Platinum 50* (requires 50 nights per year), Platinum Premier 75 (requires 75 nights per year), and Platinum Premier 100 (requires 100 nights per year, plus $20K spend).  It has occurred to me that if one was ever to go for Platinum Premier 75, this may be the perfect year to do so.

* There isn’t really an elite level called “Platinum 50”, it will just be called “Platinum Elite”. I find it helpful to include the nights required in the name, though, to make it clear that I’m not talking about the pre-August Platinum status which requires 75 nights.

Platinum status perks

In the new program starting August this year, Platinum 50 status will offer the following meaningful perks (a full list can be found here):

  • 4PM Late Checkout
  • Room upgrade includes suites when available
  • Welcome gift (free breakfast is one option and it will be available at resorts)
  • Lounge access
  • Annual Choice Benefit: 5 Suite Night Awards or Gift Option

Platinum Premier 75 adds the following:

  • Additional Choice Benefit: 5 Suite Night Awards or Gift Option
  • 48 Hour Guarantee
  • United Airlines Silver Premier status by enrolling in RewardsPlus.

Platinum Premier 100 adds the following:

  • Ambassador Service
  • Your24: Request any check-in time for an upcoming stay
  • United Airlines Gold Premier status via RewardsPlus? This has not been confirmed.

The benefits offered in the above list that I care most about are available to Platinum 50 members: 4PM late checkout, free breakfast & lounge access.  Prior to this year, I’ve had Marriott Platinum status for the past 5 years and I’ve both gotten a lot of value from these perks and have been frustrated when they weren’t available at resorts or Courtyard hotels (both of these issues will be corrected in the new program).  I consider the suite night awards a nice to have addition.  Sure I would like to get United elite status from the next level of status, and I’d especially like to get the Your24 option from top level status, but I’m pretty happy with the collection of benefits available at the 50 night level.

If I’m happy with Platinum, why consider going to Platinum Premier 75?

In the past, Marriott has always offered “soft landings” to elites who didn’t qualify for the same level of status that they had before. This means that Marriott would drop them down to the next level of status rather than taking away their status altogether.  For example, if you had Platinum status, but didn’t re-qualify, you would be given Gold status the next year (sometimes they even gave Platinum status just for the heck of it, but that never happened to me).  If that practice continues then this may be the year to go to Platinum Premier 75, even if you only really care about Platinum.

This year only, it should be possible to get up to 40 elite nights simply by having credit cards: SPG consumer and business cards (5 nights each), and Marriott Premier consumer and business cards (15 nights each).  Next year, each card will offer 15 nights, but those nights won’t stack.  So, this year only, it is possible to get Platinum status with just 10 nights above those offered through credit cards.  If you achieve Platinum 50 status that way, your status will be good for all of 2019 and through Feb 2020.  After this year, you’ll need 35 nights to re-qualify for Platinum 50 status since your credit cards will offer a maximum of 15 elite nights.

This year, for anyone with all four credit cards, it’s a no-brainer to go for Platinum 50.  In my case, I’ve already earned 3 SPG nights and have 3 Marriott nights reserved (two with free night certificates from my Marriott credit cards).  The extra 4 nights needed will happen easily with my usual travel.

The question is whether to go beyond Platinum 50.  In the future it will require 35 nights above the 15 offered by credit card membership to get to Platinum 50.  Once you have Platinum 50, though, it requires only 25 nights to get to the next level of status.  As a result, if the new Marriott program continues to support soft landings, you should be able to lock in two years of Platinum now at a reduced rate (where “rate” = number of elite nights earned).

Let’s compare multiple options for earning 50 night Platinum status for the next 2+ years, assuming that you currently have (or will get this year) all four credit cards:

Option 1: Earn status each year

Assuming you have all 4 credit cards in year 1 and at least one credit card past year 1:

  • 2018: 10 nights required above those given by credit card membership. Status is good until Feb 2020.
  • 2019: 35 nights* required above credit card membership. Status is good until Feb 2021.

Option total: 45 Nights required to keep Platinum 50 status until Feb 2021.

* Alternatively, it will be possible to earn Platinum status through $75K credit card spend with the new SPG Luxury card.

Option 2: Earn Platinum Premier 75 status this year

Assuming you have all 4 credit cards in year 1 and at least one credit card past year 1:

  • 2018: 35 elite nights earned through stays or meetings will get you to Platinum Premier 75. Status is good until Feb 2020.
  • 2019: Relax and enjoy Platinum Premier 75 status
  • 2020: In March you’ll hopefully be soft landed to Platinum 50.  Status would be good until Feb 2021.

Option total: 35 Nights required to keep Platinum 50 status until Feb 2021.

Option 3: Alternate years

Assuming you have all 4 credit cards in year 1 and at least one credit card past year 1:

When you obtain Marriott elite status, that status is good for the rest of the current year, all of the next year, and through February of the year after that.  Assuming the Feb end date remains as-is, it is then possible to alternate years to keep status continually:

  • 2018: 10 nights required above those given by credit card membership. Status is good until Feb 2020.
  • 2019: Enjoy status this year, but don’t pursue renewing it.
  • 2020: In January and Feb, earn the 35 nights* required above credit card membership. Status is good until Feb 2022.

Option total: 45 Nights required to keep Platinum 50 status until Feb 2022 (note that this option extends status for an extra year over the other options).

* Alternatively, it will be possible to earn Platinum status through $75K credit card spend with the new SPG Luxury card.

Option 4: Be happy with Platinum 50 through Feb 2020

Assuming you have all 4 credit cards in year 1:

In many ways this is the most prudent option.  As I wrote earlier, I’m going to get Platinum 50 status this year through credit card membership and regular stays with no additional effort required:

  • 2018: 10 nights required above those given by credit card membership. Status is good until Feb 2020.

Option total: 10 Nights required to keep Platinum 50 status until Feb 2021 2020.

In 2020 I could switch to Hilton which offers some of the same perks and requires only credit card membership to get to meaningful status.  Or, better yet, I could forget about loyalty altogether and just pay for the things I need.

Choices, choices…

If I really didn’t care about the additional perks of Platinum Premier 75, then options 3 and 4 are arguably best.   In fact, they’re compatible with each other: both would have me earn Platinum 50 status this year and then I could wait until 2020 to decide whether to abandon Marriott loyalty (option 4) or go with the every other year plan (option 3).  In fact, with the every other year plan it may be possible to do a Marriott Platinum challenge now and then to secure the next two years of status with just 9 separate stays.

On the other hand, there are a few factors that are tipping the scales towards seeking Platinum Premier 75 this year (option 2):

  • I may have a stay or two this year before August where I’ll book multiple rooms.  If I can book Starwood properties, I’ll get elite credit for each room.  This is an option that won’t be available when the programs merge in August.
  • In August, top tier SPG properties will suddenly be significantly less expensive to book with points, but the best deals will last only until early 2019 (see: The huge wins in Marriott’s announcement)  I’m eager to take advantage of some of these deals.  St. Regis Princeville? Sign me up!  If I book those stays for this year, the stays will help me get to Platinum Premier 75.  If I book those stays for next year’s travel or for late this year, I should then be able to take advantage of the 5 additional Suite Night Awards that come with Platinum Premier 75.
  • The ability to earn 10 elite nights by hosting a meeting will continue in the new program, but it’s unclear whether the terms and enforcement will remain the same.  In other words, if I want to earn elite nights through hosting meetings, it’s somewhat safer to do so before August.
  • This year it’s possible to earn elite night credits from credit card spend on the Marriott credit cards: Each $3,000 in spend gets you 1 elite night.  I think it’s likely that this option will go away next year (but we don’t know that for sure).  Given that our current Reasonable Redemption Value of Marriott points is 0.72 cents each, we can estimate the opportunity cost of this spend compared to the same spend on a 2% cash back card: $3000 x (.02 -0.007) =  $39 per elite night.  That’s a cheap price for an easy alternative to a mattress run.

OK, yeah.  I’ve convinced myself.  I’m going to go for it.  Platinum Premier 75, here I come.  And I hope to do it primarily through actual stays booked with points at fantastic resorts.  I haven’t told my wife about this plan yet, but I have a feeling she’ll approve…

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