Marriott’s Taste of Platinum Challenge

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Thanks to Marriott’s Platinum Challenge, I received my Marriott Platinum Elite membership card earlier this week.  My Platinum status is valid through February 2014.  Normally, to get to Marriott’s Platinum Elite status level it is necessary to stay 75 nights or hold 8 events at Marriott hotels within a single calendar year.  Luckily, there’s a much easier way. 

As I described in the post “Pursuing Platinum @ Marriott,” you can sign up for Marriott’s “Taste of Platinum Challenge” simply by calling and asking for it.  If you make the call after the first of the month, you will then get temporary Platinum status for the rest of that month and throughout the three following months.  In order to retain status past the challenge period, it is necessary to have 9 separate paid stays at Marriott properties.  You can, alternatively, go for the Gold Challenge which requires only 6 stays.

Platinum Benefits

You can read about Marriott’s elite benefits here and here.  I’ll list just the benefits I think are worth mentioning:

  • Priority Late Checkout (available to all elites)
  • Free Internet Access (Gold and Platinum)
  • Room Upgrade (Gold and Platinum)
  • Guaranteed Lounge Access / Free Breakfast (Gold and Platinum)
  • 48-Hour Guaranteed Availability
  • Guaranteed Platinum Arrival Gift
  • 50% point bonus

Regarding free breakfast: If the hotel has a lounge, you get free access to it during your stay. If the hotel doesn’t have a lounge, then you’ll get free breakfast instead. There are many exclusions. For example, not all Marriott properties are included. Also, within the US and Canada, free breakfast is not guaranteed on weekends.

Regarding room upgrades: Usually this means getting a room on a higher floor.  Suite upgrades are rare.

I’ll follow up soon with more details about my Marriott stays as a Platinum elite, but here’s my brief take on the benefits:

  • Don’t expect suite upgrades.
  • Lounge access is a great benefit.  It means free (often hot) breakfast  each morning, and free hot appetizers each evening.  Some properties even include afternoon tea.  The downside: lounges are often closed on the weekend in the US and Canada.  In that case, you get nothing.
  • Free internet is a great perk.
  • The best benefit I received is not even listed as a benefit.  Twice I showed up extremely early for check-in (once at 9 a.m.).  Thanks to my Platinum status, they had my room ready immediately.
  • At properties without an open lounge, I recommend taking the food and drink arrival gift instead of points if you’re hungry.  At most properties, you can chose between 500 points or a food and drink option.  In the past four months, my wife and I have often enjoyed getting a small bottle of wine along with a nice cheese and cracker tray at various Marriott hotels.  I value 500 Marriott points at less than $5, so I felt that we got great value from the food and drink options.

 

Two Strategies

There are two reasonable approaches to taking advantage of these challenges.  One is to sign up for the challenge and complete it in order to keep your status.  The other approach is to sign up for the challenge before a planned Marriott stay in order to enjoy high level elite status even if you have no plans to complete the challenge.  Let’s look at each of these options:

Option 1: Go for it

If you are planning a number of paid Marriott stays within a four month period, a Gold or Platinum challenge can be a great opportunity.  This way, your planned stays will be more rewarding and you’ll keep your status well past the end of the challenge.  It may even make sense for you to do a few “mattress runs” to complete the challenge.  The idea behind a mattress run is to check into the cheapest Marriott property you can find just to get credit for a stay. 

Timing this option correctly is critical.  Clearly, you would want to start the challenge prior to a number of planned stays.  Another important factor, though, is to start the challenge as soon in the new year as practical so that your earned status will last longer.  Here’s an example: if you complete a challenge that was started in December 2012, your earned status will be good through February 2014.  However, if you wait one month more and start the challenge in January 2013, your earned status will be good until February of 2015!  By starting your challenge just once month later, you will get an extra 11 months of elite status.

Option 2: Enjoy it

If you have a big Marriott vacation planned, it can make sense to sign up for the Platinum Challenge just to enjoy that status during that trip even if you have no plans at all to complete the challenge.  A year after the challenge is over, you are allowed to sign up for the challenge again!  In fact, if you travel often with a partner, the two of you could alternate challenges so that at least one of you has Platinum status a lot of the time.  Here’s an example:

  • Jan 2: You sign up for challenge.  Your status lasts until the end of April.
  • July 2: Your partner signs up for the challenge.  His/her status lasts until the end of October.
  • May 2: You sign up for the challenge.  Your status lasts until the end of September.
  • etc.

 

Challenge Considerations

Regardless of which option you decide to go with (if either), here are some things to keep in mind:

  • A “stay” is different from a “night.”  If you stay 3 consecutive nights at a singe Marriott property, that will count as a single “stay” towards the challenge.  If you hop around to a different Marriott each of the 3 nights, that will count as 3 stays.
  • If you can help it, never start a challenge on the first of the month since that will reduce the length of your challenge to exactly 3 months instead of nearly 4 months.
  • Once you call to start the challenge, assume it will take 48 hours to kick in.  It will probably be faster than that, but that should be a safe interval to count on.
  • You can save money on your stays by buying Marriott gift cards in advance.  Many deals expire by the end of this year, though, so it may make sense to buy the gift cards now.  For details, see “Marriott gift card triple dip.”
  • You can save money on stays by booking with corporate codes, a government rate, AAA, etc.  However, I don’t recommend doing this unless you have proof of eligibility.  During my Platinum challenge, I was asked for proof at approximately 1 out of 3 stays.
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