10 Shortcuts to Marriott Platinum Elite status (2020 edition)

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Breakfast shown here is from the US Grant Luxury Collection hotel. This is one of many properties where Platinum Elites get free breakfast.

Marriott Bonvoy is Marriott’s loyalty program.  One of the cool things about Marriott Bonvoy, besides its delightful name, is that elite perks are pretty good for a hotel chain of its size. Unfortunately, Marriott doesn’t apply the same benefits uniformly across their brands, and even within brands some properties are allowed exceptions.  Still, I find that Platinum perks at Marriott hotels are often very good.  You can find everything you need to know about Marriott Bonvoy in our complete guide.

Here’s a summary of Marriott’s elite perks:

The sweet spot elite status, in my opinion, is Platinum Elite.  This will get you the vast majority of the best benefits: 4pm late checkout, 50% point bonus, welcome gift, free breakfast at most properties, and lounge access.  And, when you earn 50 elite nights you also get a Choice Benefit, such as 5 Suite Night Awards.

Of course, you might not have the opportunity to actually stay 50 nights at Marriott properties.  But all hope is not lost.  There are quite a few shortcuts to status that you can pursue instead…

Two Distinct Shortcut Paths: Elite Nights vs. “All at Once” Shortcuts

There are two types of shortcuts to elite status.  One type of shortcut offers a way to get elite nights more quickly or easily.  Elite night shortcuts are stackable.  That is, you can mix and match these shortcuts in order to earn whatever level of status you want. The all-at-once shortcuts are not stackable. Each offers a way to get to a specific level of status, but if you want to go for a higher level of status, these generally won’t help.

Elite Night Shortcuts

The following shortcuts are stackable.  You can earn elite nights from one or more of these options in order to add up to the 50 nights you need.

  1. Credit Card 15 elite nights x 2.  This is by far the simplest option. Almost all Marriott and Ritz credit cards offer 15 elite nights per year simply by being a card member.  You can find a complete list of cards here. Having more than 1 consumer Marriott card or more than one business card won’t give you more than 15 elite nights.  That said, you can get up to 30 elite nights by holding both a personal Marriott card and a business Marriott card.
  2. 1 Elite Night Per $3K Spend.  Two legacy Marriott cards offer 1 elite night per $3K spend (you can find a complete list of cards here, along with a chart showing which cards offer elite nights for spend).  Of the two legacy cards that have this feature, readers are most likely to have the Chase Bonvoy Premier Credit Card, but only if they turned down upgrade offers to the Plus version of this card.  Unfortunately both cards that offer this feature only give cardholders 1 point per dollar spent (except in certain categories of spend), whereas most other Marriott cards offer a minimum of 2 points per dollar.  This means that this spend is costly in that you lose the ability to earn more points for your spend.  It’s especially costly if you consider that you can earn far more than the value of 2X Marriott points for that same spend.  See: Best Rewards for Everyday Spend.
  3. Book award nights.  Marriott hotels are available for as little as 7,500 points per night standard, 5,000 points per night off-peak, or 4,000 points per night for off-peak PointSavers (this combo is very rare).
  4. Book 5th night free awards (even if staying 4 nights).  For example, you can book an off-peak category 1 hotel for 5 nights for 20,000 points.  Or, if you are lucky enough to find an off peak category 1 hotel with PointSavers rates, you could book 5 nights for 16,000 points.  In exchange, you’ll get 5 elite nights.  Note that you do have to check into the hotel to get credit.  If you don’t plan to stay all 5 nights, I recommend that you discuss your plan with the hotel manager since they may check you out early if they see that you’re not there.
  5. Choice Benefit: 5 Elite Night Credits.  This is a weird one.  You won’t have access to this Choice Benefit until you’ve earned 50 elite nights, and the 5 elite nights can only be applied to the same calendar year in which you earned the Choice Benefit selection.  Therefore, the only good uses for this option are to help you get to Titanium Elite or Ambassador Elite status, or to increase your lifetime elite night count.  Learn more about Choice Benefits here.

Once you earn elite status this year, your status will be good for the rest of this year, all of the next, and through February of the year after that.

Advantages to elite night shortcuts (as opposed to all-at-once shortcuts below):

All-At-Once Shortcuts

The following shortcuts will get you to a specific elite level, but you can’t stack them with elite nights to get higher status.

  1. Credit card Gold status.  The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card and the Ritz-Carlton Card (no longer available to new applicants) both offer automatic Marriott Gold status.  Similarly Amex Platinum cards offer free Gold status (you must enroll).
  2. Spend $75K for Platinum. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card and the Ritz-Carlton Card (no longer available to new applicants) offer Platinum Elite status with $75K spend.  With the Bonvoy Brilliant card, the spend must be within a calendar year whereas the Ritz card spend must be within your membership year.
  3. Marriott Platinum Elite Challenge. Earn Platinum status by completing 16 paid nights at Marriott properties within 90 days of enrolling in the challenge.  Please note that award nights do not count.  Call Marriott Bonvoy to enroll.  You cannot enroll in the Platinum challenge if you already have Platinum status or higher.
  4. Timeshare Ownership: Marriott Vacation Club and Vistana are timeshare ownership programs affiliated with Marriott, and each offers elite status under certain conditions.
  5. United MileagePlus Premier Gold or higher status: Via RewardsPlus, United elite’s with Gold status or higher get Marriott Gold.

Disadvantages to all-at-once shortcuts:

  • Earning one level of status doesn’t help you get to the next. For example, if your Amex Platinum credit card gives you Gold status, you’re just as far from earning Platinum status as someone with no status at all.
  • You won’t earn Choice Benefits.
  • You won’t make progress towards lifetime status elite nights (but you will add lifetime elite years).

My Take

If you stay often in Marriott hotels and if you can find a way to use the above techniques to get to Platinum status or higher without spending too much extra money or points, I recommend doing so.  In some circumstances it can be worth short-cutting all the way to Titanium status.  This can be particularly worthwhile if you don’t think you’ll re-qualify for Platinum next year.  By qualifying now for Titanium, you’ll have Titanium status for the rest of this year and all of the next.  Then, in the year after that, Marriott is likely to give you a “soft landing” to Platinum status so that you can enjoy Platinum perks for another year.

Shortcut Graveyard

The following shortcuts are no longer available:

  • Host a meeting in order to earn 10 elite nights [DEAD]
  • Birthday Elite Night Credit [PAUSED: Let’s hope this comes back!]
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