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Hotel status is something that I have enjoyed over the past few years of traveling. Unlike airline status, the cost of obtaining hotel status can easily make sense.
(SEE ALSO: How to do a hotel status match at every chain)
For instance, even if you only have a couple Hilton stays per year, holding the American Express Hilton Ascend card will give you Gold status with the chain, which offers free breakfast. This benefit can easily be worth the $75 (now $95) annual fee. Not bad at all.
How to earn status the easy way
The above route is one easy way to “hack” hotel status. There are other cards that offer status as a perk, including the IHG Mastercard, the Hyatt Visa, and the Marriott Rewards Premier card, among others. The cost/benefit ratio is arguably the best for the Hilton cards, but other brands could be useful as well.
You can also earn status through spending on certain cards (most notably the Marriott, SPG, and Hilton cards), and by promotions. There are also status matches, which is how I’ve held Hilton Diamond for 2 years). I’ve also matched to Best Western status, which is a super easy standing offer. The last routes is via status challenges.
A status challenge is where you are able to earn status via an alternate qualification than “normal” status. This is typically by staying a fewer number of times or a reduced number of nights. Hyatt ran a promotion where members could earn either Globalist or Explorist via an easier qualification route last fall.
Marriott happens to have standing status challenges. And unlike an airline elite status challenge, you don’t have to have equivalent status with another chain to sign up for a Marriott Platinum challenge. But…there are some other intricacies you should be aware of.
How to sign up for a Marriott Platinum challenge
You may not have even known that a standing Marriott Platinum status challenge currently exists. But it does. Check out the Rewards Insiders forums. The status challenge info isn’t published. If you inquire with Marriott, though, they will respond to you with the details.
Before you decide to sign up for a Marriott Platinum challenge, there is one critical detail to understand: to qualify for a Marriott Platinum status challenge, you must already hold Gold status with Marriott. Why? I don’t know. This seems weird, but Marriott apparently only allows one-tier challenges. See this post by Live and Let’s Fly and the forums for reference. The easiest way (although expensive) to get Gold status is to hold an American Express Platinum card. Once you have your starting point figured settled, here are the rest of the details:
The challenge window is 3 months, starting the month following the one during which you sign up. At least that is what I was given, and I’ve seen other reports of the same. I requested info on the challenge on 2/22, and the email response indicated that the window would run from the date of acceptance through through May 31. This gives me 97 days to complete the challenge.
During this period you have to accumulate nine separate paid stays. The definition of stay is what you would expect: any number of consecutive nights at one property constitutes one stay. You also have to book directly and the stay must be booked in your name. You cannot book third party.
If you complete the challenge terms within the window, your status is upgraded for the remainder of the year and the following year, exactly as if you’d earned Platinum the arduous way. Upon completion, my Marriott Platinum status will expire at the end of January 2020. The email also states that the challenge will be effective within 3 business days of acceptance. Mine was confirmed within 1, however.
I decided to sign up for a Marriott Platinum challenge when I knew that my work travel could result in a good number of stays. I knocked out 6 stays during my first ten days of the challenge, and 2 more on a subsequent trip. Now I’m sitting one night away from completing it, which will be entirely worth it, even if I have to plan a “mattress run.”
The other challenges (Gold and Silver) are analogous. They simply require fewer nights. Since there are other fairly easy ways to earn these statuses (Marriott credit card for silver, SPG credit card plus 5 SPG nights for Gold and match to Marriott), I don’t recommend pursuing them.
Benefits of Marriott Platinum status
Marriott Platinum offers 50% bonus points on paid stays (up from 25% with gold), an arrival gift, late check out, 48-hour guaranteed room availability, guaranteed room type, and complimentary room upgrades, among other benefits. Unlike other chains, the room upgrade is not guaranteed (i.e. it appears to be at the hotel’s discretion). However, reports I’ve read is that Platinum is definitely treated as a step up from Gold, and hotels will sometimes offer suite upgrades. You can read the details here.
One of the biggest benefits of Marriott Platinum status is the ability to match to SPG Platinum (while it lasts). Starwood is known for giving great upgrades to Platinum members, so we will be sure to enjoy this. Even though we are fresh out of SPG points after burning them on a Marriott travel package, I’ll have plenty of time to earn some for a few stays within the next 18+ months I’ll hold the status.
Other ways to hack Marriott Platinum status
If completing nine stays is a hurdle for you, there are other ways to potentially augment earning the status. One is signing up for the Ritz Carlton Rewards card and spending $75,000 on it in a year. Honestly, if that is appealing to you, consider the opportunity cost of putting that same $75,000 on the SPG card. Suddenly, a 9-night mattress run for the challenge might be the better choice.
You can also earn elite night credits with the Marriott credit cards. For simply having the card, you receive 15 nights toward elite credit every year. If you get both the business and personal versions, this gives you 30 nights. After that, you earn another elite night for every $3,000 you spend on the card, which means you can earn Platinum after spending $135,000 on your Marriott card(s). Yeah. It’s an option. But not a good one.
Still, if you don’t typically have nine stays within 3 months, but do have a few longer stays, the credit card route is probably the best way to augment your path to Platinum.
Finally, you can also earn 10 nights of elite credit by hosting a meeting at a Marriott property.
At this point I have one stay left to finish the challenge, but I don’t have it planned, so I don’t know my timeline to completion. I’ll update this once I finish.
If you’re interested, it’s pretty easy to sign up for a Marriott Platinum challenge. If you can swing it, now is the best time, as you’ll also earn Starwood Platinum, probably through the end of the SPG program (ok…that is my own speculation).
Featured image courtesy of Marriott.