Hello marriottbear, and welcome to the Insiders forum!
Just as you have done here, the Insiders community is an excellent resource for folks like yourself to ask questions, share insights, provide recommendations, and engage in fruitful conversation about all things Marriott Rewards and travel. The community is a tightly knit group of awesome and helpful road warriors that are actively seeking opportunities to share; it's great stuff.
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Regarding your post, I think your best bet would be to contact customer support and inquire. They may sign you up from there. The number to contact is below:
Hope this helps, and welcome to the forum!
Yes. A challenge is only good to increase one level. At Silver, you could do a Gold challenge, but not a Platinum one. If Gold is not too far away, it might be worth waiting to achieve that before asking for a challenge as you can only do one per year. If not, try for a Gold challenge. Most of the best benefits start at the Gold level anyway.
To answer the original question, a Platinum challenge usually entails making 9 stays over a three month period. As a reminder a stay is defined as one or more consecutive nights at the same property. Nine 1-night stays work just as well as 9 multiple night stays as far a completing the challenge.
To participate, Gold elite members can request a Platinum challenge by calling MR customer service. Occasionally folks are told that challenges aren't available. The best thing to do in such a case is to wait a day or two and call back. Since most challenges begin on the 1st of the month, it can be beneficial to call during the last half of the month since sometimes you can get stays made during that time added to challenge (essentially getting a bit more than 3 months to complete the stays). This doesn't always happen, so don't be disappointed if you have to wait until the beginning of the following month to start.
Platinum challenges are designed to get Gold elite members who will likely earn Platinum by year's end to make a few extra stays to earn the higher status a bit early. Also remember that if you complete a Platinum challenge in 2015, you will remain Platinum until February 2017 even if you don't reach 75 nights by the end of the year. To keep it beyond 2017, you will need to earn 75 nights in 2016 or buy back your status for 40k points in early 2017.
It's worth the effort to complete a Platinum challenge. I reached Platinum this way in June last year and didn't hit 75 nights until November meaning I had 5 months at Platinum I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. While the overall benefits of Platinum over Gold aren't huge, there are a few perks that are nice, especially the bump in points earning.
"Nine 1-night stays work just as well as 9 multiple night stays as far a completing the challenge."
Yeah, and why is that? Same with Platinum bonus or any promotion. Seems to me that 1 nine-night stay is actually better for Marriott than 9 one-night stays. Less room cleaning and prep for a new customer every night.
I think they should count nights rather than stays for all their promotions.
But then nobody listens to me.
The stay vs. nights rule demonstrates "loyalty". One single stay of 9 nights and then a bunch of Hilton stays doesn't really show loyalty to Marriott. Nine different Marriott stays goes to the member demonstrating loyalty beyond a one time location centric stay at a single Marriott. Chances are a few of the stays will be for more than one night...