I've been lurking for some time, but finally decided to reach out. I recently took a job which requires me to travel for about 5-10 nights per month in California, and I've been trying to plan ways to maximize my rewards. As a current platinum member of Hyatt and Diamond with MGM's Mlife program, I've been loyal to their hotels, but the region I'm travelling to only has Marriotts (I'm a fan, but just haven't been in locations that have Marriotts available or simply couldn't pass up the rewards from my other programs). I've been reading through some of the different aspects of the Marriott rewards program and trying to figure out how to optimize both my rewards, bonus points, etc.
I'm not currently interested in obtaining a credit card to earn rewards, as I use a corporate card for all my travels and expenses, but I am intrigued by the gold/platinum challenges. Are these restricted to only holders of Marriott Rewards credit cards? I'm currently booked to stay 3 nights this coming Monday so I wanted to plan accordingly.
In addition, I book my hotels through hotels.com (In order to earn free nights after 10 stays) and didn't see any official disadvantages to this or advantages through the Marriott website I would be missing so hopefully I'm not messing up there!
Also, any other tips to start earning with Marriott, maintain my various statuses, and optimize my earnings would be greatly appreciated!
The Gold/Platinum challenges are open to all Rewards Members but only one level below the challenge. For example, to participate in the Gold challenge, you'll need to be Silver. For Platinum, you'll need to start as Gold. Sounds like you'll reach Silver fairly quickly, so I'd wait until then. Getting to Gold quickly would be my strategy.
The credit card is one of the best ways to maximize earning, so you'll be missing out there. Take advantage of promotions like MegaBonus for bonus points during certain periods. We're in the middle of one now and it may be too late to sign up, but this is usually one from Feb 1 - Apr 30. Watch for that.
I'm not sure about the hotel.com issue. Others have found some 3rd party booking sites prevent stays from qualifying for rewards points or elite night credit. I don't know if hotel.com is such a site, but I would be wary. A phone call to Marriott Rewards customer service might save you the disappointment of discovering afterwards that such stays don't count. Again, I'm not sure, so were I in your position, I'd find out from Marriott directly. That way there are no surprises. In general, booking through Marriott is probably a better option (at least as far as Marriott Rewards earning is concerned).
Good luck and keep us informed of how things work out.
Welcome to the forums, travelingaroundcali, hope to see much more of you in the future.
Now to answer your questions, I think it's first worthwhile pointing out that Marriott is not for the fainthearted, but if you are prepared to go "all in" virtually all the stats I've seen confirm it has the best "earn and burn" (free hotel nights to spend ratio) in comparison to any of the other big schemes, Hilton, IHG, or SPG. As a straightforward member you'll earn 10 points per $ spent (except at Residence Inn and Towneplace Suites where it's 5 per $) but as you've rightly identified, Gold and Plat is where the meat of Marriott Rewards lie, Silver whilst requiring only 10 nights stays offers little above the 20% points bonus. Gold takes 50 nights but is very worthwhile, not for the extra 5% points which add only half a point to each $ spent, but for its Full Service (Marriott, Renaissance, Autograph and JW Marriott) hotel perks which include guaranteed lounge access, free 7-day week free breakfast and possible room upgrades (though beware as a Hyatt guest used to suites, you'll find suite upgrades a pretty rare occurrence here, I'm averaging about 8%). Make it to 75 nights and you'll reach Platinum the 3 benefits of which are 48-hour guaranteed availability, 25% extra points (total 15 points per $ spent) and an arrival gift of 500 points or $10 F&B at Full Service hotels, 1000 points at Ritz, 400 and a market item at Courtyards and 200/250 points at the most of the remaining brands.
As bejacob has rightly pointed out challenges are only available from Silver to Gold, or from Gold to Plat. Once fullfilled they last till for a year after the next February. So take a Gold challenge in January 2016 and make the stays to fulfill it in March and you'll be awarded Gold till end Feb 2018. If you do it now Gold will only last till Feb 2017. How relevant that is depends on how confident you are of reaching the nights to renew. Obviously you do need to get to Silver and I would advise that your Hotel.com booking will NOT qualify for Marriott Rewards purposes, you'll not receive points or nights credit. This is because all OTA (online travel agents) reservations are specifically excluded from qualifying.
I realise you're reluctant to consider the credit cards, even though the fee-paid US credit card with Chase gives signing on points, 5 points per $ spent at Marriotts and 1 night towards qualification (EQN) for each $3,000 spent, but I would urge you to consider the basic free card which gives 10 EQN upon acceptance and immediately makes you silver meaning a you can ask for a Gold challenge very quickly. And with that card you can can just put it in your drawer and collect the annual 10 EQN, if that's what you want. The Gold challenge is making 6 stays in 3 months, so not too demanding. My advice is once you get to silver, make a host of bookings for the next few weeks and then call the Marriott line asking for "a taste of gold challenge". That gives you instant gold whilst you undertake the challenge, but it's not often offered. The commonly offered alternative is the "road to Gold challenge" where Gold is awarded after the stays are completed. The requirements are the same for the taste as the road.
And of course, finally with the announcement this week that Marriott is to take over Starwood, that should increase your stay options too!
Finally, please do update us as things go along
As a total newcomer to Marriott Rewards Insider (I joined today), this information provided has been extremely useful to me, even though it wasn't aimed at myself.
Your detailed and helpful pointers has allowed me, as a UK resident, to realise what I need to do to move up the ladder, and how I can move forward. Although Marriott properties are not as numerous here in the UK, there are a few, including a handful of the "new" Courtyard properties (I say "new" as in the brand is a relative newcomer to the UK).
Anyway, many thanks again.
Another Brit joins the ranks, welcome wottravel
AS a Brit, the numbers are difficult to get to at Marriott, but Gold, which works best at Full Service properties, works especially well here as we only have 2-non-full-service hotels nationwide, namely the new Courtyards at Gatwick and Aberdeen airports. Gold is well worth the effort as there's relatively few of us at Gold/Plat, upgrades are a given maybe 90% of the time, full breakfast is usually honoured 7 days a week instead of being restricted to the mandated continental and all Marriotts with lounges have free beer and wine happy hours.
HOwever, like Hilton, Marriott isn't omnipresent around the UK, so if you're travelling to smaller towns and cities you'll need another scheme, and I find IHG a very good backup, benefits arent so good and the points not as valuable, but there's Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn Expresses everywhere. Not exciting but it does plug the Marriott gaps around here and there are plenty of them!
Lastly, Insiders, I'm a regular around here so do give me a shoutout if you need any info. Love this site and its American focus, as you'll see our American cousins are fascinating, and very friendly. There's also a smattering of other Brits (fistuk and Tommo781 are both active). Theres also our random ranting waffleholic old guy misterchk, it's best to be quiet around his cage as surprises are inclined to upset his teeth! And of course we also have the obligatory millenial, Jsucool76 for which I apologise!
SO if you can make the 50 nights at Marriott for Gold, or 75 for Plat, this is a very worthwhile scheme. Indeed I've always been very happy with my choice, and after 9 years am only 140 nights short of Lifetime Platinum.
Thank you very much for such a warm welcome to this group.
Your insights are greatly appreciated and will be referred to fairly often, if not only for myself, but if I need to assist any of my clients.
Although I've worked as a travel agent for over thirty years now, it's impossible to try every hotel (much that it would be wonderful), it's through interaction with people like your good self that I can learn more, and keep learning too.
I'm familiar with both of the Courtyard properties, as I book them for clients. I hear they aren't bad at all. My last full-service Marriott stay was some ten years ago, at the property at Windsor/Slough, along the M4 corridor. I remember it was very tired and I haven't stayed at one since.
I had noticed the lack of Marriott & other brand properties in the UK, but am happy to try them out when a visit allows.
I'm a Gold member of IHG, and just attained Diamond at Hilton, as I mentioned in my first email. My preference is for Hilton, and as you rightly say, IHG fills in the gaps. Marriott does has some interesting properties, including one in Twickenham, which overlooks the rugby stadium. I'm going to need to travel up to Aberdeen in January (so will take a look at the Courtyard hotel there.
I'm glad to see that there are a few other Brits on here and look forward to interacting with you all.
Thanks once again for your really helpful insights and here's wishing you safe travels, wherever you may go.
Oh, if you are wondering why a travel agent is a member of various programmes, it's because I prefer the benefits of a programme, instead of expecting reduced or free nights, that a few of my fellow travel agents think should be given to them. Plus, it gives me first hand guest experience as an unsubsidised guest.
HoHo, I had a similar run-down experience at a couple of Hilton's I stayed at about 10-or-so years ago, went to Marriottt and never looked back.
Interesting/excellent Marriotts around here include the Preston (former Victorian manor), Birmingham (formerly the cities only 5-star, retaining many original features), Durham (next to the footbridge leading to the gothic city centre), Manchester V&A (converted 18th century warehouse), Swansea (next to beach and indoor waterpark), Bournemouth Highcliff (with a flight of stairs leading down the cliff to the beach) and the London properties at Twickenham, West India Quay, St Pancras, Grosvenor House, County Hall and the airport hotel with a legitimate claim to the best runway views in the world, the Heathrow Renaissance which has just completed a top-to-toe refurb and excellent exec lounge. Strong exec lounges include Edinburgh, Newcastle Gosforth, Leeds, Cardiff and all the London Marriotts. Finally there's the Country clubs, particular gems are Edinburgh (historic building), Worsley Park (great restaurant and historic pub on the grounds), Hollins Hall (great rates and scenic golfcourse) and Breadsall Priory (oldest Marriott in the world).
As previously mentioned, a status challenge is your best bet. Getting to silver is relatively easy (10 nights) but OTA booking don't count.
One thing that may or may not be possible (depends on the rep you get) would be seeing if you can get matched to silver status on the spot (citing your Hyatt Platinum status) this will at least get you a few extra points for your stays before 2016 and then you can start a gold challenge in January.