[Noob Contributor, Ethan, discusses Marriott Status. Enjoy!]
I like having hotel status because it can make my stay more comfortable, save me $$$, make me feel like a VIP, and impress my wife (most importantly). Plus, there are easy ways to achieve hotel status. You can either sign up for a hotel rewards card (gasp), status match, accumulate paid stays (what?), or through rewards card spending.
Hotel Elite Status Series
Marriott has 3 status levels, but first let’s look at some of the highlights of basic benefits from Marriott Rewards:
- Earn Points or Airline Miles
- 5th redemption night free
- Rate discounts
- Priority Check-in
There are a lot more listed on their website, but these are the big highlights. The elite benefits kick in once you hit 10 nights. Each level also has its own “exclusive offers” and “customized rewards” in addition to the benefits listed on this webpage and below:
Silver Status (10 Nights)
- 20% Bonus on points for stays
- Elite Reservation/Guest Services Line
- Ultimate Reservation Guarantee
- Priority late checkout
- Weekend discount
- Gift shop discount
Gold Status (50 Nights)
- 25% Bonus on points for stays
- Free Internet Access
- Room Upgrade
- Guaranteed Room Type
- Guaranteed Breakfast/Lounge Access [sometimes, more on that later]
- Hertz #1 Gold membership
Platinum Status (75 Nights)
- 50% Bonus on points for stays
- 48 Hour Guaranteed Availability
- Dedicated Platinum Reservation Line
- Guaranteed Platinum Arrival Gift
Overall, pretty standard rewards for a hotel elite program. Here’s my beef with Marriott: they have more exceptions than they do rules. Take a look at this photo of their footnotes from the elite page:
That’s insanity! I didn’t include the footnotes, but one of the big things is the breakfast/lounge is limited to JW Marriott, Renaissance, Autograph Collection, and Marriott Hotels & Resorts (but not available at resort locations). In my opinion, breakfast for free is one of the biggest values you can get out of elite status with hotels. Unfortunately Marriott severely restricts this access, most notably with their popular Courtyard brand not being included. Some of the other brands offer a free breakfast, but Courtyards are the most widespread with breakfast available that you must pay for. Most of the other footnotes are explanations or restrictions for hotel brand or location, and can be seen on the website.
I got Marriott Gold status recently through a targeted promotion where I had made 4 paid stays in about a month’s time. I think it’s pretty cool that they make an effort to get you used to elite status when you start traveling a lot, to hook you in.
However, in my 3 Marriott stays since then, I’ve had multiple issues. First, they did not credit me elite stays when the room was paid for by a 3rd party (a soccer tournament I was attending). The hotel staff said I would receive elite nights, and not points, which made sense. However it is their policy, not a mistake, to not credit elite stays for “stays in another name (even that of a friend or family member), stays booked as part of a group or package, or stays booked and paid through a third party.” I think that’s ridiculous, as you are still completing the stay at the hotel and no one is earning points.
Second, they also wouldn’t allow me to check out late, which is supposed to be a perk at the silver elite level. I understand they had high volumes (peak season in Orlando), but allowing a gold elite member to check out at 1pm rather than 11am is hardly going to affect them, and is poor form. Thirdly, no breakfast at a Courtyard, which caught me by surprise, but is in fact in the fine print. The most recent time was at a full service Marriott, where my Gold status was never acknowledged, but this was more of a service issue than anything else.
I think you can see I’ve been less than overwhelmed with Marriott status, but I’ll give them a few more stays to sort it out before I switch my loyalty.
Chase offers the Marriott Rewards® Credit Card. It comes with a 50,000 point & 1 free category 1-4 night as a bonus, though there are ways to get a better bonus. Right now, there is a targeted 70,000 point bonus (no mention of the 70k offer on the landing page). If you go to the Mariott website and do a “dummy booking” of a room, you should see a link for a 50,000 point + $75 statement credit that gets you a good deal if you can’t find the 70,000 offer.
Here are the details:
- $0 first year, $85 annual fee following year
- Anniversary certificate for 1 night (category 1-5)
- 5x per dollar/Marriott Hotels
- 2x per dollar/dining
- 1x per dollar/everything else
- 15 night credits toward Elite status
The anniversary certificate more than pays for the annual fee, as in some locations category 4 and 5 hotels can be north of $200 a night.
Marriott will give a status challenge that they call “Taste of Silver/Gold/Platinum.” They will temporarily grant you status, and then you must fulfill requirements in order to keep that status the rest of the year. You have 3 full months plus the remainder of the month in which you signed up to complete the challenge, so it’s best to challenge right after the first of the month.
Marriott requires stays, and not nights for a successful challenge, so it’s better to make 1 night stays at different properties if you’re trying to meet a challenge.
The requirements are:
- Silver: 3 stays
- Gold: 6 stays
- Platinum: 9 stays
As I mentioned before, Marriott also offers targeted promotions occasionally. Mine offered Gold status for 4 stays in a 1 month period. Almost like the challenge, except that I didn’t have Gold status while I was completing the stays, which may explain the lower requirement.
Here is the Marriott Award Chart, organized into hotel categories:
You can also redeem Marriott points at Ritz-Carlton properties at these rates:
All redemptions on Marriott give you the 5th night free if you book 4 nights. The PointSavers rewards are valid at a list of locations which change and can be found here. They also offer Seasonal awards at select locations, which can be seen on this page.
I’m still a Noob in Marriott’s program, but their treatment of me as an elite has yet to impress. They also have some of the highest threshold requirements for elite status of any of the hotel programs, and have a lot of exceptions. They do have really good promotions however, and I was able to get 3 free nights by making 6 stays during the winter MegaBonus promotion, and hope to do the same on the MegaBonus that just started.
Despite my troubles, I’m sticking with them for now, if for no other reason than Marriotts are everywhere. But, so are Hiltons and some others, so if I continue to have trouble I might switch and try Hilton, or Hyatt (since Geoff is so in love with them). Marriott Rewards could be the right program for you, and I certainly have enjoyed Marriott properties.
— Noob MasterRead More
[Noob Contributor, Ethan, lets us in on the most recent Southwest promotion!]
Southwest has two AWESOME promotions right now!
The first is a “LUV is in the Air” fare sale which is only good through THURSDAY of this week!
The fares are good every day but Sunday on select routes, from April 3 through June 8 (with some blackout dates scattered throughout. Personally this is going to save me a lot of money, and I hope you can get some benefit out of it! Remember since there are no change fees on Southwest, if you already have some travel booked during this time frame you should see if it’s cheaper!
The second promotion is equally awesome: DOUBLE POINTS for travel booked and completed between now and May 25!
That means that you now get 24 Rapid Rewards points per dollar on Business Select fares, 20x on Anytime fares, and 12x on Wanna Get Away fares. This is double the normal amounts of 12x, 10x, and 6x, respectively.
First, you have to register for the promotion at this link. Not only must you travel during the promotion period but you must book your travel in order to get double points. I actually cancelled and rebooked a couple of flights I had because the points made up the slight difference in cost! Remember Southwest points have a fixed cost of $0.0169, so you can do some math and figure out whether that works for you.
The extra points do not count toward A-List or Companion Pass, unless you’re flying to Milwaukee! So if you have an excuse to visit Milwaukee (or live in Milwaukee and fly from there!), you’ll enjoy double Tier points! But the rest of us will just have to deal with our double Rapid Rewards points without the bump to tier status.
If you were thinking about a trip, between April 3 and May 15 might be the time to do it, because you’ll get low fares and double points! But remember you have to book by Thursday to get in on the fare sale!
— Noob MasterRead More
[Noob contributor, Ethan, shares his experience traveling from Houston to Frankfurt. Enjoy!]
Part 1: United BusinessFirst Review IAH-FRA
Part 2: “Working the System” on Lufthansa
This post isn’t about free travel in the miles and points way, but it did become a free trip halfway through. More on that in a bit. Over the Thanksgiving break, I surprised my girlfriend with a trip to Germany to propose! Keeping an international trip a secret is no easy task, but it worked out. She was surprised, and she said, “yes!” But that’s not what this post is about.
I booked us seats in business class from Houston to Frankfurt, because business seats are cheap over the week of Thanksgiving, due to the lack of business travel during the holiday week. Business class tickets that normally go for around $5,500 sell for under $2,000! I paid about $1,800 each for our tickets direct from Houston to Frankfurt on United on the outbound, and back on Lufthansa (because I wanted to fly on the A380).
United BusinessFirst Review IAH-FRA
I’m a relative noob to international business class travel, so I don’t have too much to compare the experience with. But I can be a snob with the best of them. United’s BusinessFirst product is very spacious, with a lot of storage area and plenty of room to move about.
For our predeparture beverage, I had a scotch and my fiancée had some wine.
Here’s the menu, with a little of the German for those nerds like me out there:
First came the serving of warmed nuts with drinks:
Then the bread – the first of many. There was bread service between every course, and the selection was excellent. I especially enjoyed the pretzel bread:
Notice the tiny salt and pepper shakers. I was a fan of these.
The salad course was…salad. Pretty straight-forward, but very fresh. The cold appetizers were good, and they had plenty to allow you to take a sampling.
I chose the fish, which was decent, but a little salty. I don’t know if I’d order it again.
My fiancée chose the chicken, which was excellent. I definitely stole some of it. The garlic polenta cake had an interesting flavor to it, but all quite good.
After some cheese and port, came the best part: the world-famous sundae cart. Such a simple thing, but it was really cool to have your choice of ice cream toppings on an airplane. It also helped that the Flight Attendant was nice enough to take a great photo for me. Our FAs were on an extended holiday (5 day layover) on this trip, so they were very excited as well.
The seats lay completely flat, even comfortable enough for me at over 6 feet tall. I had no trouble sleeping, though one tip I would have if you haven’t flown on lie-flats: reposition yourself after you lay the bed flat. If you try to lay in the same spot where you were sitting, it won’t be as comfortable.
The flight attendants had asked ahead of time if we wanted to be awakened for breakfast. I don’t understand why you would turn that down. For breakfast there was fruit, cinnamon rolls, yogurt, and a scrambled egg and sausage plate that was very good.
Shortly after finishing breakfast, we arrived in Frankfurt! A successful beginning to the trip! I really enjoy landing at FRA, because of the large numbers of huge airplanes that frequent the airport, since it’s Lufthansa’s worldwide hub.
I really enjoyed flying United’s BusinessFirst product. I’m led to understand that there are better business class products out there, but those will have to be tried later. Our flight attendants were great, and the entire experience was enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this as a great option. Remember to book over Thanksgiving, should the cheap fares return (or use your miles)!
Of course, there are ways this could turn out to be truly free… stay tuned to find out what happened!
— Noob MasterRead More