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Why I’m Sticking With My Marriott Gold Status

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There are good reasons why the Marriott Reward program may not be for everyone. But I’m keeping my Marriott Gold status this year for a few reasons. In Gary’s article today, he lays out the numerous drawbacks in the Marriott elite program. While I agree with most of his points, I find the Marriott program still has value, even at the Gold elite level.

Last year I enjoyed Marriott Platinum status via the challenge. Platinum status was obtained after completing the challenge in a city where Marriott was the primary full service hotel. The hotel began to greet me by name and took great care of me as a Platinum member, even blocking the same room every week. Sure, I had already achieved Starwood Platinum status and was well on my way to achieving top tier Hyatt status, but I like the Marriott Rewards program for two main reasons. I maintain Marriott Gold status for their club lounge consistency and ability to redeem points at a Ritz Carlton.

Two Main Reasons I Retain Marriott Gold Status

Reason 1) Marriott Club Lounge

I have to be honest when comparing Starwood and Hyatt’s breakfast benefit and suite upgrade policy. At a business property, scrambled eggs, coffee, toast, diet coke and juice are the pretty close at just about any full service hotel.

Sure, the breakfast at the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, and Park Hyatt Tokyo is amazing. But not all travel is to luxury hotels. The breakfast benefit is part of the reason I retain Hyatt Diamond status. But how much better is Hyatt’s breakfast buffet in say Lexington Kentucky, or even Starwood’s ~$15 a la carte continental breakfast at the W New York?

Marriott’s club lounge is also open in the evening for light snacks, water and other refreshments. Marriott’s club lounges are consistent in that they at least have a lounge in (most of) their full scale properties. The same can’t be said for Hyatt or Starwood.

Reason 2) Free Nights At Ritz Carlton Hotels

The main reason I maintain Marriott status is to earn enough points to redeem at Ritz Carlton properties.

Redeeming points for free nights in a dream hotel helps take the sting out of spending so many nights on the road. The most important thing for us is being able to use free nights in Ritz Carlton hotels that we would have not other wise paid the going rate.

Our experience at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua was very nice as a Marriott Platinum member. We redeemed 200,000 points for a base terrace level room a few years ago. When we arrived, our status was recognized and we were offered a ocean view suite with a view. On another instance, we were offered a partial ocean view room at the Hotel Arts Barcelona. In both cases, we received benefits beyond what was stated in the program terms and conditions.

Kapalua Entrance

Kapalua Suite Entrance

Kapalua Bed

Kapalua Suite Bedroom

Kapalua View

Kapalua Suite View

Kapalua Pool

Ritz Kapalua Pool

Hotel Arts Bed

Hotel Arts Bedroom

Hotel Arts View

Hotel Arts View

Other Marriott Gold Benefits Don’t Mean Much To Me

Other Marriott Gold benefits don’t really mean that much. To begin with, look how many footnotes there are for each of the benefits. Free internet access is good. But how much does an upgrade to a corner suite in say Greenville mean if you only spend 6 hours in the room? With most mobile phone programs having unlimited plans, the local phone benefit is a joke.

The only two that matter to me are earning more points towards stays at Ritz Carlton hotels and getting free lounge access for morning breakfast and the occasional chance I can make it back to the hotel in time for an evening snack.

  • Free Internet Access ***
  • Room upgrade ¶¶¶
  • Guaranteed room type † ** †††
  • Guaranteed lounge access/breakfast §§§
  • Free local phone & and free local fax ¶ &
  • Discounted long-distance phone calls §§§ &
  • Hertz #1 Gold membership
  • 25% bonus on points for stays ¶¶
  • Gold customized rewards

Bottom Line

Everyone has their own reasons for selecting a hotel loyalty program. For me, Marriott Gold status makes a great third tier program for it’s partnership with Ritz Carlton and it’s consistent club lounges at full service hotels.

As a business traveler, sometimes a Marriott hotel is the only decent option in a city. Other times, the Hyatt and Starwoods of the world don’t have a lounge or a decent breakfast option. Repeat customers at Marriott hotels are treated well, often receiving the best rooms and providing special treatment, sometimes they’ll even comp Platinum status for you and your associates.

Don’t get me wrong, by no means is Marriott my first or second choice in elite programs. If they didn’t have an affiliation with Ritz Carlton to redeem hard earned points, they wouldn’t even be on my radar.

The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card comes with a 50,000 point signup bonus and no annual fee the first year, $85 value. You can also earn a quick 15 Marriott nights every year on your account anniversary. Then you can also earn an elite night for every $3,000 in spend you put on the card. You’ll also get a free night in a category 1-4 hotel after approval and a free night in a category 1-5 every year at your account anniversary. The 15 nights and free category 5 night easily cover the $85 annual which doesn’t start until year two anyway.

The Marriott Rewards Credit Card comes with a 30,000 point signup bonus and no annual fee the first year, $45 value. You can also earn a quick 10 Marriott nights every year on your account anniversary. Then you can also earn an elite night for every $3,000 in spend you put on the card. You’ll also get two free nights in a category 1-4 hotel after approval.

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

  • 50,000 bonus points after first purchase
  • Plus 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-4 location after account approval
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • 5 points for every $1 spent at over 3,500 Marriott locations
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies & restaurants
  • 1 point for every $1 spent on purchases anywhere else
  • Unlimited Point Accumulation
  • 15 Nights Credit toward your next Elite membership level every year upon account anniversary
  • Earn 1 Elite Night Credit for every $3,000 spent
  • Plus receive an anniversary bonus of one free night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year!
  • Annual fee waived for the first year, $85 value
  • Apply for the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

Marriott Rewards Credit Card

  • 30,000 points after first purchase
  • Plus 2 Free Night Stays at a Category 1-4 location after account approval
  • 3 points for every $1 spent at over 3,500 Marriott locations
  • 1 point for every $1 spent on purchases anywhere else
  • Unlimited Point Accumulation
  • 10 Nights Credit toward your next Elite membership level every year upon account anniversary
  • Earn 1 Elite Night Credit for every $3,000 spent
  • Annual fee waived for the first year, $45 value
  • Apply for the Marriott Rewards Credit Card

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

About the Author

About the author: The Weekly Flyer is writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Adam March 25, 2012, 10:37 am

    I agree with your general points about Marriott. Platinum offers little above Gold. Gold is pretty decent – I value Internet too – though not spectacular.
    As for your example, however, the Hyatt Lexington has a very good breakfast buffet. It includes an omelette station, very tasty pancakes, and a good variety of fruit, including dried fruit. It’s well above pretty close. If you want the “standard” option, use the Hyatt Louisville.

  • glenn March 25, 2012, 12:58 pm

    I can never understand why bloggers and podcast like Upgrd are so down on Marriott. I have always had good experience even in the “resort” level hotels such as being upgraded to a suite. I paid points for my daughter and her four friends to stay at the Miami Beach Marriott this week and the room was upgraded plus they were all given free access to the Concierge Lounge even though I am the Platinum. And the main thing for me – Marriott is everywhere – unlike Hyatt or Starwood.

  • Steve Kalman March 25, 2012, 3:33 pm

    I am lifetime Platinum (more than 10 yrs as earned plat).

    Like you, the main benefit is the lounge, tho I have occasionally taken advantage of the 48 hour guaranteed reservation availability in otherwise sold out venues.

    The main reason I keep coming back to Marriott is their consistent customer service. Whoever set up their training program for front desk people did a great job. I can report many occasions when a staff member went out of the way to assist me or someone traveling on my points. I like being recognized as a returning guest.

  • Matt March 25, 2012, 4:06 pm

    I too dropped from Platinum to Gold with Marriott and still value it for lounge.
    access. Though I wish lounges were open on weekends like at some Hilton
    properties.

  • Matt March 25, 2012, 6:34 pm

    Glen,
    For the 75nights required for Marriott Platinum, if your stay pattern is a lot of 1-nighters like mine, you can very nearly be top-tier with starwood, Hyatt, and Hilton.

    The hotels may be fine, but the qualification requirements are just so far out of sync with the competition, and the published benefits are much lower.

  • E.K. March 27, 2012, 4:06 pm

    I am RC Gold and when I redeemed points for a five nighter at RC Grande Lakes to take my family to Disney, I was supposed to receive an upgrade and never did after three phone calls and two desk inquiries; RC Elite line confirmed it had automatically been requested for me but the front desk wanted to sell me an upgrade instead. Glad you had better luck in Hawaii. Hilton on the other hand has consistently upgraded me, often to suites, without having to ask. RC Grande Lakes has great staff, but I will not be redeeming with them again, as Hawaii seems a better option at this point.

  • James@Travel Watchdog March 28, 2012, 4:50 am

    I have been with Marriott gold for 5 years now, definatly think some negative critisism it attracts is unwarranted.
    In my opinion the biggest plus for me is discounted phone calls long distance, as i travel away frequently throughout the year, so this is a huge plus with me being able to contact my family on a regular basis, and at a cheaper cost.

  • The Weekly Flyer March 28, 2012, 8:17 am

    Hi James – It’s good to know someone uses that benefit:)

  • Tom December 14, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I recently achieved gold status and have experienced little difference. As Silver Elite, my room keys have always given me access to all the lounges anyway. Only once I was I upgraded into a suite. Other than that it’s been identical for me. What am I missing?

  • The Weekly Flyer December 14, 2012, 5:34 pm

    Hi Tom – It all depends on your stay pattern and the location of the hotels. Sometimes there are just no upgrades, other times, hotels really go to bat for their frequent guests.

  • Chad July 17, 2013, 4:03 pm

    I don’t think that with the way the dollar index is fluxuating that it is unreasonable to think that gold will rise to 1,350 an ounce or even 1,400.

  • Dave April 15, 2014, 11:46 am

    As I posted in the other thread, I was a Platinum member (challenge) and noticed a HUGE drop in the level/amount of upgrades and late checkouts lately. So I dropped to Gold. Out of all the programs, Marriott seems to be the worst now. I very rarely have time for breakfast or evening snacks when working, so that benefit is wasted on me. The upgrades is my main goal in a rewards program and (as you said) the ability to stay at a nice hotel. I have heard rumors that Ritz is going to phase out the Marriott loyalty link, which would pretty much drive people away in droves. I have noticed at The Ritz, I am treated like a second class citizen when booking Marriott rewards point stays. They try to sell upgrades or club lounge access vs. upgrade based on availability. I was always upgraded at the Waldorff Astoria when I was Hilton Gold for the most part. Another thing I have noticed is the high number of blacked out dates for reward stays at the Ritz Carlton. I tried to stay at either the one in Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm a year or two ago and was told both properties were blacked out for points stays and only were accepting paid reservations. I hate this! One thing I will say about SPG is that luxury or no luxury property, if they have rooms for sale, they will allow you to book them using points. If it wasn’t so hard to accrue points to trade for free nights, SPG would hands down be my winner for Rewards Program of choice! Best customer service as well.

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