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With the year gradually drawing to a close, with Marriott having dropped a lot of elite night credits into member accounts in February and with Bonvoy members having been given a double elite nights promotion earlier in the year, a significant number of people will now have enough elite night credits in their Bonvoy account to trigger Marriott’s Annual Choice Benefits. With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at what benefits Marriott is offering Bonvoy members when they credit 50 and 75 nights to their accounts in 2021.
What Are Marriott’s Annual Choice Benefits?
Just like the majority of hotel loyalty programs, Marriott Bonvoy offers its elite status holders various benefits depending on how many elite nights they manage to credit to their accounts in a calendar year. However, in addition to these benefits, Marriott Bonvoy also offers members a benefit of their choice (out of a choice of 5) when they credit 50 elite nights to their accounts, and a further benefit (out of a choice of 6) when they credit a total of 75 elite night to their accounts. These are what Marriott calls its Annual Choice Benefits.
For Marriott Annual Choice Benefits Earned in 2021, Bonvoy members must make their selection(s) by 11:59 p.m. ET on 7 January 2022. If no selection is made by this date, five Suite Night Awards will be automatically deposited in the member’s account.
Marriott’s 50 Elite Night Annual Choice Benefits
Upon crediting 50 elite nights to their Marriott Bonvoy accounts, guests are given Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status (and therefore receive all the benefits that status bestows) and, as a bonus, they’re also given the choice of one of the following benefits (click the links to move to your chosen benefit):
- Add 5 Elite Night Credits to your 2020 total
- Get five Suite Night Awards to redeem for upgrades to suites and premium rooms
- Gift Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status to a family member, friend, or colleague
- Make a US$100 Charity Donation
- Save 40% on a bed from your favorite hotel brand
5 Elite Nights Credit
The 5 elite nights credit applies to the current qualification year and so will only be of any use to guests seeking to hit the 75-night target required for Platinum Premier Elite status or the 100-night target for Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador status.
Note: As Bonvoy members don’t have to make their 5 choices until 7 January 2021, it’s possible to wait and see how many elite nights you earn in 2020 before deciding if this benefit is of any use.
5 Suite Night Awards
There are a few important things you need to know about Marriott’s suite upgrade awards:
- One suite night award is good for a 1-night upgrade to a premium room subject to availability.
- Suite Night Awards can be requested on paid stays, award stays and cash & points stays.
- Suite Night Awards may only be used on a reservation when a member has enough awards in their account to cover the entire stay. It is not possible, for example, to apply 3 suite night awards to three nights of a five-night stay.
- Suite night awards cannot be confirmed at the time of booking. Marriott will start searching for award availability within 5 days of your stay and will email you with progress updates.
- Not all of Marriott’s hotels have to honor suite upgrade awards and the following brand specifically do not allow Bonvoy members to apply suite night awards to reservations at their properties:
- The Ritz-Carlton
- The Ritz-Carlton Reserve
- The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club
- Protea Hotels
- Design Hotels
- Marriott Executive Apartments
- Marriott Vacation Club
- Marriott Grand Residence Club
The fact that upgrades cannot be confirmed at the time of booking makes Marriott’s suite night awards a lot less useful than they otherwise could be as it makes it very hard to plan ahead (this is especially annoying if you need to know whether to book two rooms or whether you’ll be upgraded to a suite which will sleep everyone in your party).
Bonvoy suite night awards are also devalued somewhat by the fact that Marriott allows some brands and some hotels to choose not to offer the upgrade option. Annoyingly, it doesn’t even publish a list of hotels that choose not to provide this benefit. This is an important thing to bear in mind when considering how easily you will be able to use up any suite night awards you choose as your Annual Choice Benefit.
Gift Marriott Silver Elite Status
It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at the Marriott Silver status benefits before you realize that this isn’t a benefit really worth choosing. With the exception of a 2 pm check-out and a 10% bonus on points earned on stays, there really isn’t anything on offer that most people would find useful.
Bearing in mind that US-based Bonvoy members can enjoy Marriott Bonvoy Silver status simply by holding the Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card (review) which doesn’t charge an annual fee or the more benefit-heavy Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card (review) which costs just $95/year, there are clearly other more valuable benefits you can choose here.
Every year Marriott arranges a partnership with one or more charities that it will donate $100 to when a Bonvoy member chooses this option as their 50-night Annual Choice Benefit. Last year the only partnership was with WE – a charity that helps out over 2,000 people in a small rural part of Kenya. This year, there will be a choice of three charities but Marriott is yet to announce which charities these will be.
If you don’t think you’re going to be able to use any suite night awards and if you don’t need any elite night credits then this would be a generous way to use your Annual Choice Benefit, and it’s a choice that will actually cost Marriott real cash!
40% Mattress Discount
This is a very niche benefit that offers exactly what its name suggests and it’s one that is unlikely to come in useful to the same person year after year. However, having said that, if you need a new mattress and you particularly like one that you’ve slept on at one of Marriott’s properties, this could be a genuine money saver for you.
Marriott’s 75 Elite Night Annual Choice Benefits
Upon crediting 75 elite nights to their Marriott Bonvoy accounts, guests are given Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status (and therefore receive all the benefits that status bestows) and, as a bonus, they’re also given the choice of one of the following six benefits (this is in addition to the benefit chosen when the member credited the first 50 elite nights to their account):
- Add 5 Elite Night Credits to your 2021 total
- Five Suite Night Awards
- Make a US$100 Charity Donation
- Save 40% on a bed from your favorite hotel brand
- Gift Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
- A Free Night Award worth up to 40,000 points
I’ve already discussed the suite night awards, the charity donation, and mattress discount under the 50-night Annual Choice Benefits, so I’m just going to focus on the remaining choices available to those who credit at least 75 elite nights to their Bonvoy accounts in a calendar year.
5 Elite Nights Credit
As with the 5 nights credit you can choose when you credit 50 elite nights to your Marriott Bonvoy account, these credits can only be applied to the current qualification period. This means that unless you happen to be a Bonvoy member looking to earn the 100 elite nights needed to reach Bonvoy Ambassador status these credits are not much use to you.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Ambassador status also requires $14,000 of spending to be made with Marriott in 2021 (in non-pandemic years that number is $20,000) so even if the 5 extra elite nights credit are enough to take you over the 100-night threshold, you’ll still need to make sure you hit the spending target if you hope to earn Ambassador status.
Note: As Bonvoy members don’t have to make their 5 choices until 7 January 2021, it’s possible to wait and see how many elite nights you earn in 2021 before deciding if this benefit is of any use.
A Free Night Award
The free night award that can be selected by Bonvoy members crediting 75 nights to their accounts in a calendar year is only valid for bookings at properties charging up to 40,000 points for a stay. This means that it’s only valid at properties up to Category 5 regardless of season and at properties in Category 6 in off-peak season.
There are a few nice properties at which you can redeem a 40,000 point free night certificate but no one should be expecting a particularly high-end stay courtesy of this Annual Choice Benefit. Personally, I would probably only choose this benefit if I knew I could pair it with a free night certificate from a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) to give me a worthwhile 2-night break.
Overall, this isn’t an amazing benefit that Marriott is offering but at least it should be easy to use and can save you some money.
Note: The free night certificate expires on 31 December of the year following the year in which it was earned – a certificate earned in 2021 will expire by (and so will have to be consumed by) 31 December 2022.
Gift Marriott Gold Elite Status
The primary benefits of Marriott Gold Elite status are as follows:
- 25% bonus points on stays
- 2 pm check-out
- Possible room upgrade (doesn’t include suites)
- A welcome gift of between 250 and 500 points
No matter how Marriott tries to spin things, Marriott Bonvoy Gold status isn’t really going to change someone’s hotel stays by much (there are a lot of other elites high up the food chain that will be taken care of before a Gold member gets any love) so it’s not a particularly exciting thing to be able to give someone…although if the person you’re gifting Gold status doesn’t know what Gold status is, this may buy you a few weeks of looking like an incredibly well-connected and generous person until they discover just how weak the status really is 🙂
In summary: If you already have more points than you know what to do with, you have no real need for any suite upgrades or elite nights, you’re not a big fan of the charities that Marriott has chosen, and you don’t need a new Marriott mattress, you’re essentially out options and you have to choose this one. For most people, all the other available options would be a better choice.
Hopefully, the information I’ve provided above is a good starting point for anyone wondering what Marriott’s Annual Choice Benefits are but I can’t stress enough how important it is to read all the small print surrounding the options open to you.
The suite upgrade awards look amazing until you realize that a disappointing number of brands and hotels don’t have to honor them, and the free night award can look better than it is unless you realize from the outset that it’s restricted to properties charging no more than 40,000 points for a night.
When it comes time to make your choice(s), read the information in this post, think things through, don’t skip over paragraphs in the terms and conditions, and make sure you understand any limitations to the befits you’re being offered. Following these simple guidelines should help ensure you don’t make a decision that you later regret.