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I’m in the fortunate position of having Lifetime Titanium Elite status with Marriott so it would be entirely reasonable to think that I would be looking to book stays at Marriott properties whenever possible….but that’s not how things are playing out.
Last year I made a concerted effort to make sure I hit the required targets to lock in lifetime Titanium status with Marriott before that option was taken off the table (and I’m happy I did that) but now, suddenly, I’m finding myself making more bookings with the likes of Hilton and Hyatt.
Marriott is getting considerably fewer bookings from me than it has done in the past.
Logically I should be looking to make the most of My Marriott status and reaping the rewards that the status offers but, when it comes down to it, the status benefits aren’t always good enough to discourage me from booking with another chain.
The primary benefits of Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status are:
- 10 Suite Night awards
- Complimentary room upgrades (including to suites)
- Complimentary breakfast
- Executive lounge access
There are other benefits too but those are the ones that I consider to be primary.
Now here’s the problem, those benefits aren’t as good as they appear to be at first glance.
Suite Night Upgrades
The 10 suite night awards cannot be confirmed at the time of booking (unlike Hyatt’s suite upgrades and unlike the upgrades Hilton is currently trialing) so they don’t actually guarantee anything at all – they may or may not clear.
Not only can the suite night awards not be confirmed at the time of booking but they’re also not useable at all Marriott properties and, as far as I can tell, there’s no list to tell Bonvoy members which hotels will or will not accept suite night upgrades.
I have a single night booked at the London EDITION for later this year and I’m currently seeing this message in my reservation:
When I click on this link this is the message displayed:
I’ve checked and, on the night I’m visiting, there are a variety of suite types available at the property so I’m left to assume it’s a property that chooses not to accept suite night awards.
It’s hard to place much value on a benefit that may or may not be useable (at properties that offer upgrade awards) and which, based on anecdotal evidence, isn’t useable at all at a good number of properties.
The complimentary upgrades granted to Marriott elites at the time of check-in are nice but, once again, they’re not guaranteed so guests are at the mercy of the individual properties.
I could apply for the Hilton Aspire card from American Express ($450/year) and that would immediately give me top-tier Hilton Diamond status and the right to the same complimentary upgrades that my Marriott status offers.
As it is, my Hilton Gold status (which I have thanks to my Platinum Card from American Express) often gets me a one category room upgrade which is generally what my Marriott status is getting me.
A Marriott benefit that can be matched at another brand simply by taking out a $450/year credit card isn’t much of an incentive to be loyal to Marriott.
This is a benefit I value quite highly because it’s a money saver and it’s easy to see its value. Suite/room upgrades are great but, most of the time, they’re just nice to have while a complimentary breakfast is a quantifiable saving on every trip.
Unfortunately this is another area where Marriott lets itself down – not all Marriott properties offer Titanium elites a complimentary breakfast and the rules surrounding which brands offer breakfast and which don’t are just too convoluted (see here for more info).
Once again it’s Hilton that puts Marriott to shame.
It’s possible to get a complimentary breakfast at ALL Hilton properties just by having Hilton Honors Gold status which can be had by applying for (and getting) the Hilton Honors Ascend card from American Express which costs just $95/year.
A benefit that can be had at a competing brand for just $95/year isn’t really an incentive to be loyal to Marriott.
Executive Lounge Access
I enjoy a good Executive lounge and some of the Marriott lounges I’ve visited in Asia have been great (like the lounges at the JW Marriott Singapore, JW Marriott Hong Kong or even the Courtyard Seoul)….but Marriott can’t really differentiate itself here either.
I’ve had numerous upgrades to rooms that offer Executive Lounge access courtesy of my lowly Hilton Gold status (although admittedly this is far from guaranteed) and, once again, I could guarantee myself access to Hilton’s Executive Lounges around the world just by taking out the $450/year Aspire credit card from American Express…..so where’s the incentive to book exclusively with Marriott?
Marriott’s Problem With Lifetime Status
My Marriott Lifetime status gives me complimentary room upgrades (based on availability) complimentary breakfast (based on availability) and Executive lounge access regardless of how many nights I stay with Marriott in a year but those are all benefits that I can also get with Hilton just by paying $450 for the Aspire credit card….and Hilton’s benefits are actually better in some cases.
The only notable benefit that I can hope to receive by putting a lot of nights Marriott’s way are the 10 suite night awards but, as I’ve already suggested, these don’t appear to be a particularly amazing benefit. I’m not seeing them as much of an incentive to spend 75 nights/year with Marriott.
There’s not much that Marriott is offering to stop me from booking with Hilton when its properties suit me better or are cheaper to book and that defeats the primary purpose of a having a loyalty program in the first place.
Marriott Bonvoy is meant to tempt me into booking with Marriott when other options (possibly better options) are available and it’s simply not doing that.
Right now I’m booking with Marriott when the location, price and benefits that the property offers all fall in my favor but, as soon as one or more of those variables look questionable, I’m also looking elsewhere.
I could easily hit 75 nights with Marriott this year but, for the first time in years, I’m actively looking at other chains to see if they offer properties that work better for me….so there’s a good chance that I won’t.
I already have multiple stays booked with Hilton (better rates, better locations and sometimes a better breakfast benefit than the comparable Marriotts), a couple of Hyatt stays (nicer hotels, better rates and better locations than the available Marriotts) and even a couple of stays at smaller chains (like Best Western) because I no longer see the need to go out of my way to book with Marriott.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m a happy man right now and I’m glad I have Marriott Lifetime status because I can use its benefits when it suits me to do so…but I think Marriott is making a mistake here.
By not offering any real incentive for lifetime elites to spend more nights at its properties Marriott is missing out on quite a bit of my hotel spending and, while that doesn’t bother me, it really should be bothering the bean counters at Marriott HQ because I doubt I’m the only lifetime elite thinking this way.