Marriott Bonvoy Isn’t Really Encouraging Lifetime Elites To Be Loyal


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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:

  1. 10 Suite Night awards
  2. Complimentary room upgrades (including to suites)
  3. Complimentary breakfast
  4. 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.

Complimentary Upgrades

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.

Amex Hilton Aspire Credit Card

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.

Complimentary Breakfast

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).

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach

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.

JW Marriott Hong Kong
JW Marriott Hong Kong

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.

Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun
Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun

Bottom Line

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.

9 COMMENTS

  1. What a great summary. I have been Hilton Diamond for the last 15 years and qualify for it easily with stays as well as my credit card choice. I was also Marriott Gold but stopped doing the stays in order to re-qualify around 5 years ago due to lounge closures, no breakfast and the lack of meaningful room upgrades at check-in. I instead used points to renew my Marriott Gold status each of the last 5 years until they eliminated that too.
    With Hilton, I enjoy free breakfasts, decent upgrades usually to a junior suite or better and more importantly, easy ways to accumulate sizable amounts of Honors points. What do I get from Marriott? 2,000 points per stay beginning on the 2nd stay.
    Hilton has their problems too with point devaluation but they seem to have overcome that with better point earning promotions and the perks that go along with elite membership are superior IMHO than anything Marriott is offering now.

  2. I’m 93 nights away from Lifetime Platinum and soon after I think I’ll be in the same boat as you. I have Hilton Diamond and Hyatt Globalist, so not much tempting me from the Marriott BonFire offerings. After these 93 nights, they are going to have to earn my business, and right now I don’t see it……

  3. Great article. I have titanium status and recently stayed at ac hotel Madrid. Although upon booking on phone was promised breakfast buffet but the hotel gave us$8 off the breakfast buffet. No upgrade. Very disappointed. I called the customer service line and promised that they will get back to me in 72 hours it has been over a week.

  4. Great article, but this experience is not just applicable to Lifetime members. Marriott Bonvoy’s policies in general and lack of focus on customer service experience is also turning me away from staying as a loyal member and from pursuing Lifetime statuses.

  5. A similar experience as a lifetime platinum. There are so many hotels in the Marriot group that do not recognise the status and provide any benefits. The benefits are really nice when they are available at the hotels but without having to read the small print for every hotel that you book it is not always easy to tell. Things were so much simpler under Starwood.

  6. I must admit that I have been thinking the same thing for a while. I have Ambassador level, have Lifetime Titanium level, and getting close to requalifying for Ambassador for next year. I will admit that I do truly enjoy the help and assistance I get with Ambassador level… but what is the incentive for me to continue staying at this brand be? I have to admit that I still have to ask to get an upgrade most of the time … and I am not sure that I have ever had a hotel mention that I am Ambassador level. I spend more time in a hotel than I do at home and if I am at this level with Marriott and wondering what or asking for upgrades … then there is a problem. … Rethinking my booking preferences here as well…

  7. I agree, I booked a location for two weeks and when I went to add an additional night they tried to charge me more then I would pay if I logged out of Marriott as a member and booked it as a non member. When I spoke to customer service I indicated that since the name change it appears Marriott is not longer customer service driven but rather financially driven with no effort on the customer service side. The response was “yes there has been some changes.” When I asked if they could offer me the night for the “best rate” they replied Im sorry. Well it appears my loyalty is not important to Marriott since I am only 1 of their many customers. Im guessing the new management doesn’t see the big picture of having that line of thought. Eventually the few become the many and maybe then Marriott will change the focus back to the customer. For now there is no reason for me to be loyal to Marriott when I can go on other sites and book the same room cheaper. I have been with Marriott for many years but they are fine with letting go of loyalty for a $30.00 difference. This is a great article and hopefully read by whoever has taken over the management of Marriott. The change is poor customer service and no incentives to stay. I am using my points and going elsewhere.

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