As we all expected, Marriott Bonvoy will be following in the footsteps of Hilton and Hyatt in offering a one-year extension of members’ elite status through to February 2022 in light of the global pandemic.
Elite Status Will Be Extended to 2022
As of today, April 8, a line has been added to Marriott’s dedicated page on COVID-19 policies that reads as follows:
When logging into your Marriott Bonvoy account, you’ll also notice a bright orange banner advising you of this latest development.
It’s important to note that this extension applies to the status level that you earned in 2019, which would’ve otherwise lasted until February 2021 (and has now been extended by one year to February 2022).
Unlike Hilton Honors, who are also extending the status that you earned as far back as 2018, Marriott has already processed status downgrades for members who earned status in 2018 but failed to retain it in 2019, so there are no conciliatory gestures being offered there.
What Does This Mean for Earning Status in 2020?
A one-year extension of elite status you earned in 2019 results in some unusual incentives for members in terms of earning status in 2020, which is of course understandable given that we aren’t sure when we’ll be able to travel again.
If you earned Platinum Elite status in 2019, and are happy with that status level, then there’s no need to worry at all about retaining status in 2020 – after all, even if you earned 50 elite qualifying nights this year, your status would still be valid until the same deadline of February 2022.
The only thing you’d gain by organically renewing your Platinum or Titanium status this year is the opportunity to select another set of Annual Choice Benefits, which are tied to achieving 50 or 75 elite qualifying nights, rather than simply to your status level.
If you don’t care much for the Annual Choice Benefits, then there’s a case to be made for taking this opportunity to try out a few different hotel brands if you travel during the rest of 2020, since you don’t need to worry about requalifying for hotel status anymore.
Meanwhile, if you earned Gold Elite status in 2019 (whether it was through organic hotel stays or simply holding the Amex Platinum Card) but wanted to aim for Platinum Elite this year, there hasn’t been any word on whether the requirements for elite qualifying nights might be relaxed this year, although I expect that we’ll hear something about this later on in the year when the situation is a bit clearer.
(It’s already significantly easier to earn Platinum status because of the recent rule change that allows you to earn 30 elite qualifying nights through the US-issued Bonvoy credit cards, so if the requirements are relaxed further, then it should be very easy to qualify even if your travels are limited in 2020.)
Finally, there’s been no official confirmation as to whether this one-year extension of elite status counts towards members’ lifetime status qualification.
Knowing Marriott’s IT, though, I’d bet that it does count by default – and a free year towards Lifetime Platinum can’t hurt, can it?
Pause on Points Expiration + Extension of Certificates
Several other details about Marriott Bonvoy’s response to COVID-19 had already been announced a few weeks ago, but I figured they’re worth covering here as well, since I didn’t get around to mentioning them at first.
Marriott is pausing the expiration of Bonvoy points until February 2021, meaning that any points that would’ve expired before that date will remain active. At that time, the usual expiration policy of points expiring after 24 months of inactivity will kick in once again, but earning or redeeming a single Marriott Bonvoy point within a 24-month period should be a trivial task for most readers anyway.
What’s more interesting is the treatment of members’ certificates. Suite Night Awards allow you to confirm a suite upgrade up to five days in advance of your stay, and can be earned as an Annual Choice Benefit upon renewing your Platinum or Titanium status every year.
These will also be granted a one-year extension, with Suite Night Awards that were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020 being extended to December 31, 2021 instead.
Meanwhile, free night certificates that were set to expire at any point in 2020 will be extended to January 31, 2021. Free night certificates can be earned in a variety of ways, including as an anniversary benefit of the Canadian- or US-issued Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, as an Annual Choice Benefit when renewing Titanium Elite status, and as part of Travel Package redemptions.
Indeed, for any of you who are still holding legacy five- or seven-night certificates from the Marriott Rewards program of old, this extension gives you a few extra months to burn those up.
I myself still have three seven-night Category 1–4 packages floating around, so I’m definitely grateful for the extension, although the January 31 deadline still might not give me too much leeway to redeem them. I expect that Marriott may offer further extensions on these certificates if the resumption of global travel is slower than expected.
Offering a one-year extension of elite status was only the right thing for Marriott Bonvoy to do, so it’s good to see the policy finally in place, even if they took their sweet time in rolling it out.
As of now, there hasn’t been anything announced in terms of additional incentives for those who might requalify for status anyway in 2020, nor any relaxed requirements for those who were hoping to earn higher status this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if those are announced sometime later this year, depending on how the travel industry shapes up in the upcoming months.
Looking at the big picture, I’m happy to see that most of the loyalty programs that are close to our hearts as Canadian travellers have taken good care of us during this crisis, with Hilton Honors, Air Canada Altitude, and now Marriott Bonvoy all demonstrating that loyalty is a two-way street.
Now we’re just waiting for Amex Canada to follow in the footsteps of Amex US and help out their cardholders too…