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Marriott Platinum Elite: How Much Is It Worth? Ricky September 23, 2019

Marriott Platinum Elite: How Much Is It Worth?

One of the questions that I’m frequently asked during my Points Consulting sessions is whether it’s worthwhile for someone who’s currently a Marriott Gold Elite (which is pretty much everyone out there) to expend additional time and effort to attain Platinum Elite status.

After all, Gold Elite is pretty easy to earn – it’s an instant complimentary perk of the Amex Platinum Card or the Amex Business Platinum Card, both of which are mainstays for Canadians looking to maximize their credit cards. Failing that, the Amex Bonvoy Card or Amex Bonvoy Business Card will get you an instant 15 elite nights, and then you can easily book a meeting room with Marriott for 10 elite nights per year to get you to the 25 elite nights you need for Gold Elite.

As I’ve touched upon before, though, Platinum Elite doesn’t come quite as easily, and requires a bit more effort (read: actually staying in hotels) on your part. But how do you decide whether it’s worthwhile to do so? How do you assess the fruits of your labour if you’ve never tasted the nectar?

In this post, I wanted to sit down and think about how much I personally value each of the major perks you get from Marriott Platinum Elite status to help you make a clear-cut decision.

Executive Suite at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver

Executive Suite at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver

In This Post

Complimentary Breakfast

Once you’re a Platinum Elite member, you’re entitled to a complimentary breakfast at most Marriott brands on every morning of your stay.

The major exceptions are Ritz-Carlton and EDITION (which aren’t obliged to give you breakfast, although some hotels still do) and Courtyard by Marriott (where you’re given a US$10 food and beverage voucher instead, which may or may not be enough to cover breakfast). In addition, it could be argued that you aren’t getting incremental value out of this benefit at places like Fairfield Inns and Residence Inns either, since these chains almost always treat all their guests to free breakfast anyway.

The exact breakfast offering will also vary from hotel to hotel: the most impressive breakfast presentations, like the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach or the St. Regis Bali, can truly elevate the hotel experience to a whole new level; meanwhile, other hotels are content to treat their guests to the bare minimum breakfast offering within the terms of the program, which is usually labelled a “continental” breakfast that consists solely of pastries, hard-boiled eggs, and other cold items.

Breakfast at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach

Breakfast at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach

On balance, though, I’d say you can expect to have a pretty tasty and hearty breakfast on most mornings as a Platinum member. Indeed, one of the tried-and-true practical strategies when you’re on the road is to maximize the hotel breakfast and treat it as a brunch instead, effectively covering two meals for the day. The savings here can really add up, especially if you’re travelling as a larger family with more mouths to feed.

Overall, breakfast is probably the Platinum benefit that I value the most highly. There’s something very satisfying about starting your day with free-flowing food and drink that you didn’t need to pay extra for, especially when you make a habit out of sampling the variety at many different hotels around the world. It’s one of the things I look forward to the most when staying someplace new.

My valuation: $800/year

Executive Lounge Access

Some Marriott brands have Executive Lounges, and as a Platinum Elite you’re entitled to unlimited access for yourself and one guest (although in practice, it’s usually acceptable to bring your whole family in with you as well). 

The best Executive Lounges tend to be found in JW Marriott hotels, which is a major reason why I’m such a big fan of the brand. Other brands like Marriott, Renaissance, Westin, and Sheraton tend to have lounges as well, although I’d say they’re more cookie-cutter and less well-appointed than those at a JW Marriott. 

Executive Lounge at the JW Marriott Bangkok

Executive Lounge at the JW Marriott Bangkok

Many Ritz-Carltons around the world have Ritz-Carlton Club Lounges, which tend to be even more luxurious, although Platinums rarely get complimentary access – you could expect a discounted offer on the daily Club Lounge access rate, at best. Meanwhile, select St. Regises, Ws, and Luxury Collection hotels also have lounges, and you’re usually entitled to access them as a Platinum when they’re available (which is not very often). 

At a minimum, lounges will usually provide a breakfast spread and an evening hors d’oeuvres spread. We’ve already talked about the breakfast benefit, although the evening spread can deliver substantial savings for you as well. 

There are usually a few hot items on offer together with finger foods like charcuterie, cheese, and vegetable sticks, along with a generous helping of alcohol as well, so the evening spread can function pretty well as a replacement for dinner on some nights, especially if you’re not the type of traveller to go out for dinner every night. Indeed, I’ve often been guilty of indulging in the lounge’s evening spread out of sheer laziness when I probably should’ve headed out to get some authentic local food instead! 

Executive Lounge at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach

Executive Lounge at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach

Besides the food and drink, Executive Lounges are pretty great spaces for getting work done, especially if you’re fighting jet lag and might just fall asleep if you’re working from your room. With unlimited coffee, tea, and snacks 24/7, they’re also incredibly useful for a quick grab-and-go before you leave the hotel for the day. 

All things considered, Executive Lounge access is definitely a very close second in terms of my most highly-valued Platinum benefits. 

My valuation: $750/year

Complimentary Suite Upgrades

As a Platinum member you’re entitled to the best available room upgrades, which includes standard suites. Every hotel decides independently which of their suites to make available to Platinums, and even then, some hotels are more generous in proactively upgrading Platinum members than others.

To get the most out of this benefit, you definitely need to be actively speaking to the hotel over the chat function on the Marriott app. This will allow you to get suite upgrades when the hotel doesn’t want to proactively upgrade you, and attain higher-tier suites even when it does.

Rainforest Junior Suite at the Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi

Rainforest Junior Suite at the Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi

On the surface, getting upgraded to a nice suite is easily one of the best things about staying at a hotel. There’s nothing quite like walking to your room at the very farthest end of the hallway, opening the door, and stepping into a gorgeously appointed space larger than your own apartment that’s going to be yours and no one else’s for the next few nights.

Having said that, from a functional point of view, I don’t find quite as much value in getting a nice suite once the initial excitement subsides. When I’m travelling solo, I usually have very little use for the dining or living areas of the suite, and I often find myself sitting around in various parts of the room just to “use” them a little.

Even when I’m travelling with Jessy, large parts of the suite often go untouched, particularly as we usually aren’t spending most of the day in the room itself. I imagine that those of you travelling with larger families are likely to get much more out of the Platinum suite upgrades than I do. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Asking for suite upgrades like “shoot me down, but I won’t fall, I am Titanium…” ???? #MarvelousSuite @marriottbonvoy

A post shared by Ricky Zhang (@princeoftravel) on

So if we look past the fact that many of these suites would retail for $1,000+/night if you purchased them with cash, and if we ignore the fact that impressive hotel suites make for killer Instagram photos that are great for my business, my valuation of suite upgrades isn’t quite so high.

My valuation: $500/year

Late Checkout

As a Platinum Elite member, you’re entitled to guaranteed 4pm late checkout at any hotel that’s not a resort or convention centre. You can simply call up the front desk and ask for it at any point during your stay, and they’ll be able to arrange it for you.

I’d say that I invoke the late checkout benefit on about half of my hotel stays, and even then, I only sometimes actually need the room until 4pm – in many cases 1pm or 2pm will do. It’s certainly nice to have the peace of mind of a 4pm checkout, though, especially if my departure isn’t until later in the day and I’d like to go out for some sightseeing in the morning, or if I’d like to have a lazy morning and don’t want to feel rushed to check out by noon. 

In practice, you can always store your bags at the hotel even after you’ve checked out, so the late checkout benefit is more of a “nice to have” than an absolute necessity. I’d value it the lowest out of what I’d consider to be the four most significant benefits that I’ve mentioned so far. 

My valuation: $250/year

Annual Choice Benefit

One of the most widely advertised benefits of attaining Platinum Elite status every year (i.e., actually earning the required 50 elite qualifying nights, rather than simply maintaining Lifetime Platinum status) is an Annual Choice Benefit of one of the following:

  • 5 Suite Night Awards

  • 5 Elite Night Credits

  • Give the gift of Silver Elite status

  • 40% off your favourite mattress

  • $100 charity donation

Alas, none of the choices really deliver much value for me here. In the past, I used to think the Suite Night Awards would be incredibly useful, but now I realize that I’m basically getting the same suites at the same hotels just by asking nicely over the Marriott app

Berri Suite at the Hôtel de Berri Paris

Berri Suite at the Hôtel de Berri Paris

Meanwhile, the five additional elite qualifying nights will only count for the current qualifying year, so they can’t be used to help you re-qualify for Platinum Elite next year. They’ll only be useful if you want to boost yourself even further up to Titanium Elite this year, which only delivers limited incremental benefits over Platinum Elite (I’ll cover this in more detail in a future post).

As for the other options, I mean, gifting Silver Elite (which is pretty worthless) and 40% off a mattress… really? And you could always make a $100 charity donation of your own, so it doesn’t make sense to choose that as your Annual Choice Benefit either.

All things considered, the Suite Night Awards still end up being the best choice on this list. They’re at least somewhat useful for securing a suite upgrade up to five days before your stay (instead of on the day of arrival), but with suite upgrades being easily within reach over the chat app, I really don’t place too much value on them. 

My valuation: $100/year

Other Additional Benefits

Several other Platinum benefits, while less notable in their own right, can also stack up pretty quickly. 

You’ll earn 50% more points on top of the base rate of 10 Marriott Bonvoy points per USD spent at Marriott properties – that’s 25% more than the Gold Elite bonus of 25%.

Over the course of the year, this amounts to a slightly higher return on your spending: if you spent US$2,000 with Marriott, you’d earn an additional 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a Platinum instead of a Gold. I’d value that at around $50, so that’s essentially a 2% discount on all your hotel spend.

Then you have the Elite Benefit Guarantee, which is where, if the hotel doesn’t offer you your choice of welcome benefits upon check-in, you’re entitled to claim US$100 in compensation.

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.38.04 AM.png

Indeed, the hotel has to specifically offer you the choice of your welcome benefit, which is usually between bonus points or daily breakfast – if they simply add the points to your reservation, or assume you want breakfast and forget about offering you the points, you can saunter up to the front desk and call them out on it to claim your US$100 in cash.

In practice, I only end up pursuing these cases a portion of the time. Sometimes I can’t remember for sure whether the hotel offered me the choice or not, and other times I’m simply too busy or tired to get around to confronting the hotel. If you wanted to be vigilant about it, though, you could probably easily squeeze $300–500 out of this guarantee per year – I know many people who actively seek to “catch” hotels off their game on every stay.

Claiming the Elite Benefit Guarantee

Claiming the Elite Benefit Guarantee

Finally there’s the more intangible aspects to being a Platinum Elite member, like the tiny dopamine rush of being recognized as one upon checking in, the ability to throw your weight around when you’re talking to Bonvoy on the phone (“*ahem* as a Platinum member, I’m very disappointed by this…”), and the ability to hobnob with other Platinums on dedicated Facebook groups and complain about poor elite treatment at hotels 😉

My valuation: $300/year

Further Considerations

Adding it all up, I arrive at a total valuation of $2,700 for one year of Platinum Elite status, which I think is a pretty fair assessment for my travel patterns. If Marriott were to make Platinum Elite status available for purchase, I could see them pricing it at around that figure.

For context, though, I’d estimate that I spend around 75–100 nights a year at Marriott hotels, so you might scale the value assessment up or down depending on your specific hotel stay patterns. I also tend to travel solo or as a couple, whereas if you’re travelling with a large family then you’d probably get much more value out of the breakfast, Executive Lounge access, suite upgrades, and late checkout, so you’d value the benefits higher accordingly.

Breakfast at the St. Regis Bali

Breakfast at the St. Regis Bali

Yet another factor to consider is that you tend to get much more out of being a Platinum member if you frequently travel to other continents. Most high-tier elite members are concentrated here in North America, so the benefits tend to be much more diluted at North American hotels (for example, suite upgrades are generally harder to come by, and the breakfast benefits are more likely to consist of stale croissants than a live omelette station). 

On the other hand, hotels in the Asia and the Middle East have given me some of the most generous elite treatment I’ve ever experienced, so your Platinum Elite status will likely deliver much more value if you see yourself travelling to those regions.

In deciding whether to pursue status, then, think about your upcoming travel patterns for the rest of this year and all of next year. Do you see yourself travelling enough to maximize the benefits from being a Platinum, and how does your personal valuation of the status align with how much additional time, money, and energy you’d need to spend to earn it?

(Remember, you can now book “mattress runs” at Category 1 hotels for as low as 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points off-peak, which works out to 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for five elite nights thanks to the “Stay 5, Book 4” benefit.)

Madison Suite at the St. Regis New York

Madison Suite at the St. Regis New York

As a general rule of thumb, I would advise that if your current organic travel patterns are such that you stay with Marriott for 15–20 nights a year (resulting in 40–45 elite qualifying nights once you factor in the 15 nights from the credit cards and the 10 nights from booking a meeting), then it’s probably worth it to make a run for Platinum Elite.

If you stay with Marriott less than that, then I’m not sure it’s quite worthwhile to do so, since you’d need to work harder to earn the status while also not having many opportunities to reap the benefits afterwards.

Finally, one last thing to keep in mind is that you aren’t just thinking about Platinum for this year, but rather for as many years in the future as possible. Indeed, loss aversion is a very real phenomenon, and you’re going to hate losing Platinum much more than you enjoyed earning it, so you’ll be doing everything you can to stay Platinum once you’re there.

After all, it’s much harder to go back to butter croissants and Starbucks in the morning once you’ve sampled the Avruga pearls and lobster omelettes. 😉

Conclusion

Hotel elite status is one of the keys to unlocking a more luxurious style of travel, and Marriott Platinum Elite is one of the most important statuses you can attain in the hotel game, since it gives you many forms of elite treatment at over 7,000 hotels around the world. With a fair bit of work required in attaining Platinum Elite status from the outset, it’s useful to work out exactly how much you’d value the status according to your travel patterns, and I hope my personal valuation process can help you accomplish that. 

Having originally attained Platinum Elite in 2018, I’ve since become a Titanium Elite member as well, and I’ll share with you a similar discussion on the incremental benefits of Titanium Elite over Platinum Elite in a follow-up post. 

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25 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Jeff Hiemstra

    We stayed 52nights* in Sheraton Tunis last year in 2018 and were granted Plat elite status Bonvoy.

    We still have the status 18mo later … and although we do primarily stay at Bonvoy hotels; we’ve only got about 10 stays this year. How long until they ‘downgrade us’?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Damn, that’s a long stay! If you earned the status in 2018 it’ll be valid until February 2020.

  2. Avatar
    Greg

    I think your valuation is too high.

    The choice benefit of 5 SNA or 5 stay credit or charitable donation I value at $0 not your $100.
    The "tiny dopamine rush of being recognized as one upon checking in" I value at $0 not your $300.

    Also I guess it depends on the hotels and locations you stay at. For example at Marriott Vacation properties I don’t think there are any benefits for Platinums or above.

    I most often want a late checkout when on holiday and often holiday at Marriott Resorts where I have only been able to eek out a 2pm checkout. Also I find certain hotels such as Ritz Carlton’s I don’t really get much benefit.

    Finally I am frustrated that when travelling with my 2 kids, that the continental breakfast for myself and wife doesn’t extend to the kids too even when I pay double for a connecting room, however at most Sheraton properties I have been given club lounge access for myself and my kids which is nice even though I think not policy.

    Platinum is nice, and often I forget especially at certain hotels I get any benefit for being platinum so its nice to read this post to remind me of some of the value that I can get.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      There are definitely cheaper dopamine rushes you could get out there. There’s no question that the Elite Benefit Guarantee can easily be worth $300 if not more though.

      Agreed that resorts can be hit or miss when it comes to late checkout, and that most lounges I’ve been to seem to be fine with bringing your whole family in, even if the policy states it’s for yourself plus one guest.

      You definitely need to be actively seeking to use your Platinum benefits if you want to maximize the value though. Bonvoy is a long way off being a program that proactively rewards guests with benefits rather than forcing them to work for it (see: asking for suite upgrades for chat).

  3. Avatar
    jose

    Then you have the Elite Benefit Guarantee, which is where, if the hotel doesn’t offer you your choice of welcome benefits upon check-in, you’re entitled to claim US$100 in compensation.

    Is the above also for Gold member or just Platinum and up? In your opinion when is the best time to approach the hotel for this claim? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Only Platinum and up. Best time would be shortly after checking in and not being offered the choice, in my opinion.

  4. Avatar
    Marat

    Hello Ricky,

    I am about to stay for 6 nights for business, but thinking to book 10 nights (2 for free) – but I will actually leave the hotel after the planned 6 nights.
    If I am booking in addition a meeting room with Marriott for 10 elite nights – should I physically check-in / be in touch with the front desk? Their availability for the meeting room is during the days I will already be gone…
    Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I don’t think there’s a requirement to physically be present for the meeting room, so I think you’re fine there. Just be sure not to say anything to the front desk about leaving early, because if you do, they very well might end your reservation on the 6th night and only credit you 6 elite nights.

  5. Avatar
    Alex K

    Hi Ricky,

    Assuming you start from scratch and apply for the AMEX Platinum / Business Platinum, which gives you automatically the Gold Status – do you need to stay 25 more nights for the Bonvoy Platinum status? Or, if you book a "meeting" for cash, and get 10 nights for doing that – does it mean you need to stay only 15 more nights to reach the Bonvoy Platinum status if you also have AMEX Platinum?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      No, you still need to earn the full 50 nights, as the Amex Plat / Biz Plat don’t give you any elite nights at all, they just bump your status up to Gold automatically.

      If you got the Amex Bonvoy card(s) for the 15 elite nights there, plus 10 nights for booking a meeting, then you’d have 25 nights left to earn.

      1. Avatar
        Alex

        Oh, thanks for the heads-up!
        If I have both personal and business Bonvoy – am I getting 30 elite nights altogether?

        1. Avatar
          Ricky

          Nope, you can only get 15 elite nights maximum from any of the credit cards.

  6. Avatar
    brendan

    How do you maintain platinum status once you achieve it? And once you achieve it is the status valid for a full year, unless you stay a certain amount of nights to maintain status during that year?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Maintaining Platinum is just a matter of keeping up your stay patterns in following years. You should have a much more enjoyable hotel experience while you do so, since you’ll be treated to all the Platinum perks. It’s kind of the point of the loyalty program – building loyalty, after all.

      Once you achieve status for the year, you’ll keep it until February two years later – so if you achieved Platinum in 2019, you’ll have it until Feb 2021. Then you have all of 2020 to requalify, at which point it’ll be extended until Feb 2022, and so on.

  7. Avatar
    Matt

    Thanks for another great post.

    With the Amex Platinum, you mentioned this is automatically gold status which requires 25 qualifying nights. However for the purpose of qualifying towards platinum elite is the card only giving 15 qualifying nights? Point was not quite clear to me so thanks for the clarification.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      You’re right that this can be confusing. The Amex Platinum and Business Platinum give you instant Gold Elite, but they don’t actually give you any status qualifying nights, so it doesn’t help you towards Platinum.

      It’s the Amex Bonvoy cards that’ll give you the 15 elite qualifying nights, which is enough to get you to Silver Elite and does contribute to the 50 nights required for Platinum.

  8. Avatar
    Colin

    Pro Tip: No need to get the omelette in the lobster omelette. Just ask for the lobster meat + bisque next time to save on stomach space 😀

  9. Avatar
    Randy

    Are you entitled to the elite guarantee if you do a mobile check-in?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I’ve never landed on an official answer for this. The mobile check-in page does say "we’ll give you the 1,000 points; if you prefer the breakfast, please let us know when you arrive" or something like that, so technically they are offering you the choice right then and there. I think I’ve also heard a few data points of hotels refusing to pay out the $100 because the guest used mobile check-in.

      So to be on the safe side, I’d recommend not using mobile check-in if you want to play the game of catching hotels out.

  10. Avatar
    JC

    Which editions offer plat breakfast?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I’ve heard from a few people that the Bodrum EDITION does. Not sure about any others.

  11. Avatar
    Kyle

    Another great post. I agree with everything you’ve said, especially about breakfast being most valuable, even more traveling with kids. A few questions for clarity if you don’t mind.

    Is each valuation based on the remaining 25 nights after Gold to get Platinum since the first 25 nights are essentially "free"? For example, is breakfast worth an average of $32 ($800/25 nights) per night to you? That’s pretty close to accurate IME depending on what types of hotels you stay in of course. Is that how you came up with your valuation numbers?

    Also, are you factoring in the AF on a Marriott card plus the cost of a meeting to the valuation? The AF is negligible IMO since you also get a free night so those would cancel but the meeting can range from under $100 to several hundred dollars. Or did you leave that out due to the large variability?

    Cheers and thanks for another great post!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      It was more of a general thought exercise where I estimated how much I’d be willing to pay outright for a year’s worth of those benefits. But your way of breaking it down could be a helpful way to think about it as well.

      In this post I’m just valuing the benefits themselves, so that people have something to compare to when determining the costs of attaining Platinum. So you’d add up the $120 annual fee on the credit card, the ~$100 meeting cost, and then however much remaining dollars/time it would take you to earn the 25 other nights. Then compare that against your personal valuation of Platinum to determine whether it’s worth pursuing.

      1. Avatar
        Kyle

        Ah okay. That’s a good way of looking at it, what would you be willing to pay outright for the benefit. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks again for the reply!

  12. Avatar
    M

    I had to Google Avruga Pearls!

Ricky

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