A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts on the value I’d place on Marriott Platinum Elite status. Platinum is where the most significant elite benefits within the Marriott Bonvoy program start to work in your favour.
What about Titanium Elite, the next level further up? What are the incremental benefits of Titanium Elite status, and is it worthwhile to aim for Titanium once you’ve achieved Platinum? In this post, I wanted to draw upon my experiences as a Titanium Elite member myself and look at how much value I’d place on earning Marriott’s second-highest published status level.
All the Benefits of Platinum
To start off, as a Titanium member you already enjoy all the benefits that are available to Platinums, which I discussed in my previous post. I personally place the greatest value on the free breakfast and executive lounge access, while the suite upgrades and late checkout are nice to have as well.
My valuation: $2,700/year (as established in the previous post)
Annual Choice Benefit
Bonvoy members earn one Annual Choice Benefit upon reaching 50 elite qualifying nights per year (and thereby qualifying or re-qualifying for Platinum), and another Annual Choice Benefit when reaching 75 elite qualifying nights (and thereby qualifying or re-qualifying for Titanium).
The choices available to newly-minted Titanium members differ slightly from those available at the 50-night level. They are:
One Free Night Award valid at properties costing up to 40,000 Bonvoy points
5 Suite Night Awards
5 Elite Night Credits
Give the gift of Gold Elite status
40% off your favourite mattress
$100 charity donation
What’s the best choice here? Well, first of all, the 40% mattress discount and the $100 charity donation should be laughed out of the room, just as they were in choosing the Platinum benefit.
Gifting Gold Elite status is better than gifting Silver Elite status at the Platinum level, but Gold Elite can be earned by any member simply by obtaining the Amex Platinum Card or the Amex Business Platinum Card either, so it’s definitely not the most valuable choice you could make here.
The five additional elite qualifying nights can only be used towards your night count this year rather than next year, so they’re only helpful if you think it’s realistic for you to obtain top-tier Ambassador Elite status (which will require US$20,000 of qualifying spend at Marriott hotels).
I’d venture to say this goal is neither realistic nor worthwhile for the majority of readers, and certainly for myself as well. There’s no other reason you would want additional elite nights purely for the sake of it, so this won’t be the optimal choice either.
That leaves the five Suite Night Awards or the single Free Night Award worth up to 40,000 Bonvoy points. As I’ve touched upon before, while the Suite Night Awards can be useful to locking in a suite upgrade up to five days in advance of your stay, you can often find yourself upgraded to the very same suites simply by asking politely over the chat app, so that limits their overall usefulness.
I think the clear winner here is the Free Night Award of up to 40,000 points, which could be redeemed at Category 5 hotels during standard dates (when those hotels would otherwise cost you 35,000 Bonvoy points). However, the true optimal use of this certificate is for a Category 6 hotel on an off-peak date, which is priced right at the cusp of 40,000 Bonvoy points.
The retail prices on Category 6 hotels can get quite expensive indeed – for example, I recently redeemed my free night from the 75-night Annual Choice Benefit at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort in Maui, which was retailing for US$417 (US$520 after taxes)! Needless to say, I find the Free Night Award to be easily the best Choice Benefit, and indeed the single most valuable benefit of achieving Titanium status overall.
My valuation: $600/year
United MileagePlus Silver Status
The other major benefit from earning Titanium Elite status comes from RewardsPlus, which is Marriott’s unique hotel–airline partnership with United Airlines. In particular, Marriott and United’s higher-tier elites are treated to reciprocal benefits with each other along their travels, and so Marriott Titanium members enjoy an automatic status bump to United MileagePlus Premier Silver status.
Alas, United Silver isn’t all that useful – you’ll get free EconomyPlus+ seat selection on United when checking in, one complimentary checked bag when flying with United, and complimentary space-available business class upgrades on United (although you’ll most likely find many Gold, Platinum, and 1K members ahead of you in the pecking order).
If you include your United frequent flyer number when travelling on other Star Alliance airlines, like Air Canada, you might also be treated to the occasional surprise upgrade as a Star Alliance elite member of some reckoning, but I wouldn’t count on getting these upgrades too often.
Overall, how much value you get out of this benefit will depend on how often you fly with United, and even then, it’ll depend on your specific travel patterns. For example, someone who regularly flies Toronto–Houston is probably likely to get far more upgrades as a Silver member than someone who primarily travels on the premium-heavy Newark–LAX route.
I personally can’t say I book with United too often at all (maybe once or twice a year at most), so my valuation is definitely on the more conservative side.
My valuation: $100/year
Suite Upgrades at Ritz-Carlton Hotels
The last published benefit that I’d consider to be meaningful is that Titanium members are entitled to complimentary suite upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties, whereas Platinum members are not.
Suites at Ritz-Carlton hotels are generally very nice, and I’d typically only stay at a Ritz for a special occasion, so I’d very much value my suite upgrades during those stays.
You can’t redeem Suite Night Awards at Ritz-Carlton hotels either, so being a Titanium member is virtually the only way to be eligible for Ritz-Carlton suites. Of course, you can always ask the hotel nicely as a Platinum or even Gold member, but the hotel would be doing you a major favour by complying with your request.
Of course, just because you’re a Titanium doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get a suite either, since Ritz-Carltons are pretty stingy with elite benefits across the board. I was proactively upgraded to a suite at the Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, but failed to secure one even after quite a few attempts at the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. So it’s still pretty hit or miss, but at least you’re in the running.
My valuation: $100/year
Other Additional Benefits
As a Platinum Elite member you’re earning a 50% bonus on all the points earnings on your Marriott stays, whereas that’s bumped up to a 75% points bonus for Titaniums. That essentially works out to a further 2% discount on all your hotel spend based on my 1¢/point valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points.
Titanium Elites are also treated to an additional benefit known as the 48-Hour Guarantee, which allows you to book a room at virtually any hotel with 48 hours’ notice.
In theory, this can come in handy if you need a room somewhere during a very popular travel time when most hotels are booked up; however, these last-minute rooms would likely be very expensive, and furthermore the terms also allows hotels to deny the benefit during “limited dates or special events,” so in practice I’m not sure how useful it’ll be. I, for one, have never taken advantage of it, nor have I ever thought to look into doing so.
Finally, in theory, Titanium members are supposed to get higher priority than Platinums for things like suite upgrades, better rooms, late checkouts, and any special request in general – that’s how you would imagine a loyalty program to work, after all. However, nowhere in the terms and conditions is this explicitly stated, and in practice it isn’t quite clear that this is the case either.
(For example, if a Titanium Elite member is arriving later in the day than a Platinum Elite member, but there’s only one suite upgrade available for the night, who gets that suite? It seems very much up to each individual hotel to decide.)
Your words might carry marginally more weight when you say “as a Titanium Elite member” than “as a Platinum Elite member” when speaking with Marriott hotels over the chat app, but the overall tangible difference is likely to be immaterial.
Finally, some hotels around the world provide Titaniums with additional benefits on an individual basis. For example, the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London only allows Titaniums into their Chambers Club lounge, not regular Platinums; meanwhile, many hotels in Asia provide elite members with onsite dining discounts, and Titaniums might be treated to a higher 25% discount while Platinums get 15% or something like that.
My valuation: $100/year
Marriott Should Add More Benefits to Titanium Elite
Adding that all up, we arrive at a total valuation of $900 per year for the incremental benefit of holding Titanium Elite status over Platinum Elite, and thus a valuation of $3,600 per year for being Titanium in general.
When you consider the fact that the bulk of that incremental benefit comes from the Free Night Award worth 40,000 points, though, it’s pretty clear that Marriott could do a much better job of differentiating Titanium from Platinum and giving members more incentive to aim for the 75-night qualification level.
Off the top of my head, come ideas that don’t seem too unreasonable might include:
Complimentary breakfast at Ritz-Carltons or EDITIONs
Access to Marriott’s five-night Travel Packages (which are currently available to timeshare owners only)
Instantly confirmable suite upgrade instruments (rather than Suite Night Awards, which are purely a mechanism to request upgrades in advance and remain subject to availability)
So if you’re on track to become a Platinum for the year, should you go out of your way to aim for Titanium Elite status?
In light of the rather limited incremental benefit, I’d probably advise only doing so if you find yourself around the 72–73 night mark, and would only need a handful of nights to make up the difference. Of course, you might well be willing to work a little harder for Titanium if you have a particularly valuable use in mind for the Free Night Award.
The difference between the Titanium and Platinum elite levels within Marriott Bonvoy is nowhere near as large as the difference between Platinum and Gold, so I’d say that Platinum is a good enough target for the majority of people looking to maximize the Bonvoy program. The major benefit of achieving Titanium is the additional free night award you earn, with United Silver status and Ritz-Carlton suite upgrades representing the icing on the cake.
I certainly hope Marriott introduces some more Titanium benefits to spruce things up as time goes on, and I’m sure I’m not the only Titanium member who feels this way.