Marriott Bonvoy is the best hotel loyalty program for Canadian travellers, and its elite status program can deliver tremendous benefits once you reach the higher status tiers.
Earning Platinum Elite status at 50 qualifying nights per year is widely considered to be the most significant threshold, where most of the best elite benefits come into play.
In this article, let’s take a look at a few of the best ways you can earn Platinum Elite status without necessarily having to stay the full 50 nights.
Why Is Platinum Elite Status So Valuable?
The Platinum Elite level is where the loyalty benefits truly start to do their work for you.
The most significant benefit is likely the free breakfast offering, which many travellers seek to maximize by loading up on food in the morning, thus saving themselves the time and expense of eating lunch while they’re out and about for the day.
Suite upgrades can also be an awesome surprise and can really make your trip a memorable one, especially if you’re in the habit of asking the front desk for a suite upgrade proactively.
Moreover, 4pm late checkout is an invaluable benefit that really allows you to make the most of your time at the hotel when you plan to depart later in the day.
And at hotels with Club Lounges or Executive Lounges, these intimate spaces provide the perfect place to meet a friend, catch up on some work, or just unwind at the end of the day.
Moreover, the evening cocktail spread can often serve as a dinner replacement, which can save you lots of money if you’re travelling on a budget. It’s usually advertised as “evening canapés” or “light bites”, but you can keep going back for more portions. 😉
So, what are the best ways to achieve Platinum Elite? While the traditional way is to spend 50 nights in Marriott hotels, there are a few shortcuts and workarounds to “finesse” your way to that target.
15 Elite Nights: The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Cards
Let’s start with the easy stuff. The goal is 50 elite qualifying nights, and right off the bat we can earn 15 of those by holding either the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card or the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business Card.
New cardholders will see the 15 elite nights posted to their accounts shortly after opening the credit card. Meanwhile, if you’re a current cardholder, you’ll most likely see your 15 elite nights credited at the start of every year.
Indeed, if you have any interest in maximizing the Marriott Bonvoy program for free hotel stays, then having one of these credit cards is basically a prerequisite, so I imagine most of you will be receiving this 15-night boost almost by default.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|55,000 Bonvoy points||$429||Apply Now|
|55,000 Bonvoy points||$399||Apply Now|
15 More Elite Nights: Holding a Personal and Business US-Issued Bonvoy Card
In March 2020, the US-issued Marriott Bonvoy credit cards updated their terms and conditions, and will now allow you to earn two sets of 15 elite nights, for 30 elite nights in total, if you hold both a personal and a business card:
A maximum of 15 Elite Night Credits will be provided per Marriott Bonvoy Member Account, unless you have both a small business Marriott Bonvoy Card account and a consumer Marriott Bonvoy Card account; then, you may receive a combined maximum of 30 Elite Night Credits (15 per Card account).
Personal Bonvoy cards in the US include the Amex US Bonvoy Brilliant Card, the Chase Bonvoy Boundless Card, and the Chase Bonvoy Bold Card. There’s also the regular Amex US Bonvoy Card, which is a legacy product that’s no longer available to new applicants, but still counts as a personal product if you’re a legacy cardholder.
Meanwhile, the only business Bonvoy card in the US is the Amex US Bonvoy Business Card, although there’s also the legacy Chase Bonvoy Business which has been discontinued for new applicants.
Of all the possible combinations of personal and business cards, the easiest to obtain is probably the Amex US Bonvoy Brilliant and the Amex US Bonvoy Business.
Both cards can be obtained during the early stages of getting into US credit card as a Canadian, since Amex US applications don’t require an SSN or ITIN to complete. And as a proud owner of both cards, you’ll earn the 30 elite qualifying nights every year to get you closer to Platinum Elite status.
Note that, as of now, the Canadian-issued Bonvoy cards have not been updated with the same terms. Instead, they still say:
“You will receive a maximum of 15 Elite Night Credits per calendar year even if you have more than one Marriott Bonvoy Consumer or Small Business credit card account or have more than one Marriott Bonvoy program account.”
Therefore, it’s not enough to simply hold one of the US-issued Bonvoy cards. If you had a Canadian-issued personal Bonvoy card and a US-issued business card, that would still only earn you the base-level 15 elite qualifying nights – and it’s the same if you had a Canadian business card with a US personal card.
You do need to have both personal and business cards in the US to double-up on the 15 elite nights for a total of 30.
If you hold the following combination of Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit cards...
You will receive...
Canadian personal + Canadian business
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian personal + US personal
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian personal + US business
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian business + US personal
15 elite qualifying nights
Canadian business + US business
15 elite qualifying nights
US personal + US business
30 elite qualifying nights
Thankfully, both of the Amex US products come with very tempting signup bonuses, and also offer anniversary Free Night Awards that justify their US$150 and US$125 respective net annual fees on an ongoing basis.
So that’s 30 down, 20 to go. What’s next?
20 More Elite Nights…
If you’re looking to hit Platinum the traditional way (i.e., by earning 50 elite qualifying nights), then the shortcuts end with the above 30 elite nights. The remaining 20 elite nights will have to be earned via Marriott hotel stays.
Regular Hotel Stays
The ideal scenario is that you’re able to stay 20 nights with Marriott as a result of your natural travel patterns.
Remember that hotel stays booked with either cash or points will count towards elite night qualification, so you can get closer towards Platinum Elite status while still redeeming Bonvoy points for hotel stays without paying anything out-of-pocket.
Indeed, if you’re redeeming Bonvoy points, one sweet spot that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of is the “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” benefit. Not only do you get the fifth night free, but that’s one extra elite qualifying night closer to the 50 nights needed for Platinum Elite status too.
(Plus, even if you’re staying at a hotel for only four nights, redeem for a five-night stay anyway, as long as it doesn’t cost you anything extra. Check out only after the fifth night using the mobile app, and you’ll have earned an extra elite qualifying night for no additional expense.)
Double Elite Night Promotions
Marriott Bonvoy has historically offered public and targeted Double Elite Nights promotions on a fairly consistent basis at least once per year, with the most recent round occurring in Spring 2022.
Under these promotions, members can typically earn two elite qualifying nights for every paid night that they stay with Marriott.
It’s obviously very lucrative to plan your Marriott stays during these periods, so you’d be well-advised to shift as much of your paid stays to Marriott during a Double Elite Night promotion as possible – and potentially even book a few mattress runs at cheap cash rates.
If you still have a shortfall to make up after your organic hotel stays, then here’s where you can start getting a little creative.
The term “mattress running” refers to the practice of checking into hotels solely for the purpose of earning points or elite credits – especially hotels that are extremely cheap on cash or on points.
For example, some hotels in Canada can be booked for as little as 6,000 points per night. Combine that with the “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” benefit, and you’re looking at potentially spending as little as 24,000 Bonvoy points to earn five elite qualifying nights.
If you live elsewhere in Canada but happen to pass through one of these places along your travels, it could be worth checking in at the hotel for a five-night mattress run if you anticipate that those five elite qualifying nights will come in handy for Platinum qualification this year.
Note that you must physically check-in to the hotel in order for the stay to count. If you simply make a booking but don’t show up, your booking will be forfeited and you may even lose your points or face a no-show penalty.
However, there’s no real requirement that you remain in the room at all times. The generally advised approach is to throw up the Do Not Disturb sign and complete your checkout on the mobile app on the final day of the stay.
Of course, you have to decide whether the five elite nights are worth the points you spend, since those points could also be used towards a free night that you’ll actually need on one of your trips.
All things considered, I’d say that the “mattress running” strategy only comes into the equation if you anticipate that you’ll be within touching distance of Platinum and only need those extra few nights to bring you over the edge.
The “Second Guest Trick”
The other angle, which should only be done at one’s own comfort with the practice, is to make hotel bookings for others.
Position yourself as the “go-to” person within your circle of friends and family for all their hotel needs – offer them your elite benefits in exchange for their elite night credits. If you pull it off, it’s a win-win situation.
Again, though, you’ll have to have some finesse about how you approach this, because Marriott and other hotel loyalty programs technically do not grant elite benefits nor qualifying nights when the member isn’t physically staying at the hotel.
The workaround is known as the “second guest trick”, where you make the reservation, then contact the hotel to add your friend or family member as the second guest, and say that they’ll be arriving first.
When your friend or family member arrives, they can provide a credit card of their own to secure the reservation and access the room.
Otherwise, it’ll all be much ado about nothing, because no one gets the elite benefits and no one gets the elite qualifying nights. Needless to say, trust is paramount when doing this, and you should also be prepared not to receive the elite nights and benefits that you aren’t technically entitled to.
In theory, you could even combine the above two creative approaches: make cheap five-night bookings at Alberta’s cheap hotels, and then find a local friend to check-in on your behalf as your second guest to complete your mattress run.
I’m surprised that no enterprising Albertans have started up a service for doing this yet. 😉
Chase Bonvoy Boundless Card: Spend US$5,000 for 1 Elite Night
Lastly, with the US-issued Chase Bonvoy Boundless Card, you can earn one elite qualifying night for every US$5,000 spent on the card.
That’s a fairly high amount of money to spend for only one elite night in return, so I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on this method of racking up elite nights.
If you’re sitting at at, say, 48 or 49 elite qualifying nights at the end of a year and just need one last push to get you over the edge, you might spending your way to the last few nights. Even then, however, it’s probably still better to just book a cheap night at a local hotel to get you over the edge.
Alternate Pathways to Marriott Platinum Elite Status
Besides trying to reach Platinum Elite status by earning 50 elite qualifying nights the traditional way, there are also a few other pathways to reach this target.
Marriott offers a status challenge known as the Platinum Challenge, which will grant you instant Platinum status if you stay 16 paid nights within a 90-day period.
You can contact Marriott to request the Platinum Challenge, and any individual may only register for the challenge once every three years.
With the requirement for paid stays, the Challenge isn’t necessarily too useful for those of you looking to achieve Platinum Elite status on the cheap. But if you’ve got a busy period of travel coming up and will need to book lots of hotel stays, then the Platinum Challenge can help you unlock better benefits along your hotel stays with fewer nights than what’s normally required.
In future years, you wouldn’t be able to retain Platinum Elite status with the Platinum Challenge’s criteria, but you’d at least be able to enjoy your benefits while you work towards requalification the regular way.
Spend US$75,000 on the Amex US Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card
Another alternate way of earning Platinum Elite status is by reaching a spending threshold of US$75,000 on the Amex US Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card or the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa Card during a calendar year.
However, this threshold is most likely prohibitively high for most cardholders, so it isn’t necessarily a viable method of achieving and retaining Platinum Elite status year after year.
Even if you have no trouble spending US$75,000, the opportunity cost of doing so on one of these Marriott co-branded credit cards is quite high, as you could unlock much more valuable bonuses by completing minimum spending requirements on new cards instead (or even just spending on, say, a card that earns more powerful Membership Rewards points rather than Bonvoy points).
Given the high opportunity cost, it’s much better to pursue Platinum Elite status the regular way rather than contemplating this US$75,000 spending threshold.
Platinum Elite status within the Marriott Bonvoy program is certainly a status worth having, and the more you stay with Marriott, the more worthwhile it becomes.
By holding a Canadian-issued Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card, you’ll already earn 15 elite qualifying nights towards the 50-night threshold. And if you can get both a personal and business US-issued Bonvoy credit card, then you’ll be more than halfway to that 50-night mark year after year.
Should you successfully scrape together the remaining 20 nights via a combination of your organic paid or award stays, mattress running, and booking hotels for friends and family, then you’ll soon be enjoying the fruits of your labour along your travels as you savour a delightful breakfast buffet or Club Lounge cocktail.