Marriott Joins the Status Giveaway Club (for a Fee)

Lifetime Status

Marriott and American Express have announced some changes to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card. Most importantly, the card will now come with automatic Platinum status with Marriott Bonvoy.

This change is massive. For a $650 annual fee, you will now be able to access lounges, receive room upgrades (including suites), breakfast, bonus points, etc.

You will also receive a free night certificate each year that can be used at an 85,000 point per night hotel. If you push $60,000 in spend through this card, you will be eligible for another free night certificate valid at an 85,000 point per night hotel. In both cases, you can top up with certificate with 15,000 points if necessary.

For an infrequent traveller, this is surely a valuable proposition (especially since the annual fee will be offset by value of the free night).

You will also receive 25 elite night credits. Combine this with a “business” card and you could pick up 40 free elite night credits per year – helping you on your way to Titanium status.

What’s Wrong?

If I were pushing credit cards to earn a commission, this article would stop here. But I’m not selling anything…

Marriott now joins Hilton in giving away elite status. Hilton gives away its very highest level of status – Diamond. Marriott is only giving away a lower level of status – Platinum – but most Marriott elite members recognize that there is little to no difference between the two levels of status. Platinum is “good enough” for most Marriott Bonvoy members.

For all intents and purposes, both Marriott and Hilton are now giving away their best elite status for a reasonable annual fee. This is very bad news for the industry in general…

Why is that?  Well, it’s very easy for a hotel chain to give away elite status, because somebody else is footing the bill. With hotels, the franchisee is the one paying for your free breakfast or lounge treats. Why should a hotel owner pay for a nice executive lounge, when the hotel is full of DYKWIA elites who aren’t paying? Why give away full breakfast, when the T&Cs will allow them to get away with offering just a muffin and coffee?

When everybody is “elite”, then nobody is actually treated better than anybody else. When everybody expects something of value, but nobody is willing to pay for it, then a hotel operator should make quite sure that there is nothing of value to be had.

Don’t Bother With Chasing Lifetime Elite Status Either

Both Hilton and Marriott offer “lifetime status”.  Marriott’s version is easier to obtain than Hilton’s. Lifetime Platinum with Marriott Bonvoy requires:

  • 10 years of Platinum (or better) holding elite status
  • 600+ nights

I have previously written about the folly of chasing lifetime status. But now there REALLY is no point of spending 50+ nights at a Marriott each year – I could just sign up for a credit card and renew it over and over.

So in exchange for Marriott’s share of a credit card annual fee, the chain has now given many people a reason to stay less at Marriott hotels.  That doesn’t seem very smart to me…

Bottom Line

Some people will undoubtedly be thrilled by the opportunity to pick up Marriott Platinum status with a credit card. Others simply foresee an accelerating decline in the benefits offered by individual hotels and will start moving their hotel stays accordingly.