Priority Club vs. Marriott Rewards

Discussion in 'IHG | Rewards Club/Ambassador' started by ZCT, Apr 15, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. ZCT

    ZCT Silver Member

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    I am a business traveler who spends about 160 nights a year in hotels spending $100-$140 per night. I recently had a chance to test drive the Marriott Rewards program through their 'Platinum Challenge' program. Basically if they enroll you in the program you get instant Platinum status and you have 90 days to stay 18 paid nights, to retain the Platinum status. They offer other challenges for less frequent travelers, that require fewer stays.

    So I have just finished that challenge which gave me a decent chance to compare Holiday Inn properties with Marriott properties (which in my price range were mainly Courtyard and Fairfield vs Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express). I thought I'd share my observations.

    First off the Marriott Rewards program is a bit more convoluted than the Priority Club program. You earn points, but you can also earn free night certificates which expire, the points don't determine status the number of paid nights do, so using their promotions is unlikely to get you to Platinum quicker.

    So I have to say from that perspective, especially given the slew of Priority Club offers, codes, promotions and specials the Marriott program is nowhere near as generous or simple. Achieving Platinum Elite is harder to do (you need 75 paid nights or get them to give you the challenge offer and complete it within 90 days), so I guess it is more exclusive, but other than that it seems similar to Priority Club.

    As far as the properties I visited, I'll say that Marriott has spent a lot more money than IHG on the lobby restaurant area for the most part. Courtyard usually has an excellent mini-restaurant with cool features such as putting the calorie count on the food to help you make healthy choices. However, I found the rooms at that class of Marriott to be a little more variable, some a lot better than others. It also bugged me that refrigerators are not standard, so you always have to ask and make sure, and there is always the risk that they are all being used by other guests. In some properties because they move them around so much they get beat up, dented or noisy. In one hotel I had to even get it switched out because it was louder than the air conditioning and kept waking me up!

    The other complaint I had with Marriott was the Internet speed. I believe it would be fair to say that it is on average slower than at IHG properties. In one hotel in Oklahoma they had deliberately throttled the speed down to 384Kbps and offered a $9 a night pay service via a third party (so you could not be comped or charge it to the room, you had to give this unknown third party your credit card number direct) to upgrade to 1.5Mbps which is a complete joke.

    While I have yet to find a hotel chain in my price range with consistently fast speeds at every property, I feel that at least from what I saw Marriott are being lazy or greedy when it comes to the Internet. Which is a big down side for the business traveler who likes Netflix, Amazon on Demand or other streaming services.

    Ultimately beyond just the quality of the accommodation there is the reward program itself. The Priority Club model is very simple, very easy to follow, and very easy to enhance if you keep an eye out for promotion codes and offers. If you take full advantage of all that they offer as a Platinum member you can certainly accumulate points very quickly, and if you like non-hotel rewards, you can buy Amazon.com gift cards with your points effectively allowing you to buy just about any item you want.

    Conversely the Marriott system has given me points but also I got two free night coupons that expire, so I am going to have to use those even if I don't want to, or give them away to a relative so they don't go to waste. I'm not a fan of expiration dates and being forced to use coupons in this manner. I like points that don't expire that I can use as and when I wish to.

    In conclusion, at my price range, and level of travel, Priority Club does seem to be a better deal. It seems more flexible, more generous, easier to use, and simple. In addition the standard refrigerator in every room is good, at least where I travel the larger number of properties is good. So on balance, for the most part, the IHG properties and reward programs are a better fit for me.

    If you are shopping the chains and rewards programs, I hope this post helps you.
     
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  2. dc3
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    dc3 Silver Member

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    Try asking Marriott to extend the free nights. They have been known to do this.

    Top level at IHG gives very little. Top level at Marriott gives free Internet which I never get at a Holiday Inn in the UK
     
  3. sendaiben
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    sendaiben Gold Member

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    Great comparison! Thanks for writing it :)

    I have never stayed at a Marriott, but find my IHG Platinum Ambassador status underwhelming. Recently Hilton and Starwood have improved their elite program, so I try to stay at one of those instead of Priority Club. Sadly they are not as common as I would like here in Japan/Asia...
     
  4. below sea level
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    below sea level Silver Member

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    My biggest problem with the IHG program is the inconsistency of benefits between properties. That and if there is an available benefit, the staff at the property often need to be asked for it (and sometimes don't even know about it).

    It's not enough to make me want to find another program, but it's certainly a frustration.
     
  5. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing, ZCT!

    :)
     
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  6. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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  7. ZCT

    ZCT Silver Member

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    Well although I am originally from the UK, I was only referring to property in the US.

    You're right, the top level at IHG is probably too easy to attain and gives very little. Although I usually get a free room upgrade out of it, and it does give you the 50% bonus on the points, which I guess is nice.

    The issue I had with Marriott Platinum is the free Internet thing never came into play as every Marriott property I stayed at had free (usually slow) Internet anyway. The only one that charged was paid to a third party which is shady IMHO, especially when it was only an upgrade to 1.5Mbps!
     
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  8. mowogo
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    mowogo Gold Member

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    I've found Marriott is good at giving executive room upgrades at the full service hotels, but nothing at the limited service (only had a real upgrade at a Courtyard once). Thus for limited service, the benefits are about equal, with Priority Club having the advantage of a points program that gives you room to really exploit, as opposed to insane qualification requirements for elite status
     
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  9. If you only stay at HI's/HIX properties you won't get Ambassador status which is what gets you free Internet and other benefits. The fact is that IHG operates two programs under one umbrella.
     
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  10. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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  11. ZCT

    ZCT Silver Member

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    I've stayed at dozens of HI / HIX / Crowne Plazza in multiple states and I've never seen pay for use Internet being offered either exclusively or as an upgrade over standard Internet.

    However I have seen either pay for use or up sell to faster Internet offered by Marriott and Hilton chains.

    The issue I have is that it's kind of like how airlines give elite members free bag check. All they did was charge for something that used to be free, and then kindly waive the fee as a benefit. It's a great way of raising money from infrequent travelers while making elite members feel like they are getting a perk.

    Ultimately in my small and non-scientific sample I found that Marriott's cheaper business traveler kind of hotels (Fairfield, Courtyard etc) the Internet service was generally much slower than the Holiday Inn chain. And I felt like they were trying to con me at one of their properties in Oklahoma where they were throttling the free access and then up selling to 1.5Mbps through a third party for $9 a night, which could not be waived even for Platinum Elite members.
     
  12. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    That's a good take on the value of status at each. Neither seems like a valuable program to get involved with in a big way unless you either can take advantage of Royal Ambassador or need a program with a ton of hotels in the middle of nowhere. Neither program excites or seriously incentivises me the way Spg, gold passport, or even Hilton do. While the consistency of the Marriott product can be nice and priority club can be rewarding, I'd rather focus on Spg and/or Hyatt where available and fill in with Hilton, assuming you can reach top elite levels.
     
  13. cliq

    cliq Silver Member

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    Personally I believe internet should be free at all hotels. Worthless paying for what you could easily get for free especially if the hotel is located in some busy area where there are open wifi networks
     
  14. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    I've stayed a ton at Marriott, Hilton and IHG brands over the years. I like IHG the best because I can seem to get more points faster and redeeming them is easy and fairly straight forward. The down side is the hotels in the areas I stay tend to be less exciting on the rewards I use. Marriott points also add up quickly but just more complicated and I don't feel the hotels (ones I stay at) are as clean or up to date. Currently I'm staying at a lot of Hilton branded hotels for business reasons beyond my control. They are nice but I don't feel they points add up as quickly. My personal favorite hotels are actually Hyatt Place hotels but they need to build more of them, Please!
     
  15. ZCT

    ZCT Silver Member

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    Well more importantly, it should be at least 3Mbps. I am so sick of hotels that advertise 'high speed internet' and you can't even stream a YouTube video. It's 2012, I want to be able to stream HBOGo in HD, I want to log into my DVR at home and watch my shows, or maybe I want to VuDu or download a movie off my cloud into my iPad to watch on the plane.

    If the Internet is slower than 0.5Mbps then it ain't high speed, and I will avoid your hotel like the plague in future. It's like hotels that don't have flat screen TVs in the room. Not acceptable in 2012.

    Just an opinion...
     
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  16. mrredskin
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    mrredskin Gold Member

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    they both suck as far as online customer service goes, but on-site tends to favor marriott, slightly, based on my experience (altho my stay this past weekend at Bristol, VA HI went very well).

    You're lucky to get a reply from PC if you send an email, but I asked Marriott for any kind of status match (including silver) based on my status with PC, SPG, HH, or Hyatt, and they essentially told me to suck it. To beat it all, they TWICE replied back to me with the incorrect number of stays I had completed this year. I'll keep taking their S2G1 promos, tho, with $70-90 govt rates and using the free night at $200 a night jobs
     
  17. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    Agree. I feel a property should either offer Wifi that is full capable of the current technologies or don't offer it at all so I can stay elsewhere. This is especially bad when you are stuck paying for it only to watch 'buffering'.
     
  18. man on the move.

    man on the move. Silver Member

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    I must be odd.

    My priorities are clean, comfortable and safe hotel close to my needed location.

    Then space and access to a good gym and good food.

    Internet is not a priority, who has time for that?
     
  19. sendaiben
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    sendaiben Gold Member

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    I also find decent (preferably free) internet to be an essential. Sad, eh? ;)
     
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  20. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Who can afford to be disconnected?
     
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  21. legalalien
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    legalalien Gold Member

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    Me too, but there are ways to get connected other than hotel Wi-Fi.

    Marriott elite status is much more valuable at full service hotels, e.g., Marriott, Renaissance, etc. where one can actually take advantage of the access to concierge lounge or free breakfast, room upgrades, and free Internet. At CY, FFI, RI and SHS most or all those things are already free and all rooms are essentially the same, so all you get is extra points and sometimes a snack.

    IHG elite status seems essentially worthless, except for accumulating points faster.

    I like Hyatt in general, and their Hyatt Place hotels are quite nice. The only problem is indeed lack of a Hyatt option in many places.
     
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  22. SuperKirby

    SuperKirby Gold Member

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    Thanks for the detailed analysis.
    If you had any experiences in the UK or other parts of Europe, would you mind telling us your comparison between Marriott vs IHG?
     

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