There’s a decent chance that Marriott Rewards is going to end up being your BFF, whether you like it or not. If you are currently a Starwood Preferred Guest Customer or will simply want access to the widest network of hotels, you’ll be spending a lot of time with our Bethesda-based friends. There’s a trade-off here: In terms of redemptions, Marriott is one of my favorites. They have hotels at every level, including a true luxury product (Ritz-Carlton), and earning enough points for a free night is not ridiculously difficult. For elite benefits, however, I put them near the bottom, behind SPG, Hyatt and Hilton (in that order), but ahead of IHG. No suite upgrades for you, no matter what your elite level is.
Last week, I discussed what status level you should be aiming for at Marriott to maximize the benefits/dollars spent trade-off. You’ll end up with bonus points, free breakfast and other goodies by having Marriott’s mid-tier Gold Elite status. But it’s not particularly easy to earn status with the company. Silver requires ten nights per year. Not too bad. Many of us already do that. But if you want Gold, you’ll have to stay 50 nights. Platinum requires 75 nights. Ouch. That’s a little more difficult.
The upside is that Marriott makes it relatively easy to earn additional nights credits with a credit card. Here’s how you can earn any level of status at Marriott without ever staying a night (or at least contribute a few nights toward your running total).
Silver Elite Status
Silver Elite status requires ten nights stayed or one Marriott credit card. The Chase Marriott Rewards card happens to be a really good one. It starts with an 80,000 point sign-up bonus, which will get you a free night anywhere (including Ritz properties). Actually, it will probably get you more than one, with awards ranging from 6,000 points to 70,000. You get another 7,500 for putting on an authorized user. $85 annual fee.
Elite status is what we’re after though, and the card comes through. Cardholders receive 15 night credits every year, which puts you over the hump required to get Silver. These credits are combined with nights stayed, so you’ll now only have to stay 35 nights for Gold or 60 for Platinum. In addition, you receive one credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card, so spending a measly $180,000 annually on the card gets you to Platinum*. Obviously, this is a ridiculous level for most of us, but the ability to generate night credits could be enough to bump you up to the next level when combined with your free nights and any real stays.
To get the card, simply click through the banner here and begin scrolling:
Gold Elite Status
Got a small business or need a business credit card? You could end up with Gold Status on Marriott. The business card has many of the same benefits that the personal card does, including the sign-up bonus, 15 elite credits and one credit per $3,000 spent. But the card also offers another perk: Spend $50,000 annually on the card and they’ll grant you Gold Status. That’s certainly a better option for many people than getting the nights through spend on the personal card, which would require $105,000 in spend to get to Gold Status.
To get the card, use the link above and find the Marriott personal card. Click on that card and scroll to the bottom, where you will see the following:
Click on the circled part for access to the business card.
Platinum Elite Status
Marriott does not give away Platinum status cheaply or easily. Technically, it is not giving it away at all, since the status that you can earn with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card is with the Ritz-Carlton, owned by Marriott.
Backstory: Several years ago, Marriott decided to muck up its program by offering either a Marriott Rewards account or Ritz-Carlton rewards account. They are essentially the same program, just with a different name, but you can only have one or the other. Your Marriott stays can all be credited to Ritz, and vice versa. Elite status is reciprocal. I have no idea why they made the change; perhaps it was to make Ritz seem more exclusive. Regardless, it’s nothing you need to worry about; as far as you’re concerned, the only difference between the two is the name. Otherwise, they are one and the same. I bring this up only because you need to be in the Ritz “track” to get your benefits. A change can be made with a phone call and you’ll never know the difference from there. Okay, enough on that.
If you stay frequently at the Ritz-Carlton (or want to stay there frequently), the recently improved Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card should make you drool. Among the benefits:
- Three free nights after spending $5,000 in the first three months
- A $100 credit on two-night (or more) Ritz stays
- A $100 airline credit when booking for 2-5 people through their portal (several major carriers)
- A $300 annual travel credit good toward non-ticket airline purchases
- A $100 statement credit toward Global Entry
- Priority Pass lounge access
- Three Club level upgrades each year. The Ritz clubs are exclusive and out of this world.
- Lots of other goodies
I don’t stay at the Ritz very often, although a case could be made that the airline credit alone is worth the $450 annual fee, but if you are looking for elite status, here are the benefits:
- You get Gold Status your first year and then any year in which you spend $10,000.
- You get Platinum Status when you spend $75,000 on your card in a year.
This isn’t a card for everyone but, if you like your luxury properties, it is for you.
*The best elite bargain actually comes from Hilton, who gives you top-tier Diamond status for only $40,000 in annual spend on its American Express Surpass card.Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!
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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!