A few years ago, I became IHG Spire Elite – the first loyalty program where I reached the highest tier level. The year after, I reached Hilton Diamond. With IHG pretty much “giving” you Spire Elite status for free after buying Intercontinental Ambassador (see my separate post on that), I had plenty of nights “left”: nights that would not contribute to my IHG or Hilton status and merely would be left to collect points. So, I decided to embrace a new loyalty program, Marriott’s Bonvoy program. So here’s on reaching Marriott Bonvoy Platinum – the fast way.
Hotel loyalty programs (more often: reward programs) essentially are designed to seduce travelers to spend as much nights as possible within the same hotel chain. This is usually done through accumulating points for stays (you then usually can redeem for free nights) and free amenities like upgrades, free breakfast and free lounges (with foods and drinks). Usually ‘true’ loyalty (recognising people like as if you were at your local grocery store) is rather limited. Airlines tend to have loyalty programs as do hotels.
I personally currently hold Spire Ambassador status with IHG, Diamond status with Hilton (also, read my comparison of both programs) and Platinum status with Marriott. As well as Platinum status with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
In essence, all big hotel chains are very much alike. But where I prefer Marriott is in the limited number of screw-ups I have to endure compared to Hilton and IHG. And the fact that Marriott offers more hotels with “character” compared to IHG and Hilton. Every Hilton in every country is pretty much the same. Just like every Crown Plaza or Intercontinental is (also read my separate post on the Intercontinental Ambassador program). Within IHG I tend to gravitate towards the Indigo (Antwerp/The Hague) and Kimpton (De Witt/Fitzroy) properties, just because they at least have some character of their own.
Marriott offers 6,700 Hotels in 130 countries and has plenty of these hotels with character. With their Design Hotels (like AnaYela in Marrakech) and Autograph Collection hotels (like Hotel Nassau in Breda), they have plenty of boutique hotels to choose from. And although every Marriott is pretty much the same everywhere, I tend to feel most other brands, including the JW Marriotts and Renaissance Hotels have some character of their own.
After the Marriott and SPG/Starwood merger, Marriott revamped their loyalty program into “BonVoy”, aiming to claim the word “BonVoy” and making it into something it is not (yeah, I got an opinion on that). But besides that, the BonVoy loyalty program is actually pretty nice. I especially appreciate the room upgrades (plenty) and the free breakfast (although, for whatever unclear reason, that does not apply to the Courtyard by Marriott properties)
A fast track
As seen above, a hotel loyalty program can have clear benefits. But it requires time and quite some money (stays) to acquire a higher tier level status with the different loyalty programs. That is why – often- hotel chains (but also airlines) offer either status matches (you can get a similar status as with another hotel/airline but usually have to complete a number of requirements) and/or status challenge – usually a structure in which you “prove” by spending a specific number of nights within a limited amount of time that you are committed to the hotel brand and are planning to stay more.
Marriott offers an elite status fast track for both Gold and Platinum levels – The Gold offer requires 8 nights within 3 months, and the Platinum elite offer requires 16 nights within 3 months. It is essential to enroll in this challenge before you start your spending nights. Obviously, you’ll need a Marriott Rewards account to get started too. Simply call Marriott Rewards to request your preferred challenge (Gold or Platinum). Be sure to ask for an email confirming your enrollment status and the qualifications needed to successfully satisfy the challenge. Despite what some customer service agents may inform you, these new challenges do not require having a pre-existing elite status (with another hotel chain), so if you’re misinformed, politely say thanks, hang up and call again (PointsGuy confirmed this with Marriott).
In my case – with over 200 nights per year in hotels, I wasn’t too much looking forward to having all nifty benefits from the IHG and Hilton programmes yet struggling through 50 nights with Marriott to reach Platinum status. In that case, a fast track that allows you to become a Platinum/Gold member with a fraction of the normal stays/nights needed made complete sense.
Fast track strategies
An elite status fast track comes done to picking and choosing your fast track months wisely. In other words: to turn your busiest three month travel period where you have plenty of opportunities to stay with Marriott properties for a reasonable price into a year of exciting benefits.
In my case, a new Renaissance hotel had opened near Schiphol airport – pretty much in an ideal location: close to some amazing running tracks, close to several of my clients and with an airport shuttle that would quickly transfer me to the airport.
Additionally, new hotels tend to have lower prices to generate traffic and awareness and as a way to appease customers who have to get through the early growing pains of a new hotel. Later in the opening year, hotels tend to raise their prices towards their “normal” rate – as was the case with QO Amsterdam for example, who started out with 100 euros per night and now charge 175 euros per night regularly.
So, I was in the position to spend a large amount of nights in a relatively cheap Marriott property with high value (Renaissance is one of the better Marriott properties) and thus fast track my way to Platinum. This was extra convenient as I was planning a Stockholm stay at Miss Clara – Platinum status would allow me free breakfast there.