We’re not even out of February and I’m reverting to a bad habit. However, I’ve done the math and I think it makes sense. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the 2017 Marriott Platinum Challenge and why I’ve decided to go for it.
What is the Marriott Platinum Challenge?
Before I tell you my story I should back up a bit and define our terms. In general, loyalty programs offer members different kick-starters to help them get to the next higher level more quickly. Sometimes they’ll match status from a competitor (which worked not so well for Hyatt) but more frequently they’ll offer you a “challenge”. The challenge is to meet a certain number of miles/nights in a short period of time- usually 90 days.
The Marriott Platinum challenge in early 2017 is available to any Gold member who hasn’t gone for a challenge in the past 24 months. (I hear 12 from time to time but was told 24 today.) Most people can get Marriott Gold by matching to their Starwood Gold – obtained via the American Express Platinum Card- or via spend on the Marriott Chase card. You’re required to complete 9 stays (individual hotel stays, not combined nights) in 3 months. To enroll you just call Marriott Rewards at 800-228-2100. I was able to get approved for my first stay the same night.
What you get after the Marriott Platinum Challenge
We’re in a sweet spot in early 2017 for Starwood and Marriott. Each program is distinctive but each matches to the other. Once the programs fully integrate the opportunities won’t be nearly as good. But for now Marriott Platinum will equal Starwood Platinum. Marriott Platinum status earned in 2017 is valid for 2017 and 2018 via multiple sources.
UPDATE: The final word on status expiration, straight from a Marriott Rewards team member:
If a member achieves Platinum Elite status in February or March 2017, the new level would be valid for the remainder of the year it was achieved PLUS the next full calendar year. Elite levels achieved in the month of January are valid for the remainder of the year only.
That’s good in itself, but what really interests me is the airline benefit- Marriott Platinum equals United Silver. United Silver gets you a free bag, economy plus at check in for you and a companion, a higher earning rate and the (slim) possibility of an upgrade. If you have no United status and don’t want to pay for a United credit card- Silver is really helpful.
Here’s where it gets really interesting: Starwood has a similar program with Delta. They don’t officially call it Silver, but the benefits are about the same so let’s call it “Silver lite”. So for the immediate future 9 stays gets you not only Platinum with Starwood AND Marriott, but Silver with United AND Silver lite with Delta. One challenge for 4 elite statuses is hard to resist.
Check your math (mine is pretty good)
Here in DC hotels get cheap on the weekends. I can knock out 9 weekend stays in 5 weekends at an average of $50 net (after points earned). Let’s call it $500 to be safe.
Of course, benefits mean squat if you don’t use them. However, I just happen to have a flight to Puerto Rico late next month on United. Econ + is $69 each way for both me and Deal Kid. $280- over 5 of the 9 stays rebated there.
Things start to get really interesting this summer in Chile and Argentina. The only hotel in Iguazu Falls national park is a Sheraton, and it’s 12,000 SPG points a night for a base room. I’d need a suite or two rooms for the 4 of us, which is 24,000 points a night and with Gold the hotel isn’t known for handing out upgrades. However with Platinum I have a much better shot at getting that suite for the price of one room- it’s not guaranteed, but I have no shot at Gold. On even a one night stay a 12K Starpoint savings is over $200 by my valuation. That one night pretty much takes care the rest of the challenge cost.
In the gravy column is the fact that many SPG hotels in Chile are going down a category this year. In Santiago in July a Platinum has a great shot at a suite. Sheraton suites in Santiago for 7K points a night with the 5th night free? Not bad.
A “stretch” goal for our trip is Easter Island. Awards flights to IPC are few and far between, but for some reason award flights via Easter Island to Papeete, French Polynesia are popping up right now in business class. The best way to book them is on Japan Airlines- only 65K round trip in Business Class, which is a steal. However, Japan Airlines only accepts transfers from SPG.
The Verdict? Marriott Platinum Challenge is worth completing for us even if we don’t step foot in a Marriott again after we do so.
The benefits I’ve calculated are only the ones we already have planned. As with many of you trips come up last minute and who knows where we might end up? The one thing I do know is that Platinum status in two hotel chains and Silver status on two airlines for less than $500 is a no-brainer for us. It’s certainly cheaper than 25 stays in two months at Hyatt!
Are you going for the Marriott Platinum challenge? Am I doing the right thing? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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