Why I don’t talk about Marriott much

Reader Jacob sends in the following question:

I’m a long time reader of the blog and I appreciate the tips, advice, and trip reports you post. But on your blog, and the others I read, I can’t help but notice the absence of anything about Marriott hotels.

Hotel coverage is always about SPG and Hyatt, with occasional, usually negative, stories on Hilton and Priority Club, with the exception of InterContinental. However, on all the miles/points blog I read, Marriott is always absent. Why is this?

I think I’ve mentioned the answer in passing in some posts, though I don’t think I’ve directly addressed it yet, so thanks for the question.

Marriott is the chain that mystifies me the most. They have incredibly high customer satisfaction, as evidenced in the Frequent Traveler Awards results from last year. As a matter of fact, they won four of the six hotel awards for the “Americas” category, which is an impressive feat. Beyond that, they have a ton of hotels, much more so than Hyatt and Starwood.

So why don’t I show them more love? Probably because despite what the Frequent Traveler Awards said, I think they are the chain that offers the least “value” for members trying to maximize their benefits. I believe that it can make financial sense to go for top tier status with Hyatt or Starwood as a leisure traveler, though I can’t imagine that every being the case with Marriott.

For one, they have by far the highest top tier elite qualification tier. To earn Platinum status with them you need to stay 75 nights per year, without an option to qualify on stays instead. With Hyatt and Starwood you can achieve top tier status for just 25 stays or 50 nights. So it’s potentially possible to earn top tier status with Hyatt and Starwood for a third as many nights as with Marriott.

That being said, they do let you earn elite qualifying nights with their Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. Just for having the card you get 15 nights towards elite status annually, in addition to one elite qualifying night for every $3,000 spent on the card. In other words, for $180,000 of spend you can “buy” Platinum status each year. Totally not worth it, but worth pointing out, for those that put a ton of money on their credit cards annually.

Despite the insanely high qualification threshold, though, they offer fewer elite benefits than Hyatt or Starwood offer their top tier elites. The most valuable benefits are as follows:

  • 50% points bonus
  • Free internet access
  • Room upgrades upon availability, excluding suites
  • Club lounge access, and if no club lounge you get continental breakfast in the restaurant (except in the US, where you would only get continental breakfast on weekdays)

Compare this to Starwood which offers:

  • 50% points bonus
  • Free internet access
  • Room upgrades upon availability, including suites
  • Club lounge access, and starting March 1 you can choose continental breakfast as an elite benefit seven days a week

And Hyatt which offers:

  • 30% points bonus
  • Free internet access
  • Room upgrades excluding suites upon availability, plus four confirmed suite upgrades per year
  • Club lounge access, and if there’s no club lounge or it’s closed you get full breakfast in the restaurant

So I have nothing against Marriott, and if anything I think they deserve credit for having such high satisfaction among their elite members despite the limited benefits they offer. But I often focus on Hyatt and Starwood because I think they offer the most “bang for the buck” for those looking to maximize benefits.

Comments

  1. Positives for Marriott include wide availability of properties. Almost every town has at least one – and sometimes more than one decent Marriott from which to choose. They are exceptionally consistent. I think the Courtyard brand has been the standard for consistency in their product offering. You know what you get when you’re buying their room. As for elite qualification, the first 75 nights to attain Platinum are onerous, but they are usually pretty generous in allowing you to MAINTAIN your status, once you’ve gotten it. In the last few years, I have directed more stays towards Hyatt and haven’t stayed 75 nights – more like somewhere between 50-70, but they still renew me as a Platinum.

    The negatives include no breakfast benefit for elites at Courtyards. I would still stay 75 nights per year if there was a breakfast benefit. The no breakfast on weekends is also not a favorite, so I make sure that I stay at Courtyards on weekends (they’re cheaper anyway) or Hyatts, where breakfast is a perk. Lastly, because the hotel sells “consistency,” there are fewer super-high end properties that I am just DYING to visit. I save those for my Hyatt stays.

    For me, it is a good #2 program for places where there is no Hyatt.

  2. Marriott is my preferred hotel chain. I have Gold status with them (after completing a challenge last spring) and was just upgraded this week at a wonderful Renaissance property in San Juan to a suite – on an award stay!
    Marriott typically has lower award redemption rates than Hilton. I have the Marriott Premier Chase card that also gives me a free Category 1-4 hotel night per year.

  3. From a quality (higher end brand) standpoint I would rank them as
    1. Hyatt
    2. SPG (W, Westin…some sheraton)
    3. Hilton (Conrad-Hilton)
    4. Intercontinental
    5. Marriott

    Many US based salesfolks love Marriott. I don;t think they offer anything special. Their properties are on the lower end and the award system isn’t favorable to me.

  4. I am a Marriott Gold member too. Lack of breakfast on the weekends is a big negative, I agree. However, for weekend stays, I pick a Residence Inn and get a suite and breakfast for the same cost as a standard room at a tradition hotel.

  5. Thanks for your review. However this brings us to the next level of battle which should be between Hyatt and Starwood. Now you owe us a grand finale and this time also bring in the perspective of families if you may. Thanks.

  6. I have Platinum with Marriott (we conduct a decent number of meetings) and have amassed a lot of Marriott points. I’m also a SPG Platinum and Hyatt Diamond. Hyatt is my preferred program for consistency, service and aspirational properties.

    I think Marriott does meetings better than SPG and Hyatt, especially when you factor in the bonuses they have for holding multiple meetings with Marriott in a year (triple points). In my experience both SPG and Hyatt haven’t done as good of a job (F+B, service, etc.) with our meetings.

    The irony is I don’t want to stay at any of their properties (even with all the points I have). For the most part Marriott has no design aesthetic. Their properties are fug. Edition was supposed to change this, but the rollout has been super slow. In addition the benefits as a Platinum are pretty weak.

    When I think Marriott for room stays I think meh.

  7. I would wager a guess that Marriott’s great showing at the FT awards had more to do with their social media presence and encouraging their members to vote as they definitely were the best at it. This will likely change this year as evidenced by virtually every program bombarding us with emails, tweets and Facebook posts to vote for them in the Freddie Awards.

    I also witnessed this when I asked Canadians to vote for their favorite travel credit card last year and Amex did the best job of reaching out to their followers. the result was that Amex took top spot in each category.

  8. I think you’ re too focused on elite status which is only part of the picture. Too often there isn’t a viable option with SPG put Hyatt where I’m going. Or my team or my boss decides where to stay, so I make the most of it. As others have mentored marriott has plenty of other positives.

  9. Marriott works for me because they have a lot of properties in many locations at a variety of price points. I usually travel with my husband and toddler. We do a lot of travel to see family in mid-size towns and to not particularly exotic destinations (skiing, beach, etc.). We just really want to stay at a reliable place and spend as little $$ as possible for it. We rarely travel enough for anything beyond silver status, so elite benefits are not the focus for us. Marriott does the trick.

  10. The main difference seems to be between the necessity of the business traveler and the flexibility of the leisure traveler/mattress runner. Many of us use Marriott brands, whether or not we love them, because their ubiquitous properties make it the only viable business option if focusing on one program.

  11. Marriott to me is a more business brand. I am Platinum, have over 100 nights the past 3 years and also platinum at starwood. I use my Marriott points for high dollar hotels like Ritz but if I want a great resort, I use SPG points. Marriott brands are very consistent, they have amazing customer service and overall the hotels don’t run a big gamut. They’re at least good if not great.

  12. For 3 more nights (78 nights), one could qualify for Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton top tier status. Not only there are a lot of properties between these 3 brands, one can diversify their point folio, have a much better chance to redeem for free stay during peak time, and reduce risks.

  13. @Lucky

    You do make valid points. However, as a Marriott Platinum and SPG Platinum, I am more satisfied with Marriott than I am with SPG. I travel primarily for business, so the lack of weekend breakfasts doesn’t bother me at all. If I do stay out on weekends, I generally use points; thus paying for breakfast isn’t a big deal.

    As far us room upgrades go, I usually travel alone (again for business) so its not a big deal for me not to get upgraded to suite, although, it is nice to get regconized once in awhile. However,I have been upgraded to suites more often with MR than I have with SPG, despite the MR program excluding suites as a Plat benefit.

    When I do inquire about upgrades when I check in at SPG properties, more often than not I am told they are sold out or they have too many Platinums staying. That, in my opinion, is the greatest value of the MR program. Only nights count toward status, thus there are a lot less top tier elites. The only reason I am a SPG Plat is because of hotel hopping. 25 stays is an extremely low threshold that can easily acheived by hotel hopping for $60/night 25 times (yes, this is definitely possible) in one year. Contrast that with a road worrior who stays 75 nights at rates exceeding $100 per night. They would attain the same status as the person on 25 nights for $60. Who’s really the valuable customer?

    Anyways that’s just my two cents.

  14. “I think you’ re too focused on elite status which is only part of the picture.”

    Totally agree. I think it is funny you are so focused on benefits when you pretty much pay for them in different ways. I.e., doing mattress runs. If you are hitting elite at other hotels by spending even $1000 in mattress running, are you really that much ahead if you are getting a breakfast out of it? Or a suite upgrade when you are alone? Is it really worth the effort? For most people, I don’t think so.

  15. @ PanAm — Like I said, the fact that they have more hotels is a big plus and something they have going for them, though people seem to like Marriott Rewards, meaning the loyalty program and not the hotels. They won “Program of the Year” at the Frequent Traveler Awards last year, not “hotel chain with the most hotels.”

    @ Andy — That’s my kind of thinking. 🙂

    @ hsw25 — Like I said I don’t for a second doubt that Marriott has high guest satisfaction, though based on your post I’m still not sure why. Obviously they have more hotels, which is a big plus, but are you saying the benefit is that you get more suite upgrades than with Starwood, or is there something else that sets them apart?

    @ Label — The benefit for me of mattress runs isn’t just elite status, but actually primarily to be able to accrue points that can be redeemed for high end properties at a low rate. For example, if you can mattress run and pick up Hyatt points at one cent a piece, it can be a pretty great value. The elite status, suite upgrades, breakfast, free internet, etc., are just the icing on the cake.

  16. Couldn’t agree more. We used to have platinum status with Marriott, but was fed up with the lack of benefits at Marriott properties especially during the weekend. There was no welcome amenity, and there were too many times when the lounge was not opened during the weekend. Hyatt is now our #1 preferred hotel chain, and we haven’t missed Marriott since.

  17. I agree with your analysis that elite status doesn’t get you much, but I think there are still some good ways to get value out of this program. Namely: the travel packages which give you a chunk of airline miles in addition to a week in a hotel.

    You get 12000 miles plus a week it a cat 1-5 property for 270000 points. Platinums can earn 25 points per dollar spent (30 with a credit card, I believe) by buying gift cards plus book rooms (and buy gift cards) and get fat wallet cash back. Add in welcome amenties and megabonuses and you can get one of those for under $8000 in spend.

    $8000 in spend at Starwood, for example, as a Platinum with their cc gets you only 50000 airline miles and no hotel stays (before promos) or 4 nights in a cat 4 hotel and no miles.

  18. Lucky, I would like to know how you can mattress run and get points at one cent a piece. Say find a cheap Hyatt Place for $60/night, you need to earn 6,000 point for that stay to achieve 1 cpp.

  19. @ Sean — Actually not that tough. Find a Hyatt with a closed club lounge on weekends with ~$80 rates, and earn:
    500 base points
    2,500 points for club lounge being closed
    1,500 points for Diamond amenity (usually 1,000 but extra 500 if it doesn’t post, which is a majority of the time)
    3,500 bonus points per night during current promo if you have Hyatt credit card

    That’s 8,000 points per stay, and I can think of at least a couple of Hyatts that have rates of around $80 that meet the above conditions. So it’s definitely not impossible.

    4,000 points per night

  20. Sorry Lucky I should have been a little more clear. You are correct in assuming I spend more nights at Marriott properties due to significantly more locations. Additionally,I have experienced better service on the whole at Marriott properties. Overall, Marriott property employees always seem friendlier and welcome.

    At SPG properties, the employees who really go above and beyond really stand out, but those employees are few and far in between in my travels. The majority of employees I’ve encountered at SPG properties seem disinterested and lethargic.

    I consider my self pretty simple. All I’m asking for is a smile and welcome. If they recognize my status,great. If not, whatever. I don’t want “ID and card”, “sign here”, and have my keys tossed at me. Unfortunately, this what I experience at most of SPG properties I frequent. I know most properties are franchises and it really depends on the franchise owner. So it just may be those properties.

  21. Two words – Travel Package

    Every year I get a week in a Hotel and 120K miles to transfer to the airline of my choice.
    No one else comes close.

  22. I don’t have any personal reason for disliking Marriott, though I’ve avoided doing business with them after the “blame the rape victim” case in CT a few years ago (at a property I’d previously stayed at when there was an assault on another woman a decade earlier).

    That said, an experience last year has shown me that there is a case when I should stay at Marriott: in any casino town that doesn’t have all non-smoking properties except for Marriott.

    Because I don’t accumulate Marriott points, I simply use it for pushing miles into United.

  23. I find that Marriott Platinum provides a very *high* number of discretionary upgrades at full service properties. They also tend to ‘bend the rules’ a LOT. I don’t have the time now, but I could rattle off many stays from 2011 in which I contacted the hotel 24-48 hours in advance, requested a suite upgrade and got it. As one who deals with casino loyalty programs (a lot), I also (personally) find the discretionary nature of Marriott Rewards to work fine for me. I also really like the ability to trade 135K points for $1000 in Marriott Gift Certificates and still earn status and points on my stay (allowing me to book at my regular (often discounted) revenue rate).

  24. So, I dont have blogger status so I’ll post it here. Summer 2012 3rd quarter promotion:
    stay 2 stays and earn a free room good for 6 months. Maximum of 3 free hotel rooms during this promotion. This promotion is why Marriot tops other brands with guest satisfaction. It takes me 10 nights at a Holiday Inn to get a free room, and 20 nights at a hilton honors even with diamond status and double points 3rd quarter promotion.
    In addition select personnel were targeted with bonus offers (not me). One is stay twice at a Fairfiels earn 7500 bonus points. The other, stay twice at a Courtyard, earn 2500 bonus points. Call the rewards line and tell them that you recieved these emails and they will approve them (even though you werent on the list, and they’ll let you know you werent; “I dont know how I got that email!!!”). Lastly, you can use all of these promotions at the same time. I got my Fairfield points last week, and intend to get my courtyard points tomorow, followed by 2 free rooms the week after.
    One caveat…when they put you on the courtyard and Fairfield list you will have to call to remind them after you get your two stays. The rep who put me on the list said “I’ll track it for you” but everyone has lives and I had to call to remind them. They do keep phone call notes, though to trace when you were put on the list.
    Happy hoteling!

  25. I have been a lifetime Platinum Premier for quite some time. I always get a suite (travel every week). I have stayed at plenty of Hilton and other properties and they simply do not stand up to the Marriott quality and convenience. Elite status is hard to get as it should be. 25 nights with someone else is just diluting true business travelers rewards and perks. Marriott is like 7-Eleven – one on every corner and many brands to choose from. Can’t say that about any of the others.

    If getting elite status was easy everyone would do it.

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