Pros and Cons of Marriott Rewards

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Here’s my take on what is good and bad about Marriott Rewards. Compared to the previous pieces, very little has changed with Marriott Rewards during the past 12 months.

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I believe that Marriott Rewards can be a reasonable program if you can put in a lot of nights or just work the MegaBonus promotions for the free night certs. Their MegaBonus promotions typically rewards customers that stay up to 25 to 35  nights during a three/four month period or who stay four times and can earn two free night certs.

What do you think about Marriott Rewards? Leave your comments below.

Pros

– Number of Properties

– Variety of Brands

– Uniformity

– Travel Packages

– Email turnaround time

– Corporate Contracts

– “Family” run (Gone)

– Four status levels

– Elite Guarantees

– Rewards Plus partnership with United Airlines (New)

– Relatively strong worldwide

– Autograph Collection (New)

– Award types

– Discount programs

– Best Rate Guarantee

– Extending elite status indefinitely via buy back

– Lifetime status

– Number of airline partners

– Ability to change targeted offers

– Predictable promotions

– Gift cards

Cons

– Marriott Rewards Customer Service Hours

– Boring brands

– Aging properties

– Marriott Rewards vs Ritz-Carlton Rewards

– International stay/points/Platinum arrival gift

– Honesty of the Marriott Rewards Head (Gone)

– Somewhat hostile towards social media

– Very high elite status requirements

– Lack of communication

– No properties in popular vacation spots like Maldive, Seychelles, French Polynesia etc.

– Expensive Rewards

– Customer Service

– Predictable promotions (New)

– Lack of night credits for award stays

– Gold vs. Platinum

– Lack of benefits during the weekends and at resorts (Getting better)

– No blackout dates (really?)

– No toll free phone line to Marriott Rewards in the US

– Misleading Cash & Points Awards

– No late check out benefit

– Lounges not required to be open during weekends

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Positives of Marriott Rewards

Number of Properties

Marriott has good penetration in the North American market. You can normally find Marriott chain properties in most cities.

Variety of Brands

Marriott has brands from motel type Fairfield Inns to Luxury brands such as Ritz-Carlton.

Uniformity

Marriott tends to be the same Marriott pretty much anywhere you go. The brand consistency is high.

Travel Packages

The travel package award option is a very good one, but requires high number of points. You redeem for airline miles and a week along hotel stay. You don’t have to spend the miles at the same time, however. They are just deposited to your chosen frequent flier account. You can read more about Marriott Travel Packages here.

Email turnaround time

I was positively surprised about Marriott Rewards customer service email turnaround time. I had couple of issued that needed to be resolved. The email reply came usually within an hour after opening a ticket on Marriott.com.

Corporate Contracts

Most major corporations have agreements in place with Marriott for negotiated rates.

Family” run

The CEO of Marriott is no longer from the Marriott family.

It is nice to see a guy, whose last name is Marriott, running the company.

Four status levels

Most of the other chains only have four status levels, but Marriott has four; Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum Premier.

Elite Guarantees

Gold and Platinum elite members have service guarantees in case of being walked or downgraded. This makes walking or downgrading and elite member very expensive for the property. Platinum members are also entitled to cash compensation if the property fails to deliver their Platinum amenity. This is quite rare among the programs to have such strong guarantees. You can read more about elite guarantees here.

RewardsPlus partnership with United Airlines (New)

Marriott and United launched reciprocal benefits for each others elites. Marriott Platinum members get United Mileage Plus Silver status. You can read more about this partnership here.

Relatively strong worldwide

Although the North America is Marriott’s stronghold, they do have presence in most major international markets and business/financial centers.

Autograph Collection (New)

Marriott has been signing independent hotels that get to keep their local identity & heritage under the Autograph Collection brand. I stayed at one of these hotels in Edinburgh and you can read my take on the Glasshouse hotel here.

Award types

Marriott Rewards has number of different award types from travel packages to seasonal awards.

Discount programs

There are quite a few ways to save on Marriott stays like using promotional code LPR and NPR (when you are eligible for the rates).

Best Rate Guarantee

Marriott’s best rate guarantee is straightforward and you get 25% discount of the lower price that you found. Properties get penalized for offering lower rates via third party channels.

Extending elite status indefinitely via buy back

Once you have qualified for Gold or Platinum, you can essentially use the Buy Back promotion yearly to buy back the status using points.

Lifetime status

Marriott has well defined lifetime status program that is quite easy to achieve for a heavy business traveller. You can read more about lifetime status here.

Number of airline partners

The number of airline partners that Marriott Rewards has is high.

Ability to change targeted promotions

Most of the yearly promotions are targeted based on your past stay history, but Marriott allows you to switch to a promotion that better fits your needs. You can read more about switching targeted promotion here.

Predictable promotions

Marriott has been running the same promotions now for several years in a row with minimal modifications.

Gift cards

Marriott has promotions few times a year for miles, Marriott Rewards points, or bonus cash loaded to a Marriott gift card for purchases. You can often easily save 10% by buying Marriott gift cards and then using them to pay for Marriott stays.

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Negatives of Marriott Rewards

Marriott rewards customer service hours

Marriott is the only hotel company, that I know of, which has its rewards customer service lines only open during weekdays and even then only during business hours. I normally only have time during the weekends to go through issues that I may have had and getting a live person to fix them is not possible.

Boring brands

Marriott doesn’t have exciting brands and the main Marriott brand is dull.

Aging properties

There are quite a few very old Marriott hotels that should be either completely refurbished or reflagged/rebranded.

Marriott Rewards vs Ritz-Carlton Rewards

Marriott and Ritz-Carlton are effectively same, but you cannot have both account at the same time. You can call to Marriott Rewards and have them switch you back and forth between Marriott and Ritz-Carlton rewards as often as you wish. They must have deemed that the lower Marriott brands would have tainted the exclusively around the Ritz-Carlton and thus decided to keep them “separate” programs.

International stay/points/Platinum arrival gift

This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Marriott is the worst of the five chains that I frequent to post international stays currently. On one trip, I had stays at nine different Marriott properties but only five posted correctly without my intervention. Also, if you contact Marriott Rewards to have a stay fixed, the first reply is to fax them the folio. Most chains can contact the property or see the revenue attached to the stay on their internal systems and have the stay posted while on the phone

Honesty of the Marriott Rewards Head

The person in charge of Marriott Rewards has changed.

A couple of years ago, Marriott had a relatively severe devaluation of the program a day after voting had ended for the best hotel program.

Somewhat hostile towards social-media

Marriott has their own Marriott Rewards Insiders forum that they prefer over ones that they don’t have control over. Also, the person that occasionally posts on outside forums seems to lack basic understanding of communications.

Very high elite status requirements

Marriott has higher requirement for elite statuses compared to other chains. The base level silver requires 10 nights, Gold 50 nights, Platinum 75 nights, and Platinum Premier 125 nights. You cannot qualify based on number of stays.

Lack of communication

There are often changes to the program that are not properly communicated. The program may discontinue award types without giving any proper notification like mass email to all Marriott Rewards members.

No properties in popular vacation spots like Maldive, Seychelles, French Polynesia etc.

Marriott Rewards is not the right program is you prefer having high value inspirational awards on high end vacation spots like French Polynesia, Maldives or Seychelles. Marriott doesn’t have a single property in these three countries for example.

Expensive Rewards

The category creep has made city center hotels in place like Rome very expensive award-wise.

Customer Service

Marriott really lacks the proper venue for customer service issues. I have learned that only way to really fix an issue is to contact the Mr. Marriott’s executive office. They seem to have problems solved overnight.

Predictable promotions (New)

This is both positive and negative at the same time. Marriott has run the same MegaBonus as far back as I can remember. Maybe it would be time to offer something different?

Lack of night credits for award stays

You don’t get stay or night credits for award stays like you do with Hilton or Starwood.

Gold vs. Platinum

Some may argue that there is very little difference between Gold and Platinum and this is certainly true for North American properties. Gold gets you lounge access and complimentary internet access. Platinum only gives you the platinum amenity and occasional better upgrade.

Lack of benefits during the weekends and at resorts (Changed)

If you are staying at a full service brand that has a lounge but which is closed during the weekend, they are not required to provide you with a breakfast. The resort locations are not required to provide breakfast at all based on the Gold or Platinum elite status.

Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum members are now eligible for a complimentary breakfast at a restaurant, when the lounge is closed during the weekends, at full service properties (some exclusions). Read more this here.

No blackout dates (really?)

This is extremely misleading and borderline fraud. Marriott Rewards doesn’t have any system wide blackout dates, but individual properties can have them and they can be for months.

No toll free phone line to Marriott Rewards in the US

Marriott is the only company that doesn’t have a toll free telephone line to their Rewards Customer service in the United States. How cheap is that?

Misleading Cash & Points Awards

Hilton, SPG, Priority Club and Club Carlson (and Hyatt starting in 2014)  all have true cash & point awards. You can secure your room by using partly cash and points. These are considered awards.

But in Marriott’s vocabulary Cash & Points just means that you can have nights that are paid and nights using points on the same reservation and nothing else. Read more about Marriott Cash & Points awards here.

No late check out benefit

Marriott doesn’t guarantee a late check out even at the Platinum level. Hyatt Diamond, Starwood Platinum and InterContinental Royal Ambassador all guarantee 4PM late check out that is not subject to availability.

Lounges not required to be open during weekends

Marriott’s brand standard doesn’t require lounges to be open during the weekends and many are closed especially in the North America.

Conclusion

There are very few people, among my circle of friends, that prefer to stay at Marriott properties. They just don’t have the same “connection” with the Marriott brand, as they do with Hyatt or SPG.

I believe that Marriott Rewards is a solid program that has been allowed to be on an autopilot for way too  long.

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