The Marriott Bonvoy program has a specific limitation when it comes to the complimentary suite upgrade benefits, namely that there are a range of brand exclusions including Aloft, Element and Ritz Carlton hotels.
While these brands (alongside a few others) are excluded from the Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade benefits they don’t participate in the Suite Upgrade Awards system which you can select as Elite Choice either so one should be careful before exercising this option.
Some properties do upgrade Elite members regardless of their exclusion from this policy of the Marriott Bonvoy program and I’ve come across a few great select service hotels over the years such as the Aloft properties in Seoul (Myeongdong) and the Aloft as well as Element in Kuala Lumpur. All of these were very generous with their upgrades.
Ritz Carlton properties are likewise exempt from the upgrade rule for Platinum members but at least Titanium members can officially request upgrades at Ritz Carlton hotels.
The problem starts when you want to stay at a particular Aloft/Element (such as the Element in Ubud, Bali) and really like a suite upgrade. There is no basis to pressure the hotel for a complimentary upgrade even if their suites are available due to the exemption. The only option is to ask for an upsell to one of their suites.
You can read up on the official T&C on Marriott’s website:
4.3.c. Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite Membership Benefits. In addition to all of the benefits Gold Elite Members receive, Platinum Elite Members and above are eligible to receive the following benefits:
i. Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade for Platinum Elite Members. Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrade includes suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors.
At The Ritz-Carlton, suites are only included for Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite Members and rooms with direct Club access are excluded. Enhanced Room Upgrades are subject to availability and are identified by each Participating Property.
The Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade for Platinum Elite Members and above is available at all Participating Brands except at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Aloft, Element and Vistana properties.
Sometimes you come across a Four Points property that makes you want to believe they are exempt from the suite upgrade policy as well – this is not correct and if the hotel doesn’t budge after showing them the T&C I suggest to call Marriott customer care and have them inform the hotel directly.
For qualified Platinum / Titanium Members: You can select you Elite Choice at 50/75 nights and pick the Suite Night Awards.
Unfortunately there are several pitfalls to these awards:
- Suite Night Awards can be used on Marriott-Bonvoy-eligible reservations including paid stays as well as Free Night Award stays and Cash & Points stays. Advance Purchase rates are not eligible for Suite Night Awards
- Not all hotels participate in Suite Night Awards. Suite Night Awards are not redeemable at the following brands: The Ritz-Carlton, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, EDITION, Protea Hotels, Aloft, Element, Design Hotels™, all-Suite Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, ExecuStay, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club properties and Vistana properties. In addition, Suite Night Awards are not redeemable at select Participating Properties. Contact Member Support for individual participating property Suite Night Award participation.
The number of excluded brands is truly ridiculous but then remember that Marriott now has a gazillion brands after the Starwood merger. Aloft I can understand, these hotels often have like 2-3 suites in the whole hotel but I don’t get the inclusion of Element in this list. Most Element properties do have sufficient inventory to comply with the official Marriott upgrade policy and most definitely with the Suite Night Awards (which might or might not be confirmed by the hotel in advance).
Likewise having Ritz Carlton excluded for Platinum members doesn’t make any sense to me either. I don’t have the slightest idea why Marriott still holds Ritz Carlton in such high regard. Almost all of the RC I’ve ever visited were inferior to the average St. Regis where full benefits apply.
Upgrading at Marriott can sometimes be a minefield. They don’t want to upgrade you in the lower select service tier but then they don’t want to upgrade you in their top tier (Ritz Carlton) either.
Again, I had good success being upgraded at a range of hotels especially those where I’m a very frequent guest. As I mentioned previously hotels always tend to to treat their repeat customers better than a one off customer.
The Suite Night Awards might be a viable option if you have no reason to pick another item of the Elite Choice selection at your 50 night level (such as the extra 5 elite qualifying nights). At the 75 level I suggest to better take the free night certificate.