Marriott removes meeting perk some used as fast track to elite status

Jan 2, 2020

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Marriott Bonvoy elite status can unlock a variety of perks and there have long been ways to shortcut your path to the upper tiers.

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For example, Marriott for a long time awarded 10 elite night credits for hosting a qualifying event in one of its properties. However, as of 1 January 2020, that option is gone. The Bonvoy terms and conditions were just updated and per section 5.3.d (emphasis mine):

“Members who hold Qualifying Events at Participating Properties receive one (1) Elite Night Credit for every twenty (20) room nights booked and actualized, up to a maximum of twenty (20) Elite Night Credits per contract. The earning of ten (10) Elite Night Credits per calendar year for the first Qualifying Event will end on December 31, 2019.

Note that you can still earn elite credits by booking an event that includes at least 20 room nights. (There are also no changes to the ability to earn points on these events — 2 points per $1 spent on qualifying charges, up to 60,000 base points per event.)

It’s only the policy of awarding 10 nights after a single meeting that’s going away.

Marriott Platinum breakfast at the St. Regis New York (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Platinum status includes breakfast at luxurious properties like the St. Regis New York. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

This change is obviously frustrating for those who plan at least one meeting every year, but it’s clear that this option was being abused. In fact, some local Marriott hotel sales managers made a good side business out of this elite-qualifying trick.

One sales manager would send out an email that — in part — read like this:

“Thank you for reaching out. I can accommodate your meeting anytime this/next week. Ghost meetings are $50 plus tax and service charge ($65.08). Points are posted the same day. Meetings held on weekends will be posted the following business day. If you have NOT had a meeting yet this year, you will also earn 10 elite nights. You DO NOT need to show up for this meeting.

If you’d like to book a meeting, please fill out the attached CC form and let me know what day you’d prefer. Otherwise, if you have a CC attached to your Marriott Bonvoy number, I can use that as well. Please let me know if you have any questions for me.”

So it was possible for some people to request and hold a meeting in the same day with the elite-qualifying night posting that day or the next.

Doing this was within the bounds of the previous terms and conditions, but it was a loophole that pretty clearly violated the spirit of the qualifying event policy.

It also may have contributed to inflated ranks of Platinum members.

I’m surprised that Marriott didn’t simply add a stipulation to separate the abusers from the legitimate event planners. Even a modest, minimum spending threshold for a meeting ($1,000 or $2,000) would likely deter the gamers yet still offer rewards for someone who actually holds an event at a Marriott property.

It’s worth noting that Marriott was unique in offering these 10 nights of elite status for hosting a first meeting. Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards simply provide points on eligible charges, while Hyatt requires three meetings before receiving low-tier (Discoverist) status.

We reached out to Marriott for additional details on this official policy change but haven’t received any statement by the time of publication. We’ll be sure to update this post if we receive more information.

Featured photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy

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