How my brother went from no status to top-tier Marriott elite with one reminder

Dec 21, 2020

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My brother, Richard, and I share many common interests and hobbies: brown liquor, the rap group Three Six Mafia — and travel.

As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, work took him around the world to places like Japan. Now back stateside, he works a job that requires frequent travel even during the pandemic.

We have a ton of shared interests, but one thing I couldn’t get him to care about: earning points and miles. However, after completing a two-month stay for work at a Marriott Bonvoy property in Virginia, his perception has changed.

“[With the extended stay], I just thought I’d give [earning points] a shot,” he said. “There’s not much to do anyway, so I might as well build something during COVID.”

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Photo by Victoria M. Walker

During that time, we frequently spoke about what it was like to live in a hotel for an extended period, especially during the pandemic. He wasn’t too familiar with the world of points and miles before the trip. Before this stay, he was a Marriott Bonvoy member, which you become just for signing up for the programme. This tier doesn’t offer many perks, just free standard Wi-Fi, access to member rates, mobile check-in and the ability to earn points.

But I made sure he took care of a simple but important task before checking out: adding his Marriott Bonvoy loyalty number to his reservation. He linked his account and didn’t think much about it until a few days later, when he excitedly FaceTimed me with great news.

“I’m a Platinum Elite member!” he said – and he’d earned over 60,000 points from the stay.

Honeymoon at the Ritz with Platinum Elite status

Richard put his new status to use immediately by booking a cash stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta for his honeymoon. As a Platinum elite member (which requires completing 50 nights), he took advantage of priority late checkout, a 50% point bonus and a nice welcome gift of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Photo by Richard Settles

When he becomes a Titanium Elite member after completing his most recent Marriott stay in a few days, he’ll unlock a slew of new perks.

Titanium Elite is typically earned after 75 nights and comes with a 75% point bonus, a room upgrade benefit that includes suites at Ritz-Carlton properties. He’ll also have access to annual choice benefits, like gifting Gold elite status to his wife and one free night award (valid at properties costing up to 40,000 points). Titanium members can also book rooms at just about any property with 48 hours of notice. Finally, he’ll also receive United Premier Silver status.

And even better: there’s a chance that he might hit Marriott’s elusive top-tier Ambassador Elite. To qualify for this tier, you must reach 100 elite-qualifying nights and $20,000 in qualifying spend. He’ll hit the 100-night threshold, as he has another long-term Marriott stay coming up, and he’s getting closer to the $20,000 mark.

If he hits Ambassador, he’ll have access to ambassador service. This entails a single point-of-contact service to handle anything, from reservations to off-the-wall requests and the Your24 benefit allows you to choose your check-in and check-out time.

For someone who, just a few months ago, didn’t even have a Marriott rewards account — going from no status to top-tier is incredible. Now he’s all-in on the Marriott Bonvoy programme. And he’ll also keep Marriott status through February 2022.

He’s now become something of a points and miles ambassador: encouraging colleagues he travels with to sign up for rewards programmes. And we’re already planning his 2021 (and beyond) credit card strategy, which might include opening a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card to enhance his hotel experience.

Best Marriott credit cards

In the U.K., there is one Marriott cobranded credit card: The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. The card currently comes with a welcome bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending £3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership.

There’s an annual fee of £75, however, it also comes with some nice rewards. You’ll get automatic Silver status as well as 15 Elite Night credits towards the next level of status.

Until 31 January 2021, you’ll also earn 10 points per pound spent at Marriott Properties — up to 20,000 bonus points.

Bottom line

My brother’s experience shows how possible it is to get status with a hotel or airline, even if you’re not a points and miles expert.

Our daily phone conversations now start with updates on elite status and friendly ribbing (I’m only a Gold Elite member). I asked Richard if he had any advice for someone just getting interested in points.

“Leave no points on the table,” he said. “I brought three people up here to Philly (for work) and made them sign up for their rewards programme.”

Featured photo by JHVEPhoto/Getty Images

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