How does the Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Challenge work for quick hotel status?

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Marriott has always run an unpublished ‘Platinum Challenge’.  It is not written down anywhere but, if you call or email them, you can sign up.  This allows you to get Platinum Elite status without completing the usual 50 nights in a calendar year.

I have done the ‘Platinum Challenge’ in the past.  I got lucky, because I was still Platinum Elite when Marriott Rewards merged with Starwood Preferred Guest.  Due to the odd way this was done, I ended up as Titanium Elite which led to some excellent upgrades, mainly on two trips to St Regis New York.

The ‘Platinum Challenge’ still exists under Marriott Bonvoy but has changed substantially.  I thought it was worth another look today.

Here are the main differences to how it used to work:

GOOD NEWS: You no longer need to have Gold Elite status already to take part.  Anyone can sign up.

BAD NEWS:  You now need to complete 16 nights in 90-119 days (varies by sign-up date) instead of 9 stays – this will benefit people who do longer stays but makes it harder to complete if your stays are typically one to two nights.

BAD NEWS:  You can’t apply if you have done a challenge in the previous three years.  It used to be just one year.

Now is a good time to do the challenge, because your new Platinum Elite status will last for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021.

Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

What is the Platinum Challenge?

It is simple.

Do 16 nights (nights, NOT stays) at Marriott Bonvoy hotels within 3-4 months and you will be upgraded to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for the rest of this year and all of next year.

Here are some important factors to note:

  • Only cash stays count, not reward nights or ‘cash and points’ nights
  • Only one room per night counts irrespective of how many rooms at a hotel you book
  • Only nights booked directly via Marriott channels will count, not Expedia etc

Marriott Bonvoy Platinum challenge

How do you sign up?

Contact Marriott Bonvoy via their website here.

Send an email with “Platinum Challenge” as the subject and request a Platinum challenge from a date you specify.

You have:

the rest of the current month (or the date you ask it to start)

…. plus the next three months

…. to complete the 16 stays.

It clearly makes sense to start early in a month in order to maximise the ‘rest of the current month plus three months’ qualifying period.

Note that Marriott is not obliged to offer you the challenge and you may be turned down.

You do NOT need to have any existing status with Marriott or any other hotel chain to register.

What are the benefits of having Platinum Elite status?

Under the new elite tier structure brought in when Marriott Bonvoy was launched, Platinum Elite is the lowest level of status which is worth having.

There is a Gold Elite challenge too, which needs eight nights, but the benefits of Gold Elite are so weak that I don’t recommend it.  You can also get Gold Elite status for free with The Platinum Card from American Express, along with Radisson Gold, Hilton Gold, Shangri-La Jade etc.

Platinum Elite status, on the other hand, is worth it.  Take a look at this page of the Marriott Bonvoy site which outlines the benefits by tier.  You will receive, amongst other things:

Free breakfast or club lounge access

Decent upgrades including suites

Guaranteed 4pm check-out 

50% base points bonus

There is some good stuff here.  The 4pm check-out is GUARANTEED except at ‘convention’ and ‘resort’ hotels.  The free breakfast benefit is also worthwhile, as is GUARANTEED lounge access if there is a lounge.

Whilst Platinum Elite is NOT the top tier in Marriott Bonvoy, it actually has BETTER benefits than competing top tiers:

Hilton Diamond does give lounge access but 4pm check-out is not guaranteed

IHG Spire Elite does not give lounge access, free breakfast or guaranteed late check-out!

Marriott Platinum Challenge

Is it worth doing a few mattress runs to hit the 16 nights?

Potentially, yes.

When I did my Platinum Challenge a couple of years ago, I booked a couple of nights at the Moxy at Excel at around £50.  It was a fairly quick DLR trip from the Head for Points office and a round-trip to check in didn’t take long.  I ended going down about 2pm and working in the lobby for the afternoon.   I can still see nights available there for around £50 when there is nothing major on at Excel.

I think you could justify spending £250 – £300 on 5-6 mattress run nights.  If you planned to do, say, 20 Marriott Bonvoy nights during the period you had Platinum Elite status, it would work out at £12.50 – £15 per night (£250 – £300 divided by 20) for free breakfast, lounge access, guaranteed 4pm check-out and the upgrade.

Realistically, I got substantially more value than that from my mattress run investment.  I ended up, just for starters, getting a massive two-room suite for six nights at St Regis New York.  On family stays, getting four free breakfast each morning was worth £75+ per day.  The maths may not work for you however.

One benefit of the challenge now being based on nights and not stays is that you could check in for a 2-3 day mattress run stay.  You need to be careful, however, that the hotel does not decide that you have checked out early.

Does the Platinum Elite challenge make sense?

It did for me, yes.   I ended up with 1 million Bonvoy points when my old Starwood balance was converted and I knew I would be doing a lot of redemptions as I started to work through them.  That said, I had the easier requirement of nine stays instead of 16 nights.

If you want to give it a go, you can email your request via this page.

Marriott Bonvoy Platinum challenge

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points via UK credit cards

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and Melia Rewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Marriott Bonvoy points.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. Nick Burch says:

    Note that a huge number of Marriott brands don’t actually give you free breakfast as Bonvoy Platinum, just USD 10/person/night allowance for Food/Drinks, which typically isn’t enough to actually get your breakfast….

    • Riccatti says:

      The others, quite high end, will give you a token $20 breakfast credit for a 3rd-party restaurant on site — as Platinum amenity, which would be less than their $40+ “resort fee”.

      Perhaps resort fee is a good fighting tool against Elite members who frequent high end/popular location properties. Otherwise, the property will spend too much on elite benefits…

  2. The problem I see is status recognition. Although reports seem to suggest it is better than it was, and better than IHG, it still seems poor in comparison to Hilton. This has been my own experience although I rarely stay at Marriott so that doesn’t count for much. I also fail to get any decent targeted offers from Bonvoy and the offers open to all usually come with the ‘starting with your second stay’ condition which is hugely annoying to me, even if the promotion is otherwise a good one. Apart from the very top end Marriott hotels are generally drab and uninspiring, or at least appear so. Thus, despite some good features of Bonvoy and a much greater number of hotels since the merger the question is why bother with Bonvoy status? In the past I wouldn’t, but if Pointsbreaks are now dead and accelerate is going who knows where, then I might be looking for a new secondary scheme and therefore signing up for said challenge although hotels dot com or ebookers bonus plus might make more sense.

    • Riccatti says:

      Marriotts and older Marriott brands certainly care less about the status — the old SPG members had to adjust to that.

      Marriott status was harder to gain too. Basically, example of rewards skewed to business customers who need a place to stay anyway (so they are less demanding cohort too).

    • Totally agree – generally poor elite recognition, uninspiring properties and promos that just don’t encourage me to stay. Plus I find their London pricing is just far too expensive compared to Hilton.

      • Pangolin says:

        Personally, I’ve always had more joy with Bonvoy for upgrades than with Hilton (though nothing as good as former SPG) – but you have to know how to work the system.

        Hint: use the Chat on the app in the run-app to your stay (e.g. 48-72+ hours ahead) to ask for the best room you could reasonably expect to be upgraded to – so not the Presidential Suite with 12-rooms but the one below that (if you’re Titanium or a cheeky Platinum!). DO NOT CHECK IN ONLINE when OLCI is offered in-app unless the upgrade you’re shooting for has already appeared.
        Instead, wait till the morning of the stay and ping them again if no decent upgrade has appeared.

        If it’s your first visit to a country/city, tell them you’re very excited about your stay there in the preamble to asking for the upgrade; if you’ve been to that hotel before, remind them of your loyalty 🙂

        I have a very high success rate with this method. Before using it, I would rarely get meaningful upgrades. With Marriott, it pays to be proactive (this was a hard lesson to learn for a former SPGer, who used to get upgrades aplenty w/o even trying).

        • Lady London says:

          These techniques are totally transparent on the receiving end but somehow they work 🙂

          • Pangolin says:

            Yes indeed! But as long as they work I’ll keep on using them 🙂

            I think guests who interact with the FD/reservations team in any way before their stay are going to be much more likely to get attention when it comes to processing upgrades. That’s probably just human nature. I’m not that pushy – just a short chat message (1-2 sentences) and a ping on check-in day if needed. When I travel solo I might not even bother.

            The same approach often pays dividends outside Marriott as well but I find that Marriott is where you get the most payback for being proactive (less for Hilton and a lot less for IHG). Of course, there are places like Accor where it’s hardly worth bothering but I don’t have any status there these days in any case.

  3. Oddly enough signed up to the challenge yesterday. Did it via twitter direct message (response within 12 hours). Worth noting that during the challenge, you stay at your current status – I seem to recall a Hilton Status challenge that have you the upgraded status immediately.

    • Ah the old Hilton status challenge, which used to give instant Diamond. They still give you gold during the challenge, but Diamond has to be earned now (albeit not fully, of course, since it’s a status challenge).

  4. Sididdly says:

    The platinum challenge used to give you instant platinum status so that you received the benefits for the duration of the challenge. This is not the case now which makes it much less attractive. For example, if you only stay away for 20-30 nights per year and have status elsewhere would you really want to spend the majority of those nights as a non-status guest?

    • Pangolin says:

      I did the Platinum challenge in 2017 (the last year before the integration) and it DIDN’T give Platinum status till the 9 stays were completed.

      I did Hilton Diamond challenge in 2018 which DID give the status immediately (but doesn’t any more, only Gold).

  5. I am taking my girlfriend to Hong Kong (hopefully!) in September and staying 8 nights at the Ocean Park resort (next to the venue for a wedding reception). Have gold Marriott from Amex Plat- is this challenge worth doing beforehand? I have no experience of Marriott at all, although am starting 3 nights in March at an AC in Madrid. Many thanks.

  6. ankomonkey says:

    Semi-related: We have stayed at a particular Hilton for 1 week a year for the last couple of years. In the last year it has re-flagged as a Wyndham Grand. We’re due to stay for a week in Feb. I status-matched my Bonvoy Platinum and my wife’s Hilton Gold both to Wyndham Diamond (their top-tier, so a good result from Hilton Gold!).

    Now I just have to hope that Wyndham Diamond is worth having…

    • @ ankomonkey, Good to know that you were able to get a status match.
      I too would be interested to know if the Wyndham program is worth a look as I have a potential week long stay in the US in April. The alternative would be Marriott where I already have Gold through Amex.

    • Pangolin says:

      Well, Wyndham Diamond is an easy backdoor to getting Diamond status at Caesar’s also, if that’s any use to you.

  7. Arcadio says:

    Just a quick questions. Would existing booking count if I apply for the challenge now?
    Regards

  8. SwissJim says:

    The problem unless I understand things wrongly is that your status is not upgraded during the qualifying period. As an IHG Spire and Hilton Diamond it makes zero sense giving those benefits up to allow 16 nights at Marriott…

  9. When’s the latest I can ask the challenge to start? I want to ask for a date in March.

  10. Worth noting that if you sign up mid-stay then you only get credits for the remaining nights of the stay. I signed up in the phone after 1 night of a 4 night stay and the agent told me the start data is set back to start of that month, I’ve since found out this not to be the case, I was only awarded 3 nights of the 4 for the challenge.

    I’ve got 2 more night planned in Feb to tip me to 16! (this included my first mattress run – (a £70 Friday night that on a +3k points rate (these are qualifying) it also triggered the second part of a weekend stay bonus, so i got nearly 7K points to boot)

  11. Sarah Gregory says:

    Wish I had known about this before as last October we stayed at Sheraton in Japan for 13 nights and had Marriott rewards card then. I would of definitely booked 3 more nights somewhere to get this perk 🙁

    • Pangolin says:

      Since you never applied for the challenge you still have a chance of signing up (no 3 year lockout) and it’s much better to have it completed in the earlier part of the year than the end.

      So all is not lost.

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