I just qualified for Lifetime Platinum Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy — here’s why that won’t change my hotel strategy

On Jan. 1, 2024, I woke up to some exciting news in my Marriott Bonvoy app: I had officially notched my 10th year of Platinum Elite status. Since I had already surpassed 600 lifetime nights in 2023, this meant that I was starting the new year as a newly minted Lifetime Marriott Platinum Elite member.

While this may seem like a cause for celebration, it actually won’t change my hotel strategy in any meaningful way. Given this, I see some interesting opportunities for Marriott to enhance the value proposition for those who’ve shown extensive loyalty over the years.

Here’s why my Lifetime Platinum Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy isn’t causing me to change my approach to hotel elite status.

My journey to Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum Elite

I’ve been collecting points and miles for more than two decades, and this increased significantly when my then-girlfriend (now-wife) and I lived on opposite ends of the country after college graduation. As a fourth-grade teacher (me) and a law school student (her), we welcomed all ways to save money, shuttling back and forth to see each other.

However, when I moved to Florida and took a consulting job in 2007, my travel really took off.

I was initially loyal to Hilton Honors (which is when I started contributing to TPG), but soon, I fell for the Starwood Preferred Guest program. I began accumulating dozens of nights a year and quickly made my way to Platinum status, which I enjoyed for several years. This activity transferred when Marriott and SPG were integrated to ultimately become the present-day Marriott Bonvoy program.

With 608 total nights and 10 years at Platinum Elite or above now under my belt, I have officially locked up Lifetime Platinum Elite status. Doing so has opened up the program’s online experience for lifetime members, which offers some interesting insights into my activity since joining the program in 2007.

I’ve earned 1,228,484 points.

I’ve redeemed 1,132,635 points.

I’ve stayed at 23 of the program’s 30 brands, including 30 stays with Fairfield Inn & Suites, 22 stays with Autograph Collection Hotels, and 16 stays with Marriott Hotels.

Orlando, Tampa, and New York are my most-visited cities.

However, this accomplishment is going to have minimal impact on my day-to-day strategy.

Why I’m sticking with my Marriott strategy

Prior to reaching Lifetime Platinum Elite status, I qualified for Platinum Elite status in a few different ways.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I received 15 elite night credits every year from Marriott credit cards. I’d then try to snag the remaining 35 nights needed through hotel stays or promotions for double elite night credits. This took a decent amount of effort. However, that was made significantly easier in 2020 when we broke the news that you could stack credits from a personal and business card. Suddenly, I’d only need 20 nights a year to qualify for Platinum Elite status.

Then, in 2022, one of my cards — the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card — underwent a major overhaul, including the addition of automatic Platinum Elite status (previously, it only offered Gold Elite status). It also jumped from providing 15 to 25 elite nights per year.

In other words, by holding both the Bonvoy Brilliant and the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, I receive 40 elite nights every year — putting me just 10 nights away from the standard Platinum Elite status qualification threshold.

Why does this matter if the Bonvoy Brilliant already grants Platinum Elite status? Well, at 50 nights, you unlock a Choice Benefit selection. I almost always pick five Suite Night Awards — soon to be renamed Nightly Upgrade Awards as part of changes slated for January 2024. I’ve personally had great success using Suite Night Awards, and as a family traveler, the additional space for my 9-year-old daughter makes these highly valuable to me.

Given the program’s massive worldwide footprint, it’s easy to pick up these remaining nights. In fact, I’ve already stayed once and have seven additional nights booked for later this year.

Of course, holding both the Bonvoy Brilliant ($650 annual fee) and the Bonvoy Business ($125 annual fee) isn’t cheap. However, here’s what I get for the $775 per year in total fees:

The 35,000-point certificate completely covers the annual fee on the Business card for me every year, and I always max out the dining credits on the Bonvoy Brilliant. That means I need just $350 in value from the 85,000-point certificate to make the Bonvoy Brilliant worth it — and I regularly get well over this amount. I stayed at The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort last year and have two upcoming stays in Orlando booked with these certificates: one at the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve and another at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

Every one of these stays would’ve set me back at least $800.

Should I cancel the Bonvoy Brilliant?

Now, there is an argument to be made to cancel the Bonvoy Brilliant. After all, reaching Lifetime Platinum Elite status means that one of the key perks on the card — automatic Platinum Elite status — is now essentially worthless to me. True, I get a lot of value from the free night certificate and the dining credit, but $650 is still a lot to pay for a credit card.

However, the 25 elite nights every year are enough to convince me to keep the card. If I cancel it, I’d need 35 nights a year to earn my Suite Night Awards. And even if I replace it with a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, I’d still need 20 nights. That’s a big difference — and one I don’t want to deal with.

How Marriott could enhance its lifetime program

Lifetime elite status is meant to recognize those who’ve shown long-term loyalty to a given program, but like others out there, I see some opportunities for Marriott to enhance the experience for loyal guests. After all, there’s no incremental benefit for me to stay at participating properties more frequently.

First, I’d love to see Marriott bring back Lifetime Titanium Elite status. During the initial integration of Marriott Rewards and SPG, select members were grandfathered into Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite status (Platinum Premier Elite status then became Titanium Elite status when Marriott Bonvoy launched). However, since Jan. 1, 2019, there’s been no way to climb higher than Lifetime Platinum Elite. Opening up a pathway to this higher status tier could create incremental business — especially if it required a set number of years at Titanium Elite.

Additionally, I think there’s an opportunity to differentiate between Platinum Elite members when it comes to on-property perks. A Lifetime Platinum Elite member has spent a lot of time at Marriott properties. A traveler with Platinum Elite status, just by holding the Bonvoy Brilliant, potentially hasn’t. It would be interesting for Marriott Bonvoy to publicly recognize Lifetime Platinum Elite travelers — potentially with higher upgrade priority.

Finally, it would be great to see the program introduce additional perks for Lifetime Platinum Elite members. Maybe they could gift Silver Elite or Gold Elite status to a friend or family member each year (like United Airlines, which allows lifetime elite members to share their current status levels with a companion). An additional option for Choice Benefits at 50 or 75 nights could be added as a perk. By sweetening the deal, Marriott could add more incentives for existing members to push for lifetime status while rewarding those who’ve already demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the program.

Bottom line

I’ve officially earned Lifetime Platinum Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program, but it won’t change my overall approach. I’m going to keep my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card and my Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card open, and I’ll continue to make sure I pick up an additional 10 nights a year to select an Annual Choice Benefit. To me, this indicates a need for some enhancements to Marriott’s lifetime status program.

Whether it’s reopening a pathway to higher tiers or adding incremental benefits for Lifetime Platinum Elites, I’d love to see new incentives with Marriott. For now, though, I’ll happily take my new status, as I’ll always enjoy Platinum Elite perks.

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