How I Earned Marriott Platinum Status Without Paying For A Single Night – Forbes

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Every once in a while the stars align just right and something that would usually be unattainable falls into your lap. That happened to me recently when a combination of past vacation history, a summer road trip and an unexpected gift from Marriott resulted in my earning Platinum Elite status with just 13 nights of actually sleeping in a hotel and without paying for any of those nights. Here’s how I did it.

First Steps I’ve had the Marriott Bonvoy American Express (no longer available for application) for a couple of years, a $95-annual-fee card that was automatically converted from the now-defunct Starwood American Express card. Ownership of this card grants me one free hotel night annually at a Category 1 to 5 Marriott property and 15 nights toward elite status. Those bonus elite night credits also means I get automatic Silver Elite status, which comes with a couple of perks like an extra 10% points bonus on stays and priority late checkout.

Based on a few trips in 2019, I logged 10 nights at Marriott properties, getting me to 25 nights and Gold Status at the start of 2020. That was a nice plus because it came with a 25% points boost on stays, a 2 pm late checkout and a few other extras. However, the 2019 clock reset at the end of February 2020, taking me back to Silver.

Total Qualifying Nights: 15

Unexpected Bonus Even before the pandemic, my family of four didn’t travel as much as we’d like. Typically one or two trips a year is the most we can manage both financially and time-wise with work, school and other commitments. But, in February 2021 I noticed that I received credit for 13 additional Elite Nights from Marriott as a pandemic bonus. The company gave those who had earned elite status in 2020 a one-time deposit of 50% of their tier’s annual Elite Night Credit requirement, in recognition of the fact that most people were unable to travel and would likely be unable to retain their elite status.

So this windfall meant I now had a total of 28 nights in early 2021—15 from holding my Marriott Bonvoy Amex and 13 from the one-time credit. As someone who went pretty much nowhere in 2020, earning a higher tier of elite status now seemed suddenly within reach.

Total Qualifying Nights: 28

Using Leftovers Platinum Elite status with Marriott requires earning a total of 50 nights and I knew that in the midst of a pandemic it was unlikely we were going to stay an additional 22 nights in a hotel over the course of the year. However, I did have a one week certificate to use at a participating Marriott hotel that was expiring at the end of September and I really wanted to use it.

I’d had this certificate since 2017 from a redemption I had made for a Marriott Hotel + Air package using the combined welcome bonuses from my Starwood Amex and the Chase Marriott Premier Plus Card (no longer available). Prior to the Marriott-Starwood merger many of these packages offered exceptional value, offering both a week at a Marriott hotel (based on category of certificate) plus airline miles in exchange for a relatively low number of points.

I was sitting on this certificate, good for a one week stay at Category 1 through 4 hotel, and was never able to find the right combination of a week for vacation and a property that fit that category that we wanted to stay at for that long. I was able to extend it by a year once, then a second time and it was due to expire unused in 2020. But, I got an additional reprieve due to the pandemic and Marriott agreed to extend it until September 1, 2021.

Total Qualifying Nights: 28 (but 7 additional free nights to use)

Inspiration Strikes My kids were going back to summer camp in June and by April it seemed like Covid would be on the wane that summer, so we decided to make a family road trip out of taking them there. The drive from my home in South Florida to their camp outside of Asheville, NC is about ten hours so we decided to plan a few stops along the way with the kids and then my husband and I would stay in Asheville using that long-held one week certificate.

Using a combination of points from previous stays and the one night free certificate from my Marriott Bonvoy Amex, we booked a night at a Residence Inn in Gainesville, Florida, two nights at a Residence Inn just outside of Atlanta in Buckhead, Georgia and two nights at the Renaissance in downtown Asheville for the night before and after camp drop-off, for a total of five additional nights, giving me a total of 33 nights for 2021. Then, we moved to the Springhill Suites in Asheville for a full seven nights using the certificate and putting my total night count 40. After our amazing stay in Asheville was over, we broke up the ten hour drive home with a night in Savannah, which brought me to 41 nights.

Total Qualifying Nights: 41

The Final Push A unique aspect of the Marriott Bonvoy program when it comes to the 15 Elite Nights granted by credit card ownership is that they will only stack those 15 Elite Night credits from more than one credit card if one is from a personal Marriott card and the other is from a Marriott business card. You cannot combine the 15 night credits from two personal cards.

With 41 nights under my belt I decided to go for it and apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, which comes with a $125 (terms apply, see rates and fees) to get those 15 Elite Night Credits and a welcome offer that allowed me to pad my point balance.

Once the account was established, I received an additional 15 nights for a total of 56 nights and reached Platinum Elite status.

Total Qualifying Nights: 56

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

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On American Express’s Secure Website

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On American Express’s Secure Website

Up to 6X Reward Rate

6 points per dollar at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 4 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, atRead More

Welcome Bonus125,000 points

Regular APR15.74% – 24.74% Variable

Credit ScoreExcellent/Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It

Frequent business travelers who are loyal to Marriott Bonvoy hotel brands will love this card’s generous perks and rewards.

Pros & Cons

Generous welcome bonusHigh redemption value for rewards pointsNo blackout dates and points never expireOnly Marriott enthusiasts can justify the high annual feeNo non-travel points redemption optionsNo intro APR offerCard Details

Limited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points & 2 bonus Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Each bonus Free Night Award has a redemption level up to 50K points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021.6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. 2x points on all other eligible purchases.Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. Certain hotels have resort fees.Enjoy complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status with your Card. Plus, earn Gold Elite status after making $35,000 in eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year.Terms apply.See Rates & Fees Is it Worth It? Having Platinum Elite status so far hasn’t meant much since we haven’t gone anywhere since achieving it. The contagiousness of the Delta variant combined with the start of school for my kids has put a hold on any travel plans for now. But, Platinum status does come with some fun benefits including 5 Suite Night Award upgrades where available and a 50% points bonus on stays. It also comes with the option of a breakfast benefit, which can add up when you’re traveling with a family.

For now, I have some tentative trips booked for our family where I hope to be able to use those Suite Night upgrades. To keep both the personal Marriott card and the business Marriott card will cost me a combined $220 on annual fees so I will reassess in a year to see if I’m getting enough value from the 30 nights of Elite Status to continue to hold both cards.