Elite status is something most road warriors appreciate, even if the benefits have been watered down over the past few years. Airlines have done more damage to their elite status levels than hotels have. But, even hotels have seen some erosion of benefits. Marriott’s new combined loyalty program is generally not as rewarding as Starwood Preferred Guest was for elite members.
On top of that, Marriott had a couple of false starts when it came to improving benefits for members. They started out with a better lifetime status program for Marriott members than SPG. After a bit of fits and starts they eased the path to lifetime status for all members. They had the same sort of self-induced blunder with travel packages during the merger. It’s one thing to listen to your customers and make positive changes. In these situations, they really didn’t seem to the underlying issue until customers pushed back.
Every cloud has a silver lining. The massive amount of business travel I’ve had over the past decade puts me in a pretty good position as far as hotel status goes. Back in 2016 I finished off lifetime SPG Platinum status. The merger with Marriott was still on the horizon, but I was hopeful. In 2017, I finished off lifetime Hyatt Diamond (now Globalist) status. I’ve never really pursued elite status with Hilton or IHG, which means this is likely the last hotel loyalty decision I’ll ever end up making.
In the past, SPG had an elite level for those members staying 100 nights per year or more. Amongst other benefits, they enjoyed access to a dedicated concierge to help with reservations. Referred to as Ambassadors, they perform simple tasks like making reservations. But, they can also advocate on your behalf with properties in reference to suite upgrades or other special requests. When traveling with family, I’ve found them very helpful in securing connecting rooms.
Starting in 2019, Marriott has added a spending requirement. To earn an Ambassador, you’ll need to stay 100 nights and spend at least $20,000 over the course of a year. That works out to $200 per night, which doesn’t sound like a lot. Except, an award night is free, so you need to spend $200 more on a paid night for each night of award stays you have in the year just to keep pace. Additionally, SPG used to count multiple rooms per night towards elite status, up to a maximum of 3 per night. As a family traveler, we would sometimes get two rooms to have more space. I usually exceeded 100 nights easily, but that would be harder in 2019. Even then, there’s no way I’ll spend $20,000 per year on hotels.
One More Year?
I’m trying to figure out if I should shoot for one more year of Ambassador status. As it stands, I’ll have 91 nights at SPG hotels 2018. I need 100 in SPG hotels to score an Ambassador. I *think* I should have 98 nights right now. I’m fairly certain I’m missing 7 nights from the merger mess. However, I didn’t practice what I preach, as I failed to take screenshots of my account pre-merger. Multiple requests of Marriott on my perceived missing nights have resulted in some healthy shrugs of shoulders and not much else.
As the year comes to an end, I’m wondering if I should book 9 nights at a hotel that I don’t need (a mattress run, in case you’ve never heard the term)? I’d be doing it with points. Unfortunately, there are no SPG Category 1 hotels within an hour drive of my house. That leaves me with 3 choices:
- Book 9 nights at a Category 2 SPG hotel for a total of 112,500 points.
- Find a way to get to a Category 1 SPG hotel and book it for 67,500 points. This might require a long drive or flight.
- Skip it. Save the points and lose the Ambassador.
The Final Two Pennies
I’m not sure how many family vacations we’re planning for 2019. We already have a great trip to Australia that I’m looking forward to. I haven’t booked any hotel rooms for that trip, something my Ambassador would surely come in handy for. I do have enough points for the mattress run. It likely wouldn’t keep us from booking any of the hotels we want in 2019.
I used to covet my SPG Starpoints. I value Marriott a lot lower. Starpoints were valuable to me not only because they were tougher to acquire but also because of the great airline transfer ratio from the SPG program to so many airlines. The airline transfers still exist. However, there are now a slew of credit cards that generate bonus Marriott Rewards points, and I can transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards in a pinch.
What would you do?
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