Is Mobile Check-In Worthless?

Arguably one of the more potentially useful benefits of a hotel’s app is the option to do a mobile check-in. In theory, you should be able to avoid the lines, go straight to your room, and be on with your day.

In reality, it’s a broken system that wastes more time than it gives and actually ends up limiting some of your benefits and guarantees that you would normally be afforded.

What should Mobile Check-in Do?

In a perfect world, mobile check in allows you, the loyal guest, to bypass the lines and the waiting at the hotel reception. You can let the hotel know when you’ll be arriving and let them know of any requests that you may have. 

Aloft Hotel Beaverton Lobby

The Hilton App actually does this very well. You can check-in from your app, you can even choose your room (I actually like this quite a bit). Since I’m a fan of corner rooms, I can see if there are any rooms available and choose them. I can also see if there are other empty rooms on either side of me to get a little more sound protection.

Mobile Check-in should also allow you to get a mobile key. Since so many of the hotel rooms how are moving towards tap or touch-less entry, your phone can in most cases open the door for you. Good bye keys.

What DOES Mobile Check-in actually do?

In short, outside of the Hilton App, I’ve found very little use for this, especially with the Marriott brand. I actually find Marriott’s mobile check-in to be more worthless than ever and a complete waste of time. You actually LOSE benefits by doing a mobile check-in.

Skip the line?

Does the mobile check in allow you to skip the line? Nope. Every time that I’ve used mobile check in, I still have to wait in line at the front desk, present my ID, my credit card, and they have to give me the room key.

Passport Agency

Passport and Visa Pages

Please explain to me what the hell I just did all this mobile check in for if you’re going to ask for my card, my ID, and give me a plastic key? Isn’t the entire point for me to “check in now to access my elite benefits?”

Added Elite Benefits?

Let’s touch on this one, because this is one of my favorites and one of my biggest pain points.

Emails from Marriott tell you to “Check in now to access your Elite Benefits.” Do tell, what exactly are those elite benefits?

Marriott Check In Mobile

If you want an upgrade, it tells you to speak to someone at the front desk. If you want to change your room type, you have to speak to someone at the front desk. If you want to get free breakfast, you have to speak to someone at the front desk. 

Just like I mentioned before, literally everything that you do is going to require you to speak to someone at the front desk.

Honestly, is the Al Maha going to benefit at ALL from me doing an online check-in? That’s a hard no.

Sneaky Strategy

One of my favorite benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy program are the elite guarantees. Meant to assure that the hotels are providing a consistent service across the portfolio, if they do not provide you with any part of your elite benefits, compensation applies.

A guarantee that we take advantage of many times throughout the year is the Elite Arrival Gift guarantee. In short, if you are not offered the choice of points or a welcome amenity, the hotel owes you anywhere between $25-$100, cash, on the spot.

In 2019, we were able to take advantage of this benefit 7 times totaling $650. While many of you reading this post (and I’m sure later on social media) will attack me for it, we’re simply holding the hotels to the standards of the program that they choose to participate in.

When you do a mobile check-in, the hotel is “offering” you points or breakfast. It’ll state “click here for your 1,000 points. If you would prefer a local amenity or breakfast, please see a member of the hotel staff.”

In short, you’re voiding your right to take this guarantee by doing the mobile check-in.

Let’s Review

You don’t get to skip the line, you don’t get to choose your room (in most cases), you don’t get to use whichever card you want, you don’t get to use your phone as a key (in most cases), and you don’t get a choice of your elite benefits. 

Also, you’re voiding your right to hold the hotel accountable and earn some potential cash in your pocket in the process, at least at Marriott Brands.

Mobile Check-in for me, is a no.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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7 Comments

  1. The Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt hotel apps are useless if you don’t book directly with them.

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    • Right. We always encourage booking direct to earn points

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  2. Hilton Honors mobile check-in is a Yes for me because I can often pick the room. It may or may not reduce chance for an upgrade but upgraded rooms are minimally better. In one hotel, the rooms facing the fire station have noise but 3/4 of the rooms don’t face the fire station and have no noise. With mobile check in, I can have a guaranteed no noise room because I pick it.

    Otherwise, I agree. Mobile check in is not much. In fact, I have very few apps on my phone but Hilton is an exception.

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  3. For me the Marriott and Hyatt apps both have their uses. Marriott after you show ID the first time will send a mobile key instead of making you return to the front desk. I travel to the same hotels often so for me? That was a godsend. Land at midnight Sunday. Need to be at client site by 7:30 am. I’d have cab drop me at back door get through all of those doors and up to room and never had to speak to anyone. And Hyatt? Similar but I’ve not had a mobile key ever w them. They assign my room and I can message to have it changed but normally don’t as again, I’ve stayed at this hotel on and off for 9 months. But I’m probably not the standard use case.

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  4. I agree Marriott is a waste of time. Not being able to pick my room is my major complaint because even with my profile, which I check and update regularly, I end up at the end of a blind hallway on the next to highest floor. I prefer lower floor because while not totally disabled, I find steep stairways dangerous. I also believe closer to the elevator is safer since I won’t be going down confining hallways potentially with Jack (or Jill) the Ripper following closely behind to mug me. If they want to block off certain floors (Concierge comes to mind), fine, but let me have more say over my room. READ MY PROFILE!

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  5. I like the mobile key that both Hilton and Marriott (to a limited extent) offer via their app. Also, I have found value using the Marriott app as they typically have my key ready and all I have to do is tell them I checked in with the mobile app. Now I’m lifetime Titanium so they have usually already upgraded me and, if it is really important, I can always ask. As for breakfast at Marriott, I usually stay in properties with an executive lounge so get that via my status or, for some business and personal trips, stay in properties like Hampton Inn that have breakfast for everyone so no need to spend time on that at the front desk.

    I realize it is all an individual experience but I do see value in the mobile apps for hotels with respect to checking in.

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  6. “ Honestly, is the Al Maha going to benefit at ALL from me doing an online check-in? That’s a hard no.”

    Absolutely the hotel benefits. That’s the wrong question to ask. The right question is, am *I* (the guest) going to benefit? And the answer to that, at least with Marriott, is definitely NO.

    One benefit (for the hotel) which you fail to mention is that as soon as you do Mobile Check-in, you are on the hook for the first night’s room charge and tax, and maybe more. Any ability you had to cancel the reservation (in case your plans change) is gone. Since many reservations are held until 6 pm on the arrival day before they “go hard” and can’t be cancelled, and others “go hard” 24 hours before arrival, the hotels try to get you to check in 48 or more hours in advance and eliminate any chance you might cancel on them.

    As far as elite upgrades go, those happen more automatically these days than they used to, but I still think there’s value in checking in face-to-face… I still frequently find that the human interaction plays a role in whether you get upgraded and to what room.

    For all the reasons you mentioned, and the one above, I see zero advantage to using mobile check-in… at least not before you’re sitting in a cab on the way to the hotel or something. I’m no longer a Hilton customer, I do see the advantage of being able to choose your room in advance, but my comments are really directed more to Marriott where that isn’t an option.

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