Want Marriott Ambassador Status? Don’t redeem your points…

The recent merger between Starwood and Marriott has been… less than perfect. There have been technical issues, account merger issues, booking issues, and about any other issue you can think of. Elite status and elite benefits across both programs weren’t showing properly, nights weren’t adding up, and stays weren’t showing. It would seem that largely that has been taken care of, and things seem to be running more or less smoothly. 

Ben wrote a great article detailing why these things take time, and if you haven’t read it, it’s a good insight into how these things work.

Marriott Merger Oops

Earning the Ambassador

I was lucky enough to have earned ambassador status last year and am very close to requalifying once again this year. 2019 is going to be a different story altogether, as moving forward not only will you need to have 100 nights you’ll also need to spend an insane $20,000 a year BEFORE room and tax in order to be allowed into this exclusive club.

On one side, I get it. Ambassadors cost money. They are trained at a higher level to provide a concierge type service and a level of attention that you can’t get from a 1-800 number. But spending $20k a year is a massive stretch for all but the top business travelers.

Easy math shows that you’ll have to spend an average of $200/night to keep your ambassador. Take 10 days at a cheap Sheraton or Courtyard at $99/night? That’s all fine and good, but now you’re going to have to make up for it by spending even MORE your other nights.

But, what about reward nights? What about the free night certificates that credit cards award? How will those play in to the equation?

Free Night? You’re S.O.L.

Marriott lets you count your award nights and free nights towards your status. That means if you take a 5 night booking on points, you can earn 5 nights towards your next level of status. While this is helpful for all the levels under the ambassador status, we’ve confirmed that any free night, be in via a certificate or points will not have any value assigned to it whatsoever. That means that for every night that you use to get your status, you’ll earn $0 towards your ambassador status.


I think this is a huge miss here for Marriott. If we’re being honest, I feel that the entire $20k spend is a miss by Marriott. This year we’ve traveled for business quite a bit so our total “spend” at SPG properties is around $14,500 and we’re at 92 nights. Does that make me any less valuable as a member? Because we’re going to end up around $16,000 and not $20,000 we won’t have this ambassador that I’ve established a relationship with over the past two years. While she’s awesome, she’s not worth another $4,000 for me to throw at Marriott (sorry if you’re reading this, it’s nothing personal I promise! You’re TOTALLY worth it, I just can’t afford it!)

SPG-Marriot-Ritz merger

SPG-Marriot-Ritz merger

What could they have done?

Just like some hotels have a points and cash option, I think that they could have assigned a cash value to each night depending on the category hotel. Category 1? $50. Category 2? $75, etc. While not perfect nor foolproof, it would have been a fantastic way to assign a value to those award nights instead of penalizing members for using their hard earned points while taking away their ambassadors. 

No word on if this will change or not, but it looks like for now if you want to redeem your points or certificates, be prepared to shell out a whole bunch more money to get those extra perks.

Are you an Ambassador guest now? Do you plan on keeping your Ambassador status in the years to come?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. In the good old days Marriott would award a free night paper certificate for every 10 nights. It was simple it was effective. Now it’s all complicated. We’ll see how they feel once the travel economy turns and is no longer booming in a couple years.

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  2. I’m an Ambassador guest now and already earned it for next year. My spend was over $20K a few months back. I like the $20K requirement as it makes it more exclusive and I’m hoping will increase the service level.

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    • I doubt the service will increase. They aren’t hiring more people or training anyone differently. There are plenty of people staffed worldwide to handle ambassador issues (and they come so infrequently) that I don’t see the culling hurting at all. Sure there will be less people in the first year but after that people (like me) will switch their loyalty

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  3. The part you did not point out is all spends count. If you stayed at the hotel on reward points, you can still spend $$ at the hotel restaurant, bar, or spa and the spend would count toward qualification requirement, as long as it’s points-eligible.

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    • Sure, I get that, but how many thousands of dollars can you spend on parking and meals? Seems like that might be a stretch… ALTHOUGH the overwater transfers that you would spend in the Maldives would make quick work of it…

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  4. Yes you are less valuable as a member.

    You are lucky they are so stupid they count a night at courtyard similar to a night at St Regis.

    It blows my mind you can ask such a question with a straight face. .

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    • It blows my mind that you would value someone who spends 2-3 nights at a St Regis with more value than someone who spends 50 nights at a Courtyard

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  5. I know this is an older article, but it’s new to me, so I’m gonna comment. The 20k spend requirement is a huge fail by Marriott. After I got Titanium this year, I basically stopped staying at Marriott properties because I know I’ll end the year at around 17k. So why bother? I might as well improve status with another company as I’m realistically maxed out with Marriot. Oh, and I take issue with the claim that things are more or less “running smoothly” with Bonvoy. I constantly have to fill in the missing stay credit claim form. Man, I miss SPG!

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    • I’m with ya brother… I managed to hit $20k this year because of a couple really large food and beverage bills on a work trip, otherwise, I wouldn’t have come close. It’s a shame, it really is, but I’m wondering after they thin the herd this year is 2021 will be any different. Probably not, but time will tell.

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