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.
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!)
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.