Marriott Bonvoy is now a thing after the merger of Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG ( Starwood Preferred Guest). While the program has seen some significant devaluations (especially for SPG members), they do offer a rather lucrative status challenge to existing and new members.
What is a status challenge?
Hotels and airlines often run these challenges which will require you to stay or fly X amount of times in a short period (typically three months). This is usually a highly reduced number compared to earning the status by completely the full amount of stays over a 12 month period.
Bonvoy Platinum Status Challenge
To start, it's possible to do a status challenge for gold as well, but in my humble opinion, Bonvoy Gold doesn't provide any value whatsoever. A lot of members already get Bonvoy Gold as part of their Amex credit card, and the only thing I value it for is to use it to status match to other programs (Hilton Honors for example).
The sweet spot with Bonvoy is Platinum which typically required 50 nights over 12 months. However, you can call up the Bonvoy customer service team and request a status challenge for platinum. The platinum status challenge needs to be completed in 3 months and will require 16 stays/nights. Note that only nights booked directly will qualify and of course reward redemptions are excluded.
If for some reason you do want to complete a Bonvoy Gold status challenge (no idea why you would want to…), the requirement is only 8 nights.
When you call up the Bonvoy customer service team (1800 450 010), they will ask you when you would like to start the challenge. If you want to stretch your time, I would recommend locking in a date at the start of the month since you will have 3 additional months after that (which makes it almost 4 months). For example, if you start your challenge on April 1, you will have until July 31 to complete the challenge. If you were to start the challenge on April 25th, you would still have until July 31 to finish it. Got it?
Once you complete the challenge your status is automatically (and in my case instantly) applied. This also means you won't be able to benefit from that higher status during the challenge.
If you go out looking for some official promotion page with detailed terms and conditions…you won't find it. Marriott Bonvoy doesn't publicly advertise these status challenges but has been running them for some time now. There's also nothing stopping you from doing a challenge every year.
When you complete the challenge, your new status will be valid for up to 12 months. However, I've seen multiple reports from people who finished their challenge and got Platinum locked in until 2021. When I called up about my own status expiry date, I was provided with the same info: "sir your Platinum status will be valid until February 2021". (I completed my challenge in March 2019.
Hacking the challenge
Naturally, 16 nights is still a substantial amount and if you're like me; your aim will be to achieve it as cost-effectively as possible. Here are a few strategies to get you over the line.
1) Book the cheapest properties.
If your aim is to simply buy Platinum for the best price, booking cheap hotels is the way to go. These mattress runs will vary depending on your location, and Australia isn't exactly great for affordable properties. If you travel internationally, this is where you can score the best deals. China has some really cheap hotels that are part of the Marriott family, and the same goes for Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian countries. Keep in mind you don't actually have to stay there, as long as you check in there shouldn't be an issue.
2) Book for others.
Technically against the rules but you can get away with it. The easiest strategy you can deploy is to pro-actively email the hotel and tell them your "partner/friend/wife/husband" will check in before you and to complete an authorisation form if required. Once the check-in is complete and payments are all cleared, there shouldn't be a problem.
Primary Benefits of Bonvoy Platinum Status
- 50% more bonus points on stays
- Room upgrades including suites
- Welcome gift (free breakfast, bonus points etc.)
- 4 pm Checkout
- Lounge access (at selected hotels
- Free breakfast (at selected hotels)
Personally, I paid around $1300 to complete the status challenge. It's definitely possible to complete it for much cheaper, but that does require more planning since room rates usually aren't the same 16 consecutive days in a row. Only time will tell if it has been worth the money and effort.
If you're planning a status challenge make sure you register for the double points promotion which starts counting from your second stay. You can register via this page.
- Register by 21 May 2019.
- Stay at any of the participating hotels and resorts worldwide between 19 March 2019 and 4 June 2019.
- Earn double points on stays, starting with your second stay.