The Marriott Rewards program has had its share of challenges since its merger with SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) last year, but I’ve enjoyed the Annual Choice Benefit as one of the perks of the merger. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I continue to be loyal to the Marriott brand.
It is worth mentioning that in 2018 I was able to complete 75 qualifying nights. As a result, I earned Platinum Premier Elite status, which gave me a chance to select a second Annual Choice Benefit for the year.
What is the Marriott Annual Choice Benefit?
The Marriott Annual Choice Benefit is one of the benefits Marriott awards its elite members, those who achieve 50 or 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year
The SPG legacy program offered this benefit to its members, too, but since August 18, 2018 – when the Marriott/SPG merger took effect – the benefit has been extended to elite members of the combined loyalty program.
To qualify, Marriott Rewards members must achieve 50 or 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year. In other words, even those who have achieved lifetime Marriott Rewards Elite status must also qualify for the Marriott Annual Choice Benefit.
Which Marriott Annual Choice Benefits do you earn by achieving 50 qualifying nights?
In addition to other Platinum Elite benefits, a member who accrues 50 elite qualifying-nights in a calendar year can select one of the following Choice Benefits:
- Five Suite Night Awards™
- Five Elite Night Credits
- Gift Silver Elite Status
- 40% off Hotel Bed Mattress
- A $100 Donation to UNICEF
Which Marriott Annual Choice Benefits do you earn by achieving 75 qualifying nights?
The next-tier Choice Benefit is awarded to members who accumulate 75 elite qualifying nights in a calendar year. Members can choose one of the following perks:
Here is my take on each of the options:
5 Suite Night Award ™: I have friends who consistently chose this benefit. However, I think it is more useful for families, who travel with young kids. Or, those who like to spend most of their time at a resort and enjoy the luxury of a suite.
One Free Night Award: This award certificate is valid for a hotel room worth up to 40,000 points. This choice benefit appeals to me, and I value it at $250 – $300.
Gift Gold Elite Status: I have no use for this option because I don’t know anyone to gift it to. Even without choosing it, family members who travel with me get some of the program’s benefits that I enjoy, such as access to the executive lounge when one is available.
40% off Heavenly™ Bed Mattress: I think this option is really enticing. The Marriott mattress is very comfortable, with a full retail price that exceeds $1,000 for some bed types and sizes. I already have a comfortable mattress at home, however, and have no use for another one.
5 Elite Night Credits: I have selected this option before. It really makes sense for those who want to give their accounts a boost, especially if they don’t think they will be able to accumulate 50 or 75 nights at Marriott hotels.
$100 Donation to UNICEF: While donating to UNICEF may be an appealing idea, I would rather claim a different benefit and separately donate $100 to a charity of my choice.
My strategy has been different for each of the tiers. When I accumulated 50 qualifying nights in 2018, I chose the 5 Elite Night Credits because I wasn’t confident I would reach 75 qualifying nights to earn Platinum Premier Elite status. At the time, this made sense because this is a goal I hadn’t been able to achieve in previous years. Looking back, I still think it was a sound choice.
For the second tier, at 75 nights, I chose the “one free night award”. Based on my 2019 travel projections, accumulating 75 nights should not be a problem. In addition, I need the free-night award for an upcoming trip to Auckland, New Zealand. This will help me stay within my travel budget, which could be challenging because Auckland is a relatively expensive destination.
Choose wisely and form a strategy to maximize your benefits. If you don’t select a Choice Benefit by the deadline, Marriott will automatically award you the 5 Suite Night Award ™, which may not be what you want.