Marriott Titanium Annual Choice Benefit: What We Chose and Why

Marriott Titanium Annual Choice Benefit: What We Chose and Why

January 23, 2020 Plan 0

As a Marriott Titanium member, you get to choose one Annual Choice Benefit before January 14 or it defaults to Suite Award Nights.

Here is a list of the choices:

  • 5 Suite Night Awards™
  • One Free Night Award
  • Gift Gold Elite status
  • 40% off Heavenly™ Bed mattress
  • 5 Elite Night Credits
  • $100 charity donation

Of the choices, the only ones we were really considering were:

  • 5 Suite Night Awards™
  • One Free Night Award

For the One Free Night Award, you can redeem it at any property costing up to 40,000 Bonvoy points.

While most blogs advise in taking the 5 Suite Night Awards™, we actually chose the One Free Night Award. In this post, we will explain why we made this decision.

1. The Value:

Part of making any sound decision with elite benefits is figuring our what they are worth AND how you can maximize that value based on your overall strategy AND what you are planning when the benefits can be used. For example:

  • If you plan on traveling during peak times like long weekends and Christmas/New Year’s, the One Free Night Award will be worth the most.
  • If you are only planning on staying at hotels that don’t have suites or nicer rooms that interest you, the SNAs will not be of any value and so the free night might be worth more to you.
  • If you are not planning on staying at hotels often, the One Free Night Award will be more valuable.

We value the One Free Night Award at $800USD ($1,050CAD); that’s the going rate at some category 5 hotels during peak. This is the maximum value we can attribute to this benefit. You can also use the One Free Night Award at a category 6 during off peak; that’s about ~$500USD($656CAD).

We have difficulty in assessing the value of the SNAs because you will only know their true value once you figure out the difference between the price you paid for your booking and the value of the upgraded room. When you are successful in using an SNA, you are getting a better room at a discounted rate but often, you wouldn’t be willing to pay for that upgrade so it’s more of a perk than a savings.

Here are some examples of hotels you can use the One Free Night Award based on research and list of hotels that interest us for future trips:

  • JW Marriott Guanacaste in Costa Rica
  • Sheraton Kauai Poipu
  • The Bodrum Edition in Turkey
  • Myconian Kyma in Mykonos Greece

SNAs are a use it or lose it benefit and since Marriott will default to granting you the SNAs if you don’t choose your Annual Choice Award by January 15, we suspect they bank on people not always being able to use them and also further strengthens our beliefs they are not worth as much as the One Free Night Award.

2. How to Use Them:

You need to use the Marriott app or web interface. As of late, many have experienced issues with both the app and the website. Recently, we did not have access to the app and our bookings with no explanation or apology from Marriott for close to 2 weeks; we don’t want to deal with any more stress or frustrations as a result of the app and website not working. We do not have much faith in Marriott’s IT infrastructure and don’t feel like having to take screenshots of everything and argue when we check-in and the SNAs have disappeared, as other people have noted. There is also a complicated process to be able to apply SNAs to prepaid reservations which we don’t feel like going through. We encourage everyone to take a look at FlyerTalk forums dedicated to SNAs to understand the issues and glitches.

3. The limitations:

There are 2 major limitations to the SNA; not all hotels participate and at minimum, you will know up to 5 days before you check in if you have been successful in using it.

You might be surprised to find out which hotels don’t participate either so it is worth looking at that in advance.

Not all Participating Properties participate in Suite Night Awards. Suite Night Awards are not redeemable at the following brands: The Ritz-Carlton, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, EDITION, Protea Hotels, Aloft, Element, Design HotelsTM, all-Suite Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, ExecuStay, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club properties and Vistana properties. In addition, Suite Night Awards are not redeemable at select Participating Properties. Contact a Customer Engagement Center for individual Participating Property Suite Night Award participation.

Source: Loyalty Program Terms & Conditions https://www.marriott.com/loyalty/terms/default.mi#elite

You can request your SNAs at the time of the booking but the hotel will only start to look at availability 5 days before your arrival and has up to 1 day before you check-in to let you know if it was accepted or rejected.

In the Marriott FAQ, this is what it says about the 5 Suite Night Rewards

A Suite Night Award is a one-night confirmable upgrade to a standard suite or select premium room, depending on the hotel’s availability of those rooms. The number of Suite Night Awards used must match the entire length of stay; it cannot be used for part of a stay (e.g., the first two nights of a five-night stay). You cannot pay cash for the remaining nights of the stay. Suite Night Awards can be requested at any time. Once you request to use your Suite Night Awards for a stay, we will check the upgrade availability starting five days prior to arrival and will keep checking every day until 2 p.m., local hotel time, one day prior to arrival. We will let you know either way if we are able to confirm the upgrade or not. Suite Night Awards are not confirmed until you receive the email confirmation. If it is not available, we will return the Suite Night Awards to your Account. Suite Night Awards cannot be transferred.

Please note that not all Participating Properties are available for Suite Night Awards. For more information visit our complete Marriott Bonvoy Terms & Conditions.

If you really want a specific type of room, the SNA is not useful as it is subject to availability and the hotels has sole discretion in accepting them. The hotel has no guidelines to follow and since the system is separate from the booking system, you cannot use the Marriott website to argue you should have been able to use your SNA because they were selling a suite.

You also need 1 SNA for each night of the stay; a 3 night stay will require 3 SNAs. If the suite requested is not available for the 3 nights, your upgrade will not go through; if it is available for 2 nights, they will not grant you the upgrade for 2 of the 3 nights and switch you rooms or even let you pay for the remaining night. There is a bit of a gambling element involved. We also suspect they are better to use for shorter stays as the probability of being successful is higher.

If you are traveling with family and would like a suite for extra space, it makes it difficult to plan. The World of Hyatt Program is much more family friendly because when there is a suite available and you have a certificate, you can call and get it confirmed as soon as possible. We really appreciated this when we were Hyatt Globalist; we could request a suite at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, get it confirmed and know we would have an entire separate bedroom with a bed for travel companions.

You also need to do some research about the properties you are staying at; do they have suites? If so, how many do they have? Do they have desirable room types that are worth applying SNAs to? For example, the W Bali only has 4 suites and since the villa suites are run as a separate hotel, they may not appear as SNA options and from our research, it has been rare for people to get a pool villa using SNAs. We knew we wanted a pool villa at the W Bali so we paid for it and thankfully there was a Mastercard promo that when you paid for 2 nights and got the 4th one free. We would have been disappointed with a Junior Suite in the tower, which is what they usually upgrade people to as it is very similar to the room we stayed in at the W Bali but just with an extra living area space.

W Bali Pool Villa: The Pool

W Bali Pool Villa: The Pool

W Bali Pool Villa: The bed and living

W Bali Pool Villa: The bed and living

We have found SNAs most useful when we wanted a specific type of room. For example, we had booked a base room at the Marriott Waikiki which meant we’d get a room in the older wing that hasn’t been renovated yet. From our research, we found out it would be very unlikely they would upgrade us to the new wing even as Titaniums so we used an SNA to request an ocean front room and it ended up being the best use of our SNAs.

Ocean Front Room at the Waikiki Marriott: view of the double rainbow in the morning

Ocean Front Room at the Waikiki Marriott: view of the double rainbow in the morning

Ocean Front Room at the Waikiki Marriott: the bed

Ocean Front Room at the Waikiki Marriott: the bed

We have also SNAs to get a room with a balcony at the Renaissance New York Mid-Town and La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa which we found to be a waste as the hotel was pretty run down. Suites are not always the best rooms but having the flexibility to use SNAs for a better room is a nice perk to have.

Renaissance New York Midtown: the balcony

Renaissance New York Midtown: the balcony

Renaissance New York Midtown: bedroom

Renaissance New York Midtown: bedroom

Renaissance New York Midtown: balcony room

Renaissance New York Midtown: balcony room

La Posada de Santa Fe: bedroom in the suite

La Posada de Santa Fe: bedroom in the suite

La Posada de Santa Fe: living room in the suite

In some cases, the hotels just don’t have suites; at aspirational properties like the Al Maha Luxury Collection in Dubai, all the rooms are essentially suites with their own private pools. We were very lucky to book this for 60,000 points during the Marriott/SPG merger; the going rate is not 70,000-100,000 points.

Sunrise by the pool

Sunrise by the pool facing Oman at Al Maha resort

In some cases, the rooms are large enough that you don’t feel you need a suite and it would be a waste of your SNA; we felt like that at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. Our room was already quite large and had a large balcony and so while we could have used an SNA here, it would not have improved our stay and depreciated the value of the SNA.

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Resort at Emerald Bay - Our room

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Resort at Emerald Bay – Our room

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Resort at Emerald Bay - The resort

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Resort at Emerald Bay – The resort

If there is one hotel we’d love to be able to use SNAs, it’s the W Costa Rica because the suites are corner rooms with nice views and a plunge pool but from our research, many SNA requests have been denied. We have our fingers crossed that we may get upgraded to one since we are paying cash  and we have 2 SNAs left but we are not too optimistic because we are going during a peak time. We will report back on our success in a few months!

If we wanted to use SNAs for specific rooms at specific properties and didn’t get them, we’d be very disappointed. Since we know what the reward chart is and how we can use the One Free Night Award, we can find options that we are interested in, book it, and not have to worry about it after.

3. Titanium Upgrades:

Part of the strategy with the SNAs to maximize them is to try to figure out when you will get a Titanium upgrade at check-in and when you need to use an SNA. We did get upgraded to a suite at the Westin Hapuna during one of our stays but Marriott is definitely not as generous as SPG was or Hyatt is. While the suite was nice because it had more space and the bed faced the view instead of a television, it had a marginal impact on the enjoyment of our stay.

Bedroom facing outwards

Westin Hapuna Suite: Bedroom facing outwards

View from the bed

Westin Hapuna Suite: View from the bed

View from the lanai in a 6th floor ocean view room

Westin Hapuna: View from the lanai in a 6th floor ocean view room

We also travel during premium times and know that the kinds of upgrades that make the SNAs worth it are not available during peak times when the hotels are sold out. That being said, we were very fortunate to get upgraded both at the Westin Hapuna and the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach during this past Christmas/New Year holiday without using SNAs. There were many Platinum members at the resort but we believe it was Titanium Status that gave us the edge.

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach: view from our room

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach: view from our room

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach: The bed and seating area

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach: The bed and seating area

Most of the time, it is just the two of us traveling and so we do not need extra space and many of the hotels we stay at don’t have many suites. We typically do get nicer rooms on higher floors which satisfies our expectations.

4. Marriott Platinum Choice Benefit:

When you hit Marriott Platinum, you have the choice for an Annual Choice Benefit:

  • Five Suite Night Awards™
  • Give the gift of Silver Elite status
  • 40% off your favorite mattress
  • Five Elite Night Credits
  • $100 charity donation

We usually choose the Five Suite Night Awards™ when we hit Platinum. If we also chose the Five Suite Night Awards™ when we achieve Titanium, that would give us 10 for the year. We would rather have Five Suite Night Awards™ and hope for Titanium upgrades and the One Free Night Award than 10 SNAs.

5. Marriott Bonvoy Vs World of Hyatt:

Overall, we’ve just been really spoiled by Hyatt’s program that’s much more customer-centric; Hyatt Globalists not only get unlimited suite upgrades per year but also 4 confirmed suite upgrades for up to 7 nights per stay; this means you can get up to 28 nights of confirmed suite upgrades.  As Marriott Titanium, you get up to 5 nights (10 if you choose the SNAs as Platinum).

Overall, we just got upgraded to suites and better rooms much more often as Hyatt Globalists than we do as Marriott Titaniums. We also got upgraded to suites more often as SPG Platinum back in the good old days of the #spglife hashtag.

Sunset view from room #3910 at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki

Sunset view from room #3910, The Ambassador Suite at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki

Balcony and plunge pool in a suite at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen

Balcony and plunge pool in a suite at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Pool Suite: view of the room from the entrance

Bedroom in the Lam Son Suite at the Park Hyatt Saigon

Park Hyatt Saigon:Bedroom in a suite

Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires Hyatt Globalist Welcome Gift

Hyatt Globalist welcome gift at the Park Hyatt Duhau in Buenos Aires: we also used a suite upgrade

We just feel that Marriott Bonvoy is pretty stingy with their SNAs. Hopefully, they don’t change the One Free Night Award on us because we do appreciate it and value it highly!!!! If we weren’t so close to Lifetime Platinum and could get a Hyatt credit card, we’d probably switch to World of Hyatt for the long haul, especially since they have acquired more hotels to expand their network of hotels which is lacking compared to the other large chains.

Summary:

Each person will have their own way of determining the value of the Titanium Annual Choice Benefit based on what is important to them. We know for a fact we will get really good value from the One Free Night Award; it’s cash back in our pocket. As for the SNAs, we do recognize they can be valuable in some circumstances, for us, they’re just harder to quantify from an actual dollar value and we are also just annoyed with Marriott overall.  What’s important to you and of value to you might be different than other people. There is no right or wrong choice but just make sure to research things and consider some of the points we’ve raised in attributing value to your choice.

Are you a Marriott Titanium? Which Annual Choice Benefit did you choose?

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