In early 2019 the Marriott Bonvoy program was launched, following the merger between Marriott and Starwood. The Bonvoy program replaced the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, to form a unified loyalty program for the world’s largest hotel group.
One positive aspect of the Starwood Preferred Guest program that Marriott maintained is the Ambassador program, which is a top tier status that offers additional perks. However, qualifying for it is significantly more difficult than qualifying for other Marriott Bonvoy status, given the spending requirement.
Readers often ask if I think this status is worthwhile, so I wanted to share my thoughts in this post. For context, I’m currently a Titanium member, but I was an Ambassador member for several years in the past.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador requirements
In the Marriott Bonvoy program, here are the requirements over the course of a calendar year for Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador status:
- Platinum requires 50 elite qualifying nights
- Titanium requires 75 elite qualifying night
- Ambassador requires 100 elite qualifying nights plus $20,000 of qualifying spending; however, for 2021 the spending requirement has been reduced to $14,000
It’s worth noting that “qualifying” spending is based on the purchases on your folios that are eligible for points accrual. This doesn’t include taxes or service charges, and typically doesn’t include spa treatments, tours booked through the hotel, etc. Rather it just includes room rate, select incidentals, and most dining and beverage purchases, though I find it really varies by hotel.
The real cost of Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador status
As you can see above, there’s a $20,000 spending requirement to earn Ambassador status (it’s $14,000 in 2021). Spread across 100 elite qualifying nights, that’s like paying an average of $200 per night ($140 per night in 2021), before any taxes and fees. That’s not low, but not outrageous either.
The catch is that:
- Marriott co-brand credit cards offer up to 30 elite nights per year towards status annually, so if you spread the $20,000 revenue requirement across 70 nights, that’s an average of ~$286 per night (meanwhile if you spread the $14,000 revenue requirement for 2021 across 70 nights, that’s an average of $200 per night)
- This assumes you never redeem points, and a lot of us redeem a lot of points, making it even harder to earn Ambassador status
Personally I finally lost Ambassador status in 2019, because I redeemed a lot of points that year. It’s almost like you’re on a spending hamster wheel to maintain Ambassador status, since redeeming your hard earned points doesn’t help you much towards the status.
What are the benefits of Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status?
Beyond the traditional Platinum benefits (suite upgrades subject to availability, 4PM check-out, etc.), what are the incremental benefits of Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status?
- Titanium members get a 75% points bonus, while Platinum members get a 50% points bonus
- Titanium members get space available suite upgrades at Ritz-Carltons, while Platinum members don’t
- Titanium members get United MileagePlus Silver status through the RewardsPlus partnership
What are the benefits of Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador status?
Above and beyond the Platinum and Titanium benefits, what are the incremental perks of Ambassador status?
- Access to an “Ambassador,” who is supposed to be your single point of contact for anything you could need from Marriott; however, during the pandemic this individualized service has been suspended, and has been replaced by a pool of Ambassador agents, and it’s anyone’s guess when that will change
- Your24, which gives you a flexible 24 hour stay at a hotel, where you can check-in at any time, and get the room for 24 hours (for example, this can come in handy in the Middle East, where flights often arrive and depart in the middle of the night, so it’s awesome to be able to check-in at midnight, and check-out at midnight the following day)
My experience with Marriott Ambassador status
The above are the published differences between Marriott Bonvoy’s top elite tiers, but what should you actually expect from the status? Below are my thoughts on the program, in no particular order.
Ambassador status offers more personalized service
Like most things in life, your experience will vary greatly based on who you’re dealing with. When I had Ambassador status, I had the same Ambassador, Mike, for years. His service was always spectacular — simply put, he exemplified what the program should be, and in my opinion he should be running the Ambassador program.
He just “gets it.” He always responded to my emails shockingly quickly, when I had a nuanced question he always got me an answer, and when I did have issues, he got them resolved quickly. He’s a superstar, though I’d note that not everyone had the same experience with their Ambassador. I’ve received emails over the years from many members who were underwhelmed by the program.
The challenge is that right now Marriott has largely suspended personalized Ambassador service, so this isn’t even a consistent perk of the program anymore. When you only have access to a pool of Ambassador agents, you can’t expect the same level of personalization. Hopefully this lack of personalization isn’t permanent, but then again, I wouldn’t hold my breath with the direction the hotel industry is headed.
Ambassador members may get better upgrades
This isn’t a published benefit one way or another, though many hotels prioritize upgrades for Ambassador members over Titanium or Platinum members.
While all Platinum members and above are eligible for suite upgrades, it seems pretty logical that if hotels are going to pre-block suites for guests, they’d do so by status or other considerations (booking through Marriott STARS, repeat guest, etc.).
Certainly not all hotels do that, but on balance I’d expect to get more good upgrades as an Ambassador member than a Platinum member, for example. I’d expect this to reflect the trends we see in regions when it comes to guest recognition. In other words, in Asia I’d expect Ambassador upgrades to be prioritized more, while in the United States many hotels can’t be bothered.
Your24 isn’t quite as good as it sounds
Your24 sounds like a cool concept, though I’d note there’s a huge catch. It’s entirely at the hotel’s discretion whether or not to confirm it, and hotels only do so two days before arrival.
So it’s not just subject to availability, but even if a hotel has room, they don’t have to grant Your24. For example, this has worked great in a hotel in Abu Dhabi that maybe had 10% occupancy, but I’d almost expect this to never work at a hotel in Europe, if you’re trying to check-in early after a transatlantic flight (at least under normal circumstances).
So I’d say this sounds better than it actually is.
What a good Ambassador may do
Okay, let’s be more concrete. Like I said, the Ambassador that I had for years was awesome, so what did he do for me?
For one, he surprised me out of nowhere and sent me cute notes that made me smile every so often.
He also often arranged a special welcome amenity. It didn’t happen every stay, but Ambassadors will typically be asked what they like in terms of food & drinks, and then maybe every few stays you may find a customized welcome amenity waiting for you.
- If a stay didn’t post correctly, Mike always helped get it fixed right away
- He also often proactively checked with me before stays to see if there’s anything he could do for me
- While it’s rare that I asked for anything special, if I did, he’d typically be able to make it happen (within reason, of course)
Basically, my Ambassador made me feel like I was dealing with a really awesome human, rather than a large, faceless company.
Now, the catch is that this is how Ambassador status worked back in the day. With many Ambassadors having been laid off, some members are only getting access to a pool of Ambassador agents, so that personalized service has largely been cut. Ambassador members aren’t able to get to know their Ambassador in the same way as before, because they might not even be assigned a specific person.
Is Marriott Ambassador status worth it?
Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on:
- How many special requests you have
- How good your Ambassador is (if/when this service is fully restored)
- How much you’d stay with Marriott otherwise, and/or how much travel you have to switch around to make it happen
I was lucky in that I had a fantastic Ambassador, and that I had the status at a time when there was actually personalized Ambassador service. If the program offers personalized service, and you get a good Ambassador, then I’d say the status could be great. Having a single point of contact is awesome and valuable.
However, right now that personalized service isn’t even being offered, so I have a very hard time thinking that it’s worth going out of your way to earn the status.
I’m also lifetime Platinum member with Marriott, and the truth is that most of my stays are in cities where I’d probably do well with upgrades even as a Platinum. For example, I’m generally finding myself staying at Marriott properties in Skopje and Minsk, rather than Marriott properties in New York and London.
Ambassador is Marriott Bonvoy’s top tier status, which requires 100 elite nights and $20,000 per year in eligible spending ($14,000 for 2021). The status offers more personalized service (though not as personalized as in the past), flexible check-in and check-out, and often better upgrades.
I enjoyed my time as an Ambassador member, but I just don’t find it worthwhile to stay extra nights at Marriott to earn it, especially with the single point of contact feature having been cut. I find that I’m treated better as a World of Hyatt Globalist member, so that’s where most of my nights go.
If you’re a Marriott Ambassador member, what has your experience been like?