One of the perks of earning Marriot Bonvoy Platinum elite status is being able to select a Choice Benefit. None of them are all that appealing. If Marriott offered something like 20,000 points as a Choice Benefit, I’d take that every time rather than the options they present their loyal guests. One can dream they’ll make such a change.

Of the options, I consider Suite Night Awards (SNAs) to be the best. Using them has been pretty hit and miss, though. Rather than being able to confirm your upgrade well in advance (a la Hyatt Suite awards), your upgrade is potentially processed less than a week from your stay. Honoring SNAs is entirely up to the hotel’s discretion. Which means that they don’t always work.

When you want an upgrade for family travel, this is frustrating. Recently, I tried applying two Suite Night Awards and had mixed success, with an interesting twist.

Upgrade at Delta Hotel Richmond

I took a long weekend solo trip to the East Coast over the first weekend in November, splitting them time between Richmond, Virginia and New York City. My first night was at an airport hotel in Richmond, but then I transferred downtown to the Delta Hotel.

When I booked the stay, I immediately applied a SNA. Marriott lets you select which suite types (if more than one) that you want to upgrade to, and I selected two of the better ones. The SNA processed like clockwork five days out from the stay. Given that it wasn’t a busy weekend and rates were reasonable, I expected it to clear.

Suite at the Delta Hotel Richmond Downtown

Junior suite at the Delta Hotel Richmond Downtown

Denied: Upgrade at a SpringHill. But Wait.

I’d also expected a SNA to clear the previous weekend when we traveled to Redding, California for a soccer tournament. There are plenty of hotels in Redding, and I didn’t think this single event was that big of a draw. But I could have been wrong. There were multiple other teams staying at the same hotel.

Which is likely the reason why the SNA didn’t clear. I was bummed, as it would have been nice traveling with my two sons to have more space and three separate beds.

I asked the lady at the front desk if they had any rooms with two beds plus a sleeper sofa. Or even just a reasonable sized sofa. My nine-year-old would be fine with that. She said they did, and she’d get me one. But after a full minute, she told me they were actually sold out of that room type.

“But I’ve given you one of our two bedroom suites instead.” I was delighted. This was the most ideal room type for us. Without using a SNA, I’d gotten the perfect suite. I could get the kids to bed and read without disturbing them, or get up early and not wake them with a light. It’s the little things when traveling with kids.

Marriott’s Coming Changes to Suite Night Awards

Marriott is making some changes to their Suite Night Awards in 2024. Most notably, the name will be changing to “Nightly Upgrade Awards” which describes their use a bit more accurately. Other key changes include:

  • More participating brands for redeeming nightly upgrade awards
  • Additional room types being made available
  • Upgrades will clear just three days in advance

(H/T: One Mile at a Time)

It’s this last one that bugs me. I like knowing whether I’ll get an upgrade in advance, as it could completely change my booking preference (as in the SpringHill Suites situation above).

But it makes sense, given how they work. Marriott nightly upgrade awards generally only clear when a hotel doesn’t expect to sell a suite.

All that being said, I’ll probably still pick Nightly Upgrade Awards as my Choice Benefit upon re qualification.