Delta Resort Victoria, British Columbia

Marriott and United are on my s*it list right now

One of the best travel programs out there right now is RewardsPlus — the joint venture between United and Marriott that allow their elite members to enjoy benefits across both programs.

The basics of the program are:

  • If you are a Marriott Rewards Platinum member, you get complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver. 
  • If you are Mileage Plus Premier Gold, you get complimentary Marriott Rewards Gold. 

I have written extensively before about how awesome I think this program is. Due to Marriott’s merger with SPG,  SPG’s Crossover Rewards program with Delta, and Marriott’s RewardsPlus program with United you basically get 4 statuses with one. An incredibly beneficial offer if you can get it. But today I hit my first bump in the road in regards to this program, and I’m not really sure what to think.

So let’s take it back — I qualified for Marriott Platinum elite status late last year. That status is good for the rest of the year, as well as 2018. Besides the increased benefits I’d receive with Marriott, I was excited about the opportunity to spread the wealth with the other programs. Even though I didn’t have any upcoming travel with United or SPG, I was excited just to be able to say I was elite with both (millennial thing). And it also got me thinking that maybe I’d give United some business this year, as I have had good experiences before, I like their availability for partner travel, and there is usually pretty good availability for my current business travel.

Over the holiday’s (before Jan. 1, 2018), I flew a few flights as a United Premier Silver and was very pleased with my experience. At the turn of the year, I was booking some business travel and decided that I would give United a try.

Fast forward to today — I check into my United flight tomorrow, only to find that I am only a Member with United. The Silver status that I thought I had was no more. So ensues my investigation.

I first call United, a bit ticked off. The kind associate notifies me that every year I must re-register for the RewardsPlus program. So (according to the associate) even though my Marriott account reads Platinum Elite, I must re-register with RewardsPlus to receive any kind of United status. I accept that this is the policy and realize I should have done my homework.

Not satisfied, I do just that — read up on the program. I’m interested to see what exactly it says in regards to this policy. On the RewardsPlus FAQ’s page I find this:

RewardsPlusq

I know it is a bit small, but that clearly states that if you’ve already re-qualified for Marriott Platinum, and received United Silver, you will have your “registration with RewardsPlus automatically renewed.” That explains my situation exactly. At this point I think I’ve beat the system — the website clearly states I should have been re-qualified for United MileagePlus Silver.

I give United a call back. While the agent was very kind and sympathetic to my issue, he really didn’t do anything to help the situation, instead just telling me I need to go to Marriott with the issue. I guess the problem arises when Marriott doesn’t “send my Platinum file” to United to upgrade me to Silver. In my eyes, this is just a classic case of passing the blame. Once I got on the phone with Marriott it was a similar run around. Nothing could be done today, “we need to talk with United”, etc.

Unfortunately, this may be a downside of the program — with two completely separate Rewards programs it is easy enough to just blame the other party. I begrudgingly accepted my fate, and will have to travel as a United member tomorrow.

I don’t think this completely shuts me off from possibly travelling more with United, but for some reason it has left a bad taste in my mouth. I understand this is a luxury I haven’t really earned, but I seem to think that more could have been done to rectify the issue. Just give me some drink coupons at least. It seems like an error on both programs part, and neither party wants to fess up to it. For all my future travelers, at least update the website!

Bottom Line

As I mentioned, I am a bit torn here. I am not sure if I should be blaming either United or Marriott, or blaming myself. Yes, there is clear literature stating that I would automatically qualify for United Silver this year,  but I could have also checked my MileagePlus account at the turn of the year to ensure that I was still Silver.

Lesson Learned: With all of these cross-promotional rewards programs, ensure that your status requalifies. The programs themselves are very good about updating at the turn of the year, but you can’t be too sure with any of their partners.

Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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