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Over the years, we've seen several reciprocal partnerships form between airlines, hotels and other travel service providers.
These partnerships are a great way to incentivize members to utilize a partner program when traveling and extend elite status benefits for loyal members. One of the longest-standing of these partnerships is the RewardsPlus union between Marriott and United.
Today we'll take a look at everything you need to know to maximize RewardsPlus, which offers select Marriott and United elites reciprocal benefits when traveling with the other company. I was able to leverage this partnership back in 2017 to earn three different elite statuses in the course of a single month, though there have been a few changes since the launch of Marriott Bonvoy.
Even if you haven't paid much attention to RewardsPlus in the past, it's worth looking into this year, thanks to Marriott's bonus elite night credit promotion. Members are received 50% of the elite night credits needed to qualify for the status they held in 2019, meaning some people will be qualifying for Marriott Titanium status for the first time (and gaining eligibility for the RewardsPlus program) even while traveling less this year.
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RewardsPlus elite status Benefits
Crossover programs tend to offer some form of bonus points or elevated perks, but RewardsPlus is relatively unique in that it actually offers reciprocal elite status. Here are the details:
- If you hold United Premier Gold status (or higher), you can enjoy complimentary Marriott Gold Elite status. This includes a 25% point bonus, upgrades to enhanced rooms and a welcome amenity upon check-in at participating brands.
- If you hold Marriott Bonvoy Titanium or Ambassador Elite status, you can enjoy complimentary United Premier Silver status through the RewardsPlus program, which comes with a 40% mileage bonus, access to Economy Plus/preferred seating at check-in and more.
Matching these statuses is easy and can be done online. However, there are two different websites for doing so, depending on which status you're trying to match.
If you currently have United elite status and you're looking to match to Marriott, you can start at this link, which looks like this:
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Click "Sign up to double your status," log in using your United Mileage Plus credentials and follow the on-screen prompts.
If you're an eligible Marriott elite looking to unlock benefits with United, you should start here.
Click on "Join RewardsPlus," log in with your Marriott Bonvoy account information and then follow the on-screen prompts.
Related: Current airline elite status match and challenge options you should know about
Who isn't eligible?
If you're starting from scratch and leveraging a status challenge or status match to unlock the perks of the RewardsPlus partnership, you need to wait until you've actually earned status.
While these are great ways to shortcut your way to elite status, any temporary elite statuses are not eligible for RewardsPlus matching. Unfortunately, this means that if you have temporary United Gold elite status while you're completing a status challenge, you can't sign up for reciprocal status through RewardsPlus just yet. Instead, you'll need to wait until you've completed the challenge and earned "full" United Premier status.
Related: How I’m earning Marriott Platinum status in 2021 in as little as 5 nights
Which side gets the better deal?
It's safe to say that Marriott Titanium and Ambassador Elites get the more lucrative end of the deal here.
United Premier Silver status isn't the most rewarding status out there, but it can be a real upgrade for non-frequent flyers. However, it's impossible to earn without spending at least $4,000 on flights in a year (though United made adjustments to elite status qualification for 2021).
Marriott Gold status, on the other hand, is relatively easy to earn. It's given as a complimentary benefit if you hold any of the following cards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card (no longer available to new applicants)
Earning Marriott Gold status normally requires 25 elite night credits a year, but you can get up to 30 credits a year from holding the right credit cards (one set of 15 credits for holding any personal Marriott card and another set of 15 for holding any Marriott business card). So, you have several ways to earn Marriott Gold status without ever stepping foot in a hotel, compared to spending thousands of dollars to earn United Silver status.
Related: United Airlines makes big changes to how we earn elite status, upgrades
How to Maximize RewardsPlus
Many of the benefits of the RewardsPlus partnership aren't limited to elite members. Here's a couple of RewardsPlus benefits any United and Marriott member can use.
Related: The best credit cards to jump-start elite status in 2021
Convert Marriott Bonvoy points to United miles (and vice-versa)
Any member can earn a 10% bonus when converting Marriott Bonvoy points to United MileagePlus miles, and this is on top of the standard 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. This brings your ratio up to 3:1.35 when you transfer at least 60,000 points.
You'll receive this same bonus if you select to earn United miles as part of a Marriott Hotel + Air package, though these redemptions were devalued with the integration of Marriott and SPG. As a result, you might be better off using this opportunity to pick up some hard-to-earn miles in a program like Alaska Mileage Plan or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank.
You can also convert MileagePlus miles to Marriott points at a 1:1 ratio, but this is a poor value. Based on TPG's valuation of United miles (1.3 cents each) and Marriott points (0.8 cents each), you'd be sacrificing some significant value in this way.
Related: Here’s how 19 TPG staffers stand midyear on hotel elite status goals
Earn bonus United miles on Marriott stays
There's one final way to leverage the RewardsPlus partnership: booking Marriott hotels paired with United flights. This is listed on United's page for the partnership:
You must log in to view the full details, and you must have an existing United reservation to start to take advantage of this. The terms and conditions indicate that Marriott Gold Elites and higher will earn 500 bonus miles per completed Marriott stay booked through United's site. Only rooms booked with a "Member Rate" or "Exclusive Member Rate" are eligible.
However, make sure to compare this offer with booking through an online shopping portal, as you may be able to get a much higher return on Marriott reservations.
One nice thing about this perk is that you earn United miles in addition to Marriott Bonvoy points. In turn, this is an easy way for United and Marriott loyalists to stack rewards on hotel stays.
Related: Expert stacking: How I earned $80 in cash back and rewards from one dinner
I personally don't fly United more than once every year or two, but when I do, it's nice to enjoy Premier Silver status despite not being loyal to the airline.
There are only so many perks a hotel or airline can offer internally, so it's nice to see brands like Marriott and United working on additional ways to make your elite status matter in more places.
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.