[ Update 9/20/2018 ] NEW Marriott Platinum Status Challenge (post-Marriott/SPG merger) details in this post.
Marriott Rewards is offering a status match to the next tier when you complete a 90-day challenge. The reason why we're calling this a "secret" challenge is because there's not any official documentation on the challenge unless you contact Marriott directly.
Benefits at a glance for Marriott status:
How to contact Marriott
To participate in the Gold or Platinum Challenge, contact Marriott directly on their website: https://www.marriott.com/marriott/contact.mi
Be sure to have "Platinum Challenge" in the subject.
My name is [full name]. I'm currently a Marriott Gold member: [Marriott number].
I was looking to do the Platinum status challenge start on [ideal start date in the next 5-10 days].
[ Your name]
How to get Gold Status
You can automatically get Marriott Gold status by having the American Express Platinum card.
To qualify for the Challenge, you must hold Marriott Gold status and email Marriott to start the challenge.
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Marriott Platinum Challenge
When you complete 9 stays within 90 days, you can earn Marriott Platinum status. This means you need 9 separate stays, not nights.
9 nights consecutive (back to back to... back) at the same property = 1 stay
9 nights at the same property, but not consecutive (i.e., M, W, F...) = 9 stays
For example, if I stayed at a Marriott in Seattle for 3 consecutive nights with different reservations in the same weekend, then it would only count as one stay. You would have to rotate stays between Marriott properties for it to be considered a separate "stay."
Alternate Marriott properties in the same city.
Marriott #1 (i.e., Seattle Waterfront): Night 1, 3, 5, 7, 9
Marriott #2 (i.e., Seattle Downtown): Night 2, 4, 6, 8
The system would read this as 9 stays.
Pros: Marriott/Ritz/SPG Platinum status.
Cons: It's a hassle.
A road trip through different cities would be the perfect solution for 9 stays.
Once you complete the 9 stays, then you will earn Marriott Platinum status. One neat perk of having Marriott Platinum is that you can status match to SPG and Ritz-Carlton Platinum as well. Platinum members typically receive automatic room upgrades.
One thing to consider is that upgrades are location dependent and based on availability. Based on my experience, it's easier to get suite upgrades in international countries.
Marriott Gold Challenge
To participate in the Marriott Gold Challenge, you'll need to have Silver status. The Chase Marriott credit card automatically grants you Silver status.
Gold Challenge: 6 stays within 90 days
Similar to the Platinum Challenge, you'll need to contact Marriott directly to start the Challenge.
You must book the stays directly with Marriott at retail rate. Booking on hotel discount sites don't count. If you have a ton of points, the challenge might not make sense for you.