If you were a Marriott Platinum Premier Elite member and thought you were hot shit, I’ve got news for you: You’re even hotter shit now. Earlier this month, the credit card points website thepointsguy.com confirmed that Platinum was no more. On Feb. 13, as part of the consolidation of the rewards schemes of Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton into a single program called “Bonvoy,” Marriott Platinum Premier Elite members will be transformed—as if through a wizard’s spell—into Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite members.
Platinum is garbage now. As I write this, members of the top tiers of other rewards programs—American Airlines’ Executive Platinum, for example, or Bank of America’s Platinum Honors—are feeding their metal-inlay membership cards into industrial shredders in a rage and demanding their executive assistants switch them to Bonvoy, whatever that is. In the never-ending arms race of awards tier names, is Platinum dead? Is Titanium the new … uh … gold standard?
“Platinum has become overused in the travel loyalty space,” said Nick Ewen, a senior editor at thepointsguy.com. He admitted, though, that “titanium did catch me by surprise. I didn’t see that coming.”
But what if even Titanium is not actually the greatest of all rewards tiers? Is it possible that some non-Bonvoy program has found a tier that makes Titanium look as dumb and gross as Platinum? Let’s rank the top tiers of awards programs, starting from the most pedestrian.
Level 1: Relationships
The lowest level of loyalty program is the one that has no precious metal or anything else attached to it. Gimme a break! The whole point of belonging to a loyalty program is to impress other type-A road warriors in the Lufthansa lounge. Yet these companies have replaced easy-to-understand shiny metals with, ew, relationships. The results can be absurd. Hyatt recently changed its tiers from Gold, Platinum, and Diamond to Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalist. (This was just before “globalist” became widely known as a white supremacist code word.)
Still, it can be heartening to observe how these companies, in naming their top awards program tiers, hope you might see yourself in comparison to the great unwashed. The grocery store chain Harris Teeter wants you to know you’re a Very Important Customer. At Friendly’s restaurants you’re a member of the BFF Club. At AMC movie theaters you’re an Insider.
Other companies demand more of their loyal customers than mere BFF-ness, to the point of concern. Marvel Comics declares its club members True Believers. If you love Nordstrom enough to spend $5,000 a year there, you can become an Ambassador. And the makeup company Urban Decay makes no bones about it: You, my friend, have a problem. You’re a Junkie.
Here at Slate you can join our excellent membership program, Slate Plus, which, honestly, is a real case of “underpromise, overdeliver,” naming-wise. Plus seems pretty weak next to being an Elite at Century 21. Actually, being an Elite is nothing—at Best Buy you can be Elite Plus. Oh wait—“Elite Plus”? Weak! DSW VIP Elite blows that out of the water!
Oh, you’re a VIP Elite? (Derisive laughter.) Great choice, pal. You’re a sack of crap compared with me, a California Tortilla Burrito Elito.
Level 2: Colors
Some companies have sidestepped the metallization process by refusing to categorize their customers as material things. They are simply colors, ethereal and eternal. American Express’ most exclusive card, the one you get only if you spend like $350,000 a year, is the legendary Centurion Black. Myself, I prefer MGM Resorts’ black-with-attitude, Noir. But why so gloomy? Add a little brightness to your loyalty program portfolio by joining Chick-Fil-A One Red or, fancier yet, Sephora Rouge.
Level 3: Jewelry
Most companies have low-level tiers named Bronze or Silver or some crummy metal like that. But many use, for their top level, Gold. Gold’s OK, I suppose. Shiny, reflective. A little soft, honestly. Kinda pedestrian. Everyone’s got gold. Virgin Atlantic Gold. Starbucks Gold. British Airways Executive Club Gold. MasterCard Gold. The National Rifle Association’s Golden Eagles.
Consider stepping it up to Diamond. Plenty of companies look at this as a glittery left turn from your traditional metals. Hilton Honors Diamond, Regal Crown Club Diamond, Windham Hotels Diamond, Uber Diamond, Delta Diamond. This is fine. Who doesn’t like a nice diamond? No loyalty program has an actual diamond-encrusted card you can use to cut glass, though. Also, Chase Sapphire cards are sapphire-free.
Platinum is much better than gold or diamonds. Air France Platinum, Aeroflot Platinum, Bank of America Platinum Honors. But Nick Ewen is right that it’s a little overused. At American Airlines, you can attain AAdvantage Platinum status, or level up to AAdvantage Platinum Pro status, or leave those pikers behind and become … AAdvantage Executive Platinum. Not very inspiring! Titanium’s a real leap forward, and indeed, it’s the current king of the loyalty program naming hill.
I asked Ewen what metal could possibly exceed titanium, and he chuckled, “I’ll have to check my periodic table of elements!” Great idea! A quick check suggests that titanium could soon be surpassed by any number of elements in the platinoid family, including ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, and iridium. Those are some badass names! A senior vice president would be proud to flash a loyalty card embedded with a strip of actual rhodium, as long as exposure does not exceed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s permissible legal limit of 0.1 mg/m3 over an eight-hour workday.
Additional reporting by Tamara Evdokimova.