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One of the best perks of carrying certain Marriott Bonvoy credit cards is the annual free night certificate, which is worth 35,000 or 50,000 points depending on which card you have.
The free night award provides a lot of flexibility for award travel. For example, you could use it cover one night on a hotel stay. Or you could get creative by taking advantage of Marriott’s fifth night free on award stays and combine it with the free night certificate to book a six-night vacation.
In this article, we uncover five solid uses of the free night certificate — but first, here's an overview of which cards offer it and how to maximize its value.
Marriott credit cards
Marriott offers four credit cards, two issued by Chase and two by American Express. Two of the four credit cards come with an annual 35,000-point free night certificate:
The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. (This one also includes a second 35,000-point free night certificate after spending $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year.) Terms apply.
A free night award for 35,000 points lets you book a night at a Category 1 through 5 property at the standard rate (up to 35,000 points) or off-peak (up to 30,000 points) rate. At the peak rate, the free night could be used at a Category 1 through 4 hotel. Terms apply.
Although the free night award doesn’t land until your account anniversary, the high welcome bonus on both of these cards could come in handy if you’d like to use your points to pay for a four-night stay.
Marriott Bonvoy program
Marriott is a massive hotel chain, with over 7,600 properties in 131 countries among 30 different brands ranging from mid-range to luxury. About 90% of all Marriott properties fall into Category 1 through 5, so there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the annual free night award.
As we mentioned above, one great perk of the Marriott Bonvoy program is that for every four award nights booked, the fifth night is free. The free fifth night allows you to truly extend the value of your points, as you can see here. And if you tack on your free night award to this award, you can turn your vacation into a six-night stay.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
5 great uses of the free night certificate
Below are some examples of hotels you can book with your Marriott free night award:
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (Category 5)
The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is Category 5 beachfront property in Aruba that is separated into two zones: One for adults-only and one for families. Rooms in both sections are available for 30,000 to 40,000 points per night.
You could combine the free night certificate with the fifth-night-free promo to book a six-night stay for as few as 120,000 points.
JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa (Category 5)
The JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa is another Category 5 property, which is surprising given that JW Marriott is a luxury brand within the portfolio. This hotel is in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, which is an ideal location for water sports, particularly surfing. The property features beachfront access, a spa and a pool. Throughout October and November, the property is offering off-peak rates at the PointSavers level (27,500 points per night vs. the standard 35,000 points).
If you’re considering a quick getaway in October or November, this could be a good bet. Again, the value really comes from booking a six-night stay using the free fifth night combined with the annual free night award. That would cost only 110,000 Bonvoy points at the off-peak PointSavers rate.
At the standard rate, the same six-night vacation would cost 130,000 Bonvoy points during this period.
» Learn more: Here's how much your points and miles are worth
The St. Regis Beijing (Category 5)
The St. Regis Beijing, located in Beijing’s business district, is another surprising Category 5 property. The hotel opened in 1997 and features amenities like butler service and afternoon tea. Also included is a spa with natural hot springs, nice if you want to unwind after a busy day. A quick scan of the calendar shows plenty of availability at the off-peak rate (30,000 points per night) as well as at the standard rate (35,000 points) in December through February.
If you’re traveling through Asia and find yourself in Beijing, staying at this property on your free night award would be a great way to pamper yourself.
Residence Inn San Diego Downtown/Gaslamp Quarter (Category 5)
Thinking of heading to San Diego? The Residence Inn San Diego Downtown/Gaslamp Quarter is centrally located in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter district. Notable features include a free buffet breakfast and a rooftop pool.
The hotel has decent availability over the coming months at the off-peak rate (30,000 points). If you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway in San Diego, this property would be a good one for the free night award.
If you’ve already got plenty of Marriott points and want to turn this visit into a six-night vacation, you would only need 120,000 Bonvoy points (four paid award nights plus the fifth night free) and the annual free night award. At the standard rate, the same stay would cost 140,000 Bonvoy points.
W Brisbane (Category 5)
If you’re headed to Australia and visiting Brisbane, you could use your free night certificate at the W Brisbane. The W is arguably Marriott’s trendiest hotel chain. It's modern, luxurious and includes a gym and spa.
This property also features 29 suites, which Marriott says is the largest suite inventory in Brisbane. So what does this mean for you? If you’re hoping for a suite upgrade, it could be worthwhile to ask at the desk, given the high number available.
If you’re in Brisbane for a quick one-night trip, using your free night award (and potentially getting a suite upgrade), could be a really nice experience. A scan of the calendar shows good availability at the off-peak and standard rate in the coming months.
The bottom line
The 35,000 point free night award, which is provided every account anniversary, is a great perk of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card credit cards. With over 90% of Marriott’s properties falling into Category 5 or below, there are plenty of ways to pamper yourself with a free award night.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best hotel credit card for you Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card should I choose? Benefits of Marriott Bonvoy credit cards