How to Use a Marriott Free Night Certificate

Certain Marriott credit card holders can get a free night certificate without having to build up points.
Anya KartashovaSep 24, 2021

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Marriott Bonvoy offers its loyalty program members two ways of booking free night awards: with Bonvoy points or with free night awards. Points can be accumulated by staying at Marriott properties and by making purchases on co-branded credit cards. Most free night awards come from holding and renewing Marriott credit cards issued by American Express and Chase. Here are some tips on how to get and how to use a Marriott certificate.

What types of Marriott free night awards are available?

Marriott free night awards range in value, and that value depends on the method with which you earned it. Marriott certificates are worth the following number of Bonvoy points:

If you still hold the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier card (no longer available to new applicants), then you receive a free night award with Marriott worth up to 25,000 Bonvoy points every year you renew the card.

Holding and renewing the following credit cards earns you a certificate worth up to 35,000 Marriott points:

It’s also possible to receive a free night award worth up to 35,000 Marriott points by spending at least $60,000 on the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card or the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Plus Business Card during the calendar year. Terms apply.

If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card or the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card (not available for applications), you earn a free night award worth up to 50,000 Bonvoy points each anniversary year. Terms apply.

Some credit cards, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, offer free nights worth up to a certain value in points — one night worth up to 50,000 points in this case — as a welcome bonus.

And finally, every calendar year you reach 50 elite nights and then again when you reach 75 nights with Marriott Bonvoy, you’re eligible to pick an Annual Choice Benefit. A free night award worth up to 40,000 points is available as one of the selections when you reach 75 qualifying nights.

Where to find your Marriott free night award

If you have any Marriott free night awards available for use, you’ll find them in your account under “Activity.” Each certificate displays its value and expiration date, which is one year after it’s issued.

Other than during the coronavirus pandemic, certificates can’t be extended beyond their expiration date and must be redeemed and have a stay completed before that date.

Free night awards don’t post immediately upon credit card renewal. Allow up to 12 weeks for the certificate to be available for redemption through your Bonvoy account.

How to use a Marriott certificate

To use a Marriott certificate for a free night, you must determine what hotel category you can book with it. Marriott divides up more than 7,000 of its properties into eight categories, each requiring a certain number of points per night. Additionally, seasonality is taken into account when pricing out hotel rooms, such as off-peak, standard season and peak.

According to the Marriott award chart, the best room you can book with a 25,000-point certificate is at a Category 4 hotel during the standard season.

A 35,000-point free night award can get you into a property as high as Category 5 on standard dates, whereas a 40,000-point award can get you a room at a Category 5 hotel during peak season or even a Category 6 hotel during off-peak season.

You can stay at Marriott property up to Category 7 during off-peak dates with a free night award worth up to 50,000 Bonvoy points.

Note that it’s not possible to apply certificates toward a higher-priced room and cover the difference with points. Your free night must not exceed the certificate’s value.

Finding the Marriott that’s best for you

Marriott has a handy tool to help you narrow down your search by selecting the continent, the country you’d like to travel to and the number of points required to book an award night.

For example, Germany features more than 30 Marriott properties where a standard room goes for 35,000 points. Narrow down your search further by selecting your preferred location/city and the dates by clicking on “View availability.”

Because it’s possible that a room at any of these hotels can be priced at peak rates of 40,000 points, keep searching for availability until you find hotels that can be booked with certificates. Once you select your hotel and the number of nights, you should see how many certificates are eligible to be redeemed for free nights at your selected property.

Select which certificates you want to use and how many, and you’ll see them apply to your reservation in the summary of charges.

It’s possible to mix and match paid stays and free nights on one reservation. If your stay is longer than the number of certificates you have, simply pay the rest of the bill with your credit card or Marriott points and complete your booking.

Nerdy tip: You can’t redeem a Marriott certificate for another guest. You have to be staying in the room to use the certificates issued under your name.

How to get maximum value from Marriott free night awards

Because each certificate’s value is limited to a specific point valuation, you want to make sure you book a hotel in the highest possible category that a certificate allows. For example, the best bang for your buck for 35,000-point certificates will be at Category 5 properties, and 50,000-point certificates are best used at Category 6 hotels.

It also helps to consider how much the certificate costs you to acquire. Because credit cards that come with free night awards charge annual fees, you’re paying anywhere between $85 to $450 to earn these certificates. Try to redeem them at hotels whose nightly rates exceed the membership fees you pay.

For example, you get a free night award worth up to 35,000 points with the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, which has an annual fee of $125 (see rates and fees). If you redeem the free night at a hotel that costs $350 per night including taxes, you offset the annual fee and get two to three times the value back. Terms apply.

Another great way to use Marriott certificates is to extend a vacation you book with either cash or points. Whenever you redeem enough Bonvoy points to stay five consecutive nights at one hotel, you get the fifth night free. So, one of the ways to get maximum value from your Marriott certificates is to use them to add one or two nights to your five-night reservation, provided the hotel is in a category that’s qualified for certificate redemptions. With this method, you can get a weeklong stay paid by rewards.

Nerdy tip: Marriott free night awards don’t qualify for a fifth night free promotion, which means you can’t redeem four certificates and book five nights. The promo applies to stays booked with Bonvoy points only.

The bottom line

Free night awards that come as a reward for keeping certain credit cards every year make paying annual fees easier to swallow. Marriott certificates do have some restrictions, but they can come in handy for a ski weekend, a road trip to a national park or an overnight layover in an upscale hotel in Europe. As long as you redeem Marriott certificates for rooms whose nightly rates are high on your travel dates and offset the fees, you come out on top.

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, see this page.

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, see this page.


How to maximize your rewards

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