Marriott co-branded credit cards offer a variety of perks, and one of the perks available on some cards is an anniversary free night award. This can be hugely valuable, so in this post I wanted to go over all the details you need to be aware of when it comes to redeeming these certificates, especially in light of them recently becoming more flexible.
What are Marriott anniversary free night awards?
Hotel credit cards often come with great perks that can more than offset their annual fees. For example, this can come in the form of elite status or free night awards. Most major hotel programs have some cards offering free night awards, including Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, and World of Hyatt.
A few co-branded Marriott credit cards also offer an anniversary free night certificate that you receive on your account anniversary every year, which is valid for a one night stay at select Marriott properties.
Which credit cards offer Marriott free night awards?
There are three Marriott credit cards that offer anniversary free night certificates:
- The $95 annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card (review) offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 35,000 Bonvoy points per night
- The $125 annual fee (Rates & Fees) Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (review) offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 35,000 Bonvoy points per night
- The $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees) Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 50,000 Bonvoy points per night
- You can potentially have multiple Marriott credit cards, so it’s possible to earn more than one free night award per year
- You can select a free night award as part of Marriott’s Choice Benefits program if you earn 75 elite nights in a year
- While certificates generally have a maximum value of 35,000 or 50,000 points, it’s now possible to supplement these certificates with up to 15,000 points to redeem at more expensive properties
When do you get your Marriott free night award?
Marriott free night awards issued as part of credit card perks are an anniversary bonus. This means you generally don’t get one when you open your account (unless it’s part of a bonus), but rather you get one starting with the first anniversary of your account and every anniversary after that. Note that:
- These certificates are electronic, so will automatically be deposited in your Marriott Bonvoy account
- Chase says that certificates will be deposited within eight weeks, while American Express says they’ll be deposited within eight to 12 weeks (though often it will be faster than that)
- The free night awards are generally valid for a stay within 12 months of the date the certificates are issued (that 12 months is based on when you stay, and not based on when you book); we’ve seen some extensions to these since the start of the pandemic, though I wouldn’t expect that to continue to be the case
How can you figure out if you have a Marriott free night award?
To see if you’ve already received your free night award, log into your Marriott Bonvoy account (not your Amex or Chase account), and then click on the “Activity” section. There you should see a listing of all of your unused certificates, including a credit card free night.
How can you determine your account anniversary date?
The easiest way to roughly tell your account anniversary date is to see when you were last billed an annual fee on the card. Just log into your Amex or Chase account, and see when you were last billed an annual fee.
You can expect that will be your anniversary date going forward as well, and then within eight to 12 weeks (at the latest) you’ll receive the certificate.
How do you redeem your Marriott free night award?
Above I’ve shown where in your Marriott Bonvoy account you can see your free night awards. Rather oddly, there’s no link there to actually click, though. To actually redeem your certificate, go through the same process you’d go through if you were to redeem points.
Go to Marriott’s homepage, and select your preferred destination, dates, and choose “Use Points/Certificates.”
Then you’ll see all the rates (in points and cash) for the properties that are available. Select a property that can potentially be used with your certificates. Certificates are generally valid for up to 35,000 or 50,000 points, but can be supplemented with up to 15,000 points, for a maximum of 50,000 or 65,000 points.
Let’s choose The Ben West Palm Beach as an example, on a night where 48,000 Marriott Bonvoy points are required (this means you could use a certificate worth up to 35,000 points, and supplement it with 13,000 points).
When you get to the booking page, select the points rate.
Then finally on the next page you’ll have the option of redeeming your certificate. You’ll see a box that says “You have 1 Free Night Award(s) eligible for this stay.” This is the point where you can choose whether you want to redeem that certificate or want to redeem points.
If the property you’re redeeming at is within the certificate limit, then just the certificate will be debited from your account, and points will remain. Meanwhile if you’re supplementing your stay with points, you’ll see the number of additional points required to top off your award.
Since Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic award pricing nowadays, the flexible award search feature is more valuable than ever before. When you go to the “Dates” section, just click on “Flexible Dates,” and then you can search for a month at a time.
This is a great way to find the nights that require the fewest points, and then you can scroll month by month.
Is it worth getting a Marriott card for the free night award?
Personally, I think there’s huge value to be had in having a co-branded Marriott card simply for the free night award on your account anniversary.
Take the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase, which has a $95 annual fee. A vast majority of Marriott properties retail for over $95 per night, especially after factoring in taxes and fees. Being able to pay a low $95 annual fee and getting a free night is a no brainer, in my opinion.
I’d argue the math potentially works out even better on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from Amex, which has a $450 annual fee. While that annual fee might sound high, the card offers lots of great perks, including a $300 annual Marriott travel credit, plus a Priority Pass membership. The card’s certificate is also more valuable, and can be redeemed at a property costing up to 50,000 points (before a top off).
Marriott free night award FAQs
Hopefully the above answers most of the questions that people may have regarding Marriott free night certificates. However, I figured I’d address a few more questions that people may have (and if you have any more, please let me know).
Are there capacity controls on free night awards?
Free night awards are subjected to the same capacity controls as points stays. Hotels are allowed to have blackout dates, but for most of the year, you’ll find that if a standard room is available for sale, it’s also bookable with points.
How does Marriott dynamic award pricing impact free night awards?
Nowadays Marriott Bonvoy no longer has an award chart, but instead award pricing is dynamic. That means the pricing can vary night-to-night depending on a variety of factors. The free night awards fully follow this dynamic logic, meaning that for a given hotel you might be able to use a free night award for one night, but not for another night.
The standard room award pricing at a hotel on a particular night determines whether or not you can redeem a free night award for that particular stay.
Can you use a free night award for multiple nights?
Say you have a 35,000 point free night award. Can you use it for a two night stay at a hotel costing 17,500 points per night? The answer is no, unfortunately. Each certificate is valid for a single night stay at a property costing up to 35,000 points.
Can you use free night certificates for back-to-back stays?
If you have two Marriott credit cards offering free night awards, can you use them for back-to-back stays? Yes, you sure can. You can even book them on the same reservation. Just start a search for a stay for as many nights as you plan on staying, and you’ll see the option of applying multiple certificates toward the same stay.
In the interest of being thorough, I should also mention that you could redeem two certificates for two rooms on the same night, should you be traveling with friends or family. Just book both rooms in your name.
Does the free night certificate count toward elite status?
Absolutely, when you redeem your free night certificate you’ll receive an elite qualifying night for that stay that counts toward Marriott Bonvoy status. For that matter, all elite benefits will apply on these stays as well, including complimentary breakfast at select brands.
Can you gift your free night certificate to someone else?
The free night certificate has to be used for a stay by the primary cardmember, so this isn’t a benefit that can be gifted to someone else.
What is the cancelation policy for free night awards?
The cancelation policy is the same as it would be if redeeming points, so it does vary by hotel, though generally speaking is quite flexible. If you do cancel a stay last minute, just keep in mind the expiration date of the certificate, as it can’t be extended.
Can you book a more expensive hotel and pay the difference in points?
While this didn’t used to be possible, it’s now possible to top off a free night certificate with up to 15,000 additional points. This means:
- A 35,000 point free night certificate can be redeemed at a property costing up to 50,000 points
- A 50,000 point free night certificate can be redeemed at a property costing up to 65,000 points
The anniversary free night awards offered by several co-branded Marriott credit cards can be an excellent value, in my opinion. This is a great additional perk if you have a Marriott credit card anyway, though it can also be a reason to get one of these cards, given just how much value you can get redeeming these.
I consistently redeem free night awards at hotels that would cost $250+ per night, and in some cases even significantly more than that. These certificates now have even more flexibility, as you can supplement them with up to 15,000 points to redeem at even more expensive properties.
What has your experience been with redeeming Marriott free night certificates?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees).