With the loyalty programs of Marriott and Starwood having recently been merged, we’ve also seen some changes made to their co-branded American Express cards, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
While the points earning structures of these cards have been worsened, there’s one great new benefit. Both of these cards now offer a free night award on your account anniversary every year, valid at a property retailing for up to 35,000 points.
This new benefit kicked in as of August 2018, so the way it works is that you get your first free night certificate on your next account anniversary that falls in August 2018 or later (so if your account anniversary date was July 2018, you only get your first free night award in July 2019).
The terms state that you receive your free night award within 8-12 weeks of your account anniversary date, and it will be electronically deposited into your account.
I have both of these cards, and just received two free night awards, so wanted to share my observations.
How to find your SPG Amex free night awards
To find these certificates, log into your account, and on the account activity page, you should see an area with “Rewards Certificates.” This should list any outstanding certificates you have.
I have both the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and Bonvoy Business Amex, and I’ve already had both of these post.
How to redeem your SPG Amex free night awards
Like many things in this merger, it’s not necessarily all that straightforward. First it’s worth noting that this certificate can be redeemed for a single night at any hotel that retails for up to 35,000 points. The availability using this certificate should be the same as the availability when redeeming points for a standard room.
If you’re redeeming for a stay at a “legacy” Marriott property (in other words, not a Starwood brand), you can redeem your certificate online. Search the hotel you want, and select the “Use Points” option.
Once you do that, just select the standard room you want that has availability. For example, take the below room for 25,000 points per night at the JW Marriott Bangkok.
When you select that and then go to the next page, you’ll see an option asking if you want to redeem points or a certificate (assuming you have a certificate). So if you want to redeem a certificate, select that option.
Unfortunately this isn’t quite as simple with Starwood hotels. While Marriott is now technically using one platform, bookings at Starwood hotels are still redirecting to the old SPG website, and that has no option for redeeming these certificates (at least as far as I can tell). As a result, you’ll have to call if you want to redeem your free night award at an SPG property. The good news is that it’s a pretty painless process, at least based on the award I just tried to book.
How to find 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. I got really lucky. As I mentioned above, August 1 was the cutoff date, and both of my accounts had the annual fees post within a few weeks of that date. Can’t get much luckier than that, eh?
Both certificates posted today (October 2), meaning that it took around six weeks for these certificates to post. So while that’s not quite 8-12 weeks, that’s still a while to wait.
The way I see it, the anniversary free night awards on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and Bonvoy Business Amex more than cover the annual fees on the cards, which are $95 each. You could easily redeem these at hotels that cost much more than that. For example, I just redeemed one at the St. Regis Bangkok on a night that would have cost $250, so I consider that to be a great deal.
Has anyone else had their Bonvoy Amex free night awards post? Have you redeemed the certificate yet?