My Best-Ever Use Of A Marriott Free Night Award

My Best-Ever Use Of A Marriott Free Night Award

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While I don’t think this will surprise anyone, you sure can get a lot more value with your Marriott points and free night awards when traveling outside the United States. Here’s my latest experience with that…

My amazing use of a Marriott free night award

Several Marriott co-branded credit cards offer free night awards as an annual card perk. Most cards offer certificates valid at properties costing up to 35,000 points per night, while some premium cards offer certificates valid at properties costing up to 85,000 points per night. Fortunately nowadays you can top off those certificates with up to 15,000 extra points, to get a bit more value.

I often hear people suggest you can’t even redeem one of those free night awards worth up to 35,000 points per night at a Courtyard off a highway. Well, I just redeemed that certificate at the world’s only all-suite St. Regis.

Specifically, after spending a night at Katara Hills LXR Doha, we spent a night at the St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island Doha, which just opened several months ago.

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island exterior

This property was bookable for just 30,000 points for the night we were staying.

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island cost with points

As a point of comparison, the cash rate for a stay here would be over $400 per night.

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island cost with cash

I value Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents each, so suffice it to say that redeeming points (or free night certificates) is a great value here.

So, how was the St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island?

The St. Regis Marsa Arabia greatly exceeded my expectations, not just in terms of value, but in terms of the overall experience and service levels.

For one, we got upgraded from a one bedroom suite to a two bedroom suite. The hotel doesn’t have any one bedroom suites with two beds, so when I asked about the possibility of getting a room with two beds, the hotel proactively offered a complimentary upgrade to a two bedroom suite (which seems to be a pretty common thing for elite members, based on what I’ve read online).

In fairness, this probably isn’t the most luxurious St. Regis in terms of finishes, but did I mention it’s only 30,000 points per night? 😉

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island suite living room
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island suite bedroom
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island suite bedroom

And really the room went way beyond the two bedrooms, as there was a huge kitchen, and even staff quarters… not that we used any of that. My dad was also delighted to see a better bottled water situation than at Katara Hills. 😉

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island suite kitchen

The suite had pretty cool views too. Marsa Arabia Island is essentially a manmade island located in the middle of the marina at The Pearl (a big shopping mall sort of thing), connected by a bridge. You’ve gotta love the Middle East, eh?

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island suite view

We received a lovely welcome gift shortly after check-in, and I also appreciated the butler service coffee, as is standard at St. Regis properties.

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island welcome gift
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island butler coffee

The hotel has endless amenities, from half a dozen restaurants, to a beautiful lobby and lounge, to probably the best hotel gym I’ve ever seen anywhere, to a big pool.

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island lobby
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island gym
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island pool

Breakfast was also a real treat, and was served in the hotel’s Turkish restaurant. Breakfast was a la carte, and you could either do the set Turkish menu, or order items individually. My dad and I split the Turkish set menu for one person, and we couldn’t even finish it. Yow.

St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island breakfast
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island breakfast

So yeah, I’ll have a full review soon, but we had a great stay! And it was made even better by the fact that I booked it with a free night award from a credit card with such a low annual fee.

Bottom line

If you exclusively stay at hotels in the United States, it can be easy to get frustrated by the value of hotel loyalty programs, in terms of points redemption opportunities and elite recognition. Meanwhile outside the United States, it’s a different story. I’ve had some great uses of points over the years, but redeeming a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points for an all-suite St. Regis was among my best uses.

If you find yourself in Doha, this property is an excellent use of points.

What has been your best use of a Marriott free night award?

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  1. Sean Guest

    You should really gotta visit the Ananti Hilton Busan in terms of the best hotel gym. Like seriously, using an expensive running machine while looking at the beautiful oceans of Busan is just mind-blowing. Also given the luxury of the hotel, prices are pretty low on weekdays!

  2. Mark F Guest

    Well, as a quadruple lifetime platinum ,not an overstatement with 3500+ nights in a Marriott somewhere, completely disagree with your US thinking. There are a ton of gorgeous properties ALL OVER THE US that have point specials. Even during higher point stay times, like vail during spring break when a regular room can go for upwards of $900nt, 40,50 or 60k points is a bargain. Just got to know how to shop or look for...

    Well, as a quadruple lifetime platinum ,not an overstatement with 3500+ nights in a Marriott somewhere, completely disagree with your US thinking. There are a ton of gorgeous properties ALL OVER THE US that have point specials. Even during higher point stay times, like vail during spring break when a regular room can go for upwards of $900nt, 40,50 or 60k points is a bargain. Just got to know how to shop or look for them on marriott.com. Overall, they do a great job at whatever level of accommodation you book.

  3. Claire Merice Guest

    Marriott treated me like trash I will never or ever recommend anyone to use Marriott again.

  4. CodeAdam10 Guest

    @Ben

    Do you recall what is their price for the breakfast buffet?

    Thanks

  5. Brent Guest

    Adorable. As a lifetime Marriott Titanium member, with over 2600 nights, I'm always happy when the kids discover it!

  6. JR Guest

    Seems that it's not the only all suite St Regis, there's St Regis Bali CMIIW

  7. Gigi Guest

    I was relegated down to Gold Elite status after enjoying many years as a Platinum Elite member. I was 16 nights short due to several covid related cancellations. To add insult to injury, I was finally able to go on my annual Times Square Marriott Marquis/Broadway marathon of 11 plays in eight days but those eight days would be served as a Gold Elite and the M Lounge was off limits sans paying $70 a...

    I was relegated down to Gold Elite status after enjoying many years as a Platinum Elite member. I was 16 nights short due to several covid related cancellations. To add insult to injury, I was finally able to go on my annual Times Square Marriott Marquis/Broadway marathon of 11 plays in eight days but those eight days would be served as a Gold Elite and the M Lounge was off limits sans paying $70 a day. The $30 destination fee was gifted back as a food voucher and I did enjoy nightly dinners at the Broadway Lounge overlooking Times Square.

    So I needed eight more days to be elevated back to Platinum before my next Broadway excursion and an upcoming two-week work stay at a Delta hotel with 24-hour pantry access.

    I had two free night certificates that we're going to expire before I could take another trip. I live in Orange County, California and I looked for the cheapest Marriott brand to use the certificates, coupled with the stay five nights pay for four promotion and points. I found a Four Points in Bakersfield and pooled all eight nights for just an additional 30,000 points!

    It was a 2-hour drive and all I had to do was simply check in. I was upgraded to a lanai room next to the pool. I had 3 days free time of the eight days. I thought what am I going to do in Bakersfield and decided to look to see if there were any interesting dining options and there was! Bakersfield is home to several Basque restaurants. I grew up going to Basque restaurants on trips with my parents to Reno and Gardnerville, Nevada. I was in heaven enjoying daily courses of salad, beans, bread, soup, french fries, pickled tongue, dry Jack cheese, flan and a different entree each night: One of the best oxtail stews, veal sweet breads perfectly cooked New York steak.

    The other five days I gifted to a friend who lived nearby for a staycation.

    I eagerly awaited for the stay to be posted. Checking my Bonvoy app everyday and then it happened! I opened it up and a graphic of celebratory streamers appeared with the proclamation that I had reached Platinum status!

    Soon I will be headed back to the Marriott Marquis to enjoy Broadway plays and the M Lounge in addition to the $30 destination without your rebate and along with my two week work trip I will be on my way to Titanium status.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      To add insult to injury, you could have just paid $650 for a credit card.
      Save your friend from a staycation in a Four Points sans breakfast, 30k points, and a 2-hour drive.

  8. iamhere Guest

    The question is why it was so cheap on points? Agree that you can redeem in the US for a Courtyard if you are lucky at that level but on points overseas it can be of much greater value but then again the cash price is much different. Many places in Asia such premium brands are only a few hundred dollars a night.

  9. Points and Miles Doc Guest

    Not the fanciest place, but my favorite use of the 35k certificates is the Marriott Buellton in Santa Ynez Valley. Being a wine region (of Sideways fame), nights often go for $400+ and surrounding boutique properties $750 and up. There's consistent availability and we go several times per year, so I'll use the certs when I have them!

  10. Dwondermeant Guest

    No question the value is in International redemption.Sad in the US to redeem however

  11. Weymar Osborne Gold

    I redeemed mine at the Courtyard Munich Downtown last year during the peak of Oktoberfest just 3 days before my stay. Cash cost was over €600!

  12. Love Doha Guest

    "Not available in Jan/Feb 2024" ?

    1. Ben W Member

      My guess is its because the Asian cup is in Jan 24 in Qatar so most likely one of the teams is staying there then.

  13. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    I always find a good use for the certs. Put up my parents for a surprise trip to Downtown Fort Worth in brand new properties. They had a blast.

  14. JoePro Guest

    Over my short loyalty with Marriott, I learned the best use of free nights is to let them expire and go elsewhere.

    Never frequented a chain that actively works to screw the customers, except for Marriott. (St Regis Chicago's denial of breakfast benefit is a prime example)

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      LOL, the follow up news the next day was that the Chicago St. Regis relented and brought back the benefit.

  15. [email protected] Guest

    I don't understand why you used a certificate potentially worth 35,000 points instead of just redeeming 30,000 points and saving the certificate for another stay. Isn't that a waste of 5,000 points? To me that would be the worst use of the cert. Am I missing something?

    1. Super Diamond

      You have a certificate that can ONLY be used at a property up to 35k points, which massively limits the places that cert can be used. 30k points can be used anywhere, either for a property which costs 30k points or as part of a more expensive hotel. It's essentially "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" scenario. Better to use the cert now when you know you can get good...

      You have a certificate that can ONLY be used at a property up to 35k points, which massively limits the places that cert can be used. 30k points can be used anywhere, either for a property which costs 30k points or as part of a more expensive hotel. It's essentially "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" scenario. Better to use the cert now when you know you can get good value, rather than holding it to see if you need to stay at another 35k point property at some point in the future. Also, 5k points is worth like ~$3.50 according to Ben's Marriott valuation.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      @Super
      "Also, 5k points is worth like ~$3.50 according to Ben's Marriott valuation."
      Really, under your math then the 30k St.Regis should be 6x3.50 = $21 !!!! I'd retire and stay there for the rest of my life.

    3. [email protected] Guest

      That is incorrect - it isn't limited to 35K points redemptions. A few years ago Marriott started to allow points top-ups of up to 15K, as Ben mentioned. i.e. you can book a 50K point night by using the cert plus 15K additional points. Obviously this still doesn't cover the most expensive redemptions but it definitely expands the usefulness. And Ben's valuation at 0.7 cents is $35 not $3.50 (though still not a huge cost).

    4. David Guest

      $35 not $3.50 lol... but Bem also got way over 1c per point in this particular case as well so it's definitely a worthy redemption.

    5. Tom Guest

      It is not the cost of the room that you "save" by using points or a certificate. Rather it is the amount of cash that you actually would have spent on a hotel that you save.

      I recently redeemed my 35,000 point certificate for a room in London that was offered for $300 a night. But importantly I would only have paid $200 cash for a hotel room in that city for that night. So I "saved" $200, not $300.

    6. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      Yes, Your definitely missing something. It matters what you redeem the cert for, not the actual points.

  16. Andrew Guest

    Used 2 85k certificates for Al Maha in UAE and it was amazing. I had to too them off, but so worth it for an all inclusive resort!

  17. Lee in Alpharetta Guest

    Thanks for this, and looking forward to your full review. My wife and I will be there a week from today. We have a couple of days in Doha before heading to the Maldives.

    Tough trying to decide between this St. Regis and the older St. Regis Doha, but I think we will keep the brand new one.

  18. Luke Guest

    Just recently redeemed 2 of my 85k bonvoy certificates in Paris for the Prince De Galles hotel where after applying suite night awards received their Macassar Suite (Which sells for north of 2k Euros per night). So the value for each night was just about equal to 3 years worth of annual fees on the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant card alone!

    Last year used several 50k certificates in peak summer season for the Ritz Carlton Amelia...

    Just recently redeemed 2 of my 85k bonvoy certificates in Paris for the Prince De Galles hotel where after applying suite night awards received their Macassar Suite (Which sells for north of 2k Euros per night). So the value for each night was just about equal to 3 years worth of annual fees on the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant card alone!

    Last year used several 50k certificates in peak summer season for the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island when the cash rate for the base room was going for around $1500 a night before the pesky resort fee which I paid anyway.

    So values are there to be had if can be flexible and look hard enough!

  19. Eskimo Guest

    And in America, at 30k you can't even book an old run down Residence Inn in some areas.

  20. staradmiral Guest

    Even deals within the US can be found.
    Booked the JW marriott miami turnberry using a 35k certificate. Hotel includes a water park. Cash rate $377 after taxes
    The gaylord Palms in florida, gaylord texan, and gaylord rockies are all bookable with 35k certificates.
    Family is visiting downtown seattle, staying with a 35k certificate

  21. Larry D Guest

    Similar experience at the St Regis in Cairo. I think it was 37k in points, so used a certificate and topped off. Also, offered to use a Suite Upgrade which was accepted and ended up in a 2BR incredible Apartment style suite with gourmet kitchen, etc. Didn't use one of the bedrooms, but was a beautiful hotel and was convinced this was clearly the best use of a 35k cert ever (albeit with a few thousand points and suite upgrade cert as well).

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Super Diamond

You have a certificate that can ONLY be used at a property up to 35k points, which massively limits the places that cert can be used. 30k points can be used anywhere, either for a property which costs 30k points or as part of a more expensive hotel. It's essentially "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" scenario. Better to use the cert now when you know you can get good value, rather than holding it to see if you need to stay at another 35k point property at some point in the future. Also, 5k points is worth like ~$3.50 according to Ben's Marriott valuation.

1
Sean Guest

You should really gotta visit the Ananti Hilton Busan in terms of the best hotel gym. Like seriously, using an expensive running machine while looking at the beautiful oceans of Busan is just mind-blowing. Also given the luxury of the hotel, prices are pretty low on weekdays!

0
Mark F Guest

Well, as a quadruple lifetime platinum ,not an overstatement with 3500+ nights in a Marriott somewhere, completely disagree with your US thinking. There are a ton of gorgeous properties ALL OVER THE US that have point specials. Even during higher point stay times, like vail during spring break when a regular room can go for upwards of $900nt, 40,50 or 60k points is a bargain. Just got to know how to shop or look for them on marriott.com. Overall, they do a great job at whatever level of accommodation you book.

0
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