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With the formation of the Marriott Bonvoy program at the beginning of 2019, and with so many changes having been made to the loyalty program and co-branded credit cards, I wanted to provide a rundown of how to redeem Marriott anniversary free night awards.
Marriott hasn’t necessarily made this that straightforward, and there are some important details that confuse people. Let’s look at what you need to know.
What Are Marriott Anniversary Free Night Awards?
A few co-branded Marriott credit cards 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.
Redeem your free night award at the Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport
Which Credit Cards Offer Anniversary Free Night Awards?
There are three Marriott credit cards that offer an anniversary free night certificate:
- The $95 annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase (review) offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 35,000 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 points per night
- The $450 annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 50,000 points per night
Note that you can have multiple free night certificates, so if you had all three of those cards then you could be getting three free night awards per year.
Redeem your free night award at the Le Meridien Paro
When Do You Get Your Marriott Free Night Award?
These free night awards are an anniversary bonus. This means you generally don’t get one when you open your account, but rather you get one starting with the first anniversary of your account, and every anniversary thereafter. Note that:
- This is an electronic certificate, so it will automatically be deposited in your Marriott Bonvoy account
- Chase says that the certificate will be deposited within eight weeks, while American Express says it will be deposited within eight to twelve weeks (though often it will be faster than that)
- The free night award is valid for a stay within 12 months of the date the certificate is issued (that 12 months is based on when you stay, and not based on when you book)
Redeem your free night award at the St. Regis Chengdu
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 8-12 weeks you’ll receive the certificate (at the latest).
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 costs no more than the maximum number of points allowed with the certificate (either 35,000 or 50,000).
Let’s choose the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, as an example, since I have a 50,000 point certificate, and this hotel sometimes costs 50,000 points per night.
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 eligible e-certificates that match your reservation.” This is the point where you can choose whether you want to redeem that certificate or want to redeem points.
If you choose to redeem the certificate you’ll see that the certificate is debited from your account, and your points will all remain.
Talk about a heck of a deal, compared to a hotel costing $600+ including taxes and fees.
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.
Redeem your free night award at the Marriott Kigali
This card even has a limited time bonus at the moment, so there has never been a better time to pick up the card.
Marriott Free Night Award FAQs
Hopefully the above answers most of the questions that people may have regarding these 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):
What Are The 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 Peak & Off-Peak Pricing Impact Free Night Awards?
In 2019 Marriott introduced peak and off-peak award pricing, so their award chart now looks as follows:
You’re still capped at 35,000-50,000 points for a free night award, depending on which one you have.
The bad news here is that you can no longer to use a 35,000 point free night award at a Category 5 property in peak season (since that now costs 40,000 points).
Conversely, you can redeem a 50,000 point free night award at a Category 7 property off-peak (since that now costs 50,000 points).
Can You Use A Free Night Award For Multiple Nights?
Say you have a free night award good for a 35,000 point hotel. Can you use it for a two-night stay at a hotel costing 17,500 points per night? The answer is no, unfortunately. The 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 towards the same stay.
Does The Free Night Certificate Stay Count Towards Elite Status?
Absolutely, when you redeem your free night certificate you’ll receive an elite qualifying night for that stay.
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.
Do You Earn Elite Nights For A Stay Booked With A Free Night Award?
You sure do. This will count as a qualifying night towards status with Marriott.
Can You Book A More Expensive Hotel And Pay The Difference In Points?
If you have a 35,000 point certificate, could you book a 40,000 point hotel by redeeming the certificate and then paying the 5,000 point difference? No, unfortunately not. Your certificate can only be used for a stay up to the maximum amount of the certificate.
How Can You Earn More Marriott Points?
See this post for the best credit cards for earning Marriott Bonvoy points.
Marriott Free Night Award Summary
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 one of these cards 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.
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 Business Card From American Express (Rates & Fees).