How To Redeem Marriott Anniversary Free Night Awards

Filed Under: Credit Cards, Marriott
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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?

Hotel credit cards often come with great perks that can more than offset their annual fees. This can come in the form of elite status, or in some cases in the form of 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:

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 Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. Taking a one or two paragraph answer and stretching it to include as many links as possible. Sadly you and Gary are really running out of stuff to talk about and just repeat things over and over.

    Which credit card(s) are we going to revisit this week?

  2. Lucky,
    I want to stay at a Marriott in August for 4 nights that is cat 5, 35k points a night. I have 70k points in my account and 2 upcoming cert nights, one in March and one in May. Will Marriott go ahead and let me reserve the room in anticipation of the cert nights that I will be receiving? I don’t want to transfer more points to my Marriott account but would like to lock-in the reservation in case there’s no award rooms available come May.

  3. A few weeks ago I tried redeeming my 35,000 point certificate for two different hotels in London. Couldn’t do it. Then I phoned reservations, and they couldn’t figure it out either. Then I was transferred to the technical support desk. He couldn’t figure it out either, until he could: both the hotels had an additional fee that needed to be paid towards the reservation: £10 towards one and £135 towards the other. As a result, the certificate could not be applied towards the reservation. However, I was informed, points could be used and the additional fee paid. And the quality of the reps I spoke with left much to be desired.

    This certificate redemption process to me reeks of scam, all the more reason I intend to abandon Bonvoy before my card renews in May. There is just one ridiculous thing after another that makes this program not worth continuing with.

  4. They peak season pricing essentially makes the 35k and 50k certs useless. There is never availability at standard pricing when I wanna use them. Only way is to use them at properties one category down.

  5. I’d like to say a big F U to Bonvoy for introducing Peak rates and making these free night certs significantly less valuable. At the very least, they should let us use these certs for peak rates and pay the difference in points.

  6. Be careful!!

    If you book a night using the cert and decide to cancel, there’s a very good choice it will NOT automatically go back into your account. All three of mine failed to go back into my account. I had a phone rep assist but they had to put me in hold for about 10 minutes to figure it out .

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve found it difficult to apply a cert using the bonvoy app. Never could figure it out. The phone rep I talked to claimed these certs could only be redeemed by calling and talking to a live agent.

    Just a mess of a program as far as I’m concerned.

  7. Couple of questions that would be useful (to me at least for the FAQ)

    Can you use a free night to book for a stay after the expiry date of the certificate?

    What happens if you make changes to a reservation with a free night certificate?

  8. @Ed, Lucky already posted 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)”

    @Lucky: “Cancellation” and not “Cancelation” in both American and British English 😉

  9. Well I got the Bonvoy Brilliant card last year so I get to experience this free night! I wasn’t happy that I made changes to my plans to Europe in 2019 and Marriott would not give me credit for the cancellation! So I’ve stayed away from them the rest of last year. Maybe I should down grade to a lesser level card.

  10. Worth adding that the certificates can only be used to book a standard room. Even if an upgraded room is available for a points redemption (say 50k points for a room with a view), you can only use the certificate (e.g. 50k) to book the standard, viewless room (e.g. 35k).

  11. My experience has been that Chase will extend the expiration of its certificate for 12 months from the date of the request so long as the credit card that generated the certificate is still active (account was not closed.)

    And there are still 25k point certificates being generated from the pre-merger Chase cards. And yes, I have no trouble using them.

  12. @Lucky: the Marriott free night certificates CAN be extended by a full one year! I have done that in the last three years. I just had to call Marriott reservation and any agent could do it.

  13. We can’t use a 35K cert and pay the difference in points for a 50K room. I assume, then, that we can’t we pay the difference in cash under the option of cash and points.

    Do the nights paid for in points count as qualifying nights as the certificates do?

  14. One thing to be very aware of is tht when you have a credit card free night certificate sitting in your account and you are booking online is that Marriott will default to taking the certificate — even if you are booking a cheaper room! You have to really LOOK at how you are paying when you check the Points/Certificates box! Make sure you don’t just press BOOK automatically. You have to move your curser to “Pay with 17,500 Points” (or whatever the room is worth) so that you are not automatically charged 35,000 points via using your free night certificate. Very SNEAKY of Marriott!!

  15. I have a 25K Certificate because I still have the original Marriott card with the $85 annual fee. My certificate expires in August so I just decided to use it for a room only needing 20K points coming up in May because I probably will not travel much this summer due to my job and didn’t want it to expire. I just got an email offering to upgrade me to the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card for $95 annual fee, Gold Elite Status (which doesn’t really matter for me as I’m kind of done with Marriott), 25% more points and my room Cert changes to 35K but I have to do it by the end of March. I don’t mind paying annual fees because still cheaper than paying for a room and I’ve been getting lucky and find hotels that work within the terms. QUESTIONS: If I do this, is the reservation I just made going to be ok for my May reservation using my current cert? Should I do this or hold out for something better?

  16. Are you still able to redeem 35k cert and pay the difference to get a room upgrade, other than the “standard” room?

    I was told by an Bonvoy chat agent that Free Night Certificate can only apply towards standard room and I am not allowed to upgrade to better view or lounge floor room even though I am willing to pay for the cash differemce from “Cash + Points” options.

    Is the agent correct about this? Thanks.

  17. If you have two certificates, is it possible to book two rooms in the same hotel for one night? I would like to book a room for my wife and I and a room for my parents. Thanks.

  18. I try to redeem a marriott certificate obtained thru Chase and I think i placed the reservation and then forgot about it. Forgot to go and forgot to cancel it (go figure!). Since i am now missing my certificate I think that was what happened. I wish i know that is not all lost…is it?

  19. @PJ Yoo

    You are totally correct about cancelling stays and then the certificates disappear. I just had this happen to me. I called Bonvoy customer service about the missing certificate. First and second call were handled by the same complete idiot of an agent in India. I finally called general reservations number and that agent, bless her heart, knew exactly how to fix this issue. What happens when a certificate is used, is that certificate is sent to the property of that reservation. You have to call, so that cert. can be sent back to your account. If you don’t call and have Marriott retrieve it, you can’t use it. It can be done on one call, if you want to immediately make a new reservation. Otherwise, it can take about 5 business days.

    The whole procedure seems to be a way of Marriott cheating members out of their free nights. I receive free nights with my IHG cc, and IHG immediately puts back the free night, after canceling. Why can’t Marriott do the same?

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