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Marriott Bonvoy members received some less-than-welcomed news back in 2021 when the hotel chain announced that it would be moving away from a semi-fixed award chart in March 2022. The move to a dynamic pricing model follows the trend of many other hotel loyalty programs. Unfortunately, this means that trying to predict redemption pricing will become far more difficult in the future.
However, Marriott has said that 97% of its properties will maintain their current redemption rates through the end of 2022. Marriott hasn’t made any announcements about how rates will change after 2022. But, in all likelihood, future award prices will be linked more closely to the cash price that you’d have to pay for the same night.
So, if you currently hold one of Marriott’s free night certificates or you’re close to earning one, you may want to consider using it before the end of 2022 when award rates may change. Currently, you can still redeem your free night certificate for stays at high-end properties that may become out of reach at the end of 2022.
It’s not all bad news, though. Marriott also announced late last year that it would allow Marriott Bonvoy members to top off their free night certificates with up to 15,000 points to increase the value of their award. This feature is now live and gives you the opportunity to use your free night certificate at top-of-the-line Marriott properties.
Let’s take a look at how to earn Marriott free night certificates, how the upcoming change to dynamic pricing will affect their value and how you can top off your free night certificate with points to unlock high-end hotels.
How to Earn Marriott Free Night Certificates
There are several ways to earn Marriott free night certificates: signing up for a Marriott co-branded credit card, spending a certain amount on a co-branded card per year, taking advantage of one of Marriott’s special promotions or achieving certain elite status tiers in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
While special promotions only come around every once and a while, you can always sign up for one of these Marriott co-branded cards and earn a free night certificate every account anniversary. You can also achieve Marriott Bonvoy elite status tiers every year by completing the required number qualifying stays in that year.
Marriott Co-Branded Credit Cards
The most straightforward way to earn free night certificates is to sign up for a Marriott co-branded credit card. These cards are issued by American Express and Chase, and both business and consumer credit cards are available.
Here are some American Express cards with which you can earn a Marriott free night certificate:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Receive a free night award worth up to 85,000 points every account anniversary ($650 annual fee – see rates & fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Receive a free night award worth up to 35,000 points every account anniversary ($125 annual fee – see rates & fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card: Receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points every account anniversary when you spend $15,000 on the card in a year
- Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card: Receive a free night award worth up to 35,000 points every account anniversary ($95 annual fee, not available to new applicants).
Here are some Chase cards with which you can earn a Marriott free night certificate:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Receive a free night award worth up to 35,000 points every account anniversary ($95 annual fee).
- Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ Card: Receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points when you spend at least $15,000 on eligible purchases in a cardmember year ($250 annual fee).
- Marriott Bonvoy® Premier Plus Business Credit Card: Receive a free night award worth 35,000 points every account anniversary ($99 annual fee, no longer available to new applicants).
- Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card: Receive a free night award worth 85,000 points every account anniversary ($450 annual fee, no longer open to new applicants).
Free Night Awards
after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, each free night award is valued up to 50,000 points.
Annual Fee: $95
The Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy® Premier Plus Business Credit Card also offer cardholders the opportunity to earn a second free night award after making $60,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year. Simply reach the spending threshold on the card and earn another free night worth up to 35,000 Bonvoy points.
Disappointingly, the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful Card doesn’t come with an automatic free night award each cardmember anniversary. Instead, you have to spend at least $15,000 on eligible purchases in a cardmember year to earn a free night award worth up to 50,000 points.
Free night certificates aside, if you frequently stay at Marriott properties, it may be worth it to get a Marriott co-branded credit card for their potential to quickly rack up Marriott Bonvoy points. All of the previously mentioned cards offer generous rewards on everyday spending alongside other perks like statement credits and Marriott Bonvoy elite night credits.
Achieve Titanium or Ambassador Elite Status
By staying at least 75 qualifying nights per calendar year at participating Marriott properties, you can achieve Titanium Elite status. On top of all the other amazing perks that this elite status tier offers, you get to choose an annual choice benefit among several different options. One of the options is a free night certificate worth up to 40,000 Bonvoy points.
By staying at least 100 qualifying nights and spending at least $20,000 on qualifying purchases per calendar year, you can achieve Ambassador Elite status. This elite status tier offers all of the benefits of Titanium Elite status and more. Thus, you can also elect to get a free night certificate as your annual choice benefit at this status tier.
Occasionally, Marriott will offer free night certificates as part of a seasonal or a targeted promotion. Sometimes, these promotions will be offered to all existing Marriott Bonvoy members. Other times, they will be available only to some program members.
For example, Marriott may offer free night certificates for booking paid stays at specific locations. These promotions usually require you to register and are available for a limited time.
Marriott will also occasionally offer free night certificates as incentives for new members to join the Marriott Bonvoy program. These new sign-up promotions typically offer a free night certificate worth up to 25,000 points. However, with the new option to top off your certificate, that can still get you into a high-end hotel.
No matter whether you have a free night certificate worth up to 25,000 points, 35,000 points, 50,000 points or 85,000 points, you can now top off your certificate with up to 15,000 additional points to gain access to more high-end options.
Topping Off Marriott Free Night Certificates
As previously mentioned, Marriott used to price its awards using a semi-fixed award chart, meaning that the redemption prices would vary based on category (which was determined by how luxurious a certain property is) and whether you were booking during off-peak, standard or peak travel times.
However, Marriott has moved away from this semi-fixed pricing model in March 2022, and now these award prices are variable and are more closely linked to the cash price that you’d have to pay for a certain stay.
Luckily, Marriott is allowing its members to top off their free night certificates with up to 15,000 points. That means that if you currently have a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points, you can bump that value up to 50,000 points using the points from your Bonvoy account. This is great news for those who wish to use their free night certificates for high-end hotels.
For instance, while a 35,000-point free night certificate alone will get you into a hotel that was previously a Category 5, you can now top off that award to access hotels that were a Category 6 or Category 7, which are some of the most luxurious properties in Marriott’s portfolio.
And, considering that Category 8 contained just 123 properties, the new option to top off your free night certificate means that you can access nearly any hotel under the Marriott umbrella.
Rules for Topping Off Your Free Night Certificate
Of course, you should be aware of some rules when trying to top off a Marriott free night certificate. The biggest thing to be aware of here is that you can use Marriott Bonvoy points to top off redemptions using a free night certificate for standard room types only.
You should also be aware that, if you have more than one free night certificate, you can top off multiple free night certificates for a multi-night stay. For instance, if you have two 35,000-point free night certificates and you want to book two nights at a location that costs 50,000 points per night, you can use 30,000 points total to top off your free night certificate for both nights.
Also, if you want to modify your reservation and you end up needing more points to make the modification, you can add more points up to 15,000 total to make your desired reservation.
For instance, let’s say that you originally made a reservation using a 35,000-point free night certificate and 5,000 additional points. If you want to modify that reservation, you can change to a more expensive stay up to 10,000 additional points.
One of the most important rules to be aware of is that Marriott will reimburse your free night certificate and any additional points used from your account if you choose to cancel your reservation. So, if you find an award stay at a low price that’s appealing to you, you should book it with your free night certificate and lock in your price point. If you want to cancel later, you’ll be fully reimbursed.
Unlocking High-End Hotels
Since Marriott’s former award chart went up to 8 categories, the fact that you can top off a 35,000- or 50,000-point free night certificate and access hotels up to Category 7 means that you can use these awards to stay in Marriott’s most luxurious properties (with a few exceptions).
If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, which comes with an 85,000-point free night certificate every cardmember anniversary, you should be able to access Marriott’s top-tier properties in its portfolio by combining your free night certificate with up to 15,000 points.
Even the 35,000-point free night certificates that are awarded yearly to holders of certain Marriott co-branded credit cards offer great value on their own. In many cases, these certificates can save you hundreds of dollars per year if used at the right locations.
For instance, that certificate alone will get you a free night in the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino, a four-star resort in a gorgeous location. If you were to pay cash, a night there would cost you $208 plus tax.
However, when you get the option to top off this certificate with points from your account, your options expand vastly. And you don’t necessarily need to drain your Bonvoy account of all your points to get into some great hotels.
If you have a 35,000-point free night certificate and you’re willing to top that off with just 200 more points, you can purchase a night at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, a five-star resort on one of the finest beaches in Vietnam. If you were to pay cash, the same stay would cost you about $287 plus tax per night.
If you’re willing to use a few more points from your Bonvoy account, you can get into some other amazing options. For instance, for 41,600 points, you can book a night at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali, a five-star hotel on one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Southeast Asia. The same stay would cost about $327 plus tax if you paid cash.
Marriott Bonvoy members who currently hold a 50,000-point free night certificate and are willing to top it off with points from their account can access some of the best locations in Marriott’s portfolio. For example, you can use your 50,000-point certificate plus 10,000 points from your account to book the JW Marriott Marquis Miami, a five-star hotel in downtown Miami right along Biscayne Bay. The same stay would cost you $466 plus tax if you paid cash.
Another great option for those with a 50,000-point free night certificate is to book a stay at The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki, a five-star hotel on Hawaii’s famous Waikiki Beach.
As you can see, while Marriott’s move away from a semi-fixed award chart has made it harder to find good redemption values with free night certificates, the option to top off your certificate with points has made it possible to get into some of Marriott’s nicest hotels, even with a 35,000-point free night certificate. You will have to do some searching, though.
How to Top Off Free Night Certificates with Points
Topping off your free night certificates with points is easy, and can be done online automatically. Simply do a booking like you normally would with points or certificates, and on the checkout page you’ll see the option to use your certificate plus points. It’s that easy. If for some reason it doesn’t show up, you can call Marriott to see if they can do the booking for you. But the online system should work fine.
The Bottom Line
For Marriott Bonvoy members and holders of Marriott free night certificates, the shift to a variable pricing model is bad news. However, the silver lining is that Marriott now allows you to top off your free night certificates with up to 15,000 points, meaning you can use these certificates to access some of the nicest Marriott hotels in the world.
In some cases, those who have a 50,000-point free night certificate can use this top-off feature to access what used to be Category 6 or Category 7 hotels. In even rarer cases, you can do the same with a 35,000-point free night certificate.
If you have an 85,000-point free night certificate, offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, you can combine it with another 15,000 points for a total of up to 100,000 points. This should give you access to nearly any property in Marriott’s entire portfolio.
So, while the shift to a variable model has made Marriott’s pricing less transparent, you can still get incredible value out of your free night redemption if you’re willing to do some research.
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Cards in This Article
Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points
after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months.
Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points
after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Free Night Awards
after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, each free night award is valued up to 50,000 points.
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.