I predict that travel within the United States is going to explode in popularity in the summer of 2021. Just in time for summer travel, COVID-19 vaccines should be available to most American residents who want it. Many will put off international travel, though, until later. As a result, competition for hotels and resorts in the USA will be insane.
Meanwhile, a perfect storm is brewing on the Marriott front…
Many of us have Marriott free night certificates to burn. Marriott has extended free nights that were set to expire by July 31 2021 or earlier. Now, they all expire August 1, 2021. What this means is that a huge number of Marriott Bonvoy members have certificates that expire on the same date. And it’s not like you can book your trip by August 1 for a future date. No. You have to complete travel by then. And I’m confident of this prediction: many with these certificates will fail to use them before summer 2021. This coming summer, there will be a race to use those certificates before it’s too late. If you wait to book your stay, you’re going to have a very hard time finding quality hotels that are available for booking at all. And those that are available will often be Peak priced which could make those hotels unavailable for booking with your certificate.
The solution, of course, is to book your summer stays now. I found that many Marriott hotels are currently available at standard or off-peak prices for the summer of 2021. Book now and you can get great value for your certificates. If you wait, you won’t.
In this post I identified the Marriott hotels in the US that offer the best value compared to cash prices and are currently available to book with 35K free night certificates in July 2021.
35K Certificate Background
Marriott 35K free night certificates come from holding certain Marriott credit cards and/or from completing Marriott promotions that offer free nights as rewards. These certificates can be used for a free night at any Marriott hotel that is available to book with points for 35,000 points or less.
Marriott’s award chart is shown above. As you can see from the award chart, 35K free night certificates can be used to book the following categories of hotels:
- Category 1-4 hotels anytime, even Peak pricing
- Category 5 hotels at standard or off-peak pricing
- Category 6 hotels only at off-peak PointSaver pricing
You cannot book Cash + Points nights with a free night certificate.
Using Marriott’s website, I searched for category 4, 5, and 6 Marriott hotels in the US that were bookable with free night certificates on the night of July 4th, 2021. I then selected only those with a pre-tax cash price of $300 or more.
Due to the way Marriott’s website works, it was necessary to pick a single date for my analysis to limit the task to a reasonable amount of work. I picked July 4th because I think that July 4th weekend will likely be the most competitive weekend for travel before our certificates expire on August 1st. This choice means that some or many high-value options are missing from my results because they were not available on that particular day (or because they require longer stays — which is sometimes true with certain resorts or Marriott Vacation Club properties).
In previous analyses, I found that 35K free night certificates are usually worth about $200 per night. I chose to select only the hotels charging $300 or more on July 4th because I wanted to identify the hotels where you can get outsized value for your certificates if you book now. It’s very important to understand that the hotels that met this criteria are not necessarily nice places to stay. They are simply hotels with very high cash prices. I’m sure that in some cases the hotels are fantastic. In other cases, not so much.
My analysis is limited mostly to premium and luxury brands. For expediency, I left out most low-end brands from this analysis (Four Points, Springhill Suites, Fairfield, etc.). It’s likely that some of these would have met my inclusion criteria. Two brands that were included despite not being premium or luxury brands are Courtyard and Residence Inn.
- 93 properties made the list. This means that 93 Marriott hotels in the US were available for booking July 4th with a 35K free night certificate and cost $300 or more that night. That’s far more than I expected! In fact, if I had known going in that so many would have made the list, I would have set the price threshold higher.
- The areas with the most qualifying hotels were California (20), Washington DC (12), Colorado (9), and Florida (9). This does not mean that these areas have better Marriott hotels. More likely it is merely due to the fact that prices are higher in these areas.
- 11 hotels are priced at 25,000 points or less. If the hotels are worth anywhere near their advertised cash rate, then this means that these hotels offer fantastic value not just for your certificates, but for your points too.
- Many properties are regularly more expensive in July due to high summer demand, but I suspect that the most expensive hotels that made the list have artificially inflated their prices in July. Maybe they’ll lower the prices to reasonable levels as summer nears? Both of the following have reasonable prices before July but then crazy pricing from July onward:
- Hotel Duval, Autograph Collection (Tallahassee Florida) lists for $899 or only 30,000 points.
- The Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta lists for $744 or only 25,000 points.
- I found a handful of category 6 properties that were priced 35K (off-peak PointSavers), but none met my $300 criteria.
- My impression for the research was that most Marriott hotels in the US are currently available to book in the summer of 2021 at standard or off-peak award pricing even when cash rates are very high. In past research this wasn’t the case. For example, I remember previously finding that nearly all hotels in Florida and California were Peak priced almost all of the time.
Best Value 35K Options
The following hotels were available to book with 35K free night certificates when I ran this analysis and they offer over $300 value on July 4th (compared to listed cash prices)…
Louisiana (New Orleans)
Missouri (St Louis)
New Hampshire (Portsmouth)
North Carolina (Raleigh)
South Carolina (Greenville)
Washington DC Area
There are a nearly endless selection of Marriott hotels in the US with which it is possible to get great value from your 35K certificates. This is a rare opportunity to book hotels at standard and off-peak pricing even though cash rates are often sky high. But… it’s very important to do it soon. As summer nears, standard rooms at these properties will fill up and award pricing will change to Peak pricing for rooms that remain.
I’ll follow up soon with a similar analysis for those with 50K certificates but I’m pretty sure the conclusion will be the same: opportunities abound if you book soon.