Bet You Didn’t Know: Maximizing Marriott’s 5th Night Free on longer stays

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Note from Nick: We’re re-publishing this old post because the methodology is more relevant than ever given that we’ve been told that the Marriott double elite night credit promotion will be valid with award stays so long as you have at least one paid night. Some readers have asked how it is possible to mix paid and award nights in a single reservation. This post has that answer and more details about Marriott 5th night free.

Read on for Greg’s 2019 update and then the original post below that. Greg’s update below addresses what has changed cosmetically since the post was originally published, but mechanically this still works the same as it always has and is a good tool to have in your belt if you’ll be mattress running Marriott.

I recently stumbled upon this old post written by Julian, the Devil’s Advocate, in January 2015.  For those who are math or calendar challenged, January 2015 happened more than four years ago.  That’s an eternity in this space.  And I was stunned to discover that the findings in this post are still completely valid today.  The tricks shown here have not been Bonvoyed.  It is still possible, within a single Marriott reservation, to mix nights booked with points with nights booked with cash, and still get the 5th award night free.  And Marriott still offers hints to save you money on these reservations.  No joke.

Yes, some details are different today.  In Julian’s post, the award search results show points needed for the entire stay whereas Marriott now shows only the points needed for the first night.  The new system makes it easier to understand the points requirement for the hotel, but the old system provided Julian with material for a math joke.  You decide which is better.

Also, some of the terminology has changed.  Julian says to click the “plus sign next to the words ‘Use Cash + Points.'”  But, today, you should click the plus sign next to the words “Customize Payments“.  Another change is that today’s system better displays the points and cash rates side by side so that you can easily pick the cheapest nights to pay cash.  The downside of the new system is that even though there is still a hint telling you how to save money with a different combination of dates, it is now less obvious than before (except when it’s highlighted as I’ve done below).  Here’s what the new “customize payments” screen looks like:


And now: Julian’s original post…


Not a day goes by when I don’t think to myself, “man, it would be really cool if…” followed by some sort of very basic and totally logical innovation. You know, something along the lines of “man, it would be really cool if Delta’s newly fixed online award redemption system was actually fixed and not just a little less broken than it used to be.”

This happens to me in all areas of my life, but never more so than when I’m planning a trip. So it’s a pleasant surprise when I wish for some sort of simple tool and then discover it actually exists. My recent post about automatically piecing together complex itineraries with Google Flights is a case in point (see “Bet You Didn’t Know: The magic of Google Flights“).

Today’s tip is another great example. If you’re like me and you have a decent collection of Marriott points (or so many Ultimate Rewards points that you don’t know what to do with them all and you’re actually willing to transfer some to Marriott), you likely already know about Marriott’s 5th Night Free deal. If you redeem points for 5 or more nights at a Marriott in a single reservation, the 5th night is free. This is a terrific way to maximize Marriott points by effectively cutting the cost of any 5 night redemption by 20%.

Because of this 5th night bonus, I personally like to try and use Marriott points for stays that are at least 5 nights and use cash or other hotel points for shorter stays. However, when you redeem at Marriott for stays longer than 5 nights, you’re essentially diluting that 20% points savings for each night beyond the first 5 (at least until you get to 10 nights, at which point you’re not only getting the 5th and 10th night free but you’re also so tired of spending so many nights at the same hotel that you’d pay a million extra points if you could just finally go home and sleep in your own bed).

marriott 5th night free
Happy to be sleeping in his own den after 10 nights at the Courtyard by Marriott Orlando (though he still loves Space Mountain).

But here’s the good news — if you’re willing to mix in some cash with your points, you can maximize that 5th Night Free benefit at the full 20% savings and still get a stay longer than 5 nights.

Here’s the even better news — when you combine cash and points in the same reservation, the nights you’re using points for do not have to be consecutive. So you can pick the nights with the lowest rates as your “cash” nights.

And here’s the best news — Marriott has a tool on their website that will figure all this out for you automatically.

Marriott wants to save you money. Really.

Let’s look at an example. My friend Omer is sitting on a stash of 140,000 Marriott points (wonder where he got those from) and is getting ready for a 7 night trip to London in May. Hotel rates in London can be super expensive, especially when you convert British pounds to U.S. dollars (though not as bad as when you convert chocolate ice cream pounds to my bulging waistline! Hey now! OK, folks, not every joke in these posts can be brilliant.)

This seems like a perfect opportunity for Omer to use his Marriott points. So we bring up the marriott.com reservation search system, punch in his dates, select “Use rewards points” as an option, and fire away…

marriott 5th night free

Hmmmm. Those are some pretty expensive hotels and they want a lot of points for them. Even with one night free on a points redemption (which Marriott has already figured into these search results), it’s still going to be significantly more than 140,000 points at even the cheapest London area Marriott.

But all is not lost. We know we want to maximize our 5th Night Free benefit, so let’s pick a hotel that we know would be 140,000 points for 5 nights. That’s a simple matter of dividing our current points results by 6 (since one night out of the 7 is already free) and then re-multiplying the result by 4 (to account for a 5-night reservation with the 5th night free). OK, so maybe it’s not a simple matter. I suppose we could just look up the hotel categories on the Marriott chart instead, but trust me, this is the right calculation. I think. Dammit, where’s the quadratic equation when you finally need it?

Anyway, we’re looking for hotels listed at 210,000 points for 7 nights (which are category 7 hotels for those of you scoring at home), so let’s say we decide on the Marriott Kensington. We click on “View Rates” where we can book with 210,000 points as expected.

But there’s an option at the bottom of the screen to mix cash nights with points nights. It’s the plus sign next to the words “Use Cash + Points.”

marriott 5th night free

By clicking on that option, we get a calendar of our stay where we can change any number of nights from “35,000 points” to “Cash Rate.”

cash+points

Which nights do we choose?

We could manually check each of these nights to determine the cheapest, but instead let’s just try the last two nights after the Free 5th Night. That gives us the 140,000 point redemption we’re looking for plus a cash outlay of 438 British pounds for the extra two nights.

Notice the box that’s suddenly appeared next to the Cash + Points box that reads “Save”?

marriott 5th night free

That’s marriott.com informing us that there are two nights in our stay with a lower cash rate than the ones we’ve chosen. Which means all we have to do is click on that “Save” box and let Marriott do the work…

4th_and_5th_night_cash

It turns out the 4th and 5th nights of our stay are the cheapest nights, not the last two, so Marriott has altered our choices to give us the cheapest rate. Note that we are still getting our Free 5th Night even though we’re splitting our points nights in half. It’s just moved to the end of the reservation instead of being on the actual 5th night. Our points outlay is the same but now our cash portion has dropped to 320 British pounds. That’s a savings of about $180 at today’s rates.

Finishing up…

From here we can click the big blue “Select” button and finish up our reservation, where we’ll see the final breakdown of the price…

final_cost_cash+points

Since this is a points reservation, it allows cancellation up until 4pm local time on the day of arrival, which gives us fantastic flexibility. If we had booked the Advance Purchase rate for the same nights, we would be stuck with an unchangeable reservation and would have paid this…

final_cost_advance_purchase

That means for our 140,000 points, we saved 882 British pounds, which is around $1,340. That’s nearly 1 cent per point in value. For Marriott hotel points, that’s pretty darn good.

So if you’re sitting on a slew of Marriott points, don’t fret if your stay doesn’t add up to exactly 5 days. Put a little cash towards the problem and let marriott.com maximize both your points and your money.

Find all the “Bet You Didn’t Know” posts here.

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Josh

What to do when it says “Cash + Points combo is Unavailable” ? Cash is otherwise available and points nights are otherwise available just not in tandem at this hotel.

Josh

it was kind of painful but they were able to do my 3 nights with a cash night and 2 free night certs. However, I couldn’t do 1 cash night 1 points night and 1 free night award night (they said).

So now I have to decide if I want to use a 50k cert for a 35k night – I only have 1 35k night in my account otherwise. Or pay with 70k points instead.

Nick Reyes

I’m curious to see this phenomenon in action. I’m going to send you an email to see if you can share the hotel with me so I can see what’s happening and whether I’m able to make it work with multiple certs (I haven’t run into an issue combining certs and cash or points nights).

Christian

I’m not seeing a Customize Payments option in many situations. I’ve tried to pin the problem down but Marriott keeps crashing over and over, even on different browsers. Have you run across this before?

iamhere

Usually combining cash and points is expensive. Fifth night free only applies to redemption – not cash. May combine a points and cash situation combined depending on how cleaver the system is.

Chief Babaracus

This doesn’t appear to work on stays longer than 10 nights. Is this why you recommended doing four 6-night stays rather than one 24-night stay? Would it work on longer stays if you call in to book?

Chief Babaracus

Oops, the recommendation I’m referring to is in a different post, the “Year of the Mattress Run” one for how to get Titanium status.

Byron

Hmmmm, Never knew this. Teaching an old dog a new trick. I like that.

Jules

Thanks for the great tip!

Last edited 1 year ago by Jules
Billy Chen

Loosely related, but would cash+points bookings qualify as a paid stay for the existing promotion? https://frequentmiler.com/targeted-marriott-bonvoy-promotions/

Hoping so! Looking to stack with the upcoming double elite nights promotion to reduce the cost (ever so slightly) of my mattress run(s).

Buzz

This could be really valuable in a city like DC where weekend nights are often super cheap and weekday rates our really high (gotta soak the lobbyists I guess).

C W

Anyway to use the 7 night package certificate with a paid night to get say a total of 16 nights with the double promo?

Ron

Suppose I land on marriott.com via shopping portal and then proceed to book a 6 nights stay (1 paid + 5 on points) utilizing the method outlined in this post. Do you think the paid night will track for cashback purposes?

Matt

Unfortunately, this seems not to be working when combined with independent nightly certificates. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Greg The Frequent Miler
Patrick

I just tried a booking (JW Rio)…7nt stay, as soon as I changed any of the nights to cash, the free night disappeared. I think the above poster might have been asking about using points for 5nts and a mix of cash and certs for the remainder? I ended up using points and 2 35k certs. But if this was for a reservation in the dates of the upcoming promo, there would have been a good reason to have used cash for one night…. Have you been able to mix all 3 successfully and still get a 5th night free?

Last edited 1 year ago by Patrick
bluecat

” For those who are math or calendar challenged, January 2015 happened more than four years ago.”

🙂

Nick Reyes

True. That’s why I said to read on for Greg’s 2019 update to this old post (which is from Jan 2015)

luvpasteis

Marriott does not have that same type of selection today. They mark the free day (least points) and if you mark that as a day to pay $$ for, you forfeit the free night. At least that is what the “Preview Combination” calculates. This is frustrating. I wish they would stick with the 5th night as the free night, at least sometimes you would get the highest price night for free.

matthew maus

You cannot use points and cash to get the 5th free night anymore.
https://www.marriott.com.au/marriott-rewards/redeem-points/cash-and-points.mi

Leah

Does Hilton honors have something close to this too?

C2CMom

Thank you! This is so helpful!
But I was just wondering why, in your “Customize Payments” example you picked the $187 night instead of the $177 night?

Sandy

Thanks Greg, this is awesome!!! I had no idea. I’m a Hilton person for the past 12 years but have started to use Marriott a lot this year for work!

Danny

Would love to use this! I am trying to maximize this redemption for a hotel in Paris for 5 nights. I was hoping to use points for 3 nights, pay for the fourth night, and have the 5th night for free. Is this possible? If so, it does not seem to be working for me on the website. Do I need to call Marriott for the redemption?

Danny

Thanks Greg.

Steven

Interesting read, but it’s still less of a cash outlay if you use points to book all 7 nights.

Kate

Useful reposting. Remember enjoying Julian’s postings. Is he still writing somewhere?

Ron

Thanks, useful. Just checked this out on the UK site, ours looks different although it seems to give the 5th night free when you tally points needed, it doesn’t actually say so. Could be important if the 5th night is classed as qualifying.

Michelle

Any chance this is still possible? I can’t seem to find that same option now. Thanks in advance!!

[…] you’re considering taking advantage of this benefit, then you should definitely read up on how to maximize this perk and increase your savings. Both SPG and Hilton HHonors also offer this benefit to their members. […]

[…] Maximizing Marriott’s 5th Night Free on longer stays […]

[…] Bet You Didn’t Know: Maximizing Marriott’s 5th Night Free on longer stays (FrequentMiler). Amazing, given the practices of companies like Delta, that Marriott programmed in features to save you points on awards. […]

[…] Maximizing Marriott’s 5th Night Free on longer stays […]

[…] Maximizing Marriott’s 5th Night Free on longer stays […]

RJD

But don’t actually stay at the Marriott Kensington – it’s not a great hotel, even as an Elite.
County Hall is in the same category and a much better bet.

Nice tip though.

Devils Advocate

Good to know. I haven’t been to either, so thanks for the helpful info!

Grant

Great work Jullian, I didn’t know you could mix paid and award nights to get 5th night free. Pretty clever!

Brant

Who is Julian?

David

That was very cool, well done! Bookmarked for future reference absolutely.

Jamie

I didn’t know this… but I have approximately zero mariott points (well, maybe 3000?) so it’s of little use to me right now. Maybe if I got off of my &*! and found myself 140,000 ritz carlton/mariott points too, I’d be able to make use of this information. (new year’s resolution?)