How To Use Marriott Free Night Certificates (And How They Can’t Be Used)

24

Depending on how many Chase and American Express Marriott credit cards you hold, it’s possible to end up with numerous free night certificates after renewing your cards each year.

You also have the option to select a free night certificate valid for properties costing up to 40,000 points per night as your Choice Benefit when earning Titanium Elite status.

Redeeming your certificate(s) is fairly straightforward, although there are some quirks that are worth being aware of when booking. Here’s a quick guide showing how to use Marriott free night certificates, as well as several ways that they can’t be used.

Inn at Bay Harbor sunset view from bedroom balcony
View at the Inn at Bay Harbor in Michigan – bookable with 35,000 point certificates at off-peak and standard rates

How To Find Your Marriott Free Night Certificates

To see which Marriott certificates are available to you, visit the Activity section when logged in to your account. If you have any unused certificates available, you’ll see them listed there.

Marriott Free Night Certificates x6.

In my case, I mostly have certificates that can be redeemed for nights costing up to 35,000 points per night, although I did use my 2019 Choice Benefit from earning Titanium Elite status to choose a 40,000 certificate too.

If you have some older Chase Marriott cards that haven’t been upgraded yet, you might have certificates that can be used for properties costing up to 25,000 points, while the Chase Ritz-Carlton and Amex Bonvoy Brilliant cards both come with certificates good for properties costing up to 50,000 points per night.

How To Use Marriott Free Night Certificates

Unlike IHG certificates where you have to click a specific link in your account to redeem them, you only need to be logged in to your Marriott account to be able to redeem theirs.

Do a search like normal, checking the box to ‘Use Points/Certificates’ so that it displays the points requirements. Once you’ve found a property you like, click ‘View Rates’ to see the room options available.

Residence Inn Cleveland Downtown

As you can see in the above screenshot, you’ll see two options – one for Cash and Points and one for points (or free night certificates).

If you click ‘Select’ for the ‘Redemption’ option, Marriott’s website will give you a couple of options – one to redeem an eligible free night certificate or points. By default, Marriott will select a free night certificate rather than points and will choose whichever one is due to expire the soonest.

Residence Inn Cleveland Downtown - Certificate applied

Provided you’re happy with that option, continue scrolling down the page and complete the booking process.

How To Redeem Multiple Marriott Free Night Certificates

Another way that Marriott’s process for redeeming free night certificates differs from IHG’s is that IHG only allows you to book one night at a time when using a certificate, whereas Marriott allows you to book multiple nights.

For example, let’s say you have lots of certificates to use up and want to use them for a five night stay. After selecting your room you’ll be provided with that option provided there’s award availability.

Residence Inn Cleveland Downtown - 5 nights using certificates

In this example, I could redeem five free night certificates or 140,000 points for the stay. If you’d rather save some of your certificates and redeem some points towards the stay in their place, you can do that by unchecking the certificate(s) you don’t want to use. When doing that, it’s best to uncheck the certificate(s) that have an expiry date furthest in the future.

Residence Inn Cleveland Downtown - 3 nights using certificates & 2 nights using points

How Marriott Free Night Certificates Can’t Be Used

As I mentioned earlier, redeeming your certificates is straightforward. However, there are a few features and quirks that are worth being aware of.

Can’t Be Stacked With 5th Night Free Benefit

One benefit of the Marriott Bonvoy program that’s available to all members (rather than just those with status) is that you’ll get every 5th night free on award stays. For the purpose of this benefit though, it’s only available when redeeming points – not free night certificates.

I showed earlier how to redeem multiple certificates at the same time. That example showed the results when booking a five night stay. Despite Marriott having the 5th night free benefit, that sadly doesn’t mean you only need to redeem four certificates.

When looking at the Summary of Charges for a 5 night stay using certificates, you’ll see that one of the nights costs 0 points but a free night certificate is still required for that night anyway.

Residence Inn Cleveland Downtown - 5 nights using certificates - summary of charges

That’s frustrating and means that if you’re booking a 5 night stay, it might instead be worth considering redeeming points to take advantage of the 5th night free benefit.

Can’t Be Used For More Expensive Awards

Update 1/12/22: Marriott is introducing the ability to top up your certificate with points to book a more expensive property, so the following section is no longer applicable.

Every Marriott free night certificate has some kind of points limit (25k, 35k, 40k or 50k), but you can’t use a certificate and top up with points for a more expensive stay.

I have several 35,000 point certificates and one 40,000 point certificate right now. If I wanted to book a property that costs more than those certificates are worth, I’d have to redeem points for the stay.

For example, the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland costs 50,000 points for a one night stay in a couple of weeks. I can only redeem points if I want to stay there – I can’t redeem a 35,000 point certificate plus 15,000 points or a 40,000 point certificate plus 10,000 points in order to book a stay there.

Ritz-Carlton Cleveland - 50k points

Can’t Book More Than One Night With A Certificate

Some Marriott award stays cost significantly less than 25k, 35k, 40k or 50k. While it would be nice to be able to book two or more nights using only one free night certificate, that’s sadly not an option.

For example, 35,000 points can book two nights at a property costing 17,500 points per night, but it’s not possible to redeem one 35,000 point certificate for those same two nights. Instead, those two nights would require two certificates.

Residence Inn Cleveland University Circle Medical Center - 2x 35k certs for 2x 17.5k nights

Can’t Get A Refund For Unused Points

Certificates can be redeemed for a free night at any property costing up to their points limit, but Marriott won’t award you points for any unused amount above your redemption.

For example, you can redeem a 35,000 point certificate for a property costing 25,000 points, but you won’t have the 10,000 point differential posted to your account – that potential extra value just goes to waste.

Renaissance Cleveland - 35k certificate for 25k night

Extending Marriott Free Night Certificates

Due to COVID-19, Marriott has been extending free night certificates which is why I currently have so many sitting in my account.

In normal times though, they’re very good about extending certificates that are about to expire if you give them a call. For more details, see: Bonvoy Success: Marriott Free Night Certificate Extended Another Year

Summary

As you can see, it’s easy to redeem Marriott free night certificates earned from credit cards and Titanium Elite status, but it’s good to be aware of how they can – and can’t – be used.

5 1 vote
Post Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

24 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Frank

Hi Stephen (or others), I would like some advice on the best approach for my Marriott certificates now that it seems unlikely I will be staying in a hotel for at least 6 months, maybe much longer due to my fear of catching the virus.

With my wife I have the following:

1 individual night certificate (up to 25,000 points)
8 individual night certificates (up to 35,000 points)
1 7-night certificate (up to 25,000 points)
1 7-night certificate (up to 35,000 points)
1 7-night reservation for December (up to 25,000 points).
That’s a total of 30 nights!

All of the above expire in the first 3 months of 2021 except the reservation which I will call about and see what they offer if I cancel or try to re-book for a later date).

What should I do? Firstly I think I’ll start cancelling my Marriott credit cards, but what am I likely to get from Marriott on these? Will they extend them all (again)? I know I can get a paltry 45,000 points for each 7-niight cert. Are they likely to extend some certificates beyond early next year?

Any suggestions on how to approach this would be welcome.
Thanks.

Frank

Thanks, Stephen … I think I’ll give up one of my Marriott cards this week as a fee is now due.

Boonie

I have the Amex card as well what is the free night cert coded as?

Boonie

On my certificates is this the American Express free night?

MAR BV AX FNA UP TO 35K POINTS.

Fio

Stephen and the audience – what has been your experience in changing reservations with certs made prior to the March devaluation? Btw I think it’s ridiculous China had all its properties adjusted to pre devaluation levels while Europe and US with much higher cases had nothing of the sort.

Fio

Thank you Stephen. I’ve had multiple issues where the agent told me it’s not a problem to change the reservation – but they don’t seem to be aware of the issues with category changes. I booked a bunch prior to the changes and then corona hit… I’m sure I’m not the only one…

Thomas Zook

I’m wondering if you could tell us how to know when the seasons are for low, regular, and high. Since each property presumably makes its own decisions, is it somewhere on each property website?

Thomas Zook

Thanks much!

Jessica

i tried booking 2 nights with 2 35k certs in one booking, but one night would always be 40k where the other would be 35k. When I enter them individually they’re each 35k. Didn’t see it mentioned in the article, so they are purposely making it ineligible to do it all in one booking?

Jessica

Actually I just tried it again and it seems every other day is 40k and 35k, never 2 consecutive nights are 35k, which is so weird to me! It’s the AC Hotel Portland Downtown/Waterfront, ME for any 2 nights between August 18-23.

Billy Bob

Another option is to wipe out all points and certs in one fell swoop and stay nearly a month in a nice hotel somewhere as opposed to trying piecemeal to squeeze value out of these certs.

Simon

Stephen, can I gift or redeem free night cert for my kids?

Josh

online it says if the name for the primary person on the reservation doesn’t match up to the certificate, then the certificate won’t be deducted. So yes, I’ve called the hotel directly and added the other person as a guest and granting them access to check-in.

Mark

I don’t think they can be used on a point saver rate when the saver rate equals the certificate value (certificates can only be used on the full point rate if certificate equals the full point value).

Greg The Frequent Miler

I don’t think that’s right. I’m confident (but admittedly without proof) that you can use the certs on a point saver rate. It’s possible that it doesn’t work online, but you should be able to get an agent to apply it if that’s the case.