When Marriott announced that they were moving to a dynamic award chart, it was mostly bad news. One meaningful improvement they announced was that members would be able to add points to a free night certificate for higher value award stays. This feature is now live and I successfully tested it this morning. Thanks to my buddy Julian and this story by Doctor of Credit letting me know it was live.
Marriott Free Night Certificates
Marriott offers a variety of free night certificates, mostly from holding various Marriott co-branded credit cards. For example, I hold a Marriott American Express card (well, held a Marriott AMEX) that awarded me a 35,000 point certificate every year. I also held the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless AMEX card, which awards a 50,000 point certificate. You can also choose free night certificates if you earn 75 night credits each year.
The certificates are generally good for a year from date of issue. Free Night certificates can be used for a 1-night stay but can also be combined with points for longer reservations. Prior to today, you could not combine a certificate and points to cover a single night stay. For example, if you had a 35,000 point Free Night certificate you couldn’t “add” 5,000 points to it and redeem for a 40,000 point night.
Testing The Ability To Add Points To A Marriott Free Night Certificate
Marriott had announced that they would allow members to add up to 15,000 points to a Free Night certificate for us on an award stay.
As luck would have it, I was booking my first Marriott stay of the year this week. I had already booked a 2-night stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, a new Marriott property inside Disney World. I’ve been a big fan of the Swan and Dolphin over the years, though I find the new Swan Reserve to have a lack of personality. You won’t much in the way of subtle Disney touches and there are no character meet and greets. All else being equal, I would choose Swan and Dolphin first but both are sold out for my dates.
When I heard that Marriott had launched the top-up feature I decided to cancel the existing reservation I had. For those familiar with Marriott IT, this is a bit like jumping into a pool to see if it has water in it. Thankfully, the certificate and points immediately redeposited into my account.
I selected the hotel that I wanted for my stay dates and the system immediately offered to use the two lowest value certificates I had. These were also the ones that expired the soonest, so I’m not 100% sure on the sort hierarchy.
A couple of quick clicks and I had topped up both certificates, saving me 27,000 Marriott Rewards points.
The Final Two Pennies
I was pleasantly surprised that the tech worked the first time when I tried to add points to a certificate. This adds considerably more value to the certificates since many properties cost more than 35,000 points per night.
In my case both certificates were set to expire at the end of June and I have no other Marriott stays planned during this time. So, I was able to redeem two 35,000 point certificates and add 20,000 points, saving me 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the future.
One important detail to consider involves existing reservations. You’ll need to cancel the existing reservation and make a new reservation, which means the reservation will reprice. In my case, the price went up 1,000 points, but it was more than worth it since I got to redeem an expiring certificate. Double-check availability before you take the plunge!
As View From The Wing notes, Marriott only lets you add 15,000 points whereas the new IHG One Rewards program has made certificates “uncapped”. Still, this represents a pretty big bump in value for Marriott Free Night certificates. I almost regret canceling a couple of Marriott cards last year, but I’m definitely happier earning Delta Diamond than I am having to keep track of Marriott Free Night certs.
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