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Have Cards, Will Travel

Where to make the most of your annual free night with Marriott Bonvoy

I own two Marriott cards that offer free anniversary stays. Here’s how I decide where to use them

Summary

If you own a Marriott Bonvoy credit card with a free anniversary night benefit, there are plenty of ways to redeem it. My favorite free night redemptions include booking nicer hotels in lower-cost destinations and airport stays.

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Both the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express Card give cardholders a free award night certificate every year as an anniversary bonus, valid for a one-night hotel stay with a redemption level of up to 35,000 points.

I’ve had both of these cards in my wallet for a long time – these free nights are the reason I can justify paying the annual fee year after year!

Marriott has a huge global portfolio of properties covering 30 brands and more than 7,000 hotels, so finding a place to use a free award night is never a challenge.

See related: Marriott Bonvoy guide

How to maximize the value of your anniversary award certificate

It’s helpful to understand two important pieces of information about how Marriott’s redemptions are priced.

First, Marriott has eight different categories of properties – category 1 includes Marriott’s lowest priced hotels in the lowest priced destinations, while category 8 hotels are the luxury brands in the nicest destinations.

Marriott also splits its redemption rates according to seasonal categories – peak for busy times, off-peak for slow times and standard for regular times.

Why does this matter? If you understand the system, you’ll know that a certificate with a redemption level up to 35,000 points will get you one night at a category 5 property during the “standard” season at its maximum value.

This might be a mid-tier hotel in a mid-tier location like an AC hotel by Marriott in Chicago, a lower end hotel brand in a high-profile destination like a Sheraton Four Points in New York City or a luxury hotel brand in a lower-traffic or less expensive destination, like a Luxury Collection property in San Antonio or Vietnam.

Where to use your anniversary award certificate

Nicer hotels in lower-cost international destinations

My favorite way to use my Marriott anniversary certificate for maximum value is to stay at nicer hotels in lower cost international destinations. The Westin Turtle Bay Resort and Spa in Mauritius, for example, is a gorgeous Indian Ocean beachfront property. It’s a category 5 hotel, so you can use your certificate to stay there during the off-peak or standard seasons for a value of more than $400 per night.

I stayed there last year on a free night certificate and was upgraded to a junior suite with an amazing ocean-view balcony that retails for nearly $700 in the standard season!

Airport stays

You can often get a lot of value out of using annual night certificates to stay at airport hotels where the prices are high, but the properties are “meh.” If you’re going to have to spend $200 for one night at the Aloft El Segundo at LAX, why not put your free night to work for you there?

If you’re looking for a place in the U.S. to redeem your annual award night certificate this year while the world is opening up, some other ideas include big city stays and luxury hotels in off-the-grid destinations.

Big city domestic redemptions

If you’re planning to visit a city like Washington, Atlanta or Chicago, you’ll find many properties in Marriott’s category 5 list. Using your certificate for a standard night at the Marriott Marquis in Chicago will get you a stay valued at $300, or similarly $289 in savings for one night in a “Wonderful” guest room at The W Midtown Atlanta.

You can even use your free night in a busy hotel market like New York City if you do some searching. While most New York City hotels are above a category 6 and out of the redemption zone, you can still get a free night at the Sheraton Four Points Manhattan SoHo with your certificate.

Luxury vacation in a small destination

If you’re looking for a higher end hotel to max out your award night, you can find options across Marriott’s nicest brands including the JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton and the Luxury Collection portfolio of boutique hotels.

While most of these hotels are category 7 or 8 properties and can easily cost $600 to $1,000 or more a night, there is a handful of luxury hotels in smaller destinations that are category 5 and eligible for stays using your anniversary award certificate. Check out The St. Anthony Luxury Collection Hotel in San Antonio, for example. You’ll get a fancy stay and good value out your award certificate redemption with savings of $230 a night.

How to search for an anniversary certificate destination

My favorite way to choose where I might use my anniversary certificate each year for maximum value is to have a quick look over Marriott’s property list, which is searchable by category and destination.

Sure, most people pick where they will stay after they’ve chosen their destination, but I also like to think about where I might want to go based on where I can use my free nights for somewhere nice – especially for international trips.

Bottom line

There are lots of great places you can stay using the Marriott annual night certificate you earn as a benefit of your Marriot Bonvoy credit card. Even with a maximum value of a 35,000-point redemption the benefit is easily worth hundreds of dollars, and definitely outweighs the cost of the annual fee you’ll pay.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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