The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card is a great asset to hold for the long-term, thanks to the Marriott free night received each year on your account anniversary. This benefit alone can often justify keeping this card over the long term, as it takes very little work to redeem the Free Night Award for more value than the $95 annual fee.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

Annual Fee$95
Welcome BonusEarn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

While anniversary free night certificates are a staple among Marriott credit card benefits, the redemption process can be confusing if you don’t know what to expect. To make it easier, in this post we’re covering everything you need to know about free night certificates from your Marriott Boundless credit card.

How to Earn a Marriott Free Night Award

Marriott free nights are an annual benefit received when you renew your account each year. There are currently three Marriott Bonvoy cards available to new applicants that offer an anniversary free night certificate.

The Marriott Boundless and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card provide free night certificates up to the value of 35,000 points per night. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card offers a Free Night Award worth up to 50,000 points.

All that’s required to earn your free night certificate is to hold onto your card past the first anniversary and pay the annual fee. After your first year, you receive a free night certificate every year thereafter.

Redeem your 35K Marriott Free Night certificate at The Blackstone, Autograph Collection in Chicago
Redeem your 35K Marriott Free Night Certificate at The Blackstone, Autograph Collection in Chicago

Marriott Free Night Limitations

As you may have guessed, the principal limiting factor is the capped value of Marriott free night certificates. Until recently, a Marriott Boundless cardholder could only use a 35,000-point certificate at a property charging 35,000 Bonvoy points (or less) for the night.

Fortunately, Marriott has introduced the ability to “Top Off” Free Night Awards. This means you can add up to 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points from your account to redeem your certificate for a property with a higher price. This huge improvement puts hotels charging up to 50,000 points per night within reach of the 35,000-point Free Night Award.

Marriott Award Pricing

Marriott is in the process of making some changes to the way hotels are priced for award stays. Under the old system, each property was assigned a category number that determined its standard award price. Depending on the season, you could be charged the peak or off-peak rate for the hotel’s category instead.

Category OFF-PEAK STANDARD PEAK
1 5,000 7,500 10,000
2 10,000 12,500 15,000
3 15,000 17,500 20,000
4 20,000 25,000 30,000
5 30,000 35,000 40,000
6 40,000 50,000 60,000
7 50,000 60,000 70,000
8 70,000 85,000 100,000

On March 29, 2022, Marriott began rolling out dynamic pricing for a small number of properties. Dynamic pricing means the cost in points will vary with the number of rooms available and the cash price. Marriott calls this new system “Flexible Redemption Rates”.

While you won’t see the terms Off-Peak, Standard, and Peak, or the legacy categories on the Marriott website, the loyalty program has assured members that prices for 97% of its hotels will remain between their former off-peak and peak rates (in the table above) through the end of 2022. From 2023 onward, all hotels will move to dynamic pricing, making the current award chart obsolete. Here are the Marriott hotels that have changed pricing already in 2022.

Despite the changes, it’s possible to receive hundreds of dollars in value from a 35K free night certificate—especially now that you can “top off” your certificate with up to 15,000 points to put more expensive properties within reach.

Award Night Certificate Validity

Once the certificate has been issued, you get twelve months to use it. However, unlike IHG free night certificates, you need to complete the free night stay within those twelve months—not just make the booking.

With that said, Marriott has made an exception in response to COVID-19. If you had a certificate set to expire in 2021 or anytime before June 30, 2022, Marriott has extended its validity through June 30, 2022.

How to Redeem Marriott Bonvoy Free Night Certificates

When you’re ready to redeem your free night certificate, start by going to Marriott’s homepage. Once there, the process largely mirrors that of making a points booking. Type your desired location and dates, and check the box for “Use Points / Certificates”:

Start your Marriott free night search like any other point booking

You’ll see all the properties that fit your search listed with their respective award rate. As long as the rate is at or below the value of your certificate, you should be able to book a free night.

Screenshot of Marriott award search results in Chicago to use free night award certificate

In this case, let’s assume you have a 35K certificate to use, and you want to book The Blackstone (category 5 property) in Chicago. Once you select “View Rates”, you’ll see a screen displaying all of your booking options—including rates for point bookings, cash bookings, or a combination of both. Select the points rate.

Use Marriott free night awards at pricing like this, less than 35,000 points per night

With Marriott’s move to dynamic pricing, this hotel is showing 33,000 points on the first night of my search and 35,000 points the next night. Many other nights in the same month cost more than 35,000 points, so you would have to redeem some points along with the certificate for those nights.

As you continue the booking process, there will be a box that says, “You have eligible e-certificates that match your reservation” on the final booking page. This is where you can choose to either use points to complete the booking, or redeem your certificate.

At checkout, you can apply a Marriott free night certificate instead of points

If you decide to redeem your certificate, it’ll disappear from your Bonvoy account when the booking is confirmed. In this case, a 35K certificate saves you over $300 compared to booking the same room at the cash rate!

How to Use a Marriott Free Night + Points

As noted above, you can now expand the value of a Free Night Award with up to 15,000 Bonvoy points from your account. This feature applies to Standard Room Types and PointSaver redemptions only; you cannot book upgrades or suites by adding points to a Marriott free night.

Fortunately, the booking process couldn’t be easier. Here is a property that costs a little more than the value of my 35K certificate:

After selecting this hotel and choosing a room type, I am automatically presented with the option to top off my Free Night Award with an additional 2,000 points from my account.

 

Best Hotels to Spend a Marriott Free Night

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our article covering the best Marriott properties for redeeming free night awards. Meanwhile, here are a few of our favorite aspirational properties to redeem Marriott free night awards and get you started.

The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort (Category 7)


Right?! Just look at the place!

While perhaps not as famous as its sister property, the St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort sports the advantage of being bookable with a 50K certificate. As a category 7 property, you’ll have to find availability during off-peak season—which can be tricky. But, once you do, your reward is a villa with beachfront access and a private pool.
Screenshot of pricing to use 50k Marriott free night award at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
Plus, if you’re feeling fancy, you can add $90 to your 50K certificate and put yourself in an overwater villa!

Screenshot of pricing to use 50k Marriott free night award + $90 cash for an upgrade to overwater villa at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort

Or $350 cash for the “heavenly overwater villa”, plus your 50,000-point Marriott free night award.

Screenshot of pricing to use 50k Marriott free night award + $90 cash for an upgrade to a deluxe overwater villa at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort

Sheraton Grand Danang Resort

The Sheraton Grand Danang Resort is on the coast of Vietnam near the historic Hoi An Old Town and the Marble Mountains. On-site amenities include a spa, wedding & event facilities, and multiple pools. There are also restaurants to suit all tastes.

 Sheraton Grand Danang Resort exterior with view of pool and ocean in the distance

You can use a 35K Marriott free night award here nearly any night of the year. Points Breaks pricing may be available, further reducing the award redemption costs.

Screenshot of award pricing at the Sheraton Grand Danang Resort

Base rooms come with a beautiful view of the bay and typically cost over $200 a night.

Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection (Category 5)

Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, Pier One Sydney Harbour is a 5-star property located (literally) in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This makes it the perfect gateway for a vacation down under.

A 35K certificates can secure a night in a “Heritage Guest Room” many nights of the year.

Screenshot of Marriott award pricing at Pier One Sydney Harbour

 

Final Thoughts

We love hotel credit cards that offer free night awards. In almost every case, the free night easily justifies the annual fee—even before factoring in other benefits.

No card exemplifies this better than the Marriott Boundless. The 35K anniversary free night award certificate easily justifies the card’s $95 annual fee.

On a final note, don’t get caught up thinking you have to use your certificates at the highest category hotel possible. While we’ve used comparable cash values as the value metric above, there are other ways to calculate their worth.

For example, I often end up using my certificates for last-minute overnight stays in airport hotels. It’s simple, convenient, and it saves me from paying cash when I don’t want to. Plus, waiting for the perfect moment to redeem a certificate is a recipe for it to expire unused.

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