In 2018, the long-awaited Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest hotel merger was finally completed. The announcement of the new unified points program brought many changes, including new co-branded credit cards, the ability to transfer Marriott points to partner airlines, and the addition of a Marriott free night certificate added to most of the co-branded credit cards.
These free nights can easily offset the annual fee for holding the card. We’ll highlight how it works, how you can earn one and our favorite places to cash yours in.
What is the Marriott Free Night Certificate?
Just for holding one of the four co-branded Marriott/SPG credit cards, you will receive an annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 Marriott Rewards points each year upon your card renewal. So you won’t get the free night when first opening the card, but in year two and beyond.
As you can see from the award chart below, 35,000 points are enough for a free night stay at a category 5 property. While I think the merger greatly devalued everyday spending on the co-branded SPG cards, this free night certificate is reason enough to keep the card open.
Which Marriott & SPG Cards Offer a Free Night Certificate?
There are currently five co-branded Marriott and SPG cards offering an annual free night certificate. Because the annual fee on all of these cards is less than $100, it may be in your best interest to keep them for the free night certificate alone. You can easily get two to three times the value out of the certificate then you are paying for the annual fee. Here’s a look at those cards.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card: The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express was rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card on February 13, 2019. This card is no longer open for new applications, but if you have one, it is eligible for the Marriott free night certificate.
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card: Formerly the SPG Business Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card has a welcome offer of 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership.
The card also earns a Marriott free night certificate to be used at properties costing 35,000 points or less a night each year on your cardmember anniversary. You can earn an additional free night after spending $60,000 or more in a calendar year.
Click Here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is issued by Chase and was formerly the Marriott Premier Plus Credit Card.
The card also earns a Marriott free night certificate to be used at properties costing 35,000 points or less a night each year on your cardmember anniversary.
Click Here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Card: The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card was rebranded as the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Card on February 13, 2019. This card is no longer open for new applications, but if you have one, it is eligible for the Marriott free night certificate.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card has an annual fee of $450 but it offers an annual $300 credit for stays at Marriott hotels. Additionally, the free night certificate it offers can be used for Marriott hotels costing 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or less. That means you can use the certificate at a category 6 hotel, or a category 7 hotel during the off-peak season.
Click Here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from American Express
Once you’ve got a free night certificate, you’ll want to use it wisely. Here are some of our favorite options.
Azor Hotel: A Member of Design Hotels
The first property on the list of our favorite Marriott free night certificate redemptions is actually a category 4 hotel. This means it only costs 25,000 points per night which we think is an incredible value. Mr. TT and I had a chance to stay at the Azor Hotel in the summer of 2018 and we both thought it was fantastic. If paying cash, you can expect to pay between 200 and 300 Euro ($240 to $350 USD) for a night.
If you are interested in a more rural setting, check out the other Design Hotels property on the island. The Furnas Boutique Hotel, which is also a great candidate for your Marriott Free night certificate.
Thrifty Tip #1: Check out our post on why you need to visit the Azores in 2019.
Sheraton Kauai Resort
Hawaii can be an expensive destination to find lodging, so using your Marriott free night certificate makes for a great option. The Sheraton Kauai Resort is a category 5 property located on Kauai’s south shore in the heart of Poipu Beach. If paying cash, you can expect to pay between $400 and $500 each night.
Thrifty Tip #2: Headed to Kauai? Check out our guide here.
The Westin Snowmass Resort
Located just minutes from two world-class Colorado ski resorts, the Westin Snowmass Resort offers another great value for your Marriott free night certificate. With nights running between $200 and $400 a night, this is a great way to save money on your next ski vacation. During the peak Colorado ski season, you can expect to pay $400 to $500 a night at the property. Using your free night here can greatly offset the price of a spendy ski vacation.
The Coral at Atlantis, Autograph Collection
One of the few Autograph Collection hotels classified as a category 5 is the Coral at Atlantis in the Bahamas. The hotel was recently renovated and has a superb location near Marina Village. If you were paying cash for a night at the property you can expect to pay between $300 and $400 depending on the time of the year.
Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village
Let’s face it, a Disney family vacation to Orlando is not cheap. Use your Marriott free night certificate for a night at the Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista to offset some of the cost of your trip. While it isn’t the nicest hotel on this list, it is located near Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and as a Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel, it offers the ability to purchase tickets and utilize the free shuttle service to any Walt Disney World park.
If you are paying cash for a night at the property, expect to pay between $120 and $200 depending on the time of year.
Thrifty Tip #3: See our guide on 7 tips to save money on a Disney World Vacation.
Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas
Another fantastic option during the Colorado ski season is the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas. A night at the property during the peak Colorado ski season will run between $500 and $600 per night. Just by using your Marriott free night certificate here, you can easily get five to six times the amount of value you are paying for your Marriott credit card’s annual fee.
The St. Regis Bangkok
One of the only St. Regis hotels eligible for your Marriott free night certificate is the St. Regis in Bangkok, Thailand. The property has a prime location in the city center and can easily run between $150 and $300 a night if you are paying cash.
The Maxwell New York City
Another great option for your Marriott free night certificate is the Maxwell New York City. This property was a part of SPG’s Tribute portfolio before the merger and is located right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. If paying cash for a night at the property, you can expect to pay between $200 and $400 depending on the time of year. Tribute Portfolio hotels are some of my personal favorites as they tend to have a lot of character.
Thrifty Tip #4: Headed to New York City? Check out our guide of the can’t miss tastes of the New York Weekend Traveler.
Chandolin Boutique Hotel, a Member of Design Hotels – Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world for tourists. If you are able to use your Marriott free night certificate here, it is certainly a win. Nestled into the Swiss Alps is the Chandolin Boutique Hotel. If you were not using your Marriott free night certificate here you could expect to pay between $300 and $400 each night depending on the time of year.
The ten properties mentioned above are just a few examples of literally hundreds of ways you can use your Marriott free night certificate. After the merger was completed, Marriott is now the largest hotel chain in the world and likely has lodging options for anywhere you may be headed.
The free night certificate is the reason I will continue to keep my American Express SPG card open, and you should too. It shouldn’t be hard getting far more than $95 (the cost of the card’s annual fee) in value out of it each year.
To see a full list of Marriott properties by location and hotel category, check out this link on their website.