The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card (formerly the Amex SPG Business card) includes a benefit of a Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. In fact, this has become the key benefit of the card, as we discussed in detail in our recent “Keep or Cancel” articles on this card:
- Keep or Cancel – Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card – and Did I Get a Retention Offer? (published 3/22/2019)
- Keep or Cancel – Amex SPG Business Card (published 1/3/2019)
The Free Night Award (FNA) is good for a hotel award night costing up to 35,000 points. At this time, 35k points corresponds to a Category 5 hotel. Note, however, that when Peak/Standard/Off-Peak pricing goes into effect later this year, Category 5 hotels will cost 40,000 points during Peak pricing; thus, you won’t be able to use this FNA at a Category 5 hotel during Peak times.
The official terms and conditions of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card say that “the Free Night Award will be automatically deposited into your Marriott Bonvoy member account within 8-12 weeks after your Card Account anniversary.” The purpose of this timing is clear – Amex wants to make sure you pay the next year’s annual fee before you receive the Free Night Award.
But when does the FNA certificate actually post?
Middle Age Miles recently had 2 data points on when the Free Night Award posts. We thought these might be helpful to readers who may be trying to make travel plans using a FNA certificate, or who might be trying to devise strategies related to the FNA.
Data Point #1 – Philly’s then-Amex SPG Business Card
Here are the relevant dates on Philly’s card:
- Card Anniversary Date: 10/27/2018
- Annual Fee Posted: 11/23/2018
- Annual Fee Paid: 12/10/2018
- 30 Days after AF posts (this is the last day to cancel the card and get the AF credited/refunded: 12/23/2018
- FNA Posted to Marriott Account: 1/3/2019
Data Point #2 – Craig’s Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card
Here are the relevant dates on Craig’s card:
- Card Anniversary Date: 1/25/2019
- Annual Fee Posted: 2/21/2019
- Annual Fee Paid: 3/19/2019
- 30 Days after AF posts: 3/23/2019
- FNA Posted to Marriott Account: 4/4/2019
Analysis & Conclusions
On Philly’s data point (DP), her FNA posted 68 days after her account anniversary and 41 days after her annual fee posted.
On Craig’s DP, my FNA posted 69 days after my account anniversary and 42 days after my annual fee posted.
Thus, for each of us, the FNA posted about 10 weeks after our Card Account anniversary. This is exactly in the range of 8-12 weeks that Amex states in the terms and conditions.
And, our FNAs certificates became available 41-42 days after our annual fee posted. This was 11-12 days outside the 30-day time period when we could cancel the card and receive a credit or refund of the annual fee. Clearly, the FNA timing works just as Amex intended – you absolutely must pay the annual fee on the card in order to receive the Free Night Award certificate.
In addition, there aren’t any options with this card to product-change to a lower-fee or no-annual-fee card. So, we can’t finesse things by paying the fee, then downgrading after we receive the FNA certificate.
Looks like we’ll have to play this one straight for now. Then, next year we can re-evaluate whether we keep or cancel our cards when the annual fee is increased to $125 instead of the $95 we paid this year!
Do you have any contrary data points, or strategies to get the most out of this benefit while paying the least? If so, please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments. Many thanks!
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