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Middle Age Miles

Marriott Free Night Certificates Can Be Used With Cash to Book Upgraded Rooms and Suites

marriott free night certificate plus cash upgraded room redemption with cash upgrade suite
You can use a Marriott 50,000-point Free Night Certificate plus cash to book the
swank Sir John Betjeman Suite at the St. Pancras Renaissance in London
[featured image courtesy Marriott/St. Pancras Renaissance]

Introduction

Marriott free night certificates are fairly widely available as anniversary benefits on several Marriott co-branded credit cards.

These cards offer an anniversary free night certificate worth up to 50,000 points:

  • Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card (formerly Amex SPG Luxury)
  • JPMorgan Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa card

And these cards offer an anniversary free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points:

  • Amex Marriott Bonvoy card (formerly Amex SPG personal)
  • Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card (formerly Amex SPG business)
  • Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card (formerly Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus)
  • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business card (legacy card)

These free night certificates book into standard, base-level rooms.

Of course, we’re always looking for good ways to use these free night certificates. And recently, we came across a good one that we hadn’t previously known and didn’t necessarily expect to work – Marriott free night certificates can actually be used with cash to book upgraded rooms, when hotels make the rooms available for points + cash.

Example with a 50,000-Point Certificate – St. Pancras Renaissance, London

To illustrate how free night certificates can be used to book upgraded rooms available for points + cash, let’s take a look at an example from Frequent Miler’s favorite hotel, the lovely St. Pancras Renaissance in London.

We used a randomly-selected night of July 16 for this example. The hotel has quite an array of room types available. And prices are high, starting at 548 GBP (about $712) per night for a standard room at with flexible cancellation terms, and going up from there.

Here are a few of the rooms available, along with their paid rates:

Fortunately, though, rooms are also available to be booked using Marriott points. As a Category 6 hotel, the St. Pancras Renaissance charges 50,000 points for a standard room. That actually would work out to a quite valuable use of Marriott points, at 1.42 cents per point (double our baseline value of 0.7 cents per Marriott point).

But there’s more good news – the St. Pancras Renaissance also offers upgraded rooms for 50,000 points plus a cash co-payment, including several types of suites in the Chambers Wing, which would give you access to the outstanding-looking Chambers Club with full breakfast and afternoon tea.

That Sir John Betjeman Suite looks pretty swank. And it comes with full Chambers Club access, too. Let’s assume that we’d like to stay there, and we’re willing to pay the 300 GPB (about $390) cash co-pay in addition to using our 50,000-point free night certificate.

[Note that this is still a high-value use of points. Recall that the paid flexible Member Rate for the Sir John Betjeman Suite was 812 GBP (about $1,055). Even if we’re paying $390, our 50k points (or certificate) is saving us $665 in this example, which comes out to 1.33 cents per point.]

We select the Sir John Betjeman Suite for booking at the “Redemption with Cash Upgrade” rate, and … Voilà! The Marriott online system identifies that we have an eligible free night certificate and offers to allow us to redeem it for this booking, along with the cash co-payment.

Alternatively, we could use 50,000 Marriott points plus make the cash co-payment; the Marriott system allows us to choose either option by pressing the preferred button under “Select the reward you want to use.”

Another Example, This Time with a 35,000-Point Certificate – London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale

Let’s take a quick look at another London-area hotel, the Marriott Hotel Maida Vale, which is a Category 5 hotel that can be booked for 35,000 points. It’s the same process we just discussed with the St. Pancras Renaissance above, just with a 35,000-point certificate rather than a 50,000 point certificate.

Here are paid rates at the Maida Vale for July 16:

And here are award rates, including a standard room option and the Executive Room option:

Note that booking a standard room here looks like a pretty good deal – 35,000 points to save 283 GBP (about $368) gives us a return of more than 1 cent per point. But booking the Executive Room with a 200 GBP (about $260) cash co-payment looks like a terrible deal. On paid rates, the hotel is charging a 49 GBP premium for the Executive Room, but on award redemptions the premium goes up to 200 GBP!!!

Setting aside that it looks like an awful deal to book the Executive Room, just like we saw above, we can indeed book this room with a 35,000-point certificate plus the cash co-payment:

Our Personal Situation – Using a Certificate Plus Cash to Book an Upgraded Room When No Standard Rooms Were Available

Our personal situation where we recently used a certificate plus cash to book an upgraded room was an interesting one. For an upcoming trip, we identified a 35,000-point hotel that would suit our needs well. Typically, we’d just book a standard award room and rely on our Titanium elite status to get free breakfast and maybe (maybe???) an upgraded room. But our preferred hotel didn’t have any standard rooms available.

The hotel did, however, have suites available for 35,000 points plus a cash co-payment of $70 to $100 depending on the type of suite. This would still be an excellent deal for us, as hotel rates are very high at this destination on the date we needed. Plus, we’d be guaranteed some extra space in a nice-looking suite, which we’d enjoy.

We needed 2 rooms, and we wanted to use 2 35,000-point free night certificates. But we were afraid we’d hit a roadblock when we saw that the only way to to make an award booking was on a Points Redemption with Cash Upgrade. Marriott isn’t exactly known for having customer-friendly policies on award bookings these days.

So, we were thrilled when we clicked through and found that we could actually use our certificates for the upgraded rooms with the cash co-payment! We booked one suite at the 35k + $70 level, which turned out to be the last suite available in that category. Then we booked a second, even nicer suite at the 35k + $100 level.

We are very happy with these redemptions, which are giving us value of more than $500 each for our 35,000-point certificates compared to the paid rates for our dates. If we’d been redeeming 35k points for these rooms, we’d have been getting more than 1.5 cents per point. That’s an incredible deal.

Wrap-Up

Unfortunately, not all hotels make Redemptions with Cash Upgrades available for suites or other above-standard rooms. For instance, we were thinking of using the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh as our 50,000-point example for this article in hopes of finding a new way to book the cool Castle View rooms. But alas, the Sheraton Grand Edinburgh doesn’t appear to make any above-standard rooms available for Cash Upgrade Redemptions.

But when this option is available, it can be a good one. As we mentioned earlier in the article, we’re always looking for more options to use free night certificates. And this is a good one.

We weren’t necessarily expecting to be able to use our free night certificates in this way, and we didn’t find any blog articles online analyzing whether this technique would work. And in addition, as we learned from our personal experience and our example from the London St. Pancras Renaissance, these redemptions can be incredibly valuable. So, we wanted to make sure that Middle Age Miles readers knew about this potentially excellent option!

Have you used Marriott free night certificates to make cash upgrade award reservations, or will you do so now that you’ve read this article? Please let us know your thoughts and strategies in the Comments!


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15 thoughts on “Marriott Free Night Certificates Can Be Used With Cash to Book Upgraded Rooms and Suites

  1. HS

    At the risk of sounding like a total sycophant, thanks again for a really useful tip.

    And timely. We’re not a Bonvoy household, but my wife has the very useful Ritz-Carlton card (including the 50K room annually) and at the last minute I advised renewing her legacy SPG Business card for the 35K room (since she was able to do so for the $95 AF). Which had left me feeling like a dog that finally caught a car: What were we actually going to do with these things? When you don’t have any real status — I don’t think of Bonvoy Gold as much in the way of real status — you tend not to get as much out of any given stay. But I guess you can get a later check-out, and with a cash upgrade to breakfast and bigger digs (some sort of suite, maybe), I can see these things taking on some possible value for us. Thanks!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Many thanks, HS. I remember us chatting about renewing the SPG Biz card. I’m glad the article was helpful.

      You sound like me – always trying to figure out how to use these benefits like the free night certificates, never quite sure how they’ll fit in to our plans. It certainly helps to travel a few times each year, as different trips present different opportunities. I wish I could say I had master plans on how to use these things for great value, but I usually just stumble into them. On the redemption that sparked this article, we weren’t originally planning to stay this night at all, but we ran into a glitch where plans needed to shift by a day – and lo and behold, this awesome redemption appeared accompanied by an angel chorus.

      And may I ask you a question, please? I believe you mentioned the Sheraton at CDG recently. Is the hotel and its convenience worth using a 35k certificate there, as opposed to shuttling to lower-priced options nearby, such as the Paris Marriott CDG (135 Euros for our night) or Courtyard (101 Euros, or 79 if we’re confident enough to pre-pay)? Not 100% sure we’re going to need this but there’s a decent chance we will. Thanks for your thoughts on this. ~Craig

      1. HS

        I haven’t actually stayed at the Sheraton at CDG yet, so can’t give you a meaningful answer. Its obvious benefit is that it is in the airport, which obviates having to deal with hotel shuttles. The only CDG airport hotel we have stayed at — many times — is the Hyatt Regency Roissy CDG. That’s because we have fealty to the Hyatt tribe — it’s a perfectly good hotel, but usually not as inexpensive as the ones that you cite.

        Getting back to this whole issue of the convenience of the Sheraton, I was coming close to bailing on Hyatt because the shuttle was a joint one, run with other hotels, and featuring some over-elaborated and occasionally (if you caught a de-motivated driver) odd routes. The shift to a dedicated Hyatt van has made the whole thing one less thing to worry about, but there’s still an additional 20 minutes plus shuttle timing to factor in. When possible, I like to minimize the moving parts….

        Returning to the realm of the hypothetical, were I not in thrall to Hyatt and hitting 60 nights, I think I would take a flyer on the in-airport Sheraton rather than mess with the shuttle at a different unknown place (Courtyard etc.). This would be particularly true for an early-ish flight

        But I am in thrall to Hyatt, and confess that we are booked in there for our next return, in June. Oh, yeah — and as long as I am self-justifying: Just remembered that Hyatt Regency Roissy CDG actually just went down a category in points, to a category 2 (only 8,000 points). Even got 4,000 refunded to me after March stay!

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Great info – thank you! It cracks me up that we can talk so much about the relatively simple matter of choosing an airport hotel. Now you have me thinking that the Hyatt may be the best choice. 8,000 points sounds like a sweet deal. And like you, we’re cranking away at the Hyatt 60-night gristmill, still projecting a handful of nights short based on current trends and plans. An extra elite night credit wouldn’t hurt, for sure.

          For that matter, an extra Marriott night wouldn’t be so bad, either. By mid-June, we’ll be sitting at 44 nights, but with very thin Marriott plans for the rest of the year. We can make 50 with no problem, but is there a chance to get all the way to 75 if we set our mind to it?

          Anyway, fun “problems” to think about and strategize over …

          1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi Debitnm – Great tip, thank you! Coincidentally, I found the CDG Hilton yesterday when doing some searching on a different project. It looks like a good option, and paid rates are pretty decent for the night we need, such that we’d pay rather than use 50k points. We really appreciate the idea and comment. ~Craig

  2. Nun

    Wow! That’s a nice feature I hadn’t heard of. If they can do this I wonder if Marriott will eventually let us use a certificate at a higher category hotel by adding a cash payment.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Nun – Thanks for reading and commenting. I hear you, that would be a great feature to be able to use a certificate at a higher level hotel with a cash co-payment. We’re all in for that plan. (Marriott may have some other IT issues to sort out first, though!)

      Thanks again for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

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  6. John C McKay

    Thanks for the info. We are thinking about using 510,000 Bonvoy points plus a cash upgrade for an overwater bungalow at the St. Regis Bora Bora. The cash upgrade for 7 nights is around $4,000. My question is would we receive points for the cash upgrade portion? I realize I would get some points for charging the room on my Bonvoy credit card, but would love it if they gave the points for the stay for the cash doled out for the upgrade. Thanks!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi John – First, thanks for including your middle initial so we’d know this comment wasn’t from the late and legendary coach of the USC Trojans, John H McKay. Beyond that, thanks for the comment and great question.

      We *believe* that the cash upgrade payment *does not* earn Marriott points. Historically, cash upgrade payments have not earned points. Here’s a very detailed thread from the Marriott Insiders forum from about 3 years ago that’s on-point: https://insiders.marriott.com/thread/48449

      I scoured the current Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions this morning to see if anything had changed. I find that the T&Cs are not clear on this issue at all. My best guess is that Marriott would consider the upgrade payment as not being a Qualifying Rate, and then beyond that it’s not an expressly-listed incidental such as food & beverage, telephone/fax charges, and in-room movie/video game charges (section 2.1.b.i of the T&Cs).

      That said, (1) we do not have direct experience with a cash upgrade payment yet (we’ll have one next month); and (2) to us, it makes absolutely no sense for Marriott to not award points on the paid upgrade fees.

      I hope this answer is informative, even if not particularly joyful. Your trip to St Regis Bora Bora sounds absolutely awesome!

      Thanks again for reading Middle Age Miles, and I hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

  7. John C McKay

    Craig,
    Thanks for the research. Definitely not the USC/Tampa Bay coach…😂 It seems a shame to dole out that much money and not get the points. I’m going to flag this thread as my wife and I travel extensively. I’ve planned or am planning Bora Bora in September, Mauritius (Westin Turtle Bay) in November, Christmas Markets in Germany/Austria in December, and the Maldives (Robinson Club Noonu) in January. Still not sure where to go in August or October. Presently, We’re in San Gimignano, Tuscany.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Wow, that’s pretty much a dream schedule. Once we get the last kiddo out of college and Philly stops working full-time, we’re angling for our travel calendar to look a lot like that. Right now, we’re limited to about 4 international trips a year (still pretty nice) and the rest are domestic – college football games, Vegas, date weekends and such.

      I’ll definitely update this post once we have our points + cash upgrade stay in Switzerland next month. If we don’t get points (as I predict), then I’d like to push Marriott to make these paid upgrades points-earning.

      I look forward to hearing more about your exciting travels! ~Craig

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