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.
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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