Here’s everything you need to know about using Marriott Suite Night Awards
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While suite upgrades might not be strictly necessary for solo travelers or those on shorter trips, it’s safe to say that snagging a comically oversized room stocked with luxury amenities is one of the most eye-grabbing benefits of hotel elite status. Well, that and free breakfast.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum and Titanium elites have two ways to secure suite upgrades: The simplest option is to wait until you arrive at the hotel and hope for a space-available upgrade at check-in. This includes standard suites at most brands (only Titanium elites are eligible for suite upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties). But if you’re traveling for a special event or looking to make your stay even more memorable, it’s possible to confirm an upgrade in advance.
Today we’ll take a close look at the main vehicle for doing this at Marriott hotels: Suite Night Awards. On the surface, these sound simple enough: Book a standard room and use one or more Suite Night Awards to upgrade to a suite. However, there’s been a lot of confusion about how these upgrade certificates work, how easy they are to use, and just how much they’re worth. So today, we’ll clear the air and talk about your options for redeeming Marriott Suite Night Awards.
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What is a Suite Night Award?
Marriott Suite Night Awards are available annually to those who complete 50 and 75 nights. At each of these thresholds, elites are given the chance to select a Choice Benefit as a reward. The options you’ll get for attaining 50 nights are as follows:
- Five Suite Night Awards
- Five elite night credits
- 40% off a mattress
- $100 donation to UNICEF
- Gift of Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status for a friend or family member
For reaching 75 nights, you’ll not only earn Titanium status, but you’ll have a similar yet slightly-enhanced list of choices:
- Five Suite Night Awards
- Five elite night credits
- One free night award (valid up to 40,000 points)
- 40% off a mattress
- $100 donation to UNICEF
- Gift of Gold Elite status for a friend or family member
While the free night award for Titanium qualification is appealing, I’ll venture a guess that most people select Suite Night Awards as their benefit for both levels. If you fail to make your selection by Jan. 7 of the year after you earned the Choice Benefit, Marriott will automatically select the Suite Night Awards for you.
How to redeem a Suite Night Award
Suite Night Awards can be used to confirm a room upgrade in advance. They are valid on paid stays, award stays and Cash & Points reservations. Any rate that is eligible to earn points is eligible for a Suite Night Award. According to the program’s terms and conditions, you may only use them for “standard suites or other premium rooms as designated by the property.”
In reality, there’s a lot of variance in how this is implemented. Some properties will make a single room type available, while others will give you multiple options.
You need to redeem one Suite Night Award per room per night, and you can only redeem them if you have enough in your account to cover the entire stay. If you have two Suite Night Awards, you can’t request to apply them to part of a three-night stay. Once your request is made, the hotel will begin looking for available upgrade inventory, starting five days before your arrival. If your upgrade hasn’t been confirmed by 2 p.m. local time the day before your arrival, the Suite Night Award(s) will be returned to your account. This doesn’t preclude you from getting an upgrade at check-in; it just means the hotel could not confirm it in advance.
While Suite Night Awards are not directly transferable to other Marriott Bonvoy members, you can use them for friends or family members. However, this is only possible when you’re visiting a property and have booked additional, single-room reservations for your travel companions. In other words, if you have enough Suite Night Awards for an upcoming stay where you have two or more rooms, these must be on separate reservations to request upgrades.
So can you use your Suite Night Awards at every Marriott hotel? Well, not exactly. Here is what the terms and conditions say about suite night awards (emphasis mine).
“Not all Participating Properties participate in Suite Night Awards. Suite Night Awards are not redeemable at the following brands: The Ritz-Carlton, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, EDITION, Protea Hotels, Aloft, Element, Design HotelsTM, all-Suite Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, ExecuStay, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club properties and Vistana properties. In addition, Suite Night Awards are not redeemable at select Participating Properties. Contact a Customer Engagement Center for individual Participating Property Suite Night Award participation.”
Not being able to redeem Suite Night Awards at Ritz-Carlton and EDITION hotels follows Marriott’s policy of restricting elite benefits at those brands. But the fact that they aren’t redeemable at “select participating properties” is alarmingly vague, as it opens the door to properties opting out of this benefit without setting any clear standards.
We’ve reached out to Marriott for a list of properties that don’t participate in Suite Night Awards but haven’t received a response at the time of publication. We’ll be sure to update this guide if we receive additional information.
My experience using Suite Night Awards
With Ritz-Carlton hotels excluded, there’s no more luxurious brand in the Marriott portfolio than St. Regis, and these properties are a great choice for using your upgrades. Not only will you get a larger room, but suites even include the signature St. Regis butler service. This service provides complimentary coffee, clothes pressing and packing/unpacking. I’ve found the selection of room categories available for upgrades at St. Regis hotels to be very generous, and there are often several different types of suites available for you to pick from.
For my stay at the St. Regis Beijing, I had four different types of suites I could pick from and I opted for two of them. I applied two Suite Night Awards for the two-night stay and hoped to score a 1,000 sqft Ambassador Suite.
However, many properties don’t have that many suite types available, so you should be prepared to encounter more limited options. For another stay at the Renaissance Amsterdam, this junior suite with lounge access was the only upgrade option available.
Since I already get complimentary club lounge access as a Bonvoy Titanium elite, I didn’t see much of a value-add here other than the extra space, so I decided to save my Suite Night Award for another day.
What starts to get confusing is seeing Suite Night Awards offered at hotels that don’t have any suites. For example, I had a one-night stay booked at the Courtyard New York Queens/Fresh Meadows. My Marriott account prompted me to “Take an upgrade. You’ve earned it!”
The highest category of room at this property is a “larger studio,” which wasn’t even what I was offered. My choice here was to upgrade my King room to one with two doubles and a sofa bed, which I absolutely didn’t need or want.
Between St. Regis on the high end and Courtyard on the low end, you’ll find a lot of variation in the middle. If you want to see how generous a hotel is with its upgrade options, you should look at the list of room types on the hotel website and cross-reference it with the room categories offered towards Suite Night Awards.
Finding the sweet spot
Only you can decide which of your trips are worth the splurge of using your upgrades. But if you want to get the best value possible, it helps to think about why you want a suite in the first place. If you need the extra space to host friends or family, you might not care what brand you’re staying at and take whatever options are given. Remember, there’s no guarantee your upgrade will clear, so if you absolutely need the extra space, you should book the room you want outright.
Still, if you travel frequently and can afford to be judicious with how you use your upgrades, you should save them for stays at luxury brands like JW Marriott, Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection, Westin, W Hotels and St. Regis. These hotels typically offer multiple categories of suites, and you might find that a property is making non-standard suites available for upgrades. This is the best use of a Suite Night Award, as it can help you get an even better room than you’re likely to be offered at check-in.
For example, the “standard suite” at the Sheraton Sydney is an Executive Suite – nice but nothing special. However, by applying my Suite Night Awards, I was able to select one of the hotel’s top room categories: a 1,300-square-foot Deluxe Terrace Suite with two different balconies.
Naturally, this generosity won’t be available everywhere, as the Marriott Bonvoy terms & conditions provide a lot of leeway for hotels to offer a single type of suite or even opt out of Suite Night Awards entirely. It’s also worth noting that just because your requested room type is available within five days of arrival doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to be upgraded. A property may choose to hold back inventory if it thinks the suite can go to a paying customer, as there’s nothing to obligate a hotel to release unsold suites for Suite Night Awards.
Suite Night Awards represent one example of the Marriott Bonvoy program lacking cohesion, as the benefit varies significantly across the combined portfolio of properties (much like the program’s elite breakfast offerings).
While I’ve been happy with my experience redeeming Suite Night Awards so far — from an ocean-view suite at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi to my suite at the Sheraton Sydney — I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the apparent wiggle room for properties in Marriott’s terms & conditions. When it’s up to each hotel to decide what room categories to offer — and even apparently whether or not to participate in Suite Night Awards at all — there’s always a chance that this benefit could appear more valuable on paper than in practice.
What experiences have you had redeeming or trying to redeem your Suite Night Awards?
Featured photo of the penthouse suite at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai courtesy of the hotel.
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