Skip to content

How 2 Marriott 35K free night awards got me $1,141 worth of hotel stays this year

June 28, 2022
5 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I continue to pay the annual fees on two of my Marriott credit cards for one simple reason — free night awards. Both of the following cards offer free night certificates of up to 35,000 points each year just for renewing your card membership:

That’s a total of $220 each year. Not a pittance — but well worth it for anyone with the diligence to maximize each card’s free night award.

There are two reasons you can often get big value from your 35,000-point free night awards that far exceeds TPG’s estimated average value of $294. Here’s how I got $1,141 in value from these certificates this year — and how you can do it, too.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Top off your free night award with up to 15,000 points

Earlier this year, Marriott introduced the ability to attach up to 15,000 points to free night awards — giving you substantially more properties at which to redeem a free night certificate.

In short, if you’ve got a 35,000-point certificate, you can now use it for hotels that cost up to 50,000 points per night by combining it with 15,000 Marriott points. That’s what I’ve done for an upcoming stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland.

In October, I’ll be staying in Cleveland for a Monday Night Football game. My stay costs $1,425 in cash.

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

However, I paid the following for an award stay:

  • One 35,000-point free night award plus 7,000 points for the first night.
  • One 35,000-point free night award plus 10,000 points for the second night.

In other words, I paid 87,000 Marriott points for a $1,425 stay. That’s a value of 1.63 cents per point — meaning my two 35,000-point certificates were worth $570.50 each.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
(Screenshot from marriott.com)

That’s a value of $1,141 that I received from two annual free night awards I received for paying a total of $220 in annual fees.

Related: How to top up your Marriott free nights using up to 15,000 points

Use free night awards to beat surge pricing for events

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

This tip doesn’t apply exclusively to free night awards, but it’s unquestionably an excellent use of your certificates.

If there’s a popular event you’d like to see (in my case, Monday Night Football), your points will often provide an incredible return.

Here’s a quick example: Hotel rates around Indianapolis are often sky-high during the uber-popular Indy 500. The Indianapolis Marriott East generally costs under $200 per night, but during Indy 500 dates, you’ll pay over $750.

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

However, you could use a 35,000-point free night certificate (or 30,000 points) to book the hotel. Routinely using your certificate in this way can make the Marriott credit cards that offer free night certificates more than worth the annual fee.

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

Bottom line

If you’re trying to decide whether a credit card annual fee is worth paying, crunch the numbers to see how much value you routinely get from the card. If it’s more than the annual fee, it’s worth keeping.

By paying two credit card annual fees (totaling $220), I was able to achieve $1,141 in value this year with a luxury weekend at the Ritz-Carlton to attend a football game.

Let me be clear: I didn’t save $1,141. I wouldn’t have spent over $1,000 for a weekend stay at the Ritz-Carlton. These two Marriott credit cards unlocked an experience that I’d otherwise not have been able to afford. As long as they keep serving me in this way, there’s no way I’ll be canceling them.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees