How 2 Marriott 35K free night awards got me $1,141 worth of hotel stays this year
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:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card ($95 annual fee).
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card ($125 annual fee)(see rates and fees).
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.
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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.