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

Jun 28, 2022

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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.

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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.

(Screenshot from

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.

(Screenshot from

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

102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500
(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

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

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 photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant, click here

Citi Premier® Card

This card offers a 80,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Plus, earn 3 ThankYou points per $1 at gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets and on air travel and hotels. 1 ThankYou point per $1 on all other purchases.

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More Things to Know
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
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18.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Recommended Credit
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