Home Points & Miles Bonvoyed: Marriott Selects Value Of The Free Night Certificate You’ll Use

Bonvoyed: Marriott Selects Value Of The Free Night Certificate You’ll Use

by joeheg

Marriott Bonvoy has an assortment of co-brand credit cards. One of the benefits of keeping these cards for the long term is a free night certificate issued after each anniversary date. Depending on the card, you can use the free night at hotels costing anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 points a night.

Many people hold more than one Marriott card because you can combine the 15-night boost from a personal and business card to help meet the yearly requirement to keep status. If you’re like me, you might have free night certificates with different point values in your account.

Marriott Bonvoy recently made changes to its program, allowing you to add up to 15,000 points to a free night certificate. This happened right around the time that Marriott also did away with award charts and moved to a dynamic pricing model. Based on my experience, you’ll need to top-off award certificates, as rooms are now priced just above prior levels.

I needed to book a Courtyard by Marriott priced at 37,000 points a night. Considering that the non-refundable rate was $194, I’m getting a good value for my $95 annual fee.

I wanted to use my 35K free night certificate and add 2,000 extra points to book the room. There was one problem. Marriott’s website wouldn’t let me do that. It told me I needed to use my 25K certificate and add 12,000 points.

Unlike what the website says, I have three free night awards I could use for the stay. However, there was no option to use the 35K or 50K awards. The only thing I could do was use the 25K free night or pay for the entire stay with points. I did a quick search and found out this is a known problem after the top-up feature was added. You can’t even call in to have a rep book it on the phone, as their system has the same limitations.

There is a quick and messy fix for the problem. You need to book a room costing less than 25K points (or whatever is the lower-priced free night award.) I found a room for 23K points with no cancellation penalties.

Then I went back to book the original 37K point room. However, I still didn’t get the option to use the 35K award and the only choice was to use the 50K certificate (I was so frustrated at this point I forgot to grab a screenshot).

I was done fighting with Marriott’s horrible IT at this point and went to our other account that only has one 35K free night. It was simple to use the free night plus 2K points to book the room.

There’s only one thing to say at this point.

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Knowing Marriott’s IT department, who knows if or when this problem will get fixed. As for why the 35K free night didn’t work, I thought the free night from the Marriott Premier Plus Business Card (which is no longer available from Chase) might not be upgradable. However, the Chase website for that card says it’s eligible for the top-up award.

I have a feeling this will be a problem for a while.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

11 comments

Anthony July 6, 2022 - 6:41 pm

if you really wanted to use your 35 cert you could book rooms with your other certs then book a room with your 35k cert then cancel the other rooms and you will instantly get them back.

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SharonG July 13, 2022 - 10:41 am

Thanks for the good idea! Very clever!

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Susan July 6, 2022 - 6:56 pm

Couldn’t u just make a dummy booking of a hotel worth 25k triggering that certificate to be used then u could just cancel the booking once the 35k certificate is used

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Babblespeak July 6, 2022 - 7:22 pm

You think that’s an IT problem? My guess is the system is operating EXACTLY as designed. Create maximum frustration for maximum breakage.

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Herb Frackenpohl July 13, 2022 - 10:26 am

I agree, the system was designed to leave us little choice. However, after a few attempts to top up my 25k award with no success, I signed up for a Hilton Amex card. I got free pints worth 2 plus nights in the area of my Marriott reservation. I don’t know what I’ll do next year, but that’s a problem for another day. At least I’ve got flexible for the next several months.

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Gay Stewart July 13, 2022 - 5:43 pm

I called the Bonvoy folks and they switched the certificate for me with no problems. The agent explained that the software defaults to the certificate closest to expiration.

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Billy Bob July 6, 2022 - 7:36 pm

Looks like we’ll have to attach the certs we want to preserve to reservations that we fully intend to cancel so as to have only the one you want to use for a specific night available when booking that specific night.
Then just go back and cancel the fake ones. I am assuming that the 23K night you reserved was at some other hotel somewhere (and that you intended to cancel it).

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joeheg July 7, 2022 - 12:30 am

Exactly, but that didn’t happen and it defaulted to the 50K. I didn’t feel like making another dummy booking so I went to the other account. But othewise, that would have been my only option.

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rabbiharrison July 7, 2022 - 12:19 am

It’s great idea

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Tricia July 13, 2022 - 9:21 am

I am wondering if the system is pulling in the certs by expiration date (FIFO) so you don’t lose them. Just a thought.

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Billy July 13, 2022 - 9:40 am

I had the same issue and reached out to Marriott–BIG mistake! They were kind enough to create a case number and sent it to an IT team to help book my reservation using the free night certificate that was of the value that I wanted to use. In my case the system was applying my 50k certificate for a 32k night, even though i also had a 35k certificate.

A few days later they got back to me, confirming that they were able to fix the issue and apply the appropriate certificate that I wanted to use. I was thankful for their help…until I realized that whatever they did messed up my Marriott Bonvoy profile to the point where whenever I try to look at my upcoming trips, I just get an error that says, “We’re temporarily unable to display the information you requested. Please try again later.”

I have contacted customer service multiple times. The email response to me reads: “I am sorry at this time I do not have a timeline as to when this will be corrected but I will certainly reach out once I have received a reply.” It has now been a full month. Stay away from letting their customer service “help” you at all costs!

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