It’s been a year since Marriott retired its eight award categories in favor of dynamic pricing for award stays.
Before the mega-chain phased out its award categories, it offered standard Category 5 hotel stays for 35,000 points. In many ways, the program’s free night certificates are a flashback to the Marriott award category era, as they’re capped at a certain number of points based on those old thresholds.
But these certificates, which come from several of Marriott Bonvoy’s cobranded credit cards, are still valuable, and Marriott added the ability to top off free night certificates, up to 15,000 points. So if a hotel is 38,000 points per night, you can redeem your 35,000 point certificate and 3,000 points to stay.
Here’s a look at some of our favorite hotels where you can use these certificates.
Cards that offer a 35,000-point free night certificate
Marriott Bonvoy offers two credit cards that come with an annual 35,000-point certificate upon renewing your account.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Earn 100,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. After your first anniversary, you’ll receive one 35,000-point certificate. The card has a $95 annual fee.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn 125,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. After your first anniversary, you’ll receive one 35,000-point certificate and a second certificate after spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. The card has a $125 annual fee (see rates and fees).
These cards also offer complimentary elite status, elite qualifying nights, no foreign transaction fees (see Bonvoy Business rates and fees) and bonus points on select spend categories.
Note that other Marriott cards include the opportunity to earn free night certificates with higher values. For example, you receive an 85,000-point certificate with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card each year upon account renewal, while you can earn a 50,000-point certificate on the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.
Finally, it’s worth noting that you’ll still need to pay resort and destination fees at properties that impose them when using these certificates.
Related: The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy
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The St. Regis Bangkok
Average cash rate: $350
Standard points rate: 33,000 to 42,000.
With luxury amenities like St. Regis’ signature butler service and tasteful Thai-inspired decor, the St. Regis Bangkok offers a convenient location and Michelin-starred food at IGNIV. Using points, you’ll routinely get around 1 cent per Marriott point, above TPG’s valuation. It’s a great place for a 35,000-point free night certificate, but you might need to use a few thousand points to top off an award stay here.
Related: Bangkok Escape: The St. Regis Bangkok
W Chicago Lakeshore
Average cash rate: $275.
Standard points rate: 30,000 to 42,000.
Situated on Chicago’s famed Lakeshore Drive, the W Lakeshore combines the noxiously psychedelic lighting typical of the W brand with sweeping views of Navy Pier and Lake Michigan. Just a short walk from the food and shopping on the Magnificent Mile, this hotel could be an ideal bet for your Chicago getaway.
Related: Battle of the Chicago W Hotels: W Lakeshore vs. W City Center
The Westin Georgetown, Washington D.C.
Average cash rate: $325.
Standard points rate: 26,500 to 42,000.
Located a few blocks from the Georgetown Waterfront and Dupont Circle, the Westin Georgetown can be a great use for a 35,000-point certificate. While the hotel has begun to show its age, it offers a full fitness center and a seasonal outdoor pool, and with the city’s notoriously-high hotel rates, removing those costs with a certificate could be a great option.
Related: Appreciating the Small but Monumental Treasures on the Journey
The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa
Average cash rate: $300.
Standard points rate: 32,000 to 42,000.
Are you looking to outsmart high cash and points prices for a spring trip to Scottsdale? Consider using a 35,000-point free night certificate at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson. The property offers breathtaking views of the Sonoran Desert and Santa Catalina Mountains. There are five outdoor pools and a Mexican-inspired restaurant on-site.
Related: How I almost came out ahead on my luxury hotel stay
Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan
Average cash rate: $300.
Standard points rate: 40,000 to 63,000.
Although you’ll need to top off your certificate if you choose this route, there’s much to love about the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan. Both hotels participate in Marriott Bonvoy and offer complimentary boat transportation to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. There’s also a newer property called the Swan Reserve, but finding a room here for 50,000 points (the 35,000-point certificate and the maximum 15,000-point top-off) isn’t easy.
Related: Who is the fairest of them all? Comparing Marriott’s Dolphin, Swan and Swan Reserve Disney resorts
JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro
Average cash rate: $250.
Standard points rate: 26,400 to 43,000 points.
Located right across from Copacabana Beach and within walking distance from Sugarloaf Mountain, it’s hard to beat the JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro’s location. The rooms and public areas here cry for a renovation (get ready for lots of 1990s marble), but the property offers the comforts you’d expect from a luxury hotel, including a full-service concierge lounge (open to Platinum Elite and higher members) and expansive breakfast buffet. It’s no wonder why the hotel was Obama’s choice when he visited the city several years ago.
Related: 8 tips to stay safe while visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
With Marriott Bonvoy’s dynamic pricing, you might have to juggle around some dates to find a time when you can use your 35,000-point certificate. That said, Marriott lets you top off these certificates with up to 15,000 points per night.
As always, we suggest redeeming your 35,000 point certificates early on, as they generally expire a year after they’ve been earned.
Even if you wind up using these certificates at less-than-exciting properties (near an airport or an interstate highway, for example), it should save you at least $150 or $200. In most cases, that’s more than enough to justify the annual fees from credit cards that offer them.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong and Ethan Steinberg.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card please click here.