This story has been updated with the latest information.
Multiple Marriott cobranded credit cards stay safely in my wallet year after year for a few reasons. One of those big reasons is several come with an annual award certificate valued at up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Paying the annual fees on these cards is more than worth it to me because of the value I get from these annual award nights — especially when I combine some additional points with the certificates.
Marriott cards that award certificates valid for up to 35,000 points at each account renewal include the following:
If you maximize the annual 35,000-point award at a hotel costing $200-$300 per night, you’ve more than offset the annual fee. (Note that the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card from Chase does not offer a reward night certificate.)
Here’s how to put those Marriott 35,000-point certificates to good use.
How to use a Marriott 35,000-point certificate
Wait for your credit card account anniversary
Within eight weeks of the credit card anniversary day on an eligible Marriott credit card, a reward night certificate should be automatically deposited into your Marriott Bonvoy account. You will likely receive an email when this happens.
To give you a personal example, my Marriott card anniversary date is mid-September, and the award is often deposited in November.
Check activity in your Marriott account
If you don’t receive a notification email, you can check to see if an anniversary Marriott Bonvoy 35,000-point certificate has been deposited in your account. Log in to your Marriott Bonvoy profile and click on “Activity.”
You should see the certificate under “Earned Awards.”
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If you frequently use the Marriott Bonvoy app, you can also see these certificates by logging in, tapping on the “Account” link at the bottom right, then navigating to the “Free Night Awards” section.
Use a Marriott 35,000-point certificate within one year
Marriott anniversary certificates are valid for one year from the date of issuance. Be sure to use the certificate before it expires or its value drops to zero. Note that the expiration date applies to your check-in date rather than your departure date.
For example, if you have a certificate that expires on Nov. 5, 2023, you can use it for a one-night stay with arrival on Nov. 5. However, if you attempt to use the certificate for a stay that begins on Nov. 6, you’ll be out of luck.
Search for a 35,000 point (or less) per night hotel
To use the Marriott free night certificate, search for hotels using Marriott Bonvoy points as you normally would. From the results page, select one that prices at 35,000 points per night or less. Or, since Marriott allows you to top off these certificates with up to 15,000 points, you could consider dates at up to 50,000 points — though anything above that threshold is out of reach.
Unfortunately, in the current era of no true hotel categories with Marriott, there’s no way to know how hotels will price without running searches.
However, you can view award rates for a given property using the flexible date search feature. When you click on the date field from the Marriott homepage, check the box for “My dates are flexible” to see the award prices across a range of dates.
Once you find a property for 35,000 points or less (or within 15,000 points of the threshold of your certificate if you are willing to add points), choose your desired room type.
At checkout, you will be given the option to pay using your Marriott 35,000-point certificate.
If the hotel has a resort fee, you will have to pay it even if you use a certificate to cover the points portion of your stay.
Add up to 15,000 points to your certificate
The sad truth is that 35,000 Marriott points don’t go as far as they used to.
While Marriott hasn’t increased the points value attached to these certificates, you can now add up to 15,000 points to the certificate. If you want to book a night for 40,000 points, you’d use your 35k certificate plus 5,000 Marriott points from your account.
In essence, hotels up to 50,000 points per night are in the range of the 35k certificate, as long as you are willing and able to add in some of your Marriott points.
Be sure the 35,000-point certificate is refunded if you cancel your stay
If your plans change and you need to cancel the reservation made with your certificate, keep a close eye on your Marriott account to ensure the certificate is indeed redeposited. Note the number of certificates you had before and after the cancellation.
If you don’t see it back in your account, call Marriott customer service to have it manually put back in your account.
Best hotels for a Marriott 35,000-point certificate
The best way to get solid value from your Marriott 35,000-point certificate is to aim high. Since you can now add up to 15,000 points, you should not use it for stays that cost much less than 35,000 points per night — unless you have no other use that year. It’s better to get the full value (and add a few points, if needed) than use it for a hotel at a much lower cost.
While Marriott award prices vary by night, many valuable properties have nights available at 35,000 points, or close enough that you could add some points to your certificate to make the stay happen.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use a Marriot 35k certificate:
Of course, if you find that your travel patterns don’t align with the type of hotels that price within the range of a Marriott 35,000-point certificate, then a better card for you might be the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card that comes with an 85,000-point certificate at each account anniversary.
Annual hotel award night certificates make it much easier to say yes to credit cards with annual fees. It’s common to get a couple of hundred dollars in value from a Marriott 35k certificate available annually on credit cards that cost much less than that each year in annual fees.
If you currently have one of these cards, be sure to use the certificate by the expiration date. And if you don’t have one, now could be a great time to consider adding a Marriott credit card to your wallet.
Application link: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is available for a limited time with up to 100,000 bonus points after $3,000 in spending in the first three months