You’d think that living in hotels would make it easy to use all the free night certificates my wife and I get from our credit cards.
That’s sadly not the case.
This might also seem unfair, but it’s often our dog’s fault.
Our first issue is finding a pet-friendly hotel. Our second issue is the pet fee. Most pet-friendly hotels where we can use our free night certificates charge a $75-$100 pet fee per stay. I’m fine paying that for a stay of 5+ nights, but not for a one or two night stay if I can help it. In theory we could use points to stay longer to reduce the per-night cost of the pet fee, but we maximize our points by staying at category 1 or 2 properties in each hotel chain, not category 4 and above like we’d need to if staying for longer after redeeming free night certificates.
That meant we recently had two Marriott free night certificates about to expire, both of which were good for properties costing up to 25,000 points per night. One was in my name and one was in Shae’s. I was able to use mine just before it expired the other week at the Aloft Buffalo Downtown on our way from Michigan to Vermont. I have Platinum status whereas Shae only has Gold status, so it made sense to use my certificate first. This paid off as my Platinum status resulted in a great upgrade to a spacious corner room with floor-to-ceiling views of the city.
The reason I chose that particular hotel is because all Aloft properties are pet-friendly and none charge a pet fee – a nice exception to the $100 per stay pet fee you get when staying at most Marriott brands.
With my certificate put to good use, we were out of luck with using Shae’s one before its expiry date as our accommodation for our three weeks in Vermont was already booked. She’s not going to get close to earning Platinum status this year, so it wasn’t even worth booking a night somewhere to at least get an elite night credit.
We had one option remaining – throw ourselves on the mercy of a Marriott phone rep. In the past, it was sometimes possible to extend Marriott Rewards free night certificates if they’d have otherwise gone unused. Since the change from Rewards to Bonvoy hasn’t exactly gone smoothly, I wasn’t holding out hope that a rep would be able to do this, even if they were willing. Still, we had nothing to lose except for a few minutes of our time, so a phone call it was.
My wife isn’t at all interested in points and miles, other than the fact that they help us travel full-time. She’s a good sport though, so she’s always willing to make whatever phone calls are necessary to upgrade/downgrade/cancel cards or get them approved.
I explained the situation to Shae and that we wanted to see if Marriott would be willing to extend her free night certificate. I’d have been happy with a three month extension, but figured we wouldn’t mention that in case they were willing to extend it for even longer.
She called Marriott customer service on 1-800-535-4028 and, when prompted to state what she was calling for, said “Reward Certificate”. This routed her directly through to a rep rather than being put on hold for ages or having to go through several more automated questions, so that was a good start.
Shae explained to the rep that she had a free night certificate due to expire in a week’s time and was hoping it could be extended. It took the rep several minutes to work out what to do as she was still getting used to their new system following the Bonvoy change. Once she’d worked that out, she gave us the good news – she’d extended the certificate for a further year from the date we called. The entire process had taken took less than five minutes and got us the exact result we wanted.
Shae called on June 11, 2019 which means the new certificate will expire on June 11, 2020, rather than June 18, 2020 which would’ve been a year after its original expiry date.
At first I thought she’d been reverse-Bonvoyed as the old certificate was still showing on her account:
It must’ve just taken the rep a little longer than expected to work out how to cancel that old certificate though, as it’s subsequently been removed.
If you have a Marriott free night certificate due to expire in the near future, give Marriott a call as it’s possible to get them extended post-Bonvoy. You might get a rep who doesn’t know how – or isn’t willing – to do this, so if that’s what you experience, hang up and call again. There’s no point in letting these certificates go to waste if you can extend them, especially seeing as it can be done by phone in under five minutes.