Debate night: are Marriott certs keepers? Getting a true 4th night free, and more

This week on Frequent Miler on the Air, Greg and Nick discuss whether or not the Marriott free night certificates are worth more than the price of admission — though, truth be told, the real question is whether or not you should be a buyer at the cost of the annual fee. I think the majority of readers shouldn’t be buyers – see if I convince Greg to join you in dumping his Marriott cards (and more) in our chat below.

FM on the Air Podcast

For those who would rather listen during the morning commute or while you’re working, the audio of our weekly broadcast is also available for download as a podcast on all of your favorite services, including:

You can even listen right here in this browser:

You’ll also find us on Spotify and hopefully your other favorite platforms. If you’re not finding the podcast via your favorite source of good podcasts, send us a message and let us know what you’d like us to add.

This week:

The great Marriott free night certificate debate:

What are Marriott 50K certificates worth?

What are Marriott 35K certificates worth?

My room at The Notary Hotel last week. This Autograph Collection property would normally be a horrible value for a 50K certificate.

Greg did some top-quality research to prove me wrong for being skeptical about whether or not it’s possible to get good value out of the Marriott credit card free night certificates (see both posts above — one about 35K certs and the other about 50K certs). As mentioned in Frequent Miler on the Air, I think this boils down to a few key points: First, since Greg’s research shows we will generally have to accept a lesser-category and/or lesser-quality hotel, there is a disappointment cost that makes the free night less fun to use. Second, by having a Marriott free night cert, you are locking yourself in to having to book a room with a resort or destination fee in many places. Third, if you MS at all you have to ask yourself how much you’re willing to pay for a restricted free night certificate rather than just MSing (infinitely more flexible) points. I’m leaning more and more toward that final option and farther away from free night certificates and Greg’s analysis is helping push me there.

In lesser-known credit card benefits:

Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits: 4th night free at select sbe hotels

This is a benefit that’s been around for almost a year but has gotten very little coverage; it could save you a bundle of money if the stars align on a high-demand night that you can position as your fourth night and/or when you want to book a large suite at a nice discount. Because of the very limited number of properties, this is still a very niche play, but if the hotels fit your needs it could be a great deal.

In other Marriott news & reviews:

Necker vs North Island Luxury

Richard Branson chokes Frequent Miler

I couldn’t be less excited about the North Island Seychelles if I tried. I love islands and all, but nothing about this place screams “deal” to me. When Greg contrasts it to Necker Island in this post, my interest in North Island Seychelles plummets somewhere into the abyss. I just don’t think I’d spend the points on this. Necker Island still looks awesome.

Marriott portal experiments: Which rates qualify for cash back or rewards?

Having booked a number of Marriott cash stays in 2019 and early 2020, I thought it was time to post some results in terms of which special rates stacked with portal rewards. The short story is that I’ve found things like the AAA rate and government rate usually stack with portal rewards, making for opportunities to save even more. See the post for full details.

The Notary Hotel Philadelphia, Autograph Collection (Marriott). Bottom Line Review.

My take on this hotel was actually slightly more favorable than Greg’s — perhaps because I did get a free upgrade from the standard room to something with a bit more space. For a former Courtyard, I thought this place was decorated really and felt nicer than its $145 price tag. It’s won’t be worth the points price when it goes up in category in less than two weeks, but for cash stays it can be a relative bargain.

In updated resources:

Bonvoy Success: Marriott Free Night Certificate Extended Another Year

Stephen Pepper updates a previous post with his recent data point. I ran the same play back in January on the day before my certificate was due to expire and it was a simple call to get it extended for a year. Greg even found recently that in some cases a 7-night certificate can be extended a second time. It’s always worth calling to ask — sometimes twice.

Buy points for less: When does it make sense to jump on a deal?

This week, sales were added for United, Marriott, and Radisson. There’s a small part of me considering buying some Marrriott points just because I’ve been able to use them for decent value lately, but in reality I’ll probably give these a miss. Still, if you’re topping off for a near-term redemption at good value, buying points could be worth it.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Check back soon for our week in review around the web and this week’s last chance deals.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
AlexLDaveSamuel PalmerJoshBob Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Notify of

Greg and Nick: Great analysis and discussion on the Marriott free night certificates. An added insight into the 50K cert situation. I recently was trying to use my 3 ea. 50k certs (from 2 Brilliant cards and 1 Ritz card) for a weekend trip to Boston this fall. The peak pricing stymied me. Problem was I could get Cat 5 hotels in Cambridge, MA (Sheraton, Marriott) at standard rates for Friday and Sunday nights, but in both cases Saturday night rates were peak (outside the range of 50k certs). I’m forced to go down to Cat 4 properties to use the 3 certs for the weekend getaway. It’s like Marriott intentionally is preventing the best use of these certs for a weekend getaway. So, I agree with your conclusions and I plan to drop our two Bonvoy Brilliant cards when the AFs hit in late summer. My question – what are the alternative downgrade strategies for these cards?


Hey Greg and Nick, in yesterday’s podcast (approx 38:15) you guys advocated keeping at least one Marriott card for status. You guys both chose the Ritz. Of the 35k fnc cards, which would you keep if you had to keep one? The 50k annual fees are a little much for me and my girlfriend.

Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer

Great podcast as always. Talking about the 2/21/20 podcast.
Two things:
First, I too have recently stayed at a Marriott in HK and was not sent the survey to review the hotel. Which was a shame bc the staff was superb and I thought the hotel was great. (It was the Le Meridien Cyberport fwiw)
Second, valuing the certs if u bought them: I’d say two-thirds the amount we’re paying now. I.e. I’d pay $100 for a 50k cert. And I’d pay $60 for a 35k cert. I would definitely NOT pay $150 and $95 like we do now. And I would definitely pay half that amount. So compromise and say 2/3 seems about the amount of money I’d be willing to pay.


Hi Nick,

I’m debating keeping the Ritz Carlton card. I’m lifetime Titanium, but the continued devaluation with Bonvoy along with the usual lack of benefits for Bonvoy status at Ritz Carlton properties is making me reconsider the card. What are your thoughts?


Will Greg consider to get a headphone over ear like NIck? It may be more comfortable.