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Why Marriott 50K Free Night Certificates are Traps
It can be common for certain Marriott Bonvoy credit cards like the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business Card to offer signup bonuses of three to five Marriott Bonvoy Free Night Certificates worth 50,000 points each.
While the bonus may look attractive, especially the 5x FNC from the Boundless, I urge caution trying to take advantage of this type of offer due to how tricky it is to redeem Marriott’s 50k FNC. I’ll explain what makes redeeming the 50k FNC annoying.
Marriott’s Secret Categories
In the past, I wrote about how Marriott still assign categories to their hotels. Knowing a hotel’s category is useful in especially figuring out the potential a Free Night Certificate can get you, plus the maximum 15k points topup. Each categories can only charge up to a certain amount of points for their standard rooms, regardless of cash price. Below is the secret award chart:
|RC Reserve Zadun (Cat 11)
|RC Reserve Dorado Beach (Cat 12)
The chart exposes how a 50k FNC cannot guarantee a Category 5 hotel at its peak price due to it just 4000 points above than the allowed 15k points topup (totaling 65,000 points), at 69,000 points per night. If you’re looking for a hassle-free guaranteed booking with a 50k FNC, then you’d have to settle for a Category 4 hotel, which charges 46,000 points at most.
Compared to a 35k and 40k FNC, guaranteeing a Category 4 hotel is possible with points topup! Points are much easier to acquire… you can buy them, transfer them, earn through Marriott credit cards, and through paid stays. Points also virtually don’t expire as long as there’s activity in your Marriott account within 24 months. Credit card spend counts as a valid activity.
Meanwhile, free night certificates have a 1-year hard expiration mark. Thus, you need to act quick to redeem. When you find out that a 50K FNC could only guarantee you a Categroy 4 hotel just like a 35k and 40k FNC would, then it’s right to feel disappointed about the 50K certs.
When should you take Marriott 50K Free Night Certificate offers?
While 50K FNC’s are not as good as they seem, they can still work fine. But, you need to do your own research first before taking these types of offers. There are a few things to consider that you should consider.
First, do research on the hotels of your interest. Then, familiarize yourself with the hotel categorization. I’ll have the odds of success of each Categories from 4-8+ summarized when you try to redeem a 50K FNC plus topups:
- Cat 4: Guaranteed without topups
- Cat 5: Great chance with topups, except for peak times
- Cat 6: Medium chance; borderline 50/50
- Cat 7: Low chance; must be willing to travel during off-peak times; impossible in few Cat 7 hotels
- Cat 8+: Impossible; have to bet on PointsSavers to appear, but that’d still be quite difficult
Keep in mind that, not all hotels will charge the max amount of points within the Category they belong to. Thus, it would be possible to have guaranteed Category 5 booking with 50k FNC plus topups. For example, I often see the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus charge 59,000 points max, while The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul charge 69,000 points max even though both hotels are assigned at Category 5.
Marriott’s 50K Free Night certificate offers may look enticing, but they’re notoriously frustrating to redeem due to Marriott’s pricing model with the hidden categories, and the very limited 15k points topup to the certificates. Make sure to do extensive research on the hotel(s) of your interest first, and weigh the odds of success in redeeming those before you pull the trigger on credit card signup bonus that reward you with 50K FNC’s rather than Marriott points.