Starting Aug. 1, co-branded Starwood and Marriott credit cards will offer members a free night upon card membership anniversary. There has been much speculation about whether the free nights earned on multiple cards would stack, and we now know the answer—yes, they will.
You Can Stack Free Night Certificates
As many Starwood cardholders, I received an email saying that I would earn a free night after each card’s anniversary date, as long as it falls after Aug. 1. Back in May, I received retention offers for both of my SPG cards and eventually kept them both for another year. Now that I know the free nights can be stacked, I’m stoked!
The free night award is limited to 35,000 points, or Category 5 in the new award chart. Keep in mind that standard award pricing will apply across the board through the end of this calendar year, with peak and off-peak award rates in effect as of next year.
With the introduction of peak pricing, Category 5 hotels will go up to 40,000 points per night in high season, which will make them ineligible for the free night redemption. Peak dates will differ property to property and have not been announced yet. According to Marriott, you’ll be able to redeem your free nights at about 6,300 participating hotels, including lower category properties, so I guess we’ll see.
Can I Pay a Co-Pay to Stay at a Higher Category Property?
Unfortunately not. The certificates are limited to 35,000 points, and it’s not possible to redeem it partially in combination with Marriott points toward a night that costs more.
When Will the Free Night Post?
The free night will post on your next account anniversary after Aug. 1. For example, my two Starwood Preferred Guest card anniversary dates are some time in April and May, so I won’t see the certificates until next spring. If your card anniversary falls in July, you have to wait for one year before you see yours.
Where Should You Redeem Your Free Nights?
Because you’re paying $95 in annual fees per card, including the new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, your free night should at least be worth $95, but hopefully you’re getting a lot more value in return. If you want some inspiration, here are some places I’d like to stay with my two free night certificates in 2019. I know I only have two nights, but I just can’t decide.
Hotels I’m Considering to Redeem My Free Nights
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino: I love a beach and have not been to Aruba yet. This property has a private island where you can swim, snorkel and spot flamingoes. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The Renaissance Aruba is categorized as Category 5 on the new award chart, and I’m hoping I’ll find some dates during standard season to use my free nights in combination with a point redemption for additional nights to stay longer.
Four Points by Sheraton Munich Central: There’s been talk about possibly going back to Oktoberfest next year with my fiancé and his then-retired father, and the Four Points by Sheraton Munich Central is stumbling distance from Theresienwiese, the festival grounds. Rooms in Munich skyrocket during Oktoberfest, and if by some miracle standard pricing applies during those dates, it would be nice to save some cash on lodging and use it to drink more overpriced beer. Last year, I stayed at the Sheraton Munich Westpark Hotel, which is also Category 5, and so is The Westin Grand Munich, so there a definitely options.
The Westin Sydney: Australia, and Sydney specifically, is not cheap, and using free night certificates in pricey destinations offers the most bang for your buck. Centrally located, The Westin Sydney is a good choice to stay a couple of nights in the city before exploring other parts of Australia, which has been on my list for quite some time. Who knows if next year is the year I finally make it Down Under.
What do you think of the usability of the free night certificates? Do you think you’ll find some use or perhaps peak pricing will ruin them?