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Hotel company websites can be surprisingly difficult to use. Vast sums are spent encouraging people to book direct, but developing websites that make the booking process quick and easy seems to be a secondary concern. Generally speaking, I think Marriott has one of the better sites compared to the competition, but it’s certainly not without its quirks – and one of the most puzzling elements is how confusing it can be to use a Marriott Rewards Free Night Certificate.
The Certificates I’m talking about are the (usually Category 1-5) ones you can earn from the regular ‘MegaBonus’ promotions and the long-standing sign up offer for new members. They might not be quite as valuable as they used to be, but if you’ve got one, it’s still very much worth knowing how to use it!
The first thing to do is to check you whether you have any Free Night Certificates – just login to your Marriott Rewards account, click on your name at the top right of the screen and then select “Activity” from the account options. If you do have a Certificate, you should see it listed near the top of that page, like this:
To use it, start making a booking as usual, and remember to tick the “Use Rewards Points” box before you click “Find Hotels”. Despite ticking the box, the first results you see will actually show the cash rates:
It’s only when you click on a specific hotel that you’ll see the Points rate:
If everything works properly, you should then be given the option to use your Certificate for the booking, so long as you have an eligible Certificate available:
Just make sure that the Certificate is selected and click through to book!
That wasn’t so hard was it? Except… the Marriott website doesn’t always play nicely.
Sometimes it simply refuses, for absolutely no reason at all that I can discern, to acknowledge the fact you have an eligible Certificate available. In those situations, the only thing that seems to work (sometimes) is waiting and trying again later, or if you want to be more proactive, give Marriott Rewards a ring and they should be able to make the booking over the phone.
One thing that (in my experience) seems to always confuse the Marriott site, is when a hotel is offering a discounted ‘Pointsavers’ rate for redemptions.
You might think there is absolutely no reason why a hotel charging fewer Points than normal should make it impossible to redeem your certificate online, but it does. You’ll see something like the below, with no mention of your Certificate, and certainly no option to use it for the booking:
I thought I’d discovered a ‘clever’ way around this last week – when I clicked “View Other Rates’ it gave me the option to select the normal 25,000 Points per night rate and use a Certificate for that – but when I tried testing that method again this weekend it didn’t work. Don’t waste your time messing about – just call Marriott.
Another thing that can cause issues is booking stays of more than 1 night, with the intention of redeeming more than one Certificate. If you’re having problems, book the nights separately or call Marriott.
The Marriott site might not be as inept as Accor’s attempt (where my account still insists it’s 2017…), or as frustrating as the IHG website was a few months ago (it’s not too bad again now, though at one point I’d completely stopped booking IHG hotels because the process was too slow and annoying), but it could certainly be improved.
More than once, I’ve been temporarily concerned that I had got the expiration date of a Free Night Certificate wrong, because it didn’t show up when I was trying to book. Anyway, if the site isn’t working as you think it should, ring Marriott rather than wasting your time getting irritated online!
Which hotel group do you think has the worst website? 😉