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The particular issue outlined below is more relevant to Marriott Bonvoy members in the US (due to the wide variety of free night certificates available there), but could apply to members in the UK too, if you happen to be a heavy spender on the Marriott Amex card. More generally though, it can be worth being aware of these sorts of glitches, as they sometimes end up impacting other aspects too.
In May, Marriott Bonvoy finally implemented the ability to top up Free Night Awards with up to 15,000 points. This change was made necessary by Marriott’s implementation of dynamic pricing.
The main types of Free Night Award (FNA) are:
- 25,000 point FNA from the UK Marriott Amex and some legacy Chase credit cards in the US
- 35,000 point FNAs from some currently-available co-branded credit cards in the US
- 40,000 point FNAs from your 75-night Annual Choice Benefit
- 50,000 point FNAs from other currently-available co-branded credit cards in the US
Marriott’s Systems are Choosing the Wrong Free Night Award Certificate
Several Marriott Bonvoy members have reported a glitch in Marriott’s systems. You are no longer able to specify the exact award certificate that you wish to use for each stay.
For example, when people attempt to book a 50,000 point award stay – with the intention of using a 50k Free Night Award certificate – Marriott is using 35,000 point certificates, and taking points out of accounts to pay for the “top up”.
You cannot solve this problem by calling Marriott Bonvoy to have an agent book your award stay on your behalf. Phone agents are unable to allocate the correct FNA certificate either. This glitch has been hard-coded into Marriott’s award booking systems.
To make things worse, some Bonvoy members are also reporting that their point “top-up” is NOT being refunded when they cancel their FNA booking.
How to Get Around This
Using the same example as above, make a dummy booking at a 35k point hotel somewhere. Choose a date well in the future at a hotel offering standard cancellation conditions. Your 35k certificate(s) should be automatically allocated to that booking.
Book your desired stay. Since your Bonvoy account should no longer be showing any available 35k FNA certificates, the system should correctly choose the 50k certificate.
Cancel the dummy booking(s) made in Step 1. Your FNA certificates should be returned to your account right away.
Marriott Bonvoy is notorious for having IT problems. Glitches happen, but unfortunately Marriott doesn’t have much interest in fixing these problems. At least this glitch has a relatively simple work-around…