One of the most attractive benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program is the “fifth night free” benefit when redeeming your points. Marriott calls their benefit “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” to avoid confusion, since you don’t actually pay for the first four nights and then get the fifth night for free. But you do get a discount that makes it highly worthwhile to book your Marriott award stays in blocks of five nights.
Who Qualifies for the Fifth Night Free Benefit?
Every Bonvoy member can take advantage of the fifth night free benefit! (as long as you have enough points to pay for 4 nights)
How Does Marriott Calculate the “Fifth Night Free” Benefit?
Because of Marriott’s peak, standard and off-peak award pricing, the cost of an award night at a given hotel will be one of three possibilities, based on the standard award chart. (Marriott experts will note that there are even more options, when “PointSavers” is in effect, but I’d rather not over-complicate matters.)
When calculating the total cost of your five night award stay, Marriott will reduce the price of the cheapest award night to zero, as shown in this example that manages to mix peak, standard and off-peak dates in the same 5-night stay…
If you choose to stay 10 nights using points, then the two cheapest nights will cost zero. (more on this later)
Do I Get the Fifth Night Free Benefit When Paying Cash (or Cash + Points)?
Short answer = NO. This benefit only applies to award stays using ONLY points.
If you don’t have enough points to pay for the four most expensive nights using ONLY points, you will be unable to enjoy this benefit.
Do I Get the Fifth Night Free Benefit When I UPGRADE with Cash or Points?
Yes… you do. The cash co-payment applies to the “free night”, but you won’t be charged any additional points when compared to the standard room.
Many Bonvoy members will be completely unaware that a few Marriott hotels allow you to confirm your upgrade using points. In those situations, you also benefit from the fifth night free, although like with the cash upgrade, you do pay to upgrade your “free night”, in this case using points.
Note that this hotel in Cancun, Mexico allows you to upgrade for either $30 per night or 6,000 Marriott points per night.
Ways to “Travel Hack” Your Stays of 6+ Nights
Customize Your Payments
Marriott allow members to combine cash and points stays in a single booking. It even allows you to fully customize which nights you pay with points and which nights you pay with cash. It’s not hard to find examples – as counter-intuitive as it may be – where Marriott is charging peak rate award pricing, even though the cash rates are actually lower.
Since you can customize the way you pay, you can choose to pay cash for those nights with the lowest cash rate. And, most importantly, it doesn’t actually matter that you split up the award nights – you will still receive the cheapest one for free.
Book 10-Night Award Stays as 2 Separate 5-Night Stays
As I mentioned above, if you book a ten-night award stay, the two cheapest nights of your stay will be reduced to zero.
But if you book two separate five-night stays, you can occasionally save points. In this example, you’d be “travel hacking” a 30,000 point night for free instead of another 25,000 point night.
Don’t worry… you are highly unlikely to be asked to change rooms. But you did just save yourself 5,000 points!
The Bottom Line
Marriott’s “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” benefit doesn’t necessarily work out to a 20% discount, since the cheapest of your five nights is the one that becomes complimentary.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a bit of “travel hacking” to take advantage of Marriott’s policy.
Even if you don’t want to spend hours working on a travel hack, Marriott’s fifth night free is one of the best ways to receive maximum value from your Marriott points…