Bonvoyed Again! Marriott Has Made a Mess of Free Night Certificate Top-ups

Lifetime Status

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.

As a reminder, the main types of Free Night Award (FNA) you might find in your account are:

  • 25,000 point FNA from some legacy Chase credit cards
  • 35,000 point FNAs from some currently-available co-branded credit cards
  • 40,000 point FNAs from your 75-night Annual Choice Benefit
  • 50,000 point FNAs from other currently-available co-branded credit cards

I have written previously about how the ability to top-up is actually for Marriott’s benefit, not yours…

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.

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

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

Cancel the dummy booking(s) made in Step 1. Your FNA certificates should be returned to your account right away.

Bottom Line

This process should also work fine if Marriott’s systems are choosing to allocate a 50k FNA certificate to an award stay costing 35,000 points or less.

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…