Marriott’s “5th Night Free” Will Cost You Points For The 5th Night If You Book A Nicer Room

Marriott Bonvoy offers ‘5th night free’ on redemptions. You aren’t literally getting the 5th night free, though, now that different nights may have different prices (first with the introduction of peak and off-peak rates and now with dynamic pricing). Instead you get the least expensive night for no additional points.

Still, this can be a nice savings of up to 20% of points on a five night stay, which leads a lot of members staying on reward nights to stretch their stays to 5 nights.

    Both IHG and Hilton have similar programs. Hilton offers 5th night free to elites. IHG offers 4th night free to their co-brand cardmembers. Hyatt does not have a similar perk.

Back when 5th night free was a feature of the Starwood Preferred Guest program you really could get the 5th night free regardless of room type. Making only the cheapest night of a stay free (zero points for the redemption) isn’t the only way this benefit has been devalued.

Marriott also only gives you the points for a standard room free, regardless of what room you’re booking on points. Somehow I never realized this. If you book a premium view, a larger room, or a suite you only get the base standard points price free and still pay the difference in points for the premium room even on the free night.

Here’s an example where you’ll see that the ‘free night’ on a 5-night premium room redemption actually costs 32,000 points:

Hilton does this too – their 5th night free only gets you the cost of a standard room when booking five nights as an elite member, though their 5th night free is more generous because instead of deducting the cost of the cheapest room night they deduct the cost of an average room night. Meanwhile IHG doesn’t generally offer premium room redemptions.

I’ve seen this language before but somehow failed to internalize that the benefit has been devalued in two ways – that you get the cheapest night ‘free’ and that it’s only for the standard room. I’d booked numerous Starwood Preferred Guest stays where 5th night free covered the full premium room. As in so many things, Marriott doesn’t do this. That’s good to know when budgeting your points stays. And when you see a free night that isn’t free, now you’ll know why.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Has Marriott done anything since August 2018 that in practice was actually pro-consumer? It’s so bad that even the fanboys at TPG are saying ambassador status is not worth it.

  2. I’ve found that Hilton Diamonds get more mileage out of this perk than most. I just booked a 5 for 4 at the Curio Moab and they have a me a Suite for the full 5 nights at standard point redemption. All in, I got 5 nights for 320,000 points whereas booking a 5 night stay at the suite would have been a usurious 840,000 points.

  3. @FNT Delta Diamond >Has Marriott done anything since August 2018 that in practice was actually pro-consumer?
    I have to agree. Time and again it seems Marriott can’t help itself — but then I was told once it’s OK to cheat the profane so maybe they’re going for it.

  4. I do wish that Marriott would spend just half the effort they exert to screw over engaged customers to actually improve things for guests. Unfortunately, that’s not where their head’s at, with Bonvoying remaining the strong priority. I’m Titanium and 6/10 years toward lifetime Platinum but only have 36 nights this year and just decided that I’m done with elite status with Marriott.

  5. I stay in Marriott hotels weekly and typically get upgraded because of my Bonvoy status. I have no complaints.

  6. You people just quit staying at Marriott. All I see is bitching and whining. They are who they are and you won’t change that so stay somewhere else and quit complaining.

    BTW Gary I use this a lot w Marriott and Hilton. I book a standard room and don’t play games w point redemptions for better rooms. I’m lifetime Titanium and Diamond so almost always get an upgrade anyway. See problem solved.

    I guess they could be like you almighty Hyatt program and not offer this at all. Jesus talk about comparing over nothing!!

  7. @AC – So the solution to the problem is to both stop staying at Marriott and reach lifetime status? That seems kinda contradictory.

    As to the carping, you bet I do complain when they consistently change the rules to make things worse for the customer. I’m a little surprised that you like it when hotel chains make majorly customer-unfriendly moves. Remember not so many years ago when Marriott had the culture of taking care of their own people and those people would take care of the customer? Anyone bringing up such an idea at a BOD meeting these days would be laughed out of their position in a minute.

    In the meantime, as stated I’m going to be ditching Marriott. Since they keep giving me a big middle finger I’ll return the favor just as I did with Delta when they imposed 3 major devaulations during the global pandemic.

  8. Yet another tempest in a teapot or much-ado about nothin’.

    The “currency” of every hotel loyalty program is the standard award. Therefore, anyone with an ounce of gray matter between the ears would understand and expect the “5th award night free” perk — for programs that offer what is unquestionably and quantifiably the single most valuable perk in hotel loyalty — to apply only to standard awards. That’s what the Marriott example shown confirms. Dynamic award pricing does not change anything. In fact, that the”5th award night free” perk applies only to standard awards has been the case and been known, like, forever, which has suited me just because more often than not, and as others have indicated, I’ve ended up spending the 5 nights in suite upgrade…

    I guess they could be like you almighty Hyatt program and not offer this at all. Jesus talk about comparing over nothing!!

    – AC

    Amen to that!

  9. CW, upgraded to a suite?
    I’ve stayed 48 nights this year around the world And have not got a suite even one time

    Previous years suites were the norm for titaniums in Asia and India, and happened a little in USA/Europe

    I just don’t feel that a higher floor is an upgrade

  10. @Bill — I used to stay at Marriott hotels regularly when the chain had a program that was quite similar to Hilton Honors and my Marriott Gold status got me what Hilton Gold offered: free breakfast and complimentary room upgrades, which I often parlayed to suite upgrades (especially in Asia).

    After the merger with Starwood resulted in the total gutting (BonVoying) of the once-decent Marriott Rewards program, I converted all my Marriott points to SQ miles and have not stayed at a Marriott hotel since the merger, although for convenience I recently booked a one-night paid stay at Sheraton Brussels Airport to stay overnight in order to catch a SN flight early the next morning to Africa in late August.

    Having said that, it is not at all correct that I stay only with Hilton’s properties. When redeeming points in any city, usually in Asia, I will stay at non-Hilton hotels if that’ll get me a better deal (there are also cities overseas with no Hilton presence). It used to be Hyatt or Marriott hotels, but now it’s only Hyatt that’s left as an alternative to Hilton, or I may just pay cash to stay at independent hotels. Case in point: for the post-pandemic “reboot” of my annual Asian Escapade(TM) in January 2023, I’ve redeemed WoH points to stay at PH Saigon and PH Siem Reap…

    G’day.

  11. @ Barry — Just remember, over at parallel universe Hilton, 75% > 80%.

    Hey, @Gene, someone ought to let you know so that you’d stop posting that stupid line as if it meant anything because it does not. Percentage or % is a relative measure, i.e., it is always a % of ‘something’.

    So, e.g.,

    75% of 5 (= 3.75) is greater than 80% of 4 (= 3.2)

    and

    25% of 4 (= 1.0) is exactly the same as 20% of 5 (= 1.0)

    Got it now?

  12. I share the opinion of “quit complaining a d just leave.” However, I would characterize the article as a public service announcement aimed at newbies.

  13. Interesting, but in hundreds of points bookings for Hilton and Marriott I think I’ve only once or twice ever booked anything over a standard room. That’s what status is for, book the cheapest room you can and get upgraded. So I don’t see this as an issue and I wish Hyatt would do 5th night free too.

  14. Interesting, but in hundreds of points bookings for Hilton and Marriott I think I’ve only once or twice ever booked anything over a standard room. That’s what status is for, book the cheapest room you can and get upgraded. So I don’t see this as an issue and I wish Hyatt would do 5th night free too.

    @Larry — That’s quite right. It seldom makes sense to redeem points for anything over a standard award — so-called “premium awards”, which typically tend to have very poor redemption values.

    There are exceptions, however. I have an upcoming stay at Hilton Pattaya where it made sense to book a “premium room reward” than a standard reward because (a) the “premium reward” was for a huge ocean view suite, (b) the rate was dirt cheap by Hilton Honors standards for resorts, and (c) the resulting redemption value was the same as or slightly better than I would have gotten if I’d booked a standard reward instead. Here is the actual booking info. Judge for yourself:

    Room Plan: KING FAMILY OCEAN SUITE
    Your Rate Information: PREMIUM ROOM REWARD 64,000 Points per Night

    G’day.

  15. I worked for Marriott years ago. Like everything else mergers and acquistions are never consumer friendly. It’s just become a cheap, rip off world.

  16. @ DCS — 75% of 4 = 3 is less than 80% of 5 = 4. Not sure what 75% of 5 or 80% of 4 has to do with IHG’s clearly superior benefit, but, as usual, you change the subject when you are wrong.

  17. @ DCS — OK, but do you still think 75% is greater than 80%?

    Hmmm… can anyone be more dense? Do I think 75% of what is greater than 80% of what???!!!

    Did you not get the simple, kindergarten-level explanation of why that is a stupid question? (BTW, that is a rhetorical question).

    We’re don here.

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