Yesterday, I had a great experience calling Marriott Bonvoy.  Whaaat?  Lately, most news about Marriott’s loyalty program has been bad.  They seem to Bonvoy us every chance they get (like when they recently decided to un-extend Suite Night Awards).  But, in this case, it was all good.  I had a free night certificate expiring soon, so I called to see if it could be extended.  Yep!  No problem.  And in the course of the conversation, I learned Marriott’s rules for extending free nights.  In this one area at least, compared to other hotel programs, Marriott rules (see what I did there?).

Update 8/15/22: Since publication, a number of readers have reported having a hard time getting their free nights extended. It has sometimes been necessary to call 3 or 4 times to find an agent willing to do so. I reached out to Marriott for clarification and learned that the rules aren’t as firm as I originally thought (and published).  Below you’ll find an updated post based on input from Marriott’s VP of Global Communications and Public Affairs, John Wolf.

The call center agent decides

After reaching out to Marriott to learn the specific rules for extending certs, I learned that there are no hard and fast rules after all.  It seem that the decision is up to the call center agent.  At least, that’s the impression I got from Marriott’s responses to my questions.  Specifically I was told that the decision “is not automatic,” and that they “provide associates with guidance to use when they receive requests for extensions.”

Based on my experience, I believe that at least some agents have been given guidance like this:

  • No elite status required (but it can’t hurt): Any member may call to try to extend a free night certificate that’s near expiry. That said, I do think that they are more likely to approve the request from a high level elite member than a general member.
  • One time extension only: Once a certificate has been extended, agents aren’t supposed to allow another extension.
  • Call within 30 days of expiry: Members should wait until their certificate is within 30 days of expiring before calling to extend it.  Update: The official word from Marriott is that there is no hard and fast 30 day rule. Agents can extend certificates that are further than 30 days from expiry.  That said, it may help your case if your certificates are near expiry.

And from an email conversation with a Marriott rep, I learned this:

  • How you got the free night matters: Agents may be less likely to extend free nights that you earned from promotions vs. free nights earned from credit cards.

12 month extensions

If you are approved for an extension, your certificate will be extended for 12 months from the date of your phone call to Marriott, not from the expiration date of the original certificate.  Example: I called July 14, 2022 and so my certificate was extended until July 14, 2023.

Note: Marriott had a hard rule against extending certificates that expired 6/30/22 since those had been extended at least once before during the pandemic.

Suggested approach

Since call center agents have the power to approve or deny your extension request, it’s important to get them on your side.  First and foremost, be nice!  I think it is also helpful to explain why the extension is important to you.  For example, you might say something like “I’m planning to visit my grandparents in December for their 50th anniversary, but this certificate expires in November. Is there anything you can do to help?”  Please don’t use those exact words, but rather substitute in actual details from your life that help explain why it would be great if the agent can help you.

If your request is denied, don’t argue your case.  Thank the agent for their time and hang up.  Call again later and try again.

My thoughts

The ability to extend free night certificates for a full year is a great feature of Marriott’s loyalty program.  I can’t think of any other major hotel program that does the same.  In a way, this increases the value of their credit cards that offer free night certificates each year upon renewal.  With a single credit card, if you don’t have a good use for a certificate each year, you could instead book a weekend every other year.  This, combined with the ability to add up to 15,000 points to each certificate really goes a long way to make Marriott cards long term keepers.

I just wish that the rules for extending the free nights were as set in stone as I thought when I first published this post!

See these related posts for more information…