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Free night vs. annual free night

Let’s start by looking at what many cardholders would say is a hotel credit card’s most important benefit: a free stay. In Canada, there are three main ways credit cards offer free hotel nights:

  • An annual complimentary night just for being a cardholder (Bonvoy);
  • A one-time-only sign-up point bonus that allows for one free night or multiple free nights (Bonvoy again);
  • Accumulating enough points through regular spending to redeem for free nights (Bonvoy).

The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Card is presently the only card in Canada that offers an automatic annual free night (more on that below).

The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® card

Free nights with Bonvoy

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With The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Card, your annual free night award received every year after your first anniversary (valid for 12 months and includes taxes but not any eligible resort fee) lets you to stay in any category 1 to 5 hotel up to a value of 35,000 points. It’s worth noting that the annual certificate is only good for a single night; you can’t, for example, break it down into 5,000-point amounts and use if for multiple stays.

Generally speaking, it can be very hard to calculate an exact dollar value of any hotel point program, as they can vary so much based on location, time of year and intangible elements like a hotel’s exclusivity. Overall, Marriott Bonvoy® points are valued at approximately $0.01 each; so a category 5 hotel stay could be worth $350 or more.

Maximizing your free night

To get the most value from your bonus, you’ll want to stay at the highest category of hotel (hence the highest monetary value) possible.

Marriott recently introduced peak and off-peak redemption rates so you’ll also need to consider what time of year to redeem your annual stay—a category 5 hotel will actually be 40,000 points during peak season, outside the 35,000-point value cap of your annual free night. Check out the new chart rankings below:

Category Standard Off-Peak Peak
1 7,500 5,000 10,000
2 12,500 10,000 15,000
3 17,500 15,000 20,000
4 25,000 20,000 30,000
5 35,000 30,000 40,000
6 50,000 40,000 60,000
7 60,000 50,000 70,000
8 85,000 70,000 100,000

If all this talk of categories and point value leaves you with a bit of a headache, you can always check the up-to-date, real-world value of your points by comparing what it would cost you to pay for a hotel night in cash versus redeeming points for the exact same stay. So, for example, if you did a search for a Marriott property and found a great sale that got you a Category 5 hotel room for say $250 (instead of $350), it would be better to pay cash and save your annual free night certificate.

Other key features

In addition to its annual free night award, The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card has a number of other very attractive features, despite a lack of competition from other hotel credit cards in Canada. Here are its main offerings:

  • Points can be redeemed and earned at upwards of 7,000 of the world’s most desired hotels around the world with no blackout dates.
  • New Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Cardmembers, earn 50,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $1,500 in net purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership.*
  • Earn 5 points for every dollar in eligible Card purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 in all other Card purchases
  • Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status membership
  • Each year, when you reach $30,000 in purchases, you’ll get an automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (Gold Elite has attractive benefits like 25% extra points at Marriott properties, late checkout, eligibility for room upgrades and more)
  • Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Card. These can be used towards attaining an automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (25 required)
  • Points can be transferred (most at a 3:1 transfer ratio) to more than 40 airline partners
  • Includes a range of insurance coverage, like travel accident, car rental, flight delay, baggage delay/theft and hotel/motel burglary insurance. (Note: it has travel emergency assistance but no actual travel emergency medical insurance)
  • $120 annual fee

You can learn more by reading our complete Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card Review.


Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card
Annual Fee $120
Annual Free Night Yes
Welcome Bonus Earn up to 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points (conditions apply)
Insurance Benefits Extensive

With its lucrative bonus, repeating annual free night, huge spectrum of properties, perks like airline transfers and wide-ranging insurance benefits, The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Card is Canada’s best hotel credit card with free nights.

American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.

About the Author

Sandra MacGregor

Sandra MacGregor

Freelance Contributor

Sandra MacGregor has been writing about finance and travel for nearly a decade. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications like the New York Times, the UK Telegraph, the Washington Post, and the Toronto Star.

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