10 Fun (and Valuable) Uses of the AMEX Starwood Anniversary Free Night Awards

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A few months ago, Marriott released the new award chart all hotels would fall under once the programs combined this August.  Now that the Starwood and Marriott merger is nearing its completion, we’re looking ahead towards future strategies to get Big Value with Small Money!

And a new addition to the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is an annual free night on your account anniversary.  You can redeem it at any hotel in the Marriott family that costs 35,000 points (category 5) or less under the new pricing system.

And fortunately, more hotels than we thought are still category 5 or lower—meaning you can redeem your free night award there!

The information for the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets.  The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Redeem Your Free Night Award for Outstanding Value at the Renaissance Koh Samui

Remember, the application rules for the AMEX and Chase cards that earn Marriott points will change on August 26, 2018.  So if you’re interested in any of these cards, now is the time to apply!

I’ll share 10 of my favorite hotels under the new award chart that will be a great value using your anniversary free nights.  And for folks who hold multiples of these cards (or have a spouse with a free night award), these locations can make for awesome getaways.

New Anniversary Free Night Award With AMEX Starwood Cards

Apply Here:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Here:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Now that we know the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are here to stay, there’s more reason than ever to keep the card long-term.

With the AMEX Starwood personal card, you can earn 75,000 Marriott points after meeting minimum spending requirements.  And the AMEX Starwood business card is offering a 100,000 Marriott point intro bonus after meeting spending requirements.

For me, the anniversary free night award more than makes up for the $95 annual fee required to keep the card open after the first year!

In looking at the new award chart, you might be overwhelmed to see that Marriott now has more than 6,500 hotels worldwide under their merged umbrella.  But over 6,300 of those hotels cost 35,000 points or less, so you can stay there using the free anniversary award night from your Starwood Preferred Guest personal or business credit card.

Relax in Luxury at the Domes Miramare in Corfu, Greece

Keep in mind, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card and Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card also come with an anniversary free night award at hotels that cost 35,000 points or less.  That’s not a new addition to these cards like it is to the AMEX Starwood cards.

How We Chose the Best Hotels to Use Your Starwood Anniversary Free Night

In order to pick the best hotels to redeem an anniversary award night, I considered the following:

  • Aspirational travel destinations (after all, it’s fun to dream!)
  • Well-reviewed on TripAdvisor (at least 4.5 stars, unless noted otherwise)
  • Good redemption value (I prefer to use my anniversary free nights at hotels with high cash rates to save as much money as possible)
  • Category 5 hotels only (Because for category 4 hotels and below, I would rather spend 25,000 Marriott points and save my free night!)

Keep in mind with over 6,300 choices, there will be differing opinions about the top uses of your anniversary free night certificates.  But hopefully some of my thoughts below will inspire you!

Domes Miramare, a Luxury Collection Resort, Corfu

If you’ve never heard of Corfu, now is the time to look it up!  This beautiful island on the Northwest coast of Greece is a top tourist destination for Europeans, although it is less frequently visited by folks from the US.

The Domes Miramare is part of the Starwood (soon to be Marriott!) Luxury Collection and receives impressive views on TripAdvisor.  The hotel boasts gorgeous views and looks like a fabulous destination for relaxation and enjoying some Greek cuisine.  Rates vary throughout the year, but are often as high as $385 per night.  So this is a great way to redeem your anniversary night award!

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay

Although most people have heard of Fiji, it’s not as common of a points and miles destination due to limited air service and fewer points hotels.  But if you want to make a trip to Fiji, the Marriott Resort Momi Bay should be high on your shortlist of properties to call home.

The Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay Is a Bucket List Worthy Destination Where You Can Stay for Free Using Your Anniversary Award Nights!

The resort shockingly only costs 35,000 Marriott points under the new award chart, and provides a great value for your free night award.  After redeeming points or your free night certificate for a base room, contact the hotel to inquire about upgrading to one of their stunning over water bungalows!

Grosvenor House, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Dubai

Dubai is a great stopover destination because it is the airline hub for Emirates, which can get you nearly anywhere worldwide.  Some might prefer to spend a week in Dubai, but I think adding on a couple nights en route to your destination is the perfect amount of time.

Use your anniversary award night, or just 35,000 Marriott points to book a free night at the Grosvenor House, a 5-star rated luxury hotel in Dubai.  Keep in mind that temperatures in the United Arab Emirates are hot in summer, so hotel prices fall accordingly.  Try to redeem your free night during winter or other months when cash rates are higher!

Hotel La Semilla, Playa del Carmen, Design Hotels

For folks wanting to enjoy the crystal clear water of the Riviera Maya, but still avoid the hustle and bustle of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a great choice that is ~30 minutes south of the Cancun international airport.

Use your free anniversary night to stay at the perfectly rated Hotel La Semilla, a member of Design Hotels.  Travelers love the hotel’s quiet and romantic atmosphere, and easy access to the tourist sections of Playa del Carmen.  Rates in high season climb above $300, so use your free nights and save your cash for delicious Mexican food!

Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection

For anyone looking to vacation down under, a stop in Sydney is an absolute must because of the iconic Opera House, great weather, and amazing eateries.  Located right on the Sydney Harbour, the Pier One Sydney Harbour is a top-20 hotel in Sydney according to favorable TripAdvisor Reviews.

The Pier One Sydney Harbour Boasts a Fantastic Waterfront Location

Use your free anniversary night here to save big, because cash rates often top out above $300.  Remember that summer in the US is winter in Sydney, so hotels will sometimes be cheaper if you’re traveling over your school’s summer break!

Renaissance Koh Samui Resort & Spa

The small island of Koh Samui is well-documented in the points and miles world thanks to iconic, luxury hotels that can be booked with points.  If you’re looking for a great use of your free night certificates, I recommend the Renaissance Koh Samui It’s a gorgeous beachfront property that guests love because of the hotel’s incredible hospitality and service.

If you’re in need of a beach vacation and you’re willing to travel to Asia, Thailand boasts several options for affordable, luxury accommodations.  And due to favorable exchange rates, your dollars (or euros!) will go a long way towards outstanding meals or luxurious spa treatments.

Renaissance Paris Republique

Hotel prices in Paris can get downright outrageous, so being able to use a free night certificate that only ‘costs’ $95 with your credit card’s annual fee is a steal!

Especially in summer and over peak travel dates, it’s not uncommon to see 5-star hotels like the Renaissance Paris Republique priced at over $600 per night!  But don’t let outlandish prices keep you away, because Paris is truly an awe-inspiring city.

Use your free night at this gorgeous hotel with stellar customer reviews.  That way, you can save your spending money for museum entrances, fresh pastries, and strawberry nutella crepes as often as you want them!

The Lexington New York City, Autograph Collection

Before the new award chart was released, many Marriott loyalists were nervous that no hotels in New York City would be bookable with the free anniversary award nights.  But to our surprise, there are more than 30 Marriott hotels in Manhattan that will be 35,000 points or less under the new pricing system, making them eligible to book with your anniversary free nights.

One such hotel is the Lexington New York City, a member of the Autograph collection.  Although this hotel only averages a 4-star review on TripAdvisor (the only one on my list not achieving 4.5 stars or higher!), the sometimes outlandish cash prices and convenient location make it a great spot to consider.  If you know your travel plans next year will include at least a night or 2 in New York City, getting and keeping an AMEX Starwood credit card is a no brainer!

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

Located just outside Tucson, Arizona, the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is a luxurious desert retreat with a relaxing spa and incredible scenery.  The first Ritz Carlton on my list, this hotel looks like a perfect option for a long weekend or a relaxing honeymoon / babymoon, and past guests unequivocally agree! 

Use Your Free Anniversary Night for a Luxurious Spa Retreat at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

Cash rates at this hotel climb above $400 during Arizona’s high season (typically December through March), making this a fantastic use of your anniversary free night award.  Keep in mind, Ritz Carlton locations can be quite stingy when it comes to recognizing elite benefits, so you’re probably on your own when it comes to breakfast and scoring a room upgrade!

St. Regis Bangkok

Rounding out the list is the first and only St. Regis that I’m eyeing for a redemption with my free night awards.  St. Regis properties are known around the globe for their world class service, including 24/7 butler service at most properties which includes complimentary tea and coffee as well as packing and unpacking services (in case you want to really relax on your next vacation).

The St. Regis Bangkok is centrally located and has gorgeous finishes and decor.  And as previously mentioned when discussing Koh Samui, Thailand is an outstanding destination with incredible food, lots of adventure, and a favorable exchange rate.  If you redeem your anniversary award here, you most certainly won’t be disappointed!

Honorable Mentions

Given the number of eligible hotels, I struggled to choose only 10 locations for redeeming a free anniversary award night.  In addition to the 10 above, here are a few honorable mentions that can provide tremendous value or a luxurious experience if you’re still not sold!

Residence Inn Maui at Wailea

For family travelers or folks trying to save on an upcoming Hawaii vacation, consider using your anniversary night at the Residence Inn Maui at Wailea.  Although this hotel isn’t beachfront, it is centrally located near the Wailea resort complex and is a quick 2-minute drive to some of Maui’s best beaches.

Add in the fact that this is a relatively new, all-suite hotel, with free breakfast and consistently excellent TripAdvisor reviews, and you’ve got another great option in the Hawaiian Islands.

St. Regis and Ritz Carlton Hotels Worldwide

Although I specifically mentioned the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain and the St. Regis Bangkok as part of my top 10, you’ll typically find 5-star service and great hospitality at nearly any Ritz Carlton or St. Regis around the world.

Especially for folks who like to travel to Asia (or who have destinations in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Thailand on an upcoming vacation wish list), several hotels come to mind as great award redemptions.  For example, use your free night at the St. Regis Beijing, the Portman Ritz Carlton Shanghai, the St. Regis Shenzhen, or one of 2 Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta and you won’t be disappointed.

These iconic chains are typically far more expensive in Europe and the US, so experiencing them in Asia can be a fun way to try out a different hotel type!

Atlantis, Coral Towers, Autograph Collection

Although reviews of the Atlantis mega-complex in the Bahamas are sometimes mixed, families with small children often report loving the Atlantis experience.  Atlantis actually contains multiple hotels all on one property, but the Atlantis Coral Towers will provide the best value for your anniversary night award because it typically requires 35,000 Marriott points per night.

Despite Mixed Reviews, Atlantis in the Bahamas Is a Zika-Free, Family-Friendly Caribbean Destination

Although your savings will be high compared to typical cash rates (sometimes over $500 per night!), you’ll still be on the hook for taxes and fees that often surpass ~$50 per night, even on award stays.  Because the property has such mixed reviews, I recommend you do your research before deciding on Atlantis for your Caribbean vacation.

One huge upside about the Bahamas?  No Zika!

Bottom Line

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express each now come with an anniversary free night you can use at Marriott hotels around the world that cost 35,000 points per night or less (new Marriott categories 1 to 5).

Although no one likes paying annual fees, keeping these cards open for $95 per year can result in a great vacation at any of the above incredible locations.  And your savings can easily exceed $300 per night at some hotels!

Don’t forget that the application rules for these cards and the Chase Marriott cards are changing August 26, 2018.  So if you’ve been eyeing them, now is the time.

I’m sure there are dozens of incredible spots I missed when doing my analysis of the award chart.  Which category 5 hotels are you eyeing for redeeming your AMEX Starwood anniversary free night awards?

Never miss a great deal again.  Be sure to check out our Hot Deals page for a current list of the top credit card offers!

Jake Pearring is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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