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Marriott International has just announced that the expiration date on eligible Free Night Awards will now be extended through August 1, 2021. This is obviously great news since you’ll no longer need to rush and try to burn your free night if you hold the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

The official statement is as follows:

Effective December 11, 2020, members who currently have a Free Night Award (FNA) that had [has] an original expiration date in 2020, or which will expire before July 31, 2021, as part of their cobrand credit card benefit, annual choice benefit, promotions or travel package will be able to redeem it through August 1, 2021. Free Night Awards with an original expiration date prior to 2020 will not be eligible for the additional extension.

For me personally, I had my FNA set to expire in April, so I was browsing hotels near Toronto where I could actually use it. Although there are quite a few hotels where the FNA would be valid, none of them really appealed to me. To complicate things, the FNA must be used before the expiry date. That means I couldn’t book a hotel right away with a much later travel date. This has always been Marriott’s policy which is fine. It just complicated things for me during the COVID outbreak.

Pay attention to your original expiration date

For most people, this change in policy is obviously beneficial. If you had FNA that expired in 2020 or before July 31, 2021, your award would be extended. People who had an original expiration date prior to 2020 would not.

At face value, this policy makes sense. Why would someone who had an original expiration date in say 2019 get an extension? They clearly would have been able to use their FNA before the COVID-19 outbreak. Well, it’s not that simple.

Let’s say you had a 7-night travel package that was set to expire in October of 2019. You want to use it for a hotel in the summer, so you call Marriott and they extend it to 2020 for you. This is great news so you book the hotel. Well, we all know how 2020 played out. You would have likely had to cancel your stay which would leave you with a travel package that you can no longer use and won’t be extended again.

This isn’t a criticism of Marriott. It’s just the rules. I lost a 7-night certificate under similar circumstances and was disappointed, but accepted it. I imagine there’s only a limited number of people who fall into this category. That said, it’s a bit disappointing that the extension does not apply to travel packages or Free Night Awards that were extended and had an expiration date in 2020 or July 31, 2021.

Final thoughts

Overall, I think Marriott has done an excellent job keeping their Bonoy members happy during the pandemic. They’ve had quite a few promotions and made it easier to qualify for status in 2021. Who knows when we’ll be travelling again, so stay safe!


About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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