Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards: What You Need to Know

marriott suite night award guide featured image

While Marriott Bonvoy continues to “provide more flexibility and value” to its loyalty program through continued devaluations, there are many sweet spots that can be focused on to continue to extract value from the loyalty program. One perk we at Frugal Flyer have found helpful to take advantage of in our travels is Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards. 

Since Nightly Upgrade Awards only become available to members who have reached Platinum Elite status with 50 or more elite qualifying nights, they’re not something all Marriott Bonvoy members know about. Below I’ll give you a crash course on everything you need to know about Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards and how to use them to improve your next vacation.

What is a Marriott Nightly Upgrade Award?

Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards, or NUAs for short, are vouchers that loyal Marriott Bonvoy members can apply to a hotel reservation to upgrade to a more premium room, whether that be a room with a better view, bigger in size, or any of the exclusive suites available on at the desired hotel.

The premise behind applying Nightly Upgrade Awards is to provide a confirmed upgrade in advance rather than waiting until check-in to beg ask for a suite. Simply applying a Nightly Upgrade Award does not guarantee an upgrade, but it does increase your chances should the hotel have availability.

Which Marriott Properties Do Not Allow Nightly Upgrade Award Requests?

It is important to note that not all Marriott Bonvoy properties participate in the Nightly Upgrade Awards program. Per the terms and conditions for Nightly Upgrade Awards:

Nightly Upgrade Awards are not redeemable at the following brands: Design Hotels, all-Suite Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, All-Inclusive Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Sheraton Vacation Club, Westin Vacation Club, and at The Phoenician Residences, a Luxury Collection Residence Club, Scottsdale. In addition, Nightly Upgrade Awards are not redeemable at select Participating Properties.

Outside of the brands listed above that do not participate in the program, there isn’t an easy way to determine which properties within the eligible brands participate in the Nightly Upgrade Awards program.

If you make a booking at what should be an eligible property per the terms and conditions and see the message “Nightly Upgrade Awards cannot be used for this reservation” this usually means that the property does not accept Nightly Upgrade Awards to be used on reservations, but can also mean that you simply do not have enough Nightly Upgrade Awards in your account or that you booked a rate that does not allow Nightly Upgrade Awards to be applied.

How to Earn Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards

As I mentioned earlier, Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards are not super common amongst Bonvoy members, as you do have to rack up a significant number of elite qualifying nights to earn status in order to acquire them. Currently, and probably forever, you must check into a Marriott Bonvoy property at least once to earn Nightly Upgrade Awards. There are no credit cards that grant them just for signing up.

You’ll get your first set of five Nightly Upgrade Awards once your account registers 50 elite qualifying nights and you obtain Platinum Elite status. Now I should mention that these are given as an option for your annual choice benefit, you could also choose to donate to charity or gift Silver Elite status, but the Nightly Upgrade Awards are the most valuable option. 

You can earn an additional five Nightly Upgrade Awards once you hit 75 elite qualifying nights and obtain Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite status. However, a free night award worth up to 40,000 Bonvoy points is up for grabs as a choice benefit for this tier. 

Since the free night is guaranteed value vs the potential and unknown value that the Nightly Upgrade Awards offer, I recommend passing on the extra five Nightly Upgrade Awards in favor of the free night certificate to maximize value.

As a result, for every year you reach a minimum of Platinum Elite status, you will have five Nightly Upgrade Awards at your disposal to apply toward your future hotel stays.

Shortcuts to 5 Nightly Upgrade Awards & Marriott Platinum Elite Status

While the initial sticker shock of spending almost two months in a hotel to earn Marriott Platinum Elite status is daunting, there are quite a few tricks to make this more reasonable. This year I acquired 50 elite nights with just a five-night stay!

The easiest way to jump-start your elite nights is by signing up for the American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card or American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business credit card. By keeping your card open, you’ll be credited 15 Elite Nights every year, meaning you’re only 35 nights away from five Nightly Upgrade Awards.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card

The American Express Marriott Bonvoy card earns Bonvoy points and offers cardholders benefits including an annual free night and 15 qualifying nights towards elite status.

Check out our American Express Marriott Bonvoy card review for more details.

BONUS
50,000 Marriott Bonvoy
MINSPEND
$1,500
NET VALUE
$330+
ANNUAL FEE
$120
FOREX FEES
Yes
EXPIRY

If you’re a bit more advanced or jumping into the miles and points world with both feet, getting US credit cards allows you to rack up 50 elite qualifying nights at Hyperspeed.

hyperspeed to marriott bonvoy suite night awards

One of the unique things about the American Express US-issued Marriott Bonvoy credit cards is that the elite qualifying nights that are offered on the personal and business cards combine. This means you can double-dip on the complimentary elite qualifying night benefits offered by multiple US credit cards.

A common strategy is to hold both the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card (US), which grants 25 elite nights, and the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business card (US), which grants 15 elite nights, for a total of 40 elite qualifying nights automatically earned each calendar year. Click to learn more about how you can fast track to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status.

Combining the Amex US cards with a common Marriott promotion, such as the recent Earn Twice Each Night in which each paid night counted as two elite qualifying nights, a five-night reservation can quickly become ten elite qualifying nights to get you to the 50 night threshold.

How to Redeem Marriott Nightly Upgrade Awards

When I received my first set of nightly upgrade awards, I was excited and ready to use them! Only to discover that going through the process to redeem a Nightly Upgrade Award is more complex than it first appears. As briefly talked about earlier, not all Marriott Bonvoy hotels participate and allow Nightly Upgrade Awards to be applied toward a reservation. Even if they do, the hotel only starts looking for availability for a suite upgrade five days before your arrival.

I’ve found the best way to avoid disappointment is to make a “dummy” booking well into the future. What I mean by that is, make a fully refundable reservation that you have no intention of checking into, and try to apply your Nightly Upgrade Awards to see if the property allows them to be used.

Before we get into it, note that Nightly Upgrade Awards can be applied towards cash bookings, Marriott Bonvoy points redemption bookings, and free night award stays.

Let’s take an example of the St Regis Toronto just before Christmas this year. It’s surprisingly a great deal on points, at only 55,000 per night.

Before making your reservation, you’ll want to review the hotel’s cancellation policy just above “Book Now.”

st regis toronto hotel cancellation policy

Once you’ve made your reservation, you’ll get a pop-up at the bottom of the page asking you to start your upgrade request.

st regis toronto booking confirmation

After clicking the “Start Upgrade Request” button, you’ll be directed to choose which rooms you would accept for an upgrade. It’s essential only to select the rooms that you want. Otherwise, you may be left disappointed. 

I always click on room details as well and look at room dimensions. In my example, the superior suite would rank higher than the deluxe suite, but the deluxe suite has a larger footprint of 200 sqft!

st regis toronto suite night award upgrade choices

About five days before your reservation begins, you’ll hopefully receive an email that your Nightly Upgrade Award upgrade is confirmed!

marriott bonvoy suite night award upgrade request successful

If the hotel was unable to confirm the requested upgrade, you’ll get an email like this, but you can still beg ask on arrival or utilize the chat function on the Marriott Bonvoy app to contact the hotel.

marriott bonvoy suite night award upgrade request declined

At the end of the day, it is always a gamble when it comes to Nightly Upgrade Awards being accepted. I wouldn’t ever rely on them solely if you have a specific room type in mind but instead would recommend booking that room directly with cash or Marriott Bonvoy points.

Best Uses For Nightly Upgrade Awards

This is a very subjective topic, but as with most things in this realm, you’ll get the best value at the top or bottom of the food chain. What I mean by that, more specifically, is that luxury properties will wow you the most with amazing rooms you would never pay cash for. And at the bottom of the food chain, a Residence Inn will probably approve your Nightly Upgrade Award more regularly than a St Regis.

I know plenty of people who are happy to use their NUAs to guarantee accommodation with a separate bedroom when staying with kids or relatives.

In the middle of the food chain, at a Delta or Sheraton, your Nightly Upgrade Awards may not clear immediately; if it does, the suite won’t be extravagant. But if the awards are expiring, you might as well use them!

Our Experience with Nightly Upgrade Awards

All of us on the Frugal Flyer team have had success with utilizing Nightly Upgrade Awards to stay in premium rooms. We’ve found that they tend to hold more weight outside the US and Canada, but nothing is ever guaranteed with Nightly Upgrade Awards as success rates can often be quite property specific.

Another tip is staying at properties with typically low occupancy. For example, my NUA at the newly opened and low occupancy St Regis Kanai Resort was cleared as soon as the window opened. Nightly Upgrade Awards usually also have a better chance of clearing when used for shorter stays, but data points are always anecdotal.

I’ve put together a “Greatest Hits Album” of our redemptions to give you an idea of what’s possible.

Reed – Hotel Verte

On Reed’s most recent Eurotour 2023 trip, he stayed a few nights at Hotel Verte, an Autograph Collection hotel located in Warsaw, Poland.

hotel verte poland verte suite

Thanks to the usage of his Nightly Upgrade Awards, he was able to land the Verte Suite, which retails for around $1,700 CAD per night. While he did redeem Marriott Free Night Certificates and Marriott Bonvoy points for his stay, cash rates at this hotel are around $420 CAD per night.

Imagine getting a suite worth 4x the cash rate of the one you booked on points, simply thanks to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite (or above) status and applying Nightly Upgrade Awards towards your reservation.

Josh – W Koh Samui

Josh recently got away to Thailand for a multi-destination combination island and city vacation. Most notably, he cashed in a 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy free night award for a brief one-night stay at the W Koh Samui.

w koh samui thailand suite

As a result of applying a Nightly Upgrade Award towards the booking, he was upgraded to the W Koh Samui, Ocean Front Haven Suite with a nightly rate of $980 CAD. While only a slight dollar increase from the base room cost of $630 CAD per night, the upgraded room had much more privacy, better views, and a much better location on the resort.

He’s also seen a few nice wins at the St. Regis Rome, the Douglas YVR, and more locally, the JW Marriott Edmonton. Not to mention, the JW Marriott Edmonton is one of the best hotels in North America to redeem your 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy Free Night Certificate at.

Daniel – St. Regis Kanai Resort, Riviera Maya

In April 2023, I had the opportunity to check out the newly opened St. Regis Kanai Resort, Riviera Maya.

st regis kanai riviera maya suite

While I had booked on points, I was able to apply Nightly Upgrade Awards and stay in the St Regis Suite, which retails for around $1,600 CAD per night. The base rooms go for around $1,100 CAD per night, so this was a solid win and made our trip that much more enjoyable.

Jeff – Westin Palace Milan

On Jeff’s spring 2023 trip to Europe, he stopped in Milan and stayed at the Westin Palace. After booking on points, Jeff was able to secure an upgrade to the Executive Suite, complete with a steam bath thanks to the application of Nightly Upgrade Awards.

westin palace milan suite night award upgrade

This room retails for about $1,000 CAD per night, with the base rooms coming in at about $500 CAD, representing a great win and 2x value on the point redemption.

Conclusion

Marriott’s Nightly Upgrade Awards can be a powerful tool to upgrade your stay and may not be as hard to earn as most think. With multiple success stories in this article and a clear path to earn them, I hope you’ll dive into your own private plunge pool soon!

Let me know your best Nightly Upgrade Award redemption in the comments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, once earned, they will expire around the time when Platinum or Titanium elite status expires. This is usually Dec 31st of the following year. For example, I earned 5 in February 2023, and they will expire on Dec 31st, 2024.

No, only if the suite is available and the hotel grants you that suite upgrade. If you select multiple room types, you will be given whatever the hotel chooses.

Yes, full stop.

Yes, as long as the upgrade has not been confirmed.

You must have enough Nightly Upgrade Awards to cover your entire booking.

Five days before arrival, the hotel will begin to look for availability for your upgrade. You will be notified via email a minimum of 24 hours before your stay whether the upgrade was successful or not.

Daniel Burkett

Daniel Burkett

Contributor at Frugal Flyer
Daniel entered the Miles and Points game in 2021 and has taken the “make up for lost time” mentality. After spending five years travelling for work and paying no attention to loyalty programs, some say Daniel is out for Points Revenge. With his desire to maximize every point available, he hopes to share the knowledge gained with more travellers to prevent the same mistakes he made.

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