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Free hotel night certificates: How to redeem them for the most value

Depending on the loyalty program, a free night certificate can be worth hundreds if you spend it right

Summary

One of the most lauded perks among hotel rewards cards are free night certificates, which award cardholders with a complimentary night’s stay at a qualifying hotel. By using this benefit strategically, it can save you hundreds of dollars.

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If you are a loyalist of a major hotel brand – such as Marriott or Hilton – you might have checked out their co-branded credit card offerings. These cards are valuable assets for frequent travelers, as they boost the loyalty points you can earn while offering competitive perks such as elite status, discounted room rates and more.

One of the most lauded perks among hotel rewards cards are free night certificates, which award cardholders with a complimentary night’s stay at a qualifying hotel. Some cards offer this just for carrying it, while others require users to meet spend requirements to unlock the benefit. Either way, free night certificates can save you hundreds of dollars if used strategically.

Depending on what hotel brand you frequent and who issues your co-branded rewards card, free night certificates come with individual restrictions and redemption options. Read on to learn more about certificates from top hotel loyalty programs.

Which cards offer free night certificates?

Several co-branded hotel credit cards offer a free night certificate. Check out our list of cards that include the perk, as well as the requirements to earn the certificate and expiration dates.

CardFree night certificate rulesCertificate expiration
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
  • Free night on your account anniversary at a Category 1-4 hotel
  • Additional free night at a Category 1-4 hotel each year you spend $15,000
  • Certificates issued within 10 weeks of account anniversary date
12 months after issuance
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
  • Free night on your account anniversary (nights of 40,000 points or less)
  • Certificate issued on account anniversary date
12 months after issuance
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
  • Free night on your account anniversary (nights of 35,000 points or less)
  • Certificate issued within 8 weeks of account anniversary date
12 months after issuance
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
  • Free night on your account anniversary (nights of 50,000 points or less)
  • Certificate issued within 12 weeks of account anniversary date
1 year after issuance
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
  • Free night each year you spend $15,000
  • Certificate issued within 12 weeks of account anniversary date
1 year after issuance
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
  • Free night on account opening and on your account anniversary
  • Additional free night each year you spend $60,000
  • Certificates issued within 14 weeks of account anniversary date
1 year after issuance

As you can see, most free night certificates are issued on or shortly after your account anniversary date each year and expire after one year.

Redeeming free night certificates

Once you’ve earned a free night certificate from your rewards card, you’ll want to do some research and decide exactly what stay you’d like to redeem it for. Once you are ready to book, check out the following steps to reserving a free night, by hotel loyalty program.

IHG free night certificates

If you have an IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you can earn a free night certificate on your account anniversary – redeemable for a night of 40,000 points or less. With IHG, certain locations are excluded from this promotion, even if they meet points requirements. You can check out a full list of excluded properties here.

IHG free night certificates are automatically deposited in your membership account, and you can find a link to the certificate on your account summary page. When you click through the free night listed, you’ll be prompted to book your stay as normal. Just be sure to select a checkout date prior to the certificate’s expiration.

Keep in mind that free night stays must be booked separately from paid stays. If you need to stay longer than one night, you can make multiple reservations back to back.

Marriott free night certificates

Marriott Bonvoy is notoriously strict about rewards nights, so be prepared to do plenty of research before booking a room with a free night certificate. When you earn a free night from a co-branded rewards card, it is deposited right into your Marriott Bonvoy account.

Marriott free night certificates are subject to point restrictions (varies by card) as well as particular locations. You can search eligible hotels here.

Luckily, booking is simple once you narrow down a qualifying property, as you can book as normal on the Marriott site and opt to apply your certificate. Additionally, you can book a longer stay with points and apply your free night to reduce the cost.

Hyatt free night certificates

With The World of Hyatt Credit Card, cardholders can unlock up to two free nights per year at a Category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel by meeting designated spend requirements. Once you’ve met any qualifications, your free night certificates should appear in your Hyatt account within 10 weeks of the account anniversary date.

To book your free night at a Hyatt property, search for rewards stays as usual on the Hyatt site. Just be sure to check that the property you’d like to stay at qualifies for the promotion based on the following restrictions:

  • Must be a Category 1 to 4 hotel
  • Miraval, Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva resorts are always excluded from free night certificates
  • Checkout date must be before certificate expiration

Like with IHG, Hyatt free night stays must be booked separately from paid stays.

Hilton free night certificates

Hilton free night certificates are less flexible than other rewards programs, as you can only redeem them for a weekend night (Friday, Saturday or Sunday). While there is not a maximum cost designated for a free night redemption, you are limited to specific properties. Excluded hotels can be found here.

Once you earn a free night certificate with a Hilton Honors card, you’ll receive a code via email. Then, you must call to redeem your night. You cannot book a Hilton free night certificate stay online. Because of this, you should carefully research the property you’d like to stay at and ensure there is a qualifying room available (standard rooms bookable with points) before you call.

Additionally, Hilton free night stays must be booked separately from paid stays. However, you can likely book longer stays by requesting two separate reservations over the phone.

Make the most of your free night certificate

To ensure your free night certificate is valuable, follow these tips when redeeming.

  • Keep a close eye on your rewards program account and email to see when your free night posts. Then, start scanning for the best deal for your certificate as soon as it does.
  • Check excluded hotels on your free night certificate before planning out your stay.
  • Use your free night certificate for the highest priced hotel room you can, to maximize its value.
  • Carefully research the cost of your room in points based on seasonality to make sure you are using your certificate at the best time of year.
  • If you must book a longer stay and the free night is on a separate reservation, call the hotel before your trip to make sure you don’t have to check out and check in again.

Final thoughts

All of these free night certificates have incredible potential value, even with point restrictions and expiration dates. As long as you carefully research properties before booking your stay, you can ensure your free night is worth it.

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Published: September 3, 2019

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