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One of the often overlooked benefits of hotels’ co-branded credit cards are the free night certificates that many come with. In exchange for an often nominal annual fee, you’re able to redeem these for a significantly subsidized (read: not truly free!) redemption if you’re able strategize these well.

With many hotel programs extending the expiration dates on these free night certificates, many of us find ourselves with a number of certificates and looming expiration dates. Let’s take a look at how the MileValue team is looking to redeem their stash of certificates.

Travis Cormier

Oh boy, free night certificates. I used to always use my various free night certificates when I needed to stay overnight in a city to catch a flight. I’ve unfortunately been traveling less in the past year, and with many free night certificates being extended I have quite the collection.

Currently, I have the following free nights available to use:

  • Three Hyatt Category 4 award nights
  • Three Marriott 35,000-point certificates
  • One Marriott 40,000-point certificate
  • Three Marriott 50,000-point certificates

That’s 10 free nights that I have to redeem, on top of however many points I have. 

Before deciding how to redeem them, it is important to me to properly strategize. First, let’s start with Marriott. One of the challenges that I have when deciding to redeem anything for Marriott is that the best value with Marriott is when you redeem points for five nights. On award stays of four nights, Marriott gives you the fifth night free (although not when booking with free night certificates). This is really great for longer stays but often has me looking to other programs like Hyatt if I’m wanting to plan a long weekend. 

With so many Marriott free nights, I’m looking forward to using them for a long weekend. While I’m usually looking for a beach somewhere with some great diving, there’s four Marriott properties in Mexico that I’ve really wanted to check out.

Marriott’s Hacienda properties are historical buildings that have been converted into small luxury hotels on the Yucatan. These properties all look exceptionally unique and one of a kind. They’re all Category 6 Marriotts, so I’ll have to use my 50,000-point free night certificates to stay at one of these. I don’t know which one yet I’ll stay at, as they all look fascinating and unique, but I’m excited to try something a bit off the beaten path.

With my Marriott 40,000-point and 35,000-point free night certificates, I’m not super certain where I plan to use these yet. I have a weekend in New York and a few weddings out of town later this year. I’ll likely end up using these free night certificates for these trips when I just need a good comfortable hotel to stay without it being the focus of my trip.

Finally, for my Hyatt free night awards. Unlike Marriott, Hyatt doesn’t have any incentives for a fifth night free. That means the free night certificates are just as good as redeeming points no matter the length of stay. 

The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa | San Antonio, Texas (Image Courtesy: Hyatt)

Sometimes, I just wish I could take an easy getaway. I had one planned earlier this year that I had to cancel (of course!), but when the time does come I have my eye on the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa. It’s located only about three hours away in San Antonio, and has rave reviews. It checks all the boxes of a nice, easy weekend getaway. Plus, it is a Category 4 meaning I’m getting the most value from my free night certificates. With summer nights costing over $400 a night, it is a great spot that fits my needs to redeem my certificates.

Anna Zaks

Thanks to all the COVID-19-related cancellations, I have quite a few free night awards sitting in various accounts. I am so happy hotel companies extended these, but decided that I need to come up with a plan to use them soon. 

I don’t obsess over extracting the maximum value out of these all the time. I’ve used a free night certificate at a Hyatt Place near Laguardia airport in New York on an overnight layover. Would I rather use it at some fabulous exotic location? Sure, but it was spring break time and all the hotels were in the $200 plus price range, so airport hotel it is! So if another similar need or opportunity comes up, I won’t hesitate to do the same. 

Now let’s look at what I actually have to work with:

  • Three Marriott 35,000-point certificates
  • Two Hyatt Category 1-4 award nights
  • One Hilton weekend night certificate 
Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel | Photo Courtesy: Marriott

If Americans are allowed to travel to Austria this year, I’d love to use my certificates at the Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel. This a Category 4 property, so a night there can’t be more than 30,000 points, even during the peak days. Another option is Das Triest Vienna, a Member of Design Hotels, which is a Category 5, so if they have standard rates during the time that I’ll be in Vienna, that’s where I’ll stay. 

I have almost decided to use my two Hyatt free nights at the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Germany is currently open to U.S. tourists, and Berlin is one of my favorite cities in the world. I am hoping to make this trip happen this summer, so watch this space. 

Grand Hyatt Berlin is a Category 4 property, the highest category where I can use my certificates, and the cash rate is about 170 euro. I am happy with the value I’ll be getting out of my certificates and I’d rather save my Ultimate Rewards points for flights than transfer them to Hyatt. 

I’ve actually just used another free night certificate at the Grand Hyatt Athens, and I am also very happy with this redemption. 

I don’t have definite plans for a Hilton stay yet. This certificate won’t expire for a while, so I haven’t given this much thought. I’d prefer to use it at a higher end property because unlike other chains, Hilton doesn’t limit where you can use these. I have the island of Malta on my bucket list, and there’s the Hilton Malta resort that looks really attractive, so maybe before long I’ll make it there! 

I had another certificate, but I used it to book the Hilton Marco Island resort in February. While I didn’t love the hotel, it was a good use of the certificates because the cash rates were $600 a night plus resort fee. 

Anya Kartashova

Free award nights that come with a credit-card renewal are actually a pain point of mine. They seem amazing on paper but aren’t that easy to use.

I managed to redeem four Marriott free night certificates for a stay at the Marriott Cancun Resort earlier this year, but now have several more certificates coming my way. Here’s what I’m working with:

  • Two Marriott 35,000-point certificates
  • One Marriott 40,000-point certificate
  • One Hyatt Category 1-4 award night

The first two certificates, valued at up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, have posted to my Bonvoy account recently as I renewed two co-branded Marriott cards: the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (not available to new applicants) and the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card.

The 40,000-point certificate is courtesy of my Marriott Titanium Elite status. It’s one of the Annual Choice Benefit options that comes after 75 elite nights. I haven’t officially made the selection yet, but I’m leaning toward it, depending on where my travels take me. It’s not a bad idea to combine it with my two other certificates and possibly points for a longer stay.

The Hyatt free night was awarded a couple of years or so ago and has been extended because of COVID-19.

To utilize my Marriott free nights, I’ve been eyeing Domes Miramare, The Luxury Collection property in Corfu, Greece. Unbelievably enough, this seafront property is a Category 5 hotel, which means that rooms here are priced at 35,000 Bonvoy points during standard season.

Domes Miramare, The Luxury Collection | Photo Courtesy: Marriott

Another property I’ve been considering is St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino. However, Saint Kitts and Nevis is still under strict restrictions, which make it difficult to travel for a short period of time, so it’s a maybe for now.

As for the Hyatt free night, I’m strongly considering Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell. It’s a Category 3 hotel and requires just 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night. The property is close to the Horseshoe Bend as well as the famous Antelope Canyon. The slot canyon is closed at the moment, but I’ll patiently wait for it to open to safe tours again. Hopefully, it happens while the certificate is still valid.

The Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell is also within driving distance to Grand Canyon National Park, so I might as well extend my stay by transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and finally see this geological wonder.

Emily Jaeckel

As I kick off my cross-country road trip, I’m looking forward to redeeming my free night certificates that have been piling up over the course of COVID-19. While we’re traveling around in a camper van that we can sleep in most nights, redeeming a free night at a hotel for a comfy bed and a hot shower is definitely something I’ll need every so often.

Although many of the redemptions I’m considering may not be glamorous, I love the idea of saving cash during our travels on convenient hotels. Here are the free nights I’ve earned: 

  • One Marriott 35,000-point certificate
  • Two Marriott 25,000-point certificates
  • One IHG 40,000-point certificate
  • One Hilton weekend night certificate

I’ve decided that for my first redemption, I’ll be using the Marriott 35,000-point certificate for a one-night stay in Boston before we drive up the coast of Maine. The Aloft Boston Seaport District is a Category 5 hotel and costs 35,000 points per night during standard season. Since we have our dog with us, I also made sure it was a pet-friendly hotel that didn’t charge extra non-refundable fees. 

Aloft Boston Seaport District | Photo Courtesy: Marriott

I haven’t determined how I’m going to redeem the two Marriott 25,000-point certificates yet, but I’ll most likely use these in bigger cities along our trip where it’s more difficult to sleep in our camper van. 

I was able to redeem my IHG 40,000-point certificate for a night at the Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago. Nightly cash prices for this hotel are usually around $260, so while it’s not the most lucrative redemption, I’m happy to have a nice place to stay while we explore a new city.

My Hilton free weekend night certificate is the one I’m most excited about. I was able to redeem this one at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik that we’ll be staying at as a part of our trip to Croatia and Greece this September. A night at this hotel usually goes for $400 or 70,000 points for a standard room. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see above, hotel free night certificates can provide tremendous value, or be a pain to redeem as Anya explained.

Regardless of how you feel about them, many of us have a ton to use, so hopefully this gives you a few ideas for redeeming yours.

Do you have a stash of free night certificates expiring soon? If so, let us know in the comments below how you’re planning on using yours!

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