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TPG reader Brittany sent me a message on Facebook to ask about free hotel nights:
“With Marriott’s Fifth Night Free deal, do all five nights have to be at the same hotel, or can you stay at multiple properties over the course of five nights?”
Along with Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest, Marriott Rewards offers a fifth night free when you book four award nights. These Fifth Night Free benefits are a great way to maximize hotel points on longer stays, since you effectively get up to a 20% discount. However, there are some important limitations surrounding when and where the free night is awarded.
With regards to Brittany’s question, all three loyalty programs confine Fifth Night Free benefits to a single hotel stay. A stay is defined as consecutive nights at one property, so you won’t be eligible for the discount if you spread the first four nights across multiple hotels — those will count as separate stays. The Marriott Rewards FAQ addresses this question specifically, stating that “A minimum stay of 5 redemption nights at one hotel is required to receive the 5th night free.”
That said, Marriott does offer a lot of flexibility with these awards. For starters, you can get your fifth night free even when you don’t have enough points on hand at the time of booking, since Marriott allows you to reserve award stays with an insufficient balance. You can also mix paid and award nights together in a single reservation, and Marriott will actually give you the fifth award night free even if the nights booked with points are not consecutive. That makes it easy to minimize your out-of-pocket cost on a longer stay, since you can choose to pay cash for the least expensive nights.
Of course, you can use the benefit more than once for consecutive stays at different properties. For example, you could book five nights at one hotel followed by another five nights elsewhere, getting the fifth night free in each case. Marriott also allows you to use the benefit twice during any given stay, so you can get the fifth and tenth nights free on stays of ten nights or longer.
A few other restrictions to note: Marriott’s fifth night free only applies to standard rooms; if you want to use points for an upgraded room, you’ll have to redeem an upgrade award for each night (including the free one). You can’t get this benefit on Cash + Points awards, and free night certificates from the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card do not count toward getting the fifth night free — you need to actually redeem four nights worth of points.
I’ll be interested to see how this benefit is handled as Marriott’s merger with Starwood moves forward. The SPG Fifth Night Free benefit is a bit more restrictive, as you only get one free night per stay, and Category 1-2 properties are ineligible. Marriott has already begun adopting aspects of SPG into its own loyalty program, but hopefully this perk will be left alone.
Check out these posts for more tips on getting free hotel nights:
- How to Save 25% on Hotels with the Citi Prestige Card
- How to Score Free Nights with Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts
- Can I Stack Free Hotel Nights for a Larger Discount?
Featured image courtesy of Hotel Icon Houston