This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader Kevin sent me a message on Facebook to ask about booking hotel awards:

“I have three free night certificates from the Ritz-Carlton card, and enough points to book a fourth night. Can I book those four nights and then get the fifth night free?”

Fifth night free benefits are a great way to maximize your hotel points during longer stays. Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton HHonors and Marriott Rewards (which includes Ritz-Carlton) all offer a fifth night free, allowing you to score up to a 20% discount on awards. However, there are some limitations that make it difficult to stack these benefits with other promotions, such as free night certificates.

Chase recently overhauled the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card by adding new perks (like Priority Pass Select lounge access and a statement credit for Global Entry) and an improved sign-up bonus. You can now earn three complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening — the previous bonus offered just two nights. During peak periods Tier 4 properties can easily cost more than $1,000 per night, so those free nights offer immense value. However, they don’t count toward getting a fifth night free.

Both Marriott and Ritz-Carlton reserve the fifth night free benefit for stays that involve at least four nights booked entirely with points. That means any nights booked with a certificate won’t count toward the total, and neither will nights booked at the Cash + Points rate. With only enough points for one night, Kevin won’t be able to get his fifth night free. More generally, however, you can use certificates in conjunction with a stay that involves a fifth night free.

For example, you could redeem two certificates alongside four award nights to book seven nights total, three of which would be free. Best of all, the award nights don’t have to be consecutive; you’ll get a fifth night free so long as your reservation includes four nights booked with points. That means you can use certificates to cover the most expensive nights during your stay and use points to cover the rest.

Hilton
Marriott doesn’t allow you to combine free night certificates with points to get a fifth night free but Hilton does. Image courtesy of the New York Hilton Midtown Manhattan.

In contrast, you can count Hilton free night certificates toward getting a fifth night free, though it’s not the best way to maximize them. Rather than give you one night free, Hilton provides a 20% discount for each award night in a five-night stay. For example, if a hotel normally costs 80,000 points per night, the rate will be reduced to 64,000 points. When you apply the free night certificate, it only covers the reduced rate and not the normal rate. That means you’d end up redeeming 256,000 points instead of 240,000 to cover the remaining nights, so you’d be better off tacking it on to one end of an award stay instead.

For more on Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and fifth night free awards, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Guangzhou.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

LIMITED TIME OFFER. Aside from the 100,000 points welcome bonus (available until 8/8/18), Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 & an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 8/8/18.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • You can also receive 35% points back on all First and Business class flights, with all airlines available through American Express Travel.
  • You can enjoy access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ offering access to the most lounges across the globe, when compared with other U.S. credit card offerings. As of 11/2017
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.