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From Paris to Bogota: How I'm using 17 expiring hotel free night certificates this year

April 13, 2021
18 min read
Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage Palm Springs Zach Griff - 52
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Over the last year, my husband JT and I have canceled and rescheduled countless trips. As we've done so, hotel free night awards have piled up in our accounts. Luckily, most hotel loyalty programs have extended free night awards during the pandemic. So, travelers haven't needed to decide whether to travel during the coronavirus pandemic or leave their free nights unused.

However, I'm not confident that hotel loyalty programs will issue any more extensions for free night certificates. And we have 17 hotel free night awards in our accounts that expire by the end of 2021. Luckily, we got our second COVID-19 vaccination shots last week, so we're on the way to being fully vaccinated. And we have plenty of trips booked in mid to late 2021 that I hope we'll be able to take. So, here's how we currently plan to use our 17 hotel free night certificates that expire in 2021.

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Hotel free night certificates expiring in 2021

My favorite past use of a hotel free night award was at the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

JT and I have the following hotel free night certificates in our accounts that expire by the end of 2021:

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Of course, I've made plans for many of these free night certificates before. For example, last fall I wrote about using expiring IHG Rewards anniversary nights to stay at the InterContinental Istanbul during our mid-pandemic trip to Istanbul, Turkey. However, the InterContinental Istanbul didn't reopen as planned in time for our trip. I also wrote about using expiring Marriott Bonvoy nights but was happy when Marriott extended expiring nights again.

Realistically, I suspect we'll need to cancel some of the trips we currently have planned for later this year. In particular, we'll need to cancel trips if borders don't reopen or countries require long quarantine periods. As such, we're planning to use most of our expiring certificates sooner rather than later. By doing so, I can reallocate the certificates to other trips if we need to cancel our currently planned trips.

With this in mind, here's how we currently plan to use our 17 hotel free night certificates that expire in 2021.

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Related: 7 of the best hotel credit cards that come with an annual free night

Two nights at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort using IHG anniversary nights

A bathroom at the InterContinental Danang (Photo courtesy of the InterContinental Danang)

In late 2020, I took a risk and redeemed my last uncapped anniversary night from the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer open for applications) for a night at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in October 2021. After all, although I could redeem the certificate for a stay past its expiration date, I knew I'd lose the certificate if I ended up needing to cancel the night after the certificate expired.

I've booked a trip around this uncapped night and hope it will be possible to travel to Danang, Vietnam this fall. However, I ideally wanted more than one night at the InterContinental Danang. So, I considered redeeming IHG points for one or two more nights. However, I noticed some nights near my desired dates cost 40,000 points per night. So, I started searching daily in hopes the award pricing for my dates would drop.

After searching daily for weeks, the points price finally dropped to 40,000 points per night on the nights surrounding my now-expired uncapped anniversary night. So, I redeemed two up to 40,000-point IHG anniversary nights from the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card with Dec. 31, 2021 expiration dates for these surrounding nights. However, due to IHG's dynamic pricing and recent devaluations, you likely won't find any dates at this resort that currently cost 40,000 points or less per night.

Related: Why I’ve depleted my IHG account to make these 8 redemptions

Two nights at The St. Regis Istanbul using Marriott 50,000-point certificates

A room at the St. Regis Istanbul (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (no longer open for applications) and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card each provide an annual up to 50,000-point Marriott free night award each year after card renewal month. As a Ritz-Carlton cardholder, JT currently has two up to 50,000-point Marriott free night awards that expire on Aug. 1, 2021.

I looked through our travel plans and searched for Marriott Bonvoy properties at each destination we plan to visit before Aug. 1, 2021. And frankly, I only found one good opportunity to use these up to 50,000-point free night awards: Istanbul, Turkey. So, even though I prefer the location of other Istanbul hotels and it's possible to find some excellent cash rates (as TPG's Andrew Kunesh did for his upcoming Istanbul trip), I'm excited to use these certificates to try out the Category 6 St. Regis Istanbul.

The free night awards let us book a superior room with a street view at the St. Regis. However, we can request a suite night award upgrade to two upgraded room types and one suite. I don't think the two upgraded room types are worth burning suite night awards. But, the one suite upgrade option -- a St. Regis one-bedroom suite with Macka Park view -- would undoubtedly be worth two suite night awards. This suite has an impressive-looking living room area that would be great for working and relaxing.

Related: 16 ways to unlock incredible value at Category 7 Marriott properties with your 50k reward night

One night at the Kimpton St Honoré Paris using an uncapped IHG anniversary night

A room at the Kimpton St Honoré Paris
A room at the Kimpton St Honoré Paris (Photo courtesy of IHG)

In late Dec. 2020, IHG Rewards announced it would issue new anniversary nights to effectively replace expiring certificates still in member accounts as of Dec. 14, 2020. So, even though I'd redeemed my last uncapped anniversary night from the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer open for applications) for a night at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in October 2021, IHG gave me a new uncapped anniversary night.

This new night expires on Aug. 31, 2021. So, I looked through our travel plans and searched for IHG properties at each destination we plan to visit before Aug. 31, 2021. Since I booked this night before the recent IHG Rewards devaluation, I didn't find many destinations besides Paris, France with award rates above 40,000 points per night. My other options included the following:

  • Istanbul, Turkey: The InterContinental Istanbul is an option, but it only cost around 25,000 points per night on my dates
  • Milan, Italy: The Hotel Indigo Milan Corso Monforte is an appealing option, but I was able to book a four-night stay for just 66,000 IHG points total after getting a fourth night reward thanks to my IHG Premier
  • New York City: There are various IHG hotels in New York City that could be a good fit for the uncapped anniversary night, but all of the most attractive properties charge nightly amenity fees

So, Paris, France became my primary opportunity for using my uncapped anniversary night. And in Paris, three IHG properties stood out as primary contenders for an uncapped anniversary night: InterContinental Hotels Paris Le Grand, InterContinental Hotels Paris Champs-Elysées Etoile and Kimpton St Honoré Paris.

The two InterContinental properties would provide a traditional luxury experience. But, I opted for the Kimpton because old-school luxury isn't my preferred style. Plus, it will be fun to stay at a property soon after it opens. And, after having a not-so-good experience last time I stayed at a Kimpton (the now-reflagged Kimpton Ink48), this uncapped anniversary night is an excellent reason to give Kimpton another chance.

Related: All is not lost: Here’s how I got more than 2.5x value out of my IHG points after the devaluation

One night at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas using a Hilton weekend night

(Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas)

We used JT's previous Hilton free weekend night certificate to stay at the Conrad New York Midtown. And we could undoubtedly use the certificate set to expire on Aug. 31, 2021, during another trip to New York City. But, as I looked through our upcoming travel plans, I found one other appealing option for his Hilton free weekend night certificate: Las Vegas.

We plan to be in Las Vegas for four nights in late June. Typically, I'd stay off-strip and book an IHG fourth night award. But, since JT has Caesar's Diamond status, we decided to stay at Caesar's. After all, we can book a suite at the Rio Las Vegas for just $28 per night and we don't need to pay resort fees due to his elite status.

But, since we'll depart from Las Vegas in the late evening on a transatlantic flight and Caesar's Diamond status doesn't provide late check-out, I may shorten our Caesar's stay by one night. By doing so, we could stay at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas for our last night. After all, since JT is a Hilton Honors Diamond elite, we'll hopefully be given late check-out. And Hilton waives resort fees on award stays, so we wouldn't need to pay the typical $45 plus tax per night resort fee.

Related: 7 reasons to get the Amex Hilton Aspire card

Two nights at the W Bogota and two nights at the JW Marriott Hotel Bogota using Marriott 35,000-point certificates

Bogota, Colombia (Photo by Ilyshev Dmitry/Shutterstock)

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card each provide an annual free night worth up to 35,000 points. I recently applied for both of these cards. Since you get the free night each year after your card renewal month, I haven't earned any nights yet.

My husband JT has two nights from his Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex that expire on Aug. 1, 2021. Through a targeted promotion, I earned two up to 35,000-point Marriott free night awards, which expire on Sept. 16, 2021, and Sept. 23, 2021.

When looking at our upcoming travel plans, I found many appealing uses of these up to 35,000-point Marriott free night certificates. For example, I considered using the certificates at the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus or The Westin Palace, Milan in Milan, Italy. But, we decided to stay elsewhere in these destinations. So, I decided to use these certificates for the last two nights of two separate trips to Bogota, Colombia. In particular, we'll try out the W Bogota and JW Marriott Hotel Bogota for two nights each using these up to 35,000-point Marriott free night certificates.

I purposefully used these certificates for the last two nights on these trips since JT has Titanium Elite status and I have Platinum Elite status. As such, we'll get 4 p.m. guaranteed late check-out on both stays before our red-eye flights back to the U.S. And, since JT has 10 suite night awards and I have five suite night awards that expire at the end of 2021, we both plan to request suite night awards on these stays.

Related: Why Category 5 is the new sweet spot in the Marriott Bonvoy award chart

Four nights at the Crowne Plaza Paris Republique using IHG anniversary nights

Paris, France (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

JT and I each have two IHG cards that provide an anniversary night after each account anniversary. So, we have four IHG cards between the two of us that provide four up to 40,000-point anniversary night certificates each year. And since we hadn't redeemed any IHG anniversary nights since using uncapped anniversary nights from the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer open for applications) in French Polynesia in 2019, we have seven IHG anniversary nights expiring this year.

I already outlined my plans for three of these expiring certificates earlier in this article. And we currently plan to use the remaining four up to 40,000-point anniversary night certificates for a four-night stay at the Crowne Plaza Paris Republique in Paris, France. Luckily, I booked this stay shortly before the recent IHG Rewards dynamic pricing devaluation. After all, now the first night of my stay costs 52,000 points (and hence wouldn't be eligible for an up to 40,000-point anniversary night).

Frankly, I'm not thrilled to be using anniversary nights for this stay. After all, there are plenty of good-value options using IHG Rewards or Choice Privileges points in Paris. But, this Crowne Plaza is centrally located. And based on our current travel plans, this stay is the best opportunity to use our expiring anniversary nights.

Related: 15 things to see and do on your first trip to Paris

Two nights at luxury Marriott hotels in Doha using 40,000-point certificates

View from the St. Regis Doha (Photo by Alex Macheras/The Points Guy)

Honestly, we haven't redeemed the two up to 40,000-point Marriott free night awards that JT earned as 75-night Marriott annual choice benefits yet. These certificates expire on Dec. 31, 2021, though. So, we have more time to decide how to use these certificates.

However, since I loved using two 60,000-point Marriott free nights in Japan last year to do back-to-back St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton stays, I'm tempted to use these 40,000-point nights to have a similar experience in Doha. After all, there are four Category 5 Marriott properties in Doha that all cost between 30,000 and 40,000 points per night:

  • Sharq Village & Spa, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel
  • Al Messila, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Doha
  • The St. Regis Doha
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Doha

We wouldn't be able to use suite night awards at the two Ritz-Carlton properties since Ritz-Carlton is an excluded brand. But, if this is how we decide to use these two certificates, I'll need to carefully look at each of the hotels to decide which two will be the most fun for back-to-back stays.

Related: Battle of the five-star hotels: Watch TPG UK compare 3 of Qatar’s best Marriott properties

$92.18 Rewards free night

I often use to book hotels outside my primary hotel loyalty programs, such as the Farmington Hotel in Liberia. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

I'm also not sure yet when and how we'll use our expiring Rewards free night worth $92.18. Luckily, has extended the expiration date on this night (and our stamps toward another free night) several times. Currently, this free night and our stamps will expire on Dec. 31, 2021, unless we book and complete at least one stay before the end of the year.

We typically book directly with hotels to get elite earnings and benefits. So we only use Rewards when booking hotels outside our primary loyalty programs, guest houses and apartments. But, I feel confident we'll book and stay at least one night later this year through Rewards. And by doing so, we'll extend our free night and stamps. So, for now, I'm comfortable keeping this free night unredeemed.

Related: Ranking the best online travel agency rewards programs

Bottom line

Although many of the major hotel loyalty programs have extended free night certificates several times during the coronavirus pandemic, I'm not relying on further extensions. So, I'm making plans to use our certificates for travel we have planned for mid to late 2021.

Of course, I fully expect that some of our 2021 travel plans will fall through when countries don't reopen their borders fully or airline route changes make some itineraries infeasible. But, as we cancel trips, I plan to rework our hotel plans for trips we still plan to take to maximize our expiring certificates as best as possible.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.