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How to earn, use and make the most of your Hyatt free night certificates

April 06, 2022
12 min read
Confidante Miami
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Although Hyatt enthusiasts were largely let down by this year's category changes, there are still many ways to maximize the free night certificates earned with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. With the card (which has an annual fee of just $95), you earn a free night every year, valid at Category 1-4 properties across the entire collection of brands under the World of Hyatt umbrella.

You can also earn these certificates through other promotions, like Brand Explorer and milestone awards.

In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about earning, using and maximizing Hyatt credit card free nights.

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Overview of credit card Hyatt free night certificates

Let’s start with the basics.

The free night certificates you can earn on the Hyatt card are each valid for a free night at a Category 1-4 property. However, the exact timing of how they are awarded differs:

  • Anniversary free night: You will automatically earn one free night each year after your cardmember anniversary. According to the terms and conditions, it may take up to 10 weeks to appear, though my most recent certificate arrived just two days after my official anniversary in September.
  • Additional free night: The second free night is awarded when you spend $15,000 on the card in your card membership year. However, it may take two to three weeks for the certificate to appear in your World of Hyatt account.

Once each certificate is issued, you have 12 months from that date to book and complete a reservation with the certificate.

The certificates will appear in your World of Hyatt account once issued. To find them, log in and go to the "My Account" section, then click on the "My Awards" tab to see all awards you’ve earned.

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Note that your account's “Free nights” section will also include other certificates you have earned. For example, one of the Promotion Awards in the above screenshot is a Brand Explorer award I earned for visiting my fifth Hyatt brand. I also earned a milestone award for reaching 30 elite qualifying nights.

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Related: What is World of Hyatt elite status worth in 2022?

How to use Hyatt free night certificates

When you’re ready to book a free night using a certificate, the process is relatively straightforward. Once you’ve logged in to your World of Hyatt account, enter your search criteria, check the "Use Points" box and click "Find Hotels."

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Since these certificates are only valid at Category 1-4 properties, you’re looking for hotels on the results page up to 18,000 points per night (which is the peak pricing for a Category 4 hotel). When you find one and click "Select," the next page should automatically indicate which room types are eligible for the certificate — like these two options at the Grand Hyatt Washington.

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Be sure to select the tab at the top labeled “Free Night” and not the one using points. Otherwise, you’ll have points deducted from your account.

Note that the property you want to book must have standard award rooms available to redeem the free night certificate. If you can’t redeem points for the stay, you won’t be able to redeem the certificate.

In addition, if you search for a stay with a checkout date after the certificate expires, it won’t appear as an option. Instead, it’ll only show standard awards using points.

Once you’ve chosen the room you want, click "Book Now" and review the reservation details on the final page. Then, click "Book My Stay" to confirm.

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Can you combine certificates with other forms of payment?

In the past, using a certificate for one night of a longer stay was a bit challenging, as you needed to book separate reservations. But thanks to Hyatt’s Pay My Way option, it’s a lot easier these days.

For example, let’s say that you are looking at a weekend stay at the Grand Hyatt Washington, arriving Thursday, May 5, and departing Sunday, May 8. In this example, you want to search for the entire stay as if you would be paying cash, then select the "Member Rate" or "Standard Rate" tab at the top.

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From there, click on "Use Pay My Way" to see your options — which will allow you to combine free night certificates, points and/or cash to pay for a single stay with multiple forms of payment.

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In the above screenshot, I'd use my certificate for the night requiring 18,000 points, and redeem 15,000 points each for the other two nights.

The standard rate for this three-night stay would be north of $1,100, including taxes and fees, so this particular redemption offers quite a bit of value.

Related: 5 of the best ways to use 75,000 World of Hyatt points

However, note that you can’t apply upgrade certificates to these awards. Here’s what the terms and conditions of the World of Hyatt program say regarding Explorist club upgrades and Globalist suite upgrades:

Not valid in connection with any Free Night Award other than those identified above, including, without limitation, Hyatt Credit Card premium and anniversary Free Night Awards, 5-brand Free Night Awards, Category 1-7 Free Night Awards (defined below), or any other promotional Free Night Award.

However, you are still eligible for space-available upgrades upon check-in for these reservations, based on your elite status tier at the time of your stay. You just can’t confirm them in advance.

How to maximize Hyatt free night certificates

Understanding how to earn and then redeem the free night certificates on the World of Hyatt Credit Card is one thing, but making the most of them is entirely different. Fortunately, most Hyatt properties typically charge nightly rates of at least $100 — so you shouldn’t have any problems covering the card’s annual fee.

Nevertheless, you can do several things to get even more value out of the certificates.

Here are some of my suggestions for making the most of these free nights.

1. Redeem them at higher-end properties at peak rates

The Hyatt Residence Club in Sedona is just one higher-tier property available using your free night certificates. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

One of the first ways to maximize the awards is to look at properties at the high end of the eligibility range (Category 4). These hotels and resorts require 18,000 points for a free night at peak pricing, worth $306 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. There are 174 properties in this tier at the time of writing.

I’ve personally redeemed certificates from prior years at the top property, getting at least $200 of value each time.

Related: The 12 hotels where you’ll get the most out of your Hyatt reward night certificate

2. Look for high paid rates

Another way to make the most of these certificates is to redeem them when the revenue rates are high, regardless of the category in which your desired property falls. Given the low annual fee on the card ($95), you’d be hard-pressed to find an example of a hotel at which you’d get less than that amount in value. However, you’re better off redeeming the certificates when the paid rates are $300 per night instead of $150 per night.

For example, let’s say you wanted to visit New Orleans for New Year's Eve. While most Hyatt properties are sold out over New Year's Eve, you could use your certificate at The Eliza Jane — when the rates are over $400 a night.

3. Combine with other reservations

You can use your Hyatt Category 1-4 certificates at the Andaz Savannah. (Photo by Anthony Cofrancesco for The Points Guy)

As noted above, Hyatt’s Pay My Way feature allows you to combine a free night certificate with other payment methods — something that wasn’t previously possible. However, there are still some scenarios where you may want to book separate reservations.

  • If the rate is cheaper. You may find a situation where you can book one or two nights at a low cash rate and use a certificate for the higher-priced night (note that this won’t always appear when using the Pay My Way option). In this case, you may want to book separate reservations.
  • If you want to extend elite status perks. You can’t use your club upgrades or suite upgrades on these stays. However, if you book a paid or regular award stay to occur immediately before or after the free night award and apply one of those upgrades, you might have luck convincing the individual property to upgrade you on your entire stay. Of course, this is subject to availability and the property’s discretion, but it can’t hurt to at least ask.
  • If you want to combine it with upgraded rooms. A similar strategy can be utilized to redeem Hyatt points for upgraded rooms (now available online). You can use your certificate for a one-night reservation, then book the remainder of your stay directly into a club room or a suite using your points. Once again, an individual property may be willing to keep you in the same room for your stay.

Note that these final two tips are subject to the hotel’s discretion — and you may wind up needing to change rooms during the stay. Nevertheless, it may effectively turn your free night certificate into a free suite night certificate.

(As an aside, if you use one of these strategies, I would encourage you to use the free night award at the beginning of your stay — since you’d hate to get upgraded for the first part of your stay only to get downgraded at the end!)

4. Carefully plan your spending

A fourth (and final) way to maximize the free night certificates is to carefully plan your spending during the year. If you do this right, you could get three certificates valid simultaneously partway through your second year of cardmembership. Here’s a step-by-step guide for making that happen:

  • Open the World of Hyatt Credit Card and spend just over $3,000 in the first three months to earn the first 30,000 bonus points as part of the current welcome bonus.
  • Spend an additional $12,000 over the remaining nine months of your first year of card membership, being careful to hit $15,000 in total spending just a few weeks before your account anniversary.
  • As soon as your statement closes following your account anniversary date, spend $15,000 as quickly as you can.

This will result in three free night awards with overlapping validity dates.

For example, let’s say that you apply for the card on July 15 (your account anniversary date), and your first statement closes on Aug. 3 (which is when your first year ends and your second year begins). You spend $3,000 by Oct. 14 and another $12,000 over the rest of the card membership year — with the final purchase made on June 30. Finally, you spend $15,000 on the card by the following Sept. 30.

This strategy would result in the following:

  • Certificate 1: Issued on (or around) July 15 — two to three weeks after reaching $15,000 in spending in year one (expires July 23 the following year).
  • Certificate 2: Issued on (or around) Sept. 30 after renewing your card (expires Sept. 29 the following year).
  • Certificate 3: Issued on (or around) Oct. 14 after reaching $15,000 in spending in year two (expires Oct. 13 the following year).

You thus have three certificates that overlap by over nine months, giving you a wide window of time to redeem them at the same property for three free nights.

Bear in mind that this strategy can’t be replicated year in and year out. You either need to be content with two free nights with overlapping validity or alternate between three free nights and a single free night in future years.

Related: The most award-friendly hotel program: Everything you need to know about World of Hyatt

Bottom line

Earning “free nights” through hotel credit cards sounds great on the surface, but virtually every card that offers this type of perk imposes some restriction. While the World of Hyatt Credit Card is no exception (free nights are only valid at Category 1-4 properties), there are still some great ways to make the most of this perk. Hopefully, this article has given you some strategies for maximizing these Hyatt free night certificates.

Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

Featured image by (Photo by Benji Stawski/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.