Reader Question: Can I mix hotel points and free night certificates to get a fourth or fifth night free?

Apr 19, 2021

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Several top hotel loyalty programs offer a valuable perk to select travelers: a fourth or fifth night free on awards. I’ve used this perk to get more than 20 free nights at IHG Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy hotels in the last three years. After all, I typically pick a hotel in a program that offers a fourth or fifth night free on awards when I need to stay somewhere for four nights or longer.

But, you can also get free nights through some of the top hotel credit cards. In particular, some of the best hotel credit cards offer an annual free night. So, TPG reader Kevin reached out on Facebook to ask whether it’s possible to mix hotel points and free night certificates to get a fourth or fifth night free:

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?

TPG reader Kevin

So, in this guide, I’ll answer Kevin’s question about Marriott’s “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” award night perk. But I’ll also discuss whether you can pair free night awards and points to get a fourth night reward with IHG Rewards or a fifth night free with Hilton Honors.

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In This Post

Marriott Bonvoy

JW Marriott Cancun
JW Marriott Cancun (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Although Kevin asked about the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card (no longer accepting applications) and it’s up to 50,000-point free night award certificates, you can also get free night awards from the following Marriott Bonvoy cards that are currently accepting applications:

You can also earn free night awards as Marriott annual choice benefits and through select Marriott Bonvoy promotions.

As mentioned above, Marriott Bonvoy offers a “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk that allows you to get a complimentary night when you redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for five consecutive nights. In particular, when you redeem points for a free night award or PointSavers award stay under one reservation, you’ll only need to redeem points for four nights. You won’t get the fifth night free, though. Instead, you won’t need to pay for the lowest point redemption night within your stay.

Fifth night free on points Marriott example
(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

However, the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions note:

Stay for 5, Pay for 4 Award does not apply to Cash + Points Awards, Upgrade Awards, Suite Night Awards, and Promotional Awards (e.g. issued through Co-brand Credit Card, Annual Choice Benefit, etc.).

So, you can’t use the “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk unless you redeem points for five nights. Here’s an example where redeeming an up to 40,000-point free night award would provide no value. After all, you’d need to pay 140,000 points for your stay whether you redeem a free night award certificate or use the “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk. As such, you won’t want to redeem your free night award certificate for this stay.

Fifth night free on points Marriott example
(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

However, you can get a “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk and redeem credit card free night award certificates on the same stay if you redeem points for at least five nights. For example, consider this sample six-night stay:

Fifth night free on points with certificate Marriott example
(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

Redeeming an up to 40,000-point free night award on a six-night award stay would provide good value. After all, between the certificate and the “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk, you’d get two of your six nights free.

Related: Marriott and Uber launch new partnership, earn Marriott points on rides and food delivery

IHG Rewards

Kimpton Armory Bozeman
Kimpton Armory Bozeman (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer open for applications) offer an anniversary night after each account anniversary. And, if you sign-up for the IHG Premier Credit Card now, you can also earn 125,000 bonus points, plus a reward night after you make purchases totaling $3,000 during the first three months from account opening. The reward night certificate is valid for a one-night hotel stay at a property with a redemption level of up to 40,000 points.

Plus, if you enroll in the InterContinental Ambassador program between April 15, 2021 and July 31, 2021 and complete a qualifying stay by Aug. 31, 2021, you can earn a reward night certificate.

The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card both offer a fourth-night reward perk. You can use this perk each time you redeem IHG Rewards points to book a standard room reward night stay of four or more consecutive nights at the same property. When you use this perk, you’ll pay the award night rate for the first three nights and zero points for the fourth night.       

I’ve saved a ton of IHG Rewards points thanks to the fourth-night reward perk. And I’ve gotten a lot of value from IHG anniversary night certificates. But, unfortunately, you can’t use these perks together in the same reservation. After all, IHG Rewards directs members with anniversary nights to:

Please book your Free Nights in their own separate reservation transaction, one room at a time. To book additional paid nights, please create separate, additional reservations.

And the offer details of the IHG Premier Credit Card and IHG Traveler Credit Card state the following for the fourth-night reward:

Applies only to 4 or more consecutive nights within the same Reward Night point redemption room stay at the same property. With this benefit, eligible members will be charged the Reward Night point redemption rate for the first 3 nights, and 0 points for the 4th night of the stay, as applicable.

If you want to use an anniversary night and a fourth-night reward at the same property, you’ll need to stay at least five nights and book two separate reservations. After booking, you could ask the hotel to link your reservations so you can stay in the same room.

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

Hilton Honors

Hilton Grand Naniola Hawaii
Hilton Grand Naniola Hawaii (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You can earn one or more annual free weekend night rewards each year with the following Hilton Honors credit cards:

The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.

Plus, Hilton Honors elite members get every fifth night free on standard room reward stays of five or more consecutive nights. However, you’ll only get every fifth night free up to four times per stay. And you won’t get the actual fifth night free. Instead, Hilton will deduct the average nightly points cost from the total number of Hilton Honors points required before the discount.

The Hilton Honors terms and conditions note that the fifth-night free perk is only available “within the same full points standard room reward stay at the same property.” This phrasing seems to indicate that you can only get a fifth night free when redeeming Hilton points. But to be sure, I asked a Hilton Honors online chat agent and got the following response:

In order to get 5th night free, 5 consecutive nights must be booked with Honors points only, then points would be deducted for 4 nights on payment’s page and then you can make a separate reservation using free night certificate.

So, even though some Hilton Honors members have reported success in the past applying their annual free weekend night reward to a fifth-night free stay, this isn’t allowable based on Hilton’s terms and conditions. As such, you’ll need to book consecutive reservations and stay for at least six nights if you want to use an annual free weekend night and the fifth-night free perk.

Related: Here’s how I plan to use my 2 Hilton free-night certificates this year

Bottom line

Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards don’t allow members to mix hotel points and free night certificates to get a fourth or fifth night free. But, you may be able to extend your fourth or fifth-night free award booking by using a free night certificate on either end of your stay. And Marriott Bonvoy will even let you book a stay using a combination of points, cash and certificates.

Thanks for the question, Kevin, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us. Finally, if you’re looking for inspiration, check out how I’m using 17 expiring hotel free night certificates this year.

Featured image of the Westin St. John by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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