Do fifth night free awards apply to suites or only to standard rooms?
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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
One of the best ways to supercharge your redemption value for longer hotel stays is by taking advantage of the fifth night free on award nights offered by many hotel loyalty programs. This often amounts to an immediate 20% off, and can turn a mediocre redemption into a fantastic use of points. TPG reader Jeff wants to know if this discount applies to Marriott suite redemptions, or only to standard rooms …
I’m trying to redeem points for a fifth night free in a suite at the St. Regis Punta Mita. Marriott is still charging me the suite upgrade cost for the fifth night, and only deducting the cost of the standard room. Is this correct or should the entire night be free?TPG READER JEFF
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First of all, while fifth night free is a great promotion, not every hotel chain offers it. The major hotel chains that do are Marriott (available to all members), Hilton (available to all elite members) and IHG (fourth night free available to IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card holders).
Jeff was kind enough to provide a screenshot in the TPG Lounge that clearly explains what’s going on. He was trying to book a five night stay at the St. Regis Punta Mita, a stunning Category 8 hotel. While awards at this property start at 85,000 points under standard pricing, all five of Jeff’s nights were peak pricing which means 100,000 points per night. In addition, he opted to pay 50,000 points per night to upgrade to a suite, bringing his total cost to 150,000 points per night. For a five-night stay this would be 750,000 points total, but he expected that the fifth night free would bring his cost down to 600,000 points.
As you can see from the screenshot, Marriott is still charging him 50,000 points for the suite upgrade on his free night. While this is disappointing (TPG values 50,000 Marriott points at $400, not a small chunk of change), Marriott’s terms and conditions clearly state that the “Stay for 5, pay for 4 award” only applies to standard rooms and not premium rooms like suites. Jeff is still saving 100,000 points (worth $800) in this case, and getting to enjoy a premium room at one of the nicest hotels in the entire Marriott portfolio.
It’s also worth noting that since Marriott introduced peak and off-peak pricing, the fifth night free is a little bit more complicated. Instead of getting the last night free, you’ll get the cheapest of your five nights free. This means that if one night of Jeff’s stay had been standard or off-peak, while the other five were peak, that cheaper night would’ve been the one he got for free.
Hilton only offers fifth night free to its elite members, but any tier from Silver at the bottom to Diamond at the top can take advantage of this benefit. You can also earn Hilton elite status incredibly easily by holding the right credit card, such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card which both offer automatic Hilton Gold status, or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card which offers automatic top tier Hilton Diamond status.
Hilton uses a slightly more variable and dynamic pricing system than Marriott, so the value of your fifth night free is calculated by taking the average award rate you pay across your five eligible nights. Hilton also includes clear language in its terms and conditions stating that this benefit is only applicable to standard rooms:
“5th Night Free: For every Standard Room Reward stay of five or more nights, every 5th night is free. Applies only to five consecutive nights within the same full Points Standard Room Reward stay at the same property, up to 20 nights, when confirmed at time of booking. All other nights of the stay will be charged at the applicable full Standard Room Reward price. A standard room is defined by each hotel and subject to availability at participating hotels within the Hilton Portfolio. Applies to Standard Room Reward stays only, not to paid stays or Points & Money Rewards™. Does not apply when stay is booked as part of a Reward Stay offer, package, or promotion offered by Hilton or any of its partners.”
While IHG’s free night is the most restrictive (only available to IHG Rewards Club Premier cardholders) the fact that it’s a fourth night free on award stays instead of a fifth night free also makes it more valuable. Similar to Marriott and Hilton, IHG includes language in the card application page making clear that this benefit only applies to standard rooms:
“For each standard room Reward Night stay of 4 or more nights, every 4th night is free. Applies only to 4 or more consecutive nights within the same Reward Night point redemption room stay at the same property.”
While Jeff is rightfully disappointed to find out that his fifth night free isn’t entirely free, in many ways it appears that Marriott is actually more generous than its competitors here, offering him any kind of discount when he’s redeeming points for a suite upgrade.
Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.
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