Do fifth night free awards apply to suites or only to standard rooms?

Mar 28, 2021

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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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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 reward available to IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Cardholders).

Related: How to extend your hotel award stays with a free night

Marriott

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, all five of Jeff’s nights were during peak travel dates, costing 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. This would be 750,000 points total for a five-night stay, but he expected that the fifth night free would bring his cost down to 600,000 points.

Photo courtesy of TPG Lounge reader Jeff
(Photo courtesy of TPG Lounge reader Jeff.)

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.

Related: Analyzing Marriott’s peak and off-peak pricing

Hilton

Hilton only offers a 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 card, such as 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.

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.

Hilton uses a slightly more variable and dynamic pricing system than Marriott, so your fifth-night-free value 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.”

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

IHG

While IHG’s reward night is the most restrictive (only available to IHG Rewards Club Premier cardholders), the fact that it’s a complimentary fourth night 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.”

Related: IHG Rewards Club Premier card: Is it worth a 5/24 slot?

Bottom line

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 discount when he’s redeeming points for a suite upgrade.

Thanks for the question, Jeff, 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.

Featured photo of the Matild Palace Budapest courtesy of Marriott

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