I have 13 free night certificates that expire by Jan. 3 – here’s how I’m using them
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Between March 2020 and my COVID-19 vaccination in May 2021, the closest I got to travel was cranking up the heat in my apartment, putting beach towels down on the pullout couch, turning on some ocean sounds and making frozen margaritas (which, yes, is a thing I actually did).
But with a handful of hotel credit cards that earn annual free night certificates in my husband and my wallets, we amassed quite a collection of certificates while staying home. With just a few months left to go in 2021, I found myself making plans for eight of them — that is until my dad informed me he also had five expiring certificates he wouldn’t be using, bringing the grand total to 13.
Here’s how I’m putting them to use.
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Hilton free weekend night certificates: 3
To me, Hilton free weekend night certificates are the holy grail of free night certificates. The reason? They apply to nearly every hotel in the Hilton portfolio, not just those below a certain award tier or points threshold. During the pandemic, Hilton also removed the weekend restriction, making these certificates good for any night of the week.
I usually try to go big with these certificates, redeeming them at a fancy resort or one that’s particularly pricey over my desired dates. Some of my past redemptions include Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea and a Christmas-week stay at the newly renovated, adults-only side of the Hilton Puerto Vallarta, an all-inclusive property.
I have a few potential uses of these certificates on my list at all times, but knowing that I’d be trying to stay closer to home rather than putting together a last-minute trip to, say, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi or the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, I zeroed in on the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, a more recent addition to Hilton’s portfolio.
There, standard rooms go for 120,000 points per night instead of the 95,000-point ceiling for most Hilton properties, but I had certificates expiring Jan. 3, 2022, from myself, my fiancé and my dad to work with.
Initially, I could only find availability for two nights over my desired December dates, which I jumped on for the chance to experience a stay that would have been completely unaffordable for me at $5,145.60, including taxes and fees. I kept checking back until I found space the days before and after my initial reservation, eventually locking in a four-night stay with my three expiring certificates and the fourth certificate with an expiration date next December.
My fiancé and I will each receive new free night certificates in 2022 for holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, so I felt good burning one well ahead of its deadline to extend an aspirational stay.
Because four nights still felt a little short for a trip all the way from our home base of Portland, Oregon, I transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt to book a stay directly afterward at another Cabo hotel on my list — The Cape, a Thompson Hotel.
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.
Marriott 50,000-point certificates: 6
Note: Marriott announced a couple of weeks ago that it would extend free night certificates set to expire between Jan. 3 and June 29 until June 30, 2022, but by that point, I had already made plans for my Marriott certificates and decided to keep them rather than plan new trips for next year.
Last October, Chase offered five free night certificates, good on stays pricing at 50,000 points per night or less, as a sign-up bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card after meeting minimum spend requirements. Because Marriott cards have strict eligibility rules that span across products from both Chase and Amex, I was restricted from earning the bonus, but my fiancé wasn’t. The Marriott Boundless is currently offering 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
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From the moment he took out the card, my plan was for us to use the certificates to stay at Koloa Landing at Poipu, a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection on the island of Kauai. There was just one issue: the hotel is a Category 7 property, meaning it charges 50,000 points per night during off-peak dates only, with standard nights going for 60,000 and peak dates hitting 70,000.
Luckily, I eventually managed to find not just five, but six consecutive nights priced at 50,000 points. I threw in an annual up-to 50,000-point certificate of my own, a Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card perk that at the time was also set to expire Jan. 3, and locked in back-to-back bookings.
Marriott 35,000-point certificates: 2
As a holder of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Credit Card from Chase (no longer available to new applicants), I had two up-to 35,000-point Marriott certificates originally set to expire on Jan. 3, 2022, which I used this summer on a road trip home from Jackson, Wyoming and a stay at the Newark Airport Marriott before a friend’s wedding. But my dad, who has the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase, also had two that wound up in my possession.
At that point, I was already planning a two-night trip up to Seattle to see a concert, so I filtered my hotel options accordingly.
Seattle has several options that fit the certificates’ 35,000-point cutoff, but as is true in most cities, you can often get more bang for your buck if you look outside city limits. In the past, I’ve found staying in neighboring Bellevue to be a great option since we drive up from Portland and have access to our car throughout the trip.
In this case, rather than opting for a Courtyard, Moxy, Residence Inn or Four Points by Sheraton downtown, I went for the Seattle Marriott Bellevue for a slightly more upscale experience. Plus, it’s just a short jaunt from Bellevue to Seattle.
The information for the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Business 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.
Hyatt Category 1-4 certificates: 2
With all this time planned away from home throughout the remainder of the year, I’m using the last two free nights — Category 1-4 certificates that my dad received as a World of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase cardholder — for a staycation in Portland at the Hyatt Centric Portland Downtown.
The property has a boutique feel and the perfect location for exploring Portland’s Pearl District and Pioneer Square neighborhoods, along with all the shopping, dining and entertainment options they have to offer. It’ll be a great getaway, even if it’s close to home.
Many of us are sitting on more free night certificates than ever thanks to COVID-19-related extensions. Whether you’ve planned for your certificates well in advance or need to make some last-minute reservations as I did, there are still great redemptions to be found both near and far from home.
But remember, hotel award availability changes constantly — so if at first you don’t succeed, check again! It also helps if you’re flexible with your dates and can travel during lower-demand times. This is especially true with Marriott certificates, as peak pricing could make it a property too expensive to book with a certificate.
Feature photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy
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