Redeeming points for free hotel stays is a great way to save money on your travels. But what’s even better is maximizing your redemptions so that you get an award night for no points at all.
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Several major hotel chains provide opportunities to pick up the fourth or fifth night free on award stays. You just have to know how to book them.
Getting a free night on longer award stays
Three major hotel programs offer a free night on longer award stays:
Simply put, when you redeem your points for four or five consecutive nights at one hotel, you’ll get a free night.
The terms of the benefit vary from one program to the next. However, in general, to get the free night, you must stay at one hotel the entire time and pay entirely with points — you do not get this benefit when redeeming free night certificates or points-and-cash awards. On the bright side, the discount is automatic, so there’s no need to involve an agent or deal with rebates.
With Marriott Bonvoy, you’ll get a fifth night free for every four consecutive nights you book with points. The benefit is available to all members and applies to all Bonvoy properties. Even better, the benefit applies to every fifth night, with no limit to the number of free nights.
The discount is automatically applied online when you book an award stay of at least five nights. Just note that if some nights of your stay are priced differently than others, Marriott will comp the least expensive night instead of the actual fifth night. Likewise, if you book an upgraded room, the fifth-night-free perk will only apply to the standard award rate, so you’ll still need to pay extra or use a Suite Night Award (SNA) for the higher-category room on all nights of your stay.
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Hilton’s fifth-night free benefit works much like Marriott’s but is slightly more restrictive. You’ll enjoy every fifth night free when redeeming points on an up to 20-night stay. The catch is that this benefit is only available to Hilton Honors elite members.
Luckily, it’s very easy to get Hilton status. You can achieve entry-level Silver status by merely holding the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates and fees). You can unlock higher tiers of status with Hilton’s other cobranded credit cards, as well as The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required).
Again, the discount is automatically applied online, but you must log in to your account before searching to see the lower rates. Also, the perk is limited to standard rooms.
IHG One Rewards
IHG’s free night benefit is the most generous and exclusive. With IHG, you’ll get a free night when you book four consecutive nights — not five. However, this benefit is only available to those with the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card, IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card or IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. So, even if you have IHG One Rewards elite status, you won’t necessarily have access to this perk.
You can use the fourth-night reward on an unlimited number of stays annually. You’ll see the discount applied automatically online so long as you’re signed in to the account linked to your card.
If you’re booking a three or four-night award stay with Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors or IHG One Rewards, there’s no reason not to add an extra night (if it works with your travel plans). This perk allows you to extend your vacation or guarantee early check-in or late checkout for no additional points. Plus, you’ll get one more night toward qualifying for elite status.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex Card, click here