Good evening everyone. 2 years ago, I wrote Track Hotel Free Night Certificates & Credit Card Annual Fees with my Spreadsheet. In that post, I shared my strategy for keeping track of free night certificates. If you have several co-branded hotel credit cards (like the Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card or Chase IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card), you need to keep track of free night certificate expiration dates so you do not forget to use them before they expire or you run out of time to use them at a good property (the hotel is not going to remind you to use your free night certificate – they want you to pay the annual fee and forget to use your free night certificates). Here are the unused free night certificates I have, as of March 2021. I sorted the list by the expiration date of my free night certificates, so I know which free night certificates I need to focus on first.
The inspiration for this post came from a recent Miles to Memories post called Don’t Fall Into The Free Night Certificate Fuzzy Math Trap! In that post, Mark shared all the downsides of free night certificates, like short expiration dates, some certificates only work at certain hotel categories or on certain days, etc. I totally agree with all of those downsides, but I had the pleasure of redeeming 2 free night certificates today and wanted to share an upside I found with free night certificates.
Let’s say you have an IHG free night certificate that expires in the next month and you can redeem the certificate at properties that cost up to 40,000 IHG points. Let’s assume you are planning to visit a city in the next month for 1 night that has 3 IHG hotels. Here are the 3 hypothetical prices, in dollars and IHG points:
- Hotel A: $100 or 10,000 IHG points
- Hotel B: $200 or 25,000 IHG points
- Hotel C: $350 or 40,000 IHG points
Here is how you might approach this situation:
- If you didn’t have a free night certificate and didn’t have any IHG points, you would probably pay $100 and stay at Hotel A.
- If you didn’t have a free night certificate but you did have at least 10,000 IHG points, you would probably use points to stay at Hotel A.
- If you did have a free night certificate, you would probably use that to book Hotel C. This assumes you would never consider paying $350 to stay at Hotel C and you didn’t have / want to use 40,000 IHG points to stay at Hotel C. The free night certificate gives you an excuse to “splurge” and stay some place you would have never considered before.
I love hotel loyalty programs (especially when I have lots of hotel points or free night certificates to use), but I really prefer to stay at unique properties (not your average Holiday Inn Express or Courtyard Marriott). I love when I have the ability to use a free night certificate to stay at a property that is unique and outside my budget (in terms of cash and points).
Please let me know if you agree or disagree with me regarding this upside of free night certificates. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.