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What are Credit Card Hotel Certificates and How do they work?

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Hotel certificates certainly don’t get much press in the points & miles world and I don’t know why. In my experience, I’ve been able to secure some of my best hotels stays over the years via a hotel certificate redemption. Below, I’ll break down what a Credit Card Hotel Certificate is and how they work across the various brands!

In this Basic Guide

  • What is a Hotel Certificate
  • How to Earn Hotel Certificates
  • Hilton
  • Marriott
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • How to Maximize Hotel Certificates
  • How to Track Hotel Certificates

What is a Hotel Certificate

Basically, a hotel certificate is a voucher that can be applied to a qualifying night for the specific hotel brand it is tied to. The hotel certificates vary across brands in which nights qualify. Often it’s based on the category of the hotel but sometimes it’s dependent upon the day of the week.

How to earn Hotel Certificates

Most hotel certificates are earned through the accompanying co-branded hotel-branded credit card. Typically, the certificates are granted to the cardholder for paying the annual fee or meeting specific spending thresholds. There is one exception, World of Hyatt (WOH) loyalty members can earn a free hotel certificate by spending a night at five different WOH brands.

30,000
Bonus Points
after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Now let’s take a look at each of the Hotel Brands that offer Certificates

Hilton Honors

The only way to earn a Free Night Certificate with Hilton is to be a Hilton co-branded credit cardholder. Typically, the Hilton free night certificates issued from the co-branded credit cards are for standard rooms on the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Due to covid-19, Hilton has opened up the certificates to standard rooms all seven nights of the week.

Hilton Co-branded Credit Card options to earn a Free Night Certificate

150,000
Hilton Honors Bonus Points
once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. All information about Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by basictravelcouple.com

Redeem a Hilton Certificate

To reserve a room, simply call 1-800-446-6677 and provide the voucher code. The room can be booked as long as there is a standard award rate available. To see if the room is available prior to the call, simply search the Hilton website for the same hotel and view the cost in points per night.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott free night certificates are directly tied to the co-branded credit cards. A unique aspect of the Marriott free night certificates is that they can be earned via both the Chase and American Express co-branded credit cards. Similar to the other programs cardholders receive free night certificates for paying the annual fee after the account anniversary. Depending on the credit card, the certificate will be worth a different amount of points. Finally, it’s possible to spend on specific cards to earn an additional free night.

3 Free Night
Awards valued up to 50,000 points each
after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Marriott Co-branded Credit Card options to earn a Free Night Certificate

Redeem a Marriott Certificate

Use the Marriott website to search for a room and click the box to include award bookings. As long as the room rate is equal to or less than the amount of the Bonvoy Hotel Certificate being used it can be reserved.

Click this box on the Marriott website to search for hotel certificate options

World of Hyatt

I will admit that I am a HUGE fan of the World of Hyatt (WOH) program and opportunities to earn Free Hyatt Night Certificates. There are some similarities to the other hotel brands with award nights being credited for paying the annual fee at the credit card’s anniversary date and for meeting specific spending thresholds. What’s unique about the World of Hyatt program is that it’s possible to earn free nights directly through the WOH program by earning elite night credits. In addition, WOH will grant another free night certificate for staying at five different brands within the World of Hyatt portfolio.

Hyatt Co-branded Credit Card options to earn a Free Night Certificate

  • World of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase
    • One Category 1-4 Hotel Certificate issued after Paying the Annual Fee on the Account Anniversary
    • Earn an additional Category 1-4 Hotel certificate by spending $15,000 in a cardmember Year
30,000
Bonus Points
after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

World of Hyatt Rewards Account options to earn a Free Night Certificate

  • Brand Explorer Promotion: Earn a Category 1-4 Hotel Certificate by staying at five different Hyatt brands within the hotel portfolio
  • Earn a Category 1-4 Hotel Certificate when you earn Explorist Status (30 Elite Qualifying Nights or 50,000 base points in a calendar year)
  • Earn a Category 1-7 Hotel Certificate when you earn Globalist Status (60 Elite Qualifying Nights or 100,000 base points in a calendar year)

Redeem a Hyatt Certificate

After verifying in the account that the award certificates have been issued you’ll be able to redeem them. Simply do a hotel search on the World of Hyatt website and be sure to click the “Use Points” box. As long as the hotel falls within the category and has availability you will be able to book a room. A comparison of the WOH points and accompanying categories is pictured below.

WOH Hotel Category and Points Breakdown courtesy of Hyatt.com

IHG Rewards Club

The IHG hotel brand has made some changes over the years which have certainly devalued the opportunities to maximize award bookings. Despite those changes, I still have been able to find considerable value from IHG points and Free Night Certificates every year. I especially love using my certificates to stay at a Kimpton property, such as the Kimpton Seafire in Grand Cayman. Sadly, there is only one way to earn IHG Hotel Certificates now.

IHG Co-branded Credit Card options to earn a Free Night Certificate

Redeem a IHG Free Night Certificate

Simply log in to your IHG Rewards membership account and click book night. Find a night that is 40,000 IHG Rewards Points or below and pack your bags!

Photo of IHG Free Night Certificates

How to Maximize Hotel Certificates

My favorite strategy for maximizing Hotel Certificates is by using two player mode. Being able to double down on earning the certificates, especially since many come from paying an annual fee can lead to some heavily discounted trips. The key is to book the nights back-to-back and then most hotels will combine the reservations for the stay. If you’re not in two player mode, this can be done with friends or family as well. The certificates can be stacked for long weekend trips or even overnight layovers.

How to Track Hotel Certificates

I use a simple Google document that lists the hotel brand, date issued, the date it expires, how to redeem, and what it is worth. Take a look at the photo below for an example. As you can see we have a lot of traveling to do!

Example of Tracking Hotel Certificates

Basic Breakdown

As you can see I’m a huge fan of hotel certificates and have consistently redeemed them for tremendous value. My favorite redemptions have been around high peak times of the year like festivals or large races. A few years ago I was able to use a pair of Marriott hotel certificates to stay at the JW in downtown Chicago for the Marathon. Those nights were going for over $400 a night and I only paid two annual fees for them! Another great redemption was when we traveled to Japan and saved thousands on hotels by utilizing hotel certificates.

Let us know!

What do you think about Free Night Hotel Certificates? I’d love to hear from you down in the comments or over in the 4,700+ Member Basic Travel Facebook Group!

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