Hilton Free Night Certs Are Customer Unfriendly At Best & Shady At Worst

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Check Hilton Free Night Certificate Expiration

How To Check Hilton Free Night Certificate Expiration Dates

The secondary headline of this article is how to check Hilton free night certificate expiration dates. That doesn’t seem too difficult of a task does it?  If we were talking about Hyatt or IHG etc. it wouldn’t be, but since we are talking about Hilton, you bet it is.  It is probably the number one question when dealing with Hilton’s free night certificates.  Where do I find these on my account and how do I tell when they expire? Easy, you can’t find them on your account and you have no way to tell when they expire when logged into your account. That is why I call these things uncustomer friendly at best and shady at worst.  We will get into that later and I have a tip for you that will help you keep track of these things.

How Do You Earn Hilton Free Night Certificates

I guess before we get into downside of Hilton free night certificates we should discuss how you earn them.  There are a few different ways to earn them and they revolve around the Hilton credit card lineup.  Amex and Hilton have teamed up to release 4 different Hilton credit cards.  Citi used to be involved in this action but Amex outbid them to win the entire portfolio a few years back.  You can earn a free night certificate with 3 of the 4 cards:

surpass

Hilton Surpass Card
  • The Hilton Surpass card offers you the chance to earn a free night certificate after spending $15,000 with the card in a calendar year.
  • They sometimes offer a free night certificate as a part of the card’s welcome offer but this is rare.

business card

Hilton Honors Business Card
  • The Hilton Honors Business card offers you the chance to earn a free night certificate after spending $15,000 with the card in a calendar year.

Aspire

Hilton Aspire Card
  • Get a free night certificate every year after paying the card’s $450 annual fee.
  • You can earn a second free night after spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year (don’t do this).

I mean they even had to make the credit cards look almost identical to confuse you more! Anyway, those are the ways to earn a free night certificate with Hilton. Some of us have a few, or all, of these cards and have a chance to stack up free night certs.  Throw in the fact that many certificates were extended last year or rolled over from cancellations etc. and we are swimming in free night certificates.  If only they were easy to keep track of and redeem…

Check Hilton Free Night Certificate Expiration

Hilton Likes To Cause Pain With These Free Night Certificates

There are some limitations on these certificates, or at least normally there are.  They can only be used on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights and only when a standard award night is available. Some certificates earned last year where uncapped…which ones attached to your account? You will never know, it doesn’t say anywhere! Add in the fact that with Hilton’s variable award pricing it can be tough to tell what a standard award night is for each hotel.  Depending on the time of year it can vary widely at the same hotel.  And you can’t easily check this because you can’t book these certificates online…

You Have To Call In To Redeem Hilton Free Night Certificates

Is it 2021? I thought it was 1985 because I have been dealing with Hilton free night certificates lately and I had to pick up the phone to call in.  I even used a corded phone just to make the experience feel legit (not really but I should have). We are surrounded by technology and access everywhere we turn…except for here.  Here you need to call and talk to a human to use a free night certificate because I guess Hilton likes to waste our time.  Not only our time but they increase the work load on their agents and it keeps them from helping someone that actually needs to talk to a person to get a resolution.

Even when all of their competitors let you book a free night certificate online Hilton continues to stand pat.  You can use points online but these free night certificates must be a mythical object that need to be handled with kid gloves and an expertise we just don’t have. Anyone else called into the call center to book only to find out that standard award looking redemption is not actually a standard award and you can’t book it with your cert?  Wouldn’t it just be amazing if you could check if you could use the cert, oh I don’t know, like online maybe? That leads me to my next point….

Check Hilton Free Night Certificate Expiration

Search High & Low That Cert Can Not Be Found In Your Account

How many of us have wondered, how many certificates do I have with Hilton right now? Especially recently. I know I have. I have even fired up my Hilton Honors app or logged in online only to remember this isn’t Hyatt, this isn’t IHG, I can not find that information here. I can look far, I can look near but that cert just isn’t here.  They don’t place any information on your free night certificates online.  You get an email when you earn it and that is that…end of discussion.  I hope you remembered to save that email!

Why Do This? To Cause Pain & A Barrier To Entry?

This seems crazy, right? Especially these days.  Hilton is so far behind the competition you have to wonder if this is on purpose.  It is likely their IT is just terrible and probably run by Citi’s backend company or something. Maybe the companies had a 2 for 1 coupon and decided to go Dutch on the service…I have no idea.

It sure feels like they like it this way though and maybe that is because it causes breakage. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.  If you don’t see it in your account then maybe you forget about it.  Plus requiring people to call in is genius.  How many times have you said I wanna book this but I don’t have time to call, I’ll get to it later.  But you never really get to it later.  It would be fascinating to see the levels of certs that go unused with Hilton and compare it to the competition.  My guess is the breakage is higher with Hilton.

Even if it is an IT issue spend the money already to get it corrected.  You will save money in the long run not having to pay people to do something that we can easily do online for you.

Ways To Fill The Holes

So are there any hacks out there that we can do to make out lives a little easier?  There are a few tricks I have learned along the way.

Special Email Folder

I have an email folder labeled Hilton free night certs in my Gmail account.  As I get the email with the certificate info I put it in this folder.  I leave it highlighted as unopened until I redeem the free night. Once redeemed I will leave it as read to mark that it has been used.  This worked fine until a mass string of cancellations and random extensions over the last year.

Check Hilton Free Night Certificate Expiration

Twitter Direct Message To The Rescue

I have talked about how much I appreciate Hilton’s Twitter team in the past.  They do a great job.  That is who I turn to when I want a breakdown of my certificates too.  I send them a message for the info on all of my current certs and their expiration dates.  It may take them a day but they will list all of the info for me.  This is nice because it is in writing and it has their expiration dates, including the extensions.  Adding a year to the email dates no longer works for some of these. Do yourself and send them the following info when asking for the breakdown to save a little back and forth:

  • Hilton account number
  • Phone number on account
  • Email on account

I have never tried it but I wouldn’t be surprised if they can book the room for you using the certs as well.  I usually am worried about space disappearing before they see it so I call in to book.

How To Check Hilton Free Night Certificate Expiration Date – Final Thoughts

Is creating breakage the end goal of Hilton when dealing with free night certificates or is it just a happy coincidence for them?  I am not sure, but the fact that they have been unwilling to make this adjustment for their customers, even though their competition did it long ago, makes me think they don’t really care. They don’t seem to care about the customer experience, or their own front line employees for that matter, because this only adds pain to both groups of people.

I get that this is the very bottom of the priorities for Hilton but I would think it would be a low cost fix to add value to their customers.  Hyatt recently did something like this to allow booking multiple nights with free night certificates, something not available before. That situation caused less pain than the Hilton set up and they still identified the problem and looked to correct it.  That is adding value to the customer.  Pay attention Hilton, that is what a company that relies on customer service should look like.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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40 COMMENTS

    • Yeah once you earn them they are yours to keep. Should be good for one year from issuance (unless covid extended etc.)

  1. Mark-
    I had an Aspire free night expiring and with all the international travel cancelled, my planned hotel stays for it were going to be postponed. When I requested an extension (beyond what they have already allocated), they gave me 3 additional months. Now, related to that, have you heard anything or gotten feedback re. extending out the expiration date for Hilton issued BMG cents? I have two issued with the standard 12 month period of validity but again travel restrictions are hampering their planned redemption. Obviously, these are not as widespread as the AMEX ones. Just curious as to what kind of waiver they may offer in light of the current travel climate. Thanks.

    • I haven’t heard of many people trying to get them extended past what was offered so I can’t help out there, sorry. If you try it out let us know what they say.

  2. Hey Mark, I posted a link a few days ago showing how to track certs using AwardWallet but it looks like the comment may have been auto-deleted by a spam filter?

  3. Any idea if HH will extend the expiration date again past Aug 31st? I have 2 certs booked, but I am not confident the trip will happen due to C!

  4. Mark, Thank you for the perfectly timed article. I wanted to book a 2-day stay in Scottsdale, AZ in May. I know I have one free night coming. So I just called Hilton and discussed my plans. The agent said I have TWO free nights in my account. Who knew? One of the key points in your article is that we cannot see the free night certs or expiration dates. I totally agree. So our upcoming stay is totally free. Thanks!

    • Awesome Scott – glad you had that bonus one in there to make the booking. Hopefully they add the option to see them on your account at some point in the future.

  5. I value most free nights at zero when considering whether to pay the renewal fee or not. Availability limitations, the inconvenience of having to talk to a person to book a room, the weekend limitations. For a while, Hilton was requiring you to have a points balance sufficient to cover the room. The Aspire is probably going to get renewed but would have been on the chopping block had they not thrown in the dining credit.

    • Not a bad way to look at it if you always struggle to use them for sure. I struggle most with the Resort credit on the Aspire card. That is why I downgraded one of our two cards, I knew it would be too difficult to hit twice this year.

  6. In addition, when my wife and I both wanted to use a certificate, it was a hassle. We managed to get it done, but it wasn’t easy.
    I agree, let you see them in your account, and book them on-line.

  7. Thanks for the reminder. I just used chat on the Hilton website and got the info in less than 5 minutes and emailed a transcript of the conversation to myself. .

  8. I use the special email folder approach. That’s easier than calling (if you think to call). Seeing the folder there also acts as a reminder of the certificates.

  9. I agree with Gus. Quite whining. Just called Hilton to use two free nights, no problem! Waldorf in Park City here I come!

  10. this article reminded me i had 2 certs, when I called she told me I had 3! 2 of the 4 nights were available. This process was so painful I doubt Ill ever want to do it again. Not.

    • The fact that you didn’t even know how many you had before calling is the point though isn’t it Steve :)?

  11. I have so many travel credit cards with annual free nights, credits, bonuses, and offers that it would be impossible for me to keep track of it without a fairly extensive spreadsheet with minimum monthly reviews and a plan for the upcoming month. Hilton not making my free night certs visible on the site is such a minimum inconvenience as compared to juggling monthly Amex dining/Uber credits along with the different rules for 4 different travel credits (4x Amex, Chase CSR, Ritz, Citi Expedia).

    • I agree with the limited time stuff but many of the credit cards have trackers for the permanent stuff so you can easily check your account.

  12. My beef isn’t how to use the night but the reset credit! Their are hundreds of resorts in the southeast, but just dozens that count. Oh, the airline incidential credit stinks too. I guess that on my yearly flight I could get my bag compted then buy mimosas for everyone vwho claims that it is their birthday.

    • I do wish the resort credit was just a Hilton hotel credit like Marriott’s is. The Amex airline incidentals continue to get worse and worse for sure.

  13. I called to use one recently and found out I had 2 certificates. Not sure where the other one came from but not complaining about that. One thing that sucks is it is only good for a Standard room. I went to Belize with a buddy and their standard room only has 1 bed, either needed our own rooms or the deluxe room with 2 beds. I opted to get our own room for 2 nights and switch to a deluxe room on the third night.

    • It does get tricky in some places or when double rooms are sold out etc. I think some people randomly got one earlier in the year but no one knows why.

  14. Wow, what a ridiculous post from a normally on-point guy. Seriously, weather got you down or something? Because this is a completely unfair post. There is nothing, nothing at all, ‘shady’ about Hilton’s free night certs. I’ve earned and used them several times and they are pretty great (especially now that most can be used any night of the week). You were probably planning on using them for the Grand Wailea, right? What other cert do you have that zeros out the price of a $500+ room night AND waives resort fees?

    You complain about having to call on the phone to book. Really, that’s so horrible, talking to a human being for 5 minutes? You have the Aspire–so call the Diamond Line. I have never had anything other than great service from the Hilton Diamond Line call reps. They will apply the cert that expires first. With authorization, they can also book your P2’s certs. They are also especially helpful at adding notes to the reservation if you’re using multiple single night certs so that the hotel knows there is no check-out between nights.

    You also complain that you don’t know when he certs expire. Sure, Hyatt’s better at showing the certs and their expiration. But Amex and Hilton email when you receive one and those emails are easily key-word searched. They also contain the cert number. Tracking the expiration is not hard. Yes, you might have to use a pencil, or a computer folder, but come on, keeping track of a few certs (we have 5) is not difficult.

    Finally, you complain about not knowing whether available rooms are standard or premium. This I don’t understand at all. If you do a room search for pay with points on Hilton.com the results show how many points a room costs and right under that number it says something like ‘standard room’ and ‘premium room’. That is not difficult to understand.

    And to the guy above who missed out on a room with cert, Hilton probably doesn’t love this, but if you have sufficient points, just book the standard room reservation with points, call up, and simultaneously cancel the points reservation replacing it with the cert reservation(s). Because you’re talking to an actual human being, amazing things like that are possible. 🙂

    That does it for me. Enjoy your posts, but this one misses the mark and we should all be careful about claiming that people or companies are doing something wrong or underhanded. The reality is, Hilton’s free nights are not your cup of tea because their tech is more like Citi’s than Hyatt’s. Fair enough, but there’s no evidence that Hilton ‘likes to cause pain’ with their certs (in fact they extended most and converted weekend certs to any-night certs to make them easier to use–the exact opposite of causing pain and not something you’d expect if breakage was their goal. Further nothing in your post indicates that they are ‘shady’ in honoring their free night certs. Sean’s experience at Rio–shady. Sean’s experience at Atlantis–shady. This–not shady. You should tone it down a bit.

    • Gus why are these nowhere to be found on your account. Even if they don’t have the IT ability to make them bookable online (shouldn’t be that difficult) why not at least have the info easily findable? It can’t be that hard to add a section under your points info where it shows certificates. The only explanation I can come up with is they don’t care enough to do it or that they don’t want them easily findable and easily bookable.

      And the standard rate for hotels changes often. I have seen “standard rooms” for 67,000 points etc. which is usually not a standard rate. Normally they end on 20K, 40K etc. so you have to call in before you know if it is possible to book it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t but it would save you the phone call if you knew for sure…or if you simply could book it online. But a good point that checking via flexible dates will tell you the full picture.

      My stance is that is not customer friendly and that was the point of the post. If they actually refuse to add the option hoping to cause breakage then it is shady. And that is why I point out both ends of the spectrum. If that is the case wouldn’t you call that shady? The fact of the matter is we don’t know where it falls on the spectrum because we don’t know what they say behind the scenes. But since they don’t change it I have to assume it is because they simply don’t care or because it works in their favor. There is no other way to look at it. That is not customer friendly at best and shady at worst…just as the title says.

    • Gus the simple point is they are way behind their competitors and there is no excuse for this in 2021. Sure we can search our emails and then call but we should be able to just login to our account and book like with their competitors. Is it the end of the world? No, but let’s hope they make them better and easier for customers.

  15. I guess I am lucky never to have had a problem. Have now had roughly 6 HH AX cards between me and my wife. I write everything down and attach to my itenary old school way.

    • They are useful for sure but you shouldn’t have to track them etc. imo. That info should be easy to find in your account.

  16. Totally agree. It’s super painful. I always save these to Dropbox right when I get them along with noting expiration date, etc. It’s the only way. I hope they come up to the 21st century.

  17. I hate it. I was going to use 4 certs to book Grand Wailea, and first time I got around to it the lady told me I could only use 2 certs at a time, which I was pretty sure was wrong. By the time I got around to calling again, availability for one of the nights had dried up. Also, weekend nights being able to be used for any night apparently went away on the early COVID certs, so ended up burning a newer cert on one night.

    Thanks,
    David

    • Ugh that is annoying. I love it when reps just make up things on the spot so they don’t have to do extra work.

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