Don’t Fall Into The Free Night Certificate Fuzzy Math Trap!
That fuzzy math, it gets you every single time. I just ran into a situation of fuzzy math with a buddy when dealing with free night certificates. I talked about something similar with travel eraser points in the past but I have noticed it, and even fallen victim to it, when dealing with hotel free night certs as well. I’ll give you a run down of what happened and why we need to avoid this pitfall.
Points > Free Night Certificates
Before we get into our case of fuzzy math we should talk about why points are better than free night certificates. Because of this simple fact I am in the boat of burning my certificates as quickly as possible.
Points > Certificates Because Certs have more stringent requirements, such as:
- Some certificates only work on certain days etc.
- They only work when standard room award space is available.
- You could use points to book a higher category room if you really needed to stay at that hotel.
- Free night certificates have a shorter shelf life and often can not be extended.
- Sometimes a program will offer some points after expiration (Hyatt) or extend them for you if you ask enough (Marriott) but they are more stringent than points overall. It is fairly easy to extend the life of your points balances. That is not always the case with certs.
- They can not be combined with points for offers like 5th night free stays with Hilton or Marriott.
- You can not upgrade them to larger rooms or suites with points.
- Lastly, the certificates are best used for expensive properties and you are not able to maximize their value otherwise.
- A category 7 cert can get you a 30,000 point room with Hyatt but 30,000 World of Hyatt points could get you up to 6 nights though at a category 1 hotel. Points are more versatile.
Fighting Against Fuzzy Math
Now that we have established why points are better than free night certificates let’s fight that fuzzy math. I think people grow this unnatural attachment to their free certificates and hoard them for aspirational properties. We, of course, want to get the maximum value possible out of them, and there is no shame in that. It just isn’t always possible. People also tend to lock these mentally into favorite locations, hotels or destinations they normally wouldn’t want to blow points at. Think Hawaii or Paris etc. where hotel award stays get super pricey.
Good Is Often Good Enough
But you also have to remember that certificates have a shorter shelf life and using them when you can is better than waiting for your optimal trip that may never come. I can’t tell you how many times have I have seen people post in the Facebook Group that they are doing a staycation to burn a cert before it expires. They waited for optimal instead of pretty good and got stuck with below average because of it.
Maybe they had a stay at a 70K Hilton hotel or 25,000 Hyatt hotel earlier in the year they could have used that cert at but wanted to max it out. Well, now they are hanging out 30 minutes from home because of that need to max it out. Unless you have sure travel plans use it when it is good enough because you never know if you will actually use it in the future.
Leaping Over Those Mental Hurdles
Back to my buddy, he was planning a future trip and had a hotel stay at a higher end Hilton hotel. There was a 95K a night hotel right near a 60K a night hotel and he was trying to decide between the two. He asked if I thought it was worth spending the extra 35K or not to move to the better hotel. I said go for it and burn those certs you are sitting on while you can. He responded, I save my certs for Hawaii. Well, that is great if you have a Hawaii trip planned already but a maybe Hawaii trip before the end of the year is not as good as the here and now.
That is the mental block right there. Even though it is a max redemption at 95K night it would be going against his norm of using them in Hawaii. You could make the argument that it is really only getting him 60K in value (the lesser option available) if you want as well. Even at 60K, it is a worthwhile redemption if you don’t have for sure plans to use the certificates before they expire. Using the cert would save him 60K in Hilton points but also gets him an upgrade to a better hotel with bigger rooms etc. so it is 60K+ at worst. That is better than trying to burn it in December because you really wanted to use it somewhere else.
Free Night Certificate Fuzzy Math – Final Thoughts
I think avoiding the hotel free night certificate fuzzy math is more important now than ever. Partly because we are sitting on heaps of them and partly because travel is so up in the air these days. In the old times, way way back in 2019, we could probably throw together a cool / quick trip just to burn these things at the end of the year. That is not guaranteed these days so don’t let great be the enemy of good. We don’t have to maximize every. single. thing. Sometimes good really is simply good enough.