Should We Be Game Planning Our Free Night Cert Earning Better?

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Game Planning Our Free Night Cert

Should We Be Game Planning Our Free Night Cert Earning Better?

I love myself some free night certs.  You have heard me talk about the free night certificates you can earn with the World of Hyatt card and American Express Surpass card after reaching $15K in spend.  They are two of the better everyday cards out there because of it.  With the pandemic shutting down travel we are now sitting on quite a few.  And we will most likely continue to earn them. This whole fiasco has me wondering if we should be game planning our free night cert earning better though?  In the past it was earn them and burn them but should this experience open us up to a better way?

Game Planning Our Free Night Cert

Simplicity Has Always Been My Best Policy

I like to keep things simple whenever I can.  Work smarter, not harder is a life motto I try to adhere too.  And earning and burning free night certs quickly has always been the easiest course of action for me.  When January 1st hits I start working on my Surpass spend because it goes by calendar year.  Then when my World of Hyatt annual fees post for mine and my wife’s card I start working on them.  I am even willing to pay the annual fee for the privilege even if I plan on canceling it a few months later.

The way the cards are spaced out I am able to tackle one at a time. Surpass at the beginning of the year, my wife’s Hyatt card’s anniversary is early summer and mine is late summer.  This keeps my mental bandwidth focused on other things.  I simply earn one and then try to use it fairly quickly, and then move onto the next card.  This system lets me keep things in an easy order and make sure opportunities are not lost.  There is no forgetting to finish off the spend in time or scrambling to get it done later in the year.  But with everything going on I wonder if this is no longer the optimal way.

Is There A Better Way?

I have never had an issue using free night certificates, but I know others have.  I will sometimes even take a less than ideal redemption to ensure they are used.  Like a 12,000 point a night Hyatt stay or a 60,000 point Hilton stay. I do that because the certificate is only worth something when you actually use it.  Most of the time I can max them out but if I know I won’t be heading anywhere to do that anytime soon I will lower the bar some.  Free night certificates can be slippery and will slide through the cracks if you are not on your game, especially Hilton’s.  Can we add these to the accounts already Hilton and allow online bookings?  Instead of your archaic email and call in system!

Even though this all still remains true, free night certificates may not be as easily used in the short term.  That is mainly because travel is not as easy or plentiful in the short term.  This all has me questioning my approach.  Should I change gears and plan out when I earn the free night certs? Would that suite me better than simply earning them as quickly as possible and moving onto the next one?

Game Planning Our Free Night Cert

My Potential New Approach

I am playing around with 2 World of Hyatt cards and one Hilton Surpass card.  If I really want to maximize these out should I complete most of the spend, but not all, until it is shortly before I plan to use them?  Let’s say I spend $14,800 etc. on the Hilton Surpass card but leave the remaining $200 of spend for December.  That would ensure I get as long as possible to use it. And with Hilton’s recent changes that would be 24 months.

I could then do a similar thing for the World of Hyatt cards.  Wait until a few weeks before the annual fee is due and my cardmember year is complete.

This all assumes I don’t have a known need for them.  And with the stockpile I already have, even if I travel sooner than expected, I have those to fall back on.  However, if I knew I would need to book something I would earn them a month or two before I plan to book since they can take a little while to hit your account.

Final Thoughts

Has anyone else been thinking about this?  About timing your free night certificate earning to maximize the life of it?  It is kind of like what we do with the Southwest cards for the companion pass at the end of each year. There is risk involved for sure that you forget to complete the spend later in the year.  Be sure to set calendar alerts etc. if you go this route.

I have unfortunately earned the Hilton Surpass free night already because of the 12X grocery earning. Since it is good for 2 years I wasn’t worried about this one as much.  But I think I may plan this out on the World of Hyatt free nights.  I am already sitting on 4 certs with Hyatt and spacing out the two I plan on earning wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Share your thoughts below.

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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  1. We were timing our spending to the end of the credit card year for Hyatt, which just expired. So now here we are with 2 additional free nights expiring in 2021, along with last years’ multiple free nights, upgrades, etc., and other perks, which I am still afraid we won’t be using.

    Forgive me, all you brave road warriors, but we are currently afraid to travel. Do you think Hyatt might offer us points in lieu of these free nights?

    • @Karen – I have seen it in a few places that they are willing you give 10,000 points for a night cert. Worth a call. I don’t know if the expiration date is a factor since you have a while.

      • Thanks, Carl, I think I will ask for those points, maybe awhile after the points are near expiration. I appreciate your comments.

        • I do believe that it has to have expired for them to offer anything. I would hope by mid 2021 we are all able to use them easily 🙂

  2. I got a Hilton weekend cert when I upgraded to the Aspire card in November. Then another for the anniversary in April. With the extended expiration I may wait it out for the next anniversary night cert. Then I can use all three in one trip. I prefer stays where I can settle in for a bit.

    I am one of those that sometimes have trouble using certs. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of one night stands (except when earning bonus points based on stays).

  3. Although I believe that we have until 12/31 to complete Surpass spend for the 15k cert, I’m going to complete it in the Fall because I want the certificate to “issue” in 2020. Hilton 15K certificates ‘issued’ in 2020 are good any day of the week, not just weekends. Not sure what the situation will be for a certificate that arrives in January/February of 2021.

    • That is a good point Gus. Mine posted a few days after the spending was met but there is no guarantee that happens so giving it a month or two isn’t a bad idea.

  4. I have free nights w Hilton, Marriott and IHG due to credit cards. Personally I am not worrying too much about timing since I don’t try to maicomaize them (Marriott is most limited) and use them around my other plans. For example, I go to a casino in N.C. and get comps for Sun-Thurs nights. However, I prefer to go Saturday. There is a Fairfield Inn and Holiday Inn Express across the street so that is the IHG and Marriott certificates. Find a place to use the Hilton one around other travel. All are good for at least 12 months (extended now) so no problem for me finding a time to use them.


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