Hello, My Name Is Benjy, And I Have a Hotel Free Night Certificate Problem

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Hotel Free Night Certificates

Hotel Free Night Certificates – The Prison of Having Too Many

In a vacuum, I love hotel free night certificates (FNC’s).  Who wouldn’t?  If a bank wants to hand me a free night as part of a welcome offer or ongoing benefit, I’ll take it.  While we’ve traveled less the last few years, we’ve still used all of our time-limited FNC’s without much effort.  Due to the pandemic, though, yesterday’s task has turned into today’s prison.  I’m now in a travel position I despise – these certificates may control (to an extent) my future travel behavior.  Instead of using them to complement my travel goals, they could become the primary reason why, where, and how I travel.  I know having too many FNC’s is a good problem, and I’m definitely not complaining about my predicament here.  Rather, I’m coming clean with this hoard now in the hopes of finding a path forward before it’s too late.

Hilton

Let’s start with my favorite hotel chain and their loyalty program.  My wife and I currently have four Hilton free night certificates accumulated from my previous Aspire card and hitting 15k big spend bonuses for additional free nights on Surpass cards.  Two expire on 31 August 2021, and the other two expire in mid 2022.  Hilton has been generous with extending these FNC’s due to the pandemic.  Hilton allowing these FNC’s to be used any night of the week, rather than just the weekend, is a classy move, also.

Regardless, we just aren’t staying in hotels right now, and those FNC’s keep staring back at me.  I could use these locally, since we have plenty of great properties around.  But I’m depending on another generous move by Hilton to kick the expiration dates back further so that we can use them on some version of a normal trip out of town.

Hotel Free Night Certificates

Radisson

These are by far the trickiest free nights on this list.  We have six, yes, six Radisson Rewards E-Certs that expire on 30 June 2021.  We earned these thanks to big spend bonuses my wife and I each met in 2019 with the Radisson Rewards Visa.  Cardholders earn one free night good for any domestic property with every $10k of spend, up to 3 nights annually.  These ones have been growing mold in our Radisson Rewards accounts for about a year.  We certainly won’t have the problem of compiling any more of these E-Certs, since US Bank closed all of our accounts early last year.  Radisson has extended these certificates, but they haven’t been as generous as other programs.  The extensions have come much closer to the E-Cert expirations, and they have only extended them for a few months at a time – much less than with Hilton or IHG.

It’s cliche in our community to say that Radisson properties overseas are much better than domestic options, but it’s certainly true.  This conundrum is probably the biggest FNC challenge for us; I’ll devote full attention to it in a future article.

Hotel Free Night Certificates

IHG

We have four IHG FNC’s sitting around, all thanks to my wife and I each holding the legacy IHG Select card.  We’ve held these cards for years, don’t spend on them, and pay the $49 annual fees simply for the free nights.  In normal times, we would easily consume these FNC’s at Holiday Inn Express properties – almost as easily as I consume their cinnamon rolls.  IHG has been helpful in extending these; two expire on 31 Aug 2021, and the other two expire on 31 Dec 2021.  I’m confident we’ll get these used up even without another extension, since we have plenty of interesting local options available.

Wyndham

Okay, okay, these aren’t free nights.  But, egads, sometimes these points feel like they’re tougher to use than FNC’s.  One major reason is probably the worst hotel points expiration policy out there, compliments of Wyndham Rewards.  How bad is it?  Wyndham points expire 48 months from when they were earned.  Ugh.  I can easily manage keeping track of an FNC expiration date.  But an easy way of keeping straight which points were earned when, and therefore when they expire, seems impractical.  My shorthand way of keeping track of them is knowing I wiped out our points balances a few years ago, so even the oldest points in our current balances won’t expire for a while.  But geez, I think way more about Wyndham than I should, primarily due to their points expiration policy.

My Path Forward with Hotel Free Night Certificates

In total, we’re sitting on 14 FNC’s.  The good news is that it could be much worse.  We no longer hold Hyatt cards and have no FNC’s to keep track of there.  We swore off Marriott years ago, and I’m happy to not have them on my mind.  But 14 FNC’s and some quickly-aging Wyndham points is a big enough problem.

I’m first planning to address the Radisson FNC’s, since we will have the toughest time using those.  I’m also making an educated guess that they will probably end up with the closest-in expiration dates.  Concurrently, I’m going to refresh my Wyndham situation and determine a better option for easily tracking and consuming those points.

Even if IHG doesn’t extend, we’ll enjoy one or two short stays locally to use those nights.  We already have properties identified for those.  I’m paying most attention to how Hilton decides to extend (or not) their FNC expiration dates.  In normal times, I’d be planning a long, lucrative stay incorporating those FNC’s, probably combined with other nights paid with points.  I’m very hopeful Hilton will be as prompt and generous with their policies in the future as they have in the past.

Hotel Free Night Certificates – Conclusion

I know I’m not alone here with this FNC headache.  But I bet many of you have your situation more squared away than mine.  Yes, the pandemic is forcing this issue, but I’m glad I’ll be able to apply this mental exercise to FNC’s even in normal times.  In a positive sense, I’m glad that these FNC’s pull me back to the “travel” part of “travel rewards” after I go way down unrelated rewards rabbit holes.  And I’ll always remember that an FNC is a great benefit, even as it simultaneously torments me.  What does your FNC situation look like?  Do you have plans for all of yours?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence. An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their travel goals, Disney-related and otherwise.

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32 COMMENTS

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting article. Some of these credit card and member promos are just too good to pass up and therefore we end up with a lot of points and free nights while travel is restricted. We have 25 fnc we are working on using. All earned without MS. Some are good into 2022 so we are waiting on those. Some are being used on road trips around the state visiting outdoor destinations we have not spent much time in previously, and others are aspirational properties for later this year. Hyatt and Hilton have been the easiest to earn and those have great potential. Marriott, IHG and Radisson are allowing us to see more of the great state we live in. Welcome to the club Benjy!

  2. Thanks for the reminder to inventory my certificates. I neglected to update my list with this year’s IHG award. I am grateful, before I flew home from my extended trip, I decided to change hotels each night in Singapore to start using up my free night certificates last year. I was only able to use two when I had to race home before the border closed.

    It is always a toss-up to use them up versus potentially optimizing them later in the year.

  3. Using five Hyatt fnc in Tokyo and three Hilton fnc at Osaka Conrad in October. Using two ihg fnc in Maine in May. Using JetBlue fnc deal in June in DC. Still have a Marriott fnc and some more ihg fnc to use. May end up offering to adult children to use. Wish ihg and Marriott would extend to end of the year. Who ever thought we’d have to struggle to use them up. Just another by product of a weird year and first world problems.

  4. Between Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG, my wife and I are sitting on 12 nights. I’m not concerned with the price of a room vs. using a FNC. My goal is to use them all before they expire. For us, redemptions should start in a couple of weeks.

    • Bill,

      I think you nailed it. In order to use all my FNC’s this year, I’ll have to give up the “high value” part of the redemption for the sake of using them all.

  5. Radisson free nights are the hardest to use. Call it bad luck, but the last several times I’ve looked up points rooms with several Radisson properties, there were no point options, just cash. 30 days out, 6 months out, didn’t matter. I’d like to think this is not intentional. The fact that you can’t use these out of the U.S. is the dumbest rule that really devalues their free nights.

    • Frank,
      Radisson’s a wacky one, to be sure. I suspect that I’ll just be glad to get these used, even if just for a pedestrian Country Inn stay.

  6. I have about 20 FNCs, but I’m like the person who has the 365-day weekend each year. My wife and I are getting back to travel soon and many of the FNC’s are already booked. With all the perks, we travel six months a year a few weeks at a time. We saved for retirement, but these perks have not made a dent into our investments. So save while you’re working and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime retirement window.

  7. I red on Flyertalk that moving Wyndham points (30K/year max) to Caesars and move them back to Wyndham later will extend the 18 month and 4 year expiration dates.

  8. I have a far worse P&M problem – using a FNC when current discounted points/rates are so much cheaper! For ex, use the 50k/35 Bonvoy Brilliant/Biz cert or roll with 45k/27k from my acct? Since redemptions bound to go up before August/EOY & while Marriott is discounting. My conclusion: if you find a solid property redemption, go for it. Gonna be dog-eat-dog out there later this yr trying to redeem them with everyone else (& their FNCs) now on the sidelines for the same reasons.

    • Pam,
      Good thoughts. I can withstand a bit of gradual point devaluation if I’m alternatively able to use the FNC’s, which will immediately devalue to zero if I don’t use them.

    • Brett W,

      I’ve briefly pondered this, as well. But ultimately, $49 for an IHG free night (even in limited categories) is a no-brainer us, though.

      • I’ve noticed some airfares and hotel rates for later this year have increased noticeably in recent weeks. With all your FNC’s, hopefully you’re planning and making at least some bookings with your certificates. (For example, book the Hilton FNCs as if they will not be extended.) You can always cancel and re-arrange them later as the situation allows.

  9. Used two Hyatt FNC’s this past (President’s Day) weekend, and have plans to use two Hilton FNC’s for the July 4th weekend at a nearby Conrad. Basically, look for 3-day holiday weekends to use them (in addition to any planned trips later in this year).

    • Quo Vadis,

      Nice! As far as my situation, I really have no excuses, since I have an annual 365-day weekend. 😉

  10. Just plan a weekend road trip of a couple of hours to get away for beach, golf, casino, etc.

    Maybe I’m the exception but have traveled a pretty good bit domestically since June when most lock downs ended. Only 3 trips w flights (but another this coming Wednesday) but 10-12 road trips. I get comped at casinos but use free nights around that or for golf trips.

    Distance, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer and you should be fine. BTW used a Hilton free night certificate for the Foundry in Asheville (Curio Collection) Friday night and recommend it highly.

  11. Hi Benjy and welcome to our group. My name is Dan and I have an Alaska Companion Certificate problem. I have 4 of these a year that I never can seem to use. I was preparing to use one recently only to find out the BoGo deal was better for my needs. They just sit there and Award Wallet reminds me of pending expirations like a monkey on my back.
    Seriously I can relate to the Radisson and IHG cert problem. The last couple IHG certs I burned I ended up using at a 10k a night HIX just to be able to get some value out of them.
    Oh and don’t feel bad about the US Bank shutdown. Old school banks do weird stuff. I had my oldest credit card account shutdown by Commerce Bank last year. My wife and I had that card since the early 1990’s with never a late payment. I admit I hadn’t been using the card much in recent years but they just shut it down. I called to complain and pushed it up the chain until they stopped responding so I let it go. I will never likely do business with them again due to being treated badly.

    • Dan,

      Your Alaska predicament is just one of the reasons I haven’t yet pursued those types of cards offering companion certificates. I think those would be even tougher for me to consume than FNC’s.

  12. Yes! I am with you! It seems like a silly thing to complain about – I think I have twelve to use. Not a ton of MS for them but still they aren’t aligning with my plans this year so I need to decide if I will plan some trips for the sole purpose of using them.

  13. Have had no issues using FNCs, used 4 in 2020 with 4 more to go in 2021. I encourage taking trips to use them, mini-vacations. We’ve used them in NC, VA, and upstate NY locations several times, every experience was great – in fact, I would say that it’s easier to deal with a hotel during Covid times given room availability, plenty of parking, no lines/wait, etc. As to the personal problem, it might hurt to not use 14 certificates in the most ideal manner, but your story implies a good bit of MS was used to earn them, thus it’s all part of the hobby, you win some, you lose some, and likely over all time, you’re far ahead. Good reminder post for folks to pay attention.

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