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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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