Your Guide to Earning and Redeeming Hilton Free Night Certificates

You can get a free night certificate through a Hilton credit card.

Elina GellerJune 3, 2020

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The Hilton free weekend night certificate is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a voucher you can use for a free one-night stay at a Hilton property. The only way to get the certificate is to hold an eligible Hilton credit card that either includes the certificate upon approval or provides it after meeting a certain minimum spend. When you use the certificate, you do not have to pay any resort fees or room taxes, and it can be used on any standard double-occupancy room, regardless of how expensive the hotel is.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hilton has initiated a lot of policies to help its loyalists retain elite status and use the perks provided by the cards. The changes also applied to free night certificates:

  • All free night certificates are now valid through either Aug. 31, 2021, or 24 months after issuance (depending on when it was earned).

  • Certificates can be used on any night of the week (not just weekends).

Previously, the free night certificates had to be used within one year from the day they were earned and were only valid on the weekends. These certificates were great before, but with the added flexibility, they are now even better.

With all these positive changes impacting free night certificates, knowing the ins and outs of how the certificates work is more important than ever. In this post, we’ll explain how to get the certificate, how to use it and the best ways to redeem it, whether it's for a one-night stay or as an extra night on a longer trip.

How do I get my Hilton free night certificate?

Hilton has four co-branded credit cards, all through American Express. Three of the cards have an annual fee and one card does not. Only the cards that charge a fee allow you to earn a free night certificate.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card awards the free night certificate after spending $15,000 on the card and must be spent within a calendar year. The current welcome offer on the card is: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

The The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card also awards the free night certificate after spending $15,000 in a calendar year. However, you can earn an additional free night after you spend another $45,000 on the card. While $60,000 is a significant amount to charge on a credit card, some businesses have high expenses, especially around certain periods of the year. If you’re a Hilton loyalist who has $60,000 in business costs, charging those expenses on the card would net you two free nights. The welcome bonus on the The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the only card that includes the free night certificate automatically. Although the card has a hefty $450 annual fee, it offers plenty of credits that can offset it. Of the many credits that the card offers, the more notable ones include:

  • $250 for airline fees.

  • $250 for charges at Hilton resorts (and all restaurants from June 2020 through August 2020).

The card also allows you to earn a second free night certificate after spending $60,000 in a calendar year. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has a welcome offer of 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 in three months. Terms apply.

All of the cards are currently featuring high welcome offers — if you’re a Hilton loyalist and are shopping for a Hilton credit card, these welcome offers could provide enough points for a future vacation.

When do Hilton free night certificates expire?

Previously, all Hilton certificate stays had to be used and completed within one year from the date they were issued. In light of the COVID pandemic, Hilton extended the expiration date on the free night certificates.

Certificate

Unexpired as of March 11, 2020

Earned from March 11, 2020 through April 30, 2020

Earned May 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020

Valid until

Aug. 31, 2021

Aug. 31, 2021

24 months from issue date

The extension of the expiration date is meaningful, especially if you’ve earned a certificate anytime after May 1, 2020. The new 24-month validity represents a year's extension over the regular policy.

In addition, any free night certificates earned through Dec. 31, 2020, can be used on any night of the week rather than only on the weekend. So for the foreseeable future, “free weekend night certificates” are really “free night certificates.” It's nice to see Hilton providing customers with extra flexibility given the uncertainty over when travel will return to normal.

When do I get the free night certificate?

On the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you will get your certificate within eight to 14 weeks of opening the account and eight to 14 weeks of the account anniversary each year.

For the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, the certificate arrives within eight to 12 weeks of meeting the spending threshold.

Where can I use my Hilton free night award?

Hilton has over 6,100 properties, and only a few dozen do not accept free night certificates. These hotels are excluded because they do not offer standard rooms, and the free night certificates are only valid for standard room bookings. These excluded hotels represent less than 1% of all Hilton properties, allowing you plenty of flexibility in where to use your certificates.

How do I redeem my Hilton free night certificate?

To redeem your certificate, you will need to call 800-HHONORS and provide the certificate ID to the customer service representative. If calling from abroad, call the local Hilton reservations department. Before calling, make sure that you see a standard, double occupancy room available at the property you want to stay at. If only premium room types are available, you will not be able to use the certificate.

For example, if you were looking to stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Madrid-Prado, you would only be able to use the certificate for a queen or double guest room. These are the room types designated as Standard Room rewards; Because the king room is listed as a Premium Room reward, it is not eligible for the free night certificate.

How to maximize the certificate

The free night certificate is pretty flexible because the only requirement is that it must be used on a standard room award. You could take advantage of the certificate in a couple of ways: Use it to cover a one-night stay or add it on to a longer reservation.

If you go with the latter option, you could take advantage of another great Hilton perk: You get a fifth night free when you book a four-night stay on points. Any Hilton elite (starting at Silver status) gets a fifth free night on any award stay. Since each of the Hilton cards mentioned above come with Gold or Diamond status, you are automatically able to benefit from this perk.

So, if you tack on the free night certificate, you’ll end up with a six-night trip, of which only four nights were paid with points. Let’s look into the details of this option. We’ll compare the cost of a five-night stay vs. a six-night stay (incorporating the free night certificate) at the Hampton Inn Charlotte-Uptown in August 2020.

The five-night award stay

A standard room award costs 40,000 Hilton points at this property. When booking five award nights, you get the fifth night free — so the entire stay costs 160,000 Hilton points. NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.5 cent per point, making the 160,000 points worth $800. If you were to pay in cash, this stay would set you back $1,248 — on this reservation, you derive a value of $448 in excess of NerdWallet’s $800 valuation.

The six-night award stay (5th Night Free + Certificate)

If you were to attach the free night certificate to this trip and turn it into a six-night stay, you’d get an even better value. For this six-night stay, you’d book a five-night stay (still benefiting from the fifth-night-free perk), pay 160,000 points and use the free night certificate for the last night.

In this example, the free night certificate is worth 32,000 points (an extra free night), which makes the total “cost” of the six-night reservation 192,000 points. NerdWallet values this at $960; by using your points, you’re gaining $611 over the valuation. This example illustrates the value that could be derived from the free night certificate when combined with the fifth-night-free benefit.

Of course, you could also just redeem the certificate on a one-night stay, or even on a two-night stay (one night in cash or points and the other night using the certificate). Each person’s travel needs are different, and the certificate shouldn’t be hoarded for the most optimal redemption. Think of it simply as a great opportunity to get a free night at a Hilton hotel.

Nerd tip: Look for properties where the cash rate is high to get the best value of the certificate on a one-night stay. For five-night stays, look for instances where the hotel is expensive but the number of points required is low.

The bottom line

The free night certificate is an excellent annual perk of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card if you can meet the minimum spend. Regardless of how you use your free night award, Hilton’s large portfolio of properties combined with the extended expiration dates of the certificates could present a lot of great vacation options.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. This card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

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