How to Earn and Redeem Hilton Free Night Certificates

You can earn an annual free night certificate (or sometimes two) through a Hilton credit card.
Sally French
Elina Geller
By Elina Geller and  Sally French 
Edited by Meg Lee

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The Hilton free night certificate is exactly what it sounds like: a voucher you can use for a free one-night stay at a Hilton property. And it’s easily one of the best perks offered on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Terms apply.

There are few restrictions around what properties you can redeem your certificate at and what days you can redeem them. As long as a standard room is available for a weekend night at most of Hilton’s 6,400-plus hotels, you can use your certificate to book it.

You can get yourself a free night at a hotel you could only dream of staying in. Relax in the hilltop spa at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, or relish the barefoot elegance of the Boca Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort — both are properties where room rates easily exceed $1,000 per night. Alas, those rooms don’t have to be a dream if you hold one of these Hilton certificates.

How to earn a Hilton free night certificate

You typically earn Hilton free night certificates through holding certain Hilton-branded credit cards.

There are four Hilton-branded credit cards out there, all of which are offered through American Express. Three of the four have an annual fee — and in exchange, one of the card benefits is the ability to earn a free night certificate.

Free night certificate

Opportunity to earn a second free night certificate each calendar year

Automatic elite status

N/A.

N/A.

Silver.

Earn a free night reward after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.

N/A.

Gold.

Earn a free night reward after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.

Earn a second night reward after you spend an additional $45,000 on eligible purchases on your card in the same calendar year.

Gold.

Receive one free night reward with your card and every year after renewal.

Earn a second reward night after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.

Diamond.

Terms apply.

Hilton free night certificate benefits

You can stay almost anywhere

The Hilton free night certificate is one of the best deals in travel — and here’s why: You can use it at nearly any Hilton hotel — no matter how high the cash rate is.

Bora Bora, Boca Raton, Bali. Wherever you want to go, you can stay there for free as long as there’s an eligible Hilton hotel there and there are standard rooms available.

It's potentially much more valuable than the free night certificates offered to customers of other hotel brands, which often issue free night certificates good only at mid- or lower-tier hotels.

For the frugal traveler who doesn’t usually spend money on fancy hotels, the Hilton free night certificate affords an opportunity to splurge — without actually paying anything. Treat yourself to a fancy room, even if you normally wouldn’t.

And for travelers who stay at high-end Hiltons anyway, you save a chunk of money on rooms you’re paying for already.

Resort fees and taxes are covered, too

Sometimes you think you got a good deal on a hotel room, only to find it’s nearly twice as much as you thought once you factor in taxes and those ugly resort fees.

Luckily, this certificate applies to the room rate and tax. Hilton also doesn't charge resort fees on reward stays for members (which you are if you have one of these certificates).

Decently long expiration window

The Hilton free night certificate expiration window is fairly long. Generally, Hilton free night certificate stays typically must be used and completed within one year from the date they were issued.

In normal years, the exact expiration date that you need to complete your stay is listed on your email certificate.

But because the pandemic put a pause on travel for many people, most major hotels have adjusted expiration dates (in consumers' favor!) on elite status, hotel points and other awards like free night certificates awards. And Hilton has been particularly generous in the way it extended Hilton free night certificate expiration dates in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Certificates issued through June 30, 2020, will expire July 1, 2022.

  • Certificates issued between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, expire 24 months from their date of issuance.

  • Certificates issued between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021, will expire Dec. 31, 2022.

  • Certificates issued between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022, will expire 12 months from the date of issuance.

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

These certificates were great before, but with the added flexibility, they are now even better.

Some challenges with the Hilton free night certificate

There's still a catch — to some extent — as redeeming your free night certificate can be fairly annoying. Here are the biggest challenges of the Hilton free night certificates that you should know about:

You have to redeem it over the phone

This is the part where Hilton is still in the Dark Ages; you can’t redeem your certificate for an online booking. You need to call on the phone and talk to a real customer service rep. For the phone-averse, that’s a hurdle. For everyone else who prefers booking online, its mildly annoying.

To redeem, call 1-800-446-6677 and provide the certificate ID to the customer service representative to make your booking.

You can’t gift it

While you can pool Hilton points to help your friends rack up free stays faster, this is one benefit you can’t share. Hilton reward certificates are not transferable and may be used only by the individual named on the reward.

It might be tough to find availability

Hotel reward nights apply to standard rooms only. Sometimes the standard room is sold out, but the average traveler might not even notice as they book the High Floor room that’s $20 more. Even if it’s a slight price difference, you won’t be able to use the certificate to book hotels where the standard room is sold out. Book well in advance to avoid that happening to you.

Exclusion list

The Hilton free night certificate exclusion list contains only a few dozen hotels out of the many thousands in the Hilton portfolio. If you’d like to use your certificate at a hotel that’s on the list, you’d be out of luck.

Where to find your Hilton free night certificate

To see if you have any available free night certificates, log in to your account on the Hilton website. The main page, select the “Profile” option from the menu bar at the top. Scroll down, and you’ll see a section that lists any available free night rewards and — if applicable — rewards to an upcoming stay.

You can also view previously used rewards from up to 12 months prior.

What a previously used certificate looks like in a Hilton account.

The best ways to maximize your Hilton free night award

The free night certificate is pretty flexible. Really, the only requirement is that it must be used on a standard room award that hasn’t already been booked out. In most cases, it can only be used on weekends (defined as a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night), though Hilton has eased that restriction since COVID-19 and through at least Dec. 31, 2022, the certificate can be used any night.

1. Stack it on top of your fifth night free benefit for two nights free

The fifth free night benefit means that any Hilton elite (starting at Silver status) who books a five night award stay will get the fifth night free. This perk is great because it allows you to stay five nights for the price of four. Since each of the Hilton cards that allow you to earn a free night certificate come with Gold or Diamond status, you automatically benefit from this perk.

By adding this certificate to such a reservation, you’ll end up with a six-night trip, of which only four nights are paid with points.

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection by Hilton. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

2. Save the certificate for locations where weekends are pricier than weeknights

In some cities, weekends are cheaper than weekdays, and vice versa. Weeknights tend to be pricier in cities that cater to business travelers, while weekends are pricier in cities that draw long-weekenders.

If you’re planning a road trip around the Southwestern U.S., the frugal traveler might time their stop in Vegas on a weekday to save money — even if weekends are more fun. Now that you have the certificate, use it on a weekend at the newly reopened Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, and you technically get more value out of the certificate (given that weekend nights are almost always pricier than weeknights).

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa’s breakfast spread. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

3. Pair it with other Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card benefits

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with a giant list of benefits. And often the higher-end the hotel, the better those benefits turn out to be. Those include perks like a $250 airline incidental credit, $250 resort statement credit, $100 property credit at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels, a daily food and beverage credit and executive lounge access, where available. Terms apply.

And if you’re staying at a Hilton resort, you could also take a chunk out of a two-night stay by using your free night certificate for the first night, and the $250 resort credit to pay part of the cash rate on the second night. Or, if you’re staying just one night, put the credit toward a dinner at the hotel restaurant or a spa treatment.

4. Treat yourself to a night at an uber-luxurious hotel

Whether you redeem it at the casual Homewood Suites by Hilton or the classy Conrad Hotels & Resorts — it’s still the same certificate. You’ll likely get way more value out of the latter. Plus, if you’re staying at the Waldorf or a Conrad, you get an additional $100 property credit to use during your stay.

Here are three of the most luxurious Hilton hotels out there, and here are their prices as of June 2022 for stays in the fall:

Conrad New York Midtown: $605. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Maui, Hawaii: $1,161. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, California: $1,124. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

These prices are for standard rooms and they are sky high. However, with your Hilton free night certificate, you can get that night free of charge as long as a standard room is available.

Final thoughts on Hilton free night certificates

Your Hilton free night certificate is a brilliant way to be able to stay at hotels that you might otherwise not have been able to afford. Treat yourself with a stay at a fancy hotel. Or, for the more prudent travelers, you might find it just as valuable to redeem at the local Hilton Garden Inn the night of your friend’s wedding to help take the sting out of an otherwise costly trip.

Don’t hoard it in hopes that you’ll find the most optimal redemption — it could end up expiring before you get a chance to use it. But if you have a hotel in mind that’s out of your budget, you’ve got yourself a golden opportunity to spend the night with your free night certificate from Hilton.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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