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INSIDER SECRET: You can get 25% more value from certain hotel points when using them strategically as part of a “5th night free” award booking! I’ll explain.
Did you know that some hotel chains give you free nights on award stays? For example, some rewards programs offer a fifth night free on hotel award reservations!
If you plan to stay in a single hotel for five nights or more, it makes sense to be strategic about how to book your stay. And with some hotel chains generously offering additional free nights on award stays, the value of your points increases.
In this post, I’ll give you a brief overview of which hotel chains give you free nights – and how to book them!
Which Hotels Give Free Award Nights?
Free hotel nights on award stays are limited to just Hilton, IHG, and Marriott (including Ritz Carlton and all former Starwood hotels!).
Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, and Radisson Rewards do NOT offer free nights on award stays. So if you’re trying to book a four or five night stay, it makes sense to search for Hilton, IHG, and Marriott hotels first!
I’ll go over the details of this fantastic benefit for each program. And I’ll also show you some of the main differences and areas where each program is better. Overall, getting a free night is a great perk that can add up to big savings!
Hilton offers a generous 5th night free on award stays for any Hilton Honors members who have elite status. Hilton Honors has Silver, Gold, and Diamond elite tiers, but you’ll get the 5th night free with even the lowest level of status.
You can use the benefit an unlimited number of times, but you can’t get more than four free nights at once (so 20 nights is the maximum for each stay). So if you happen to be staying longer than 20 nights (wowsa!), book at least one paid night between your 40 award nights to get the maximum number of free night awards.
Remember, this only applies to stays with 5+ consecutive nights within the same Standard Room Reward stay at the same hotel, up to 20 nights, when confirmed at time of booking.
The 5th night free benefit can only be used on “standard” level room award nights. When searching for award nights, look for “Standard Room Reward” to know that your booking will be eligible for the fifth night free!
For example, if you want to book 5 nights that cost 80,000 Hilton points each, like at the luxurious (and dreamy, gorgeous, irreplaceable) Conrad Bora Bora, you’ll pay 320,000 Hilton points – the price for just 4 nights. I still can’t get over that place. Paradise!
The discount will be automatically applied when booking as long as you are logged into your Hilton Honors account (with elite status). This is especially helpful because you don’t have to wait for a points rebate—you get to save the points upfront! The breakdown per night might not be clearly displayed, but you can see below that the hotel is only charging 320,000 points total (instead of the 400,000 required for non-elite members).
The 5th night free benefit is calculated as an average across all the award nights you want to book.
For example, if your first three nights are 20,000 points each and the last two nights are 30,000 points each, that’s a total of 120,000 points for your five night stay. The price per night will be averaged out to 24,000 points, so your 5 night reservation will cost 96,000 points (as a result of getting one free night worth 24,000 points). In general, the standard number of points will be consistent, so this might not be too much of an issue.
Remember, you’ll get automatic Hilton status with any number of Hilton credit cards like, the Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, or the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. Small business owners can also quickly acquire Hilton Honors status with the The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.
Any of these cards makes you eligible for the 5th night free perk!
Marriott also offers 5th night free on award stays. Anyone can book them, and you don’t need to hold any elite status. Marriott points are easier than ever to acquire, with huge welcome bonuses and ongoing card benefits like on the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card, which currently comes with 50,000 Marriott points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
The 5th night free benefit works on any standard room. The room you want to book must be available with points for all 5 nights, and they must all be the same amount of points. But if your stay is MORE than 5 nights, you can mix and match paid nights and award nights to still get your fifth night booking for free!
This means that the Marriott benefit is even more flexible than Hilton’s, because you can book a 7-night stay, for example, and only pay for the cheapest two nights with cash! That’s a fantastic deal because nightly rates can fluctuate significantly, leading to big savings!
The Marriott.com website doesn’t mention any restrictions on fifth night free awards, so there should be no limit to how many times you can utilize this benefit. So on a 10-Night Award Stay at a Marriott Hotel, both the 5th and 10th nights are free! For folks with a stash of Marriott points, that can be big time savings, and certainly increase the value of your Marriott Bonvoy points.
IHG isn’t as generous as the other two hotel chains, but they’re still better than most! Their free night is card-specific.
Folks who have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card will receive a 4th night free on award stays. So when you book an award stay of 4+ nights, you’ll get the 4th award night free! You don’t need to pay upfront for the 4th night, so any award stay lasting 4+ days will only cost you the points for 3 nights.
This is an awesome perk that helps your points stretch even further. And because IHG award nights start at just 10,000 IHG points per night, you can stay 4 nights for as little as 30,000 points at some hotels.
It stinks that you need a card to receive this benefit. but getting the 4th night free will be more valuable to many folks than the 5th night free. Especially if you’re not the kind of traveler that stays in one place too long!
You need elite status to take advantage of Hilton’s 5th night free offering, but anyone can get their 5th night free when booking with Marriott.
Do you typically stay in hotels long enough to get value from a 4th or 5th night free perk? Let me know in the comments. And for more juicy tips and scheme-y tricks, sign up for our once daily newsletter!