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Hilton Honors has undergone big changes in the last few years, adding new program features and cementing its relationship with Amex with the launch of four co-brand credit cards. The cards all offer elite status which opens up Hilton's 5th-night free benefit, and three of the four cards allow cardholders to score one or more free nights. Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.
With that in mind, we thought it was time to share some tips for redeeming Hilton Honors free weekend night certificates and add a quick rundown on the 5th night free offered on Hilton points redemptions.
These are both topics we’ve received questions on recently and wanted to clarify for readers.
Weekend free night certificates are offered on all three Hilton co-brand cards that charge an annual fee. The premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card scores a weekend free night certificate just for holding the card, while all three cards offer one or more free nights when you reach spending tiers.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card — Access to 5th-night free benefit
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card — Access to 5th night free + 1x weekend free night after $15K spend
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — Access to 5th night free + 1x weekend free night when you receive the card and another weekend free night after $60K spend
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card — Access to 5th night free + 1x weekend free night after $15K spend and another weekend free night after $60K spend
That's a lot of free Hilton nights on the table, and that's before taking into account the points you'll earn from welcome offers and spending on each card.
Making the Most of Hilton Honors 5th Night Free Benefit
To access the 5th night free on rewards stays you need to have elite status with Hilton Honors. Fortunately, any status from Silver up will do, and Hilton Honors is one of the easiest hotel rewards programs in which to get and maintain elite status. Any of the four cards mentioned above offer complimentary elite status, with even the Hilton Amex providing Silver Status.
While a traditional 5th-night free benefit allows you to pay the full award rate for 4 nights and receive the 5th night on the house, Hilton has broken the mold and opted for an ‘averaged award cost’ system. How does it work?
Rather than providing the 5th night free, Hilton averages the nightly value of the stay across all nights of any award stay over 5 nights, then deducts the cost of one night from the stay. You can see the example courtesy of the Hilton Honors website below.
The 5th-night free benefit is only valid on Standard Room Rewards, booked directly with Hilton for 5+ consecutive nights at the same property. The 5th night free doesn’t apply on paid stays, points and money rewards, premium rooms or upgrades, or reward certificate stays, although this last rule doesn't appear to be enforced which we’ll expand on below. You can claim this benefit as many times as you like annually, but no more than four free nights can be claimed in one stay of up to 20 nights.
As the image above shows, if you run into Hilton’s new dynamic award pricing, and your booking spans more than one rewards rate, Hilton automatically averages out the cost of all nights, returning an average nightly cost, and then deducting the cost of one night from the total.
For example, booking a six-night stay where the first three nights are 50,000 points per night, but the last three nights are just 30,000 points per night, will work like this:
- 50K + 50K + 50K + 30K + 30K + 30K = 240,000 points
- 240,000 / 6 = 40,000 points per night
- 240,000 – 40,000 = 200,000
- Total cost: 200,000 points
Redeeming Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificates
Hilton free weekend night certificates are valid on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights at almost any Hilton property. The free weekend night exclusions are listed on Hilton’s website. Hilton free weekend night certificates need to be used within 12 months of being issued, not just booked, but the stay completed in that timeframe.
Hilton made a number of big changes to its Honors program earlier in the year which included a name change, abolishing award categories, completing the transition to dynamic award pricing, adding the points & cash slider, and adding the ability to pool points with up to 10 other members.
With so many changes afoot, we jumped on the phone with Hilton to answer a few questions we’ve received about free weekend night certificates.
Can I transfer my free night certificates into another person's name?
No, Hilton confirmed you cannot transfer free night certificates into anyone else’s name. You can, however, redeem them under another person’s name. More on that below.
What about using Hilton's new points pooling feature to pool free weekend night certificates?
No, the points pooling feature applies strictly to Hilton Honors points, and you cannot pool Hilton free weekend night certificates.
If my wife and I both have Hilton free night certificates, can we combine them into a single booking? Or do we need to book separately?
Yes, you can combine free night certificates from different accounts into a single booking, but the person redeeming each free night certificate needs to be the person whose account the free night certificate is issued under. For instance, if you and your wife both have free night certificates, you can combine them into a single reservation.
- Call the Hilton Honors Reservation free-call number (1-800-445-8667).
- Confirm two standard nights are available and book under your Hilton Honors account
- You confirm your account and certificate credentials and apply them to the first night
- Your wife jumps on the phone and confirms her account and certificate information, and applies her certificate to the other night
Can I combine Hilton Honors points with free night certificates, and still receive the 5th night free?
This is where things get a little messy. Hilton states in its T&C’s that the 5th-night free benefit is not valid for:
“…Points & Money Rewards, Premium Room Rewards, Room Upgrade Rewards, reward certificate stays or to any stays booked outside of Hilton channels…”
But there are plenty of data points online, confirmed by multiple Hilton reps over the phone, that shows you can mix Honors points and free night certificates to receive the 5th-night free benefit. But it doesn’t work like traditional free night certificates, and won’t provide the best value.
If you aim to use 2 free night certificates as part of a four-night stay at a top-tier Hilton property like the Conrad Tokyo, the numbers are pretty basic.
- FN + FN + 95K + 95K = 190,000
- Total cost: 190,000 points + 2FN (@ 95K per night)
However, adding the 5th night free, you end up using more points and reduce the points value of the FN certificates.
- 95K + 95K + 95K + 95K + 95K = 475,000 points
- 475,000 – 95,000 = 380,000 points
- 380,000 / 5 nights = 76,000 points per night
- FN + FN + 76K + 76K + 76K = 228,000
- Total cost = 228,000 points + 2FN (@ 76K per night)
You pay out more points and reduce the redeemed value of your certificates by 19K each. Not really a 5th night free in this case, and easy to see why Hilton is happy to allow these bookings through, as the value falls more in their favor.
The booking would also need to coincide with a weekend to use free weekend night certificates, so no Mon to Fri bookings.
With a revenue-based rewards program, it can be hard to extract big value at the top end of Hilton’s awards, particularly during peak season. The weekend free night certificates offered on the Hilton co-brand cards are a great way of maximizing that value, as is the 5th-night free benefit if you are redeeming points.
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