A variety of Amex Hilton credit cards offer “free” weekend nights at Hilton properties.
Some earned them as a signup bonus on the card anniversary, like the $75 Amex Hilton Surpass card.
Others earn them after spending $15,000 within a calendar year. These include the $95 Amex Hilton Ascend card, the $95 Amex Hilton Business card and the $450 Hilton Aspire card.
The weekend night scheme absolves us of the tedium associated with scrutinizing their point-based award chart to an extent. But it’s important to assess the realizable value associated with these certificates.
Here’s a link to the certificate T&Cs:
And here are some thoughts based on redeeming these certificates the past few years.
1. Certificates Expire within a year of when they are credited to your account
The T&Cs say that 8-12 weeks after you earn a certificate it will be credited to your Hilton account. In practice they’ve been arriving sooner.
Once there, you should receive an email from “Hilton Honors” with the subject “Your Reward Night has arrived!”.
The certificate expiration date and number are included in that email.
The stay must be completed by the expiration date. It’s not enough to just complete the booking prior to expiration.
I don’t know of a way to extend the expiration of a certificate.
2. Certificates don’t expire when closing the credit card that earned them
If you cancel a credit card that earned a free weekend night certificate you will not lose the certificate. Once it’s in your Hilton account it stays there until expiration.
If you live in Massachusetts, credit card annual fees are refunded on a pro-rated basis. So it’s never a bad time to cancel a credit card.
3. Certificates can be used at most (though not all) Hilton hotels
The list of excluded hotels isn’t sinister as you’d suspect. It’s more all-inclusives and timeshares (and those aren’t necessarily their most expensive properties):
Conrads, Waldorf Astorias, and [some] high-end Hiltons are free game so have a look and see whether standard room awards are available.
4. Standard Room award availability is required to redeem a weekend certificate
To check award availability, do a point-based award search on Hilton.com. If there is a Standard Room available it should be available for booking with a free weekend night certificate. Then call to secure the reservation.
5. Good luck finagling rooms that accommodate more than the Standard number of people
If a hotel’s standard rooms don’t accommodate your family it can be challenging to book a room.
Some might just book the room for fewer and socially engineer their way to a solution.
Others might call/email the hotel directly prior to arrival.
But it’ll take some work to find an above-board reservation for 3-4 people in a room at some properties.
6. Weekends are defined as Friday, Saturday and Sunday
How nice of them to consider three-sevenths of the nights in a week as weekends.
7. Reservations can’t be made online (you have to call)
It would be great if you could book these online but alas, it is not possible. Here is a link to the website with up to date the numbers to call.
Inside the US & Canada it’s: 1-800-548-8690
8. Hilton reps ask for the certificate number (but they’re readily accessible and tied to your Hilton account)
They really like to brow-beat you about this. The certificate number is readily available in the Hilton Honors account associated with the certificate.
It’s best to have the certificate number available. If you can’t unearth the email they should be able to find it for you.
9. Hilton’s computers expect you to have enough points in the account to cover the stay (ask for a supervisor, and the right department has to be open)
This is perhaps the most annoying limitation when redeeming free weekend certificates but it appears to have been around for some time.
Hilton’s IT system expects you to have enough points in your account to cover they stay at the time of redemption. You can stammer “I shouldn’t need any points in my account to redeem a *free* weekend night certificate!” but it won’t get you very far.
Instead, suggest to the rep that “you’ve run into this before” and ask them to speak with a supervisor to work with the department that can work around this limitation.
If it’s not a weekend or holiday when you’re calling they should be able to authorize a temporary behind the scenes point transfer that will enable the booking to proceed which they’ll reverse after the weekend night award is secured.
10. You can transfer points to a spouse as a workaround to this limitation (but the right department has to be open to approve the transfer)
Knowing that their system is inept at redeeming a free weekend night certificate you can transfer points to your spouse (for free! if you have them) as a workaround to the previous point.
But realize that point transfers are only processed when the same department that helps reservations with a workaround for the preivous point is open.
So if it’s a weekend or holiday and this department is closed you’ll be stuck until they re-open.
11. It can be painful co-mingling certificates between spouses for a continuous 2+ night stay
Certificates are not transferable but you can make two reservations and request they be linked together so you don’t have to change rooms/have keys re-issued [hopefully].
Depending on the phone agent you’re speaking with they may or may not be willing to let you make the reservation without spousal consent.
My advice here is to secure the first night in your name then pivot to the second (or third) night on behalf of your spouse. Or if you break it into two calls, authenticate yourself then ask to add a second night from your spouse’s account.
Make note of the phone number and email address on file for your spouse. If you’re convincing enough you’ll be able to secure the reservation without involving your non-point-enthusiastic partner.
12. Some hotels have multi-night stay requirements to unlock availability
This one can be a major point of frustration.
I was looking to book a room at the Conrad Dublin recently. They showed availability for 2 nights if I searched Friday-Sunday, but if I searched for each night individually there was no availability.
I was sufficiently flummoxed by this condition that I was unable to use free weekend certificates from 2 separate accounts to secure the booking.
This inability to “merge” certificates for a single booking becomes meaningfully annoying in this case and I don’t know of a workaround.
13. Certificates include room rate & tax
On the bright side, you’re off the hook for tax when redeeming a weekend certificate.
Keep this in mind when determining the value of a redemption.
14. Last I checked Diamond Force is still a thing (but YMMV)
If you carry a $450 annual fee Amex Hilton Aspire card you automatically get Hilton Diamond status.
You’d be wise to consider what top status is worth when they’re giving it away like this, but in my experience you can indeed find better award availability at Hilton properties if you have Diamond status.
I think if you can find standard award availability through Diamond status that you’d also be able to secure the room through a free weekend night certificate, though I’m not 100% sure. Anyone know?
Be aware: The one time I got a room through a Diamond Force booking they put me in the dankest room in the
dump Waldorf Astoria Orlando. More on that in a future hotel fakeout post.
There’s value to be had in the “free” weekend night certificates Amex doles out out with its credit cards.
The more you know about how they work, and the stronger your resolve when redeeming them, the better you’ll be positioned to maximize their value.
What other gotchas, tips, and tricks would you add to this list?