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 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
If you have Diamond status: 1-877-444-9847
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?
Great summary, thanks!
Thanks for the details on how to redeem these certificates. I had no idea it would be such a process.
Great to have all this info in one place. Thanks.
When I booked mine early in the year the rep had to book one night using one certificate then book another using another certificate. But I had to cancel and then I rebooked somewhere else a few months later. This time the rep was able to use the two certificates for two nights and just one confirmation number. Both times they didn’t ask for the certificate numbers though. And I got this certificates from the Citi card and were issued October last year.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
When two certificates were used for one confirmation number, were both certificates from your account?
Or across two accounts?
Yes both certificates were in my account.
Thanks for a thoughtful post. I didn’t previously know about the requirement to have enough points in your account. But my practice has been to find the standard room award availability online, book it right then and there using points in my account, and then call in to have the free night certificate applied to that reservation (and the points refunded back into my account). That way you lock in the room before standard award availability disappears (or the phone agent can’t find the availability), and easier for the phone agent to simply look up the existing reservation rather than relying on them making a new booking for me (hotel, dates, etc all pre-supplied with the reservation number). Dunno if it helps re cobbling together certificates from different members into one reservation, but it might have that added benefit too.
That’s a good tip. I may very well do that in cases where I want to secure the room before making a call.
The situation I got in was on Labor Day trying to use a certificate from my wife’s account.
She didn’t have enough points and I could neither transfer points nor could they book the stay without points in her account.
I guess I could have booked it with points from my account to hold the space then transfer it to her certificate when they were back open for business.
Hilton’s points pooling feature may also help in that scenario.
Right. But you can’t move points about in pools when the department that processes the transfers is closed.
I did not realize they take so long to post after completing spend. Any reports on completing the spend, having a statement close, closing the card, and the cert still turning up?
I am thinking to hit the spend on my Ascend and Business hard Jan 2019, then close at least one to flip over to the SPG personal before it is taken off the market around Feb 2019. I’d rather have the SPG category constrained certs than have to work to spend $15,000 for the Hilton weekend certs.
8-12 weeks are what the T&Cs say. In practice, I think there’s a good chance the certificate posts sooner.
I had a look back at when the certificate associated with my Surpass (now Ascend) posted.
My anniversary was March 28, and my certificate posted April 9th.
If it’s similar quick when meeting through spending your strategy could indeed work.
Thank you. With these now calendar year I am planning to double up, so I’ll accelerate the completion to the next statements to have a test run of how fast they post.
I like the approach. Let us know how it goes?
$15,000 spend for a free weekend night cert is a pretty good deal I think. Especially if you can consistently get good value out of them. And even moreso if you’ve already spent $5,000 to meet the minimum spend requirement on them.
I’d say I like a Hilton free weekend night cert more than a 35,000 Marriott cert. But less than a 50,000 Marriott cert.
And I don’t like the expiring nature of any of them. But that’s surely what they love about them: The invetiable breakage that occurs through non-use.
I put $14k on the Ascend at Fred Meyer before realizing that the pending charges that showed grocery, and reports from prior years that it posted as grocery, when they post Amex no longer codes them as grocery. Visa and Discover still do (Freedom and it Q2). That grinding to get $15k is the part hard for me in my current setup and appetite.
And the Business version doesn’t earn 6x on grocery so it’s a different kind of slog.
I’m double-dipping on Ascend card this year: $10,000 spend gets the Citi night from old HHonors card regime that was in effect when they changed over 28 January 2018; another $5,000 before 31 December 2018 gets the Amex night. Anyhow, have hit the $10,000 and the certificate number was e-mailed to me about a week after. I plan to finish off the other $5,000 sooner rather than later so I don’t have to sweat the possibility of an 8-12 wait for the second cert. But, from my experience so far and what I have read on FT, it looks like Amex is moving the certs along far faster than Citi did.
Will almost certainly ditch Ascend at that point, since I also have Aspire and that annual free night comes without any spend. I found, back in the Citi HHonors card days, that $10,000 spend was okay for a night, but $15,000 strikes me as high, when you’re basically storing up Hilton points in the process of making the spend (instead of something more interesting, like UR and/or Hyatt points).
Thanks for the tips. I just booked the Waldorf Astoria Chicago using my free night certificate. I was ready to ask to be transferred to a supervisor since I do not have enough points in my account for the reservation in a Category 5 room but the rep said he would put me on hold while he temporarily transferred points to my account to make the reservation then he would apply the certificate. It was a long hold but he got it worked out without issue. Must be my lucky day.
Thanks for the tips. I’m an email subscriber but found this article on Google, top 5 entry.
Anyway, if a phone rep book attached your Weekend Cert to a week night resy, will there be any adverse consequences? Wife already booked 2 nights (2 nights min for that wknd) with Cert & points on the beginning of this stay.
I haven’t tested that scenario, but if a rep attached the weekend cert to a weeknight it would be tempting to see if it goes through without incident. Worst case they’d make you pay cash (or use points) but I think you’d have a leg to standing on saying they let you book it so it’s on them. Let us know how it goes?
And thanks for the update on how we’re doing on SEO. Good too hear.
One easy question — if you cancel the hotel stay (using the free weekend stay certificate), will you get the certificate back for future use (before the expiration date)?
That’s correct. The cancellation terms are the same as with a reward night paid with points:
I spoke to a Hilton representative today who told me that if I cancel or downgrade my Amex Hilton Aspire, I will not be able to use the free anniversary weekend night award. The Hilton reps are always hit and miss in terms of providing accurate info…were you able to verify that certificates stay in your account regardless of closing the credit card that earned them?
It was on an Ascend card, but yes – I was able to use the certificate after closing the card.
Perhaps the agent you spoke to was mistaken, or thinking about the free night certificate you get on your cardmember anniversary on the Aspire? Either way, it’s complicated so I can see where there would be confusion.
I can’t find anywhere in Amex/Hilton T&Cs that say definitively that closing the card invalidates the certificate.
But on the other hand the certificate T&Cs (https://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/about/free-night-terms.html) don’t say anything about card cancellation. Or even that certificates are associated with credit cards at all. They just say when the certificate needs to be used by.
Let us know if you find or experience otherwise?
Thanks so much for your prompt reply.
I called back and asked to speak to a supervisor this time. The supervisor informed me that once the award certificate is in your account, you can use it regardless of whether or not you still have the credit card. This makes much more sense and is in line with what you’ve said. So technically, with the aspire card you can potentially get 2 free weekend night awards and only pay the $450 fee once (or just pay a small pro-rated rate depending on when the anniversary night gets credited). Thanks again for the great post – much needed info on the Hilton cards!
where can you find your certificate numbers on your hilton honors account?
I’m not aware of a way to find the certificate number in your Hilton Honors account.
You could try checking your email. From: “Hilton Honors” with the subject line “Your Reward has arrived!”.
That said you need to call to redeem, and the agent should be able to find them in your account without a certificate number.
Hope this helps…
I applied for the Aspire card about 8 weeks ago and hoping to get the free night certificate soon for an upcoming trip in 2 weeks. Based on Shaun’s comment on first reserve using points, will it help to secure a room at the standard rate in case the free night certificate does come in time? The scenario is slightly different where I’ll be reserving a room and MAYBE within 2 week to apply the free night certificate instead of calling Hilton within a day.