Whine Wednesday: Free Night Certificate Limitations


Many readers have sent out complaints and been vocal on various forums about the difficulties with free night certificates they have received from affiliated credit card products or programs themselves.

Hong Kong Conrad & JW Marriott

These certificates usually come with a “use by” date (they will expire worthless unless used by a specific date) or point/category limit to which they can be applied.

Most programs have extended the certificate validity dates due to the current global pandemic. Still, many have problems using them at hotels they would like to due to category/point limits.

When you sign up for a contract, you should always weigh the pros and cons.

Is a holding a high number of certificates limited to a specific point value better than a deposit of points into your account that you can use the way you wish?

Many have now found that certificates are more of a headache than they first thought. You may have Marriott certificates capped at 35,000 points that you cannot use towards a hotel requiring 36,000, and frankly, rightfully so.


People should always be aware of what they have signed up for and not rely on websites whose primary purpose is to get readers to sign up for credit card products they don’t need (and collect a commission from the issuer).

I always rather choose the points instead of vouchers for various reasons; vouchers expire, they usually have limits (category or points), and you cannot take advantage of promotions such as fifth night free, and sometimes applying them need a manual intervention (I loath having to call in).

I had great difficulty using the EIGHT 7-night vouchers that I redeemed after Marriott and SPG programs merged, but before they became Marriott Bonvoy. The mapping of old vouchers to the new ones didn’t take place the way I had thought would be fair, and I ended up with lower category ones than I had hoped for. I could use them very successfully in the end, though (Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort in Miyazaki for FOUR weeks).

Loyalty programs love vouchers for various reasons; many will go unused (breakage), used for lower point values than they could, and may not be used for the entire duration (they only pay hotels for the dates you stay).

So, always rather sign up for products that give you points instead of vouchers unless you have a clear understanding of using them efficiently.

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