Why I Hate Using Hyatt Free Nights

When the World of Hyatt program replaced Hyatt Gold Passport, expiring free nights became the currency of the realm instead of a check-in amenity of bonus points or food and beverage item. You earn them,

  • Annually with The World Of Hyatt Credit Card (category 1-4)

  • After $15,000 spend on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card each calendar year (category 1-4)

  • After 30 elite qualifying nights in a year (category 1-4)

  • After 60 elite qualifying nights in a year (category 1-7)

  • For each 5 participating brands you stay in for the first time (category 1-4)

The 30 and 60 night free nights were described as a ‘celebration’ to be used quickly. They’re easy to use, bookable whenever there are free nights available on points (when a standard room is available at a qualifying property). Yet I’m finding them difficult to use, so much so as to be annoying rather than rewarding.

On the Hyatt website it’s not obvious which free nights are for category 1-7 versus category 1-4, and the source of a free night. You can see the expiration date, but not where it’s from, and how long you had to use it. (Some free nights expire faster than others.)

Unlike points redemptions for free stays, free night certificates cannot be upgraded – using confirmed suite upgrades or points.

  • When I’m traveling for work, I don’t want to use my free nights, I want to use my free nights on vacation stays. On work trips by myself I don’t much care about the upgrade.

  • On vacation stays with my wife and daughter I want more space. The best benefit of Globalist status is being able to confirm a suite at booking. But you cannot use this benefit in conjunction with the so-called reward of a free night.

  • I’d love to use the free night certificate for a second room, but unlike Hilton, Hyatt doesn’t offer the ability to confirm a connecting room. (In practice this can be tougher with Hilton than advertised, however.)

I’ve found the best use, for my way of thinking, of Hyatt category 1-7 nights is the Park Hyatt Maldives, because they don’t offer confirmed upgrades anyway. The Park Hyatt Sydney is in this same group, but it’s now category 8 and the free night certificates haven’t been adjusted with the introduction of that new, higher category.

There’s no question that Hyatt free nights are valuable, they’re free nights! But the rules around them make them exactly what I don’t want to use on the trips I could use them. I suppose I should be gifting them.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I suppose you prefer Hilton free nights that can only be redeemed on the phone then instead lol. Hyatt Free nights are extremely flexible and easy to redeem online, and being able to combine them with “pay your way” extends their flexibility as well.

  2. Unfortunately, it’s not an oversight that the Cat 1-7 certs don’t include Cat 8.

    There’s been more than a little chatter in inside circles about the Cat 8 places attracting a crowd that hurts its overall business.

    In other words: want to stay at a Cat 8 hotel? Pay the cost (if you can).

  3. Gary, I recently learned that, like Hyatt’s policy, Marriott’s FNCs can only be used for a standard room. One cannot use them with a cash upgrade to a suite. Imagine someone who goes for the Brilliant, receives the 85k FNC, and then (with dynamic pricing) a standard room is priced at 101k points. Utterly useless.

  4. Cahn’t make that,stuff up!

    @Tony — Other than as a Pavlovian or conditioned reflex, there is absolutely nothing to LoL about. Each Hilton free night cert is more valuable because it has no restrictions whatsoever. Any hotel with a standard room available is game. If that requires a phone call to book, I will gladly make a million such calls … using the dedicated Lifetime Diamond line.

  5. I agree the Cat1-4 certs are getting to be a pain. My family members will drop their Hyatt credit cards for this reason unless something changes before renewal time.

  6. Preaching to the choir about free nights! Hyatt should make the free nights be upgrade possible with confirmed suites, one of many reasons to be using them with points and want that bigger room.

  7. Why, once a few night cert had been used, does it continue to show up in my rewards but as 0 available

  8. I’m a Hyatt Globalist and have absolutely no problem using my Cat. 1 to 4 free night certs. I think they are great, and I appreciate the fact that I can now get even more value using them for a Cat. 4 night that is “peak” (and therefore otherwise more points). I do have a small beef about the Cat. 1-7 “requalifier” certs (does ANYONE earn more than 1 of these a year?) because those are only good for 6 months, which is likely to be the winter months for almost all guests. Many folks would prefer to use them on vacation the next summer.

    As far as using a free night cert with an upgrade cert, that seems like a tiny problem for most Globalists. I would say 90% of my room upgrades are walk-up NOT using certs. At many hotels, you can’t even use a cert. anyway. And, remember, this is for ONE NIGHT — so who’d really want to use a multi-night upgrade certificate for that?

  9. Agree 100%!!!

    The only good use is you arrive so late the night before, you just want to hit the hay, and just move rooms the next morning and would rsther save 30k. Changing at the end not as pleasant.
    (Sometimes don’t need to change, but that has varied even among different stays at the same property.

    They could also go the slightly less tight but cheap route where you could add 6k for a standard suite.

  10. Long comment here:

    I was thrilled to make Globalist when I earned my first 60 BIB (butt in bed!) nights. I really thought (and mostly still do) Hyatt has the best loyalty program (especially when for the most part people earned it, apart from the few business challenges); however, I am starting to realize, some years in, that their IT is only a few notches ahead of Southwest’s (which, Gary, you lightly criticize, but also promote so much, I almost wonder if you are on payroll sometimes!).

    Hyatt’s limited IT capabilities are astounding. I have commented before how it’s amazing to me that they force me to either combine my six monthly stays into one giant stay or check out for a full 24 hours, or their computer cannot manage to read SIX UNIQUE confirmation numbers. I literally do this for tax receipt purposes, yet if I ever needed those receipts again from Hyatt, they would not exist because their computer cannot track what the hotel does??? This is their only way to honor my promos, post my dual accrual, etc. That said, I really have to wonder if this is why they have other antiquated rules about combining this and that. Some of their rules are just strict, conservative, and punitive, though. I think your post here is a mix. I agree with all these takes on it, though.

    I happen to be using all 4-5 of my Cat. 1-4 certs at the same time this summer and booked them before my Cat. 1-7 cert., and I knew all of this prior, or it would have been a really annoying and logistical nightmare. Fortunately, I needed my SUAs for three weeks in a UK hotel (well some of them) so I didn’t have to bother with that either. That said, I also knew I had to book the Cat 1-4 nights before the 1-7 because Hyatt has accidentally used the 1-7 for a Cat 4 since it was expiring first, and other such tales. I dream of Hyatt upgrading its IT. In my particular, though I concede, somewhat unique, situation, it will likely keep Hyatt from being my primary loyalty, though I will also likely still maintain my status (BIB, of course!)

  11. The secret with with multi-night stays is to use the cert on the last night, use the TSU for the paid part of the stay and almost always they will let you keep the same room. It costs the hotel more to have you switch rooms and do a full cleaning than to let you keep the suite.

  12. Two words: airport hotels. For those of us who don’t live in an international gateway, positioning is often necessary and that’s where these certs shine.

  13. For anyone who may still be reading these responses, I read through most responses to see if anyone else had the same issue I do. First, I like Hyatt properties and their loyalty program better than Marriott. I was elevated to Titanium Elite Lifetime. I am now globalist thanks in part to the credit card spending and earning two elite nights for each $5,000 spent. (I own a small business that makes this easy)

    What frustrates me, it is not easy to figure out what category a hotel is. You have to dig for the information; it is not in the initial search for a property or the review rates. I only see it when I choose the Book Now option.

    Unrelated to all of this, if you are in the Zurich area, the Hyatt Regency at the Airport Circle is awesome. I have stayed there about ten times now. I highly recommend it.

  14. @Suz: Marriott IT has the same problem: they will use an expiring certificate first even though it would require paying extra points on top of a certificate. However, there are easy tricks to deal with this problem by booking a night requiring a higher category certificate and cancelling that one after booking a night with a lower category/point requirement.

  15. @omar — Right. That would be a reasonable strategy if you truly have no better use for the Cat. 1-4 certificate. Given their utility for peak-night award pricing, though, I would think that most savvy Hyatt players (including Gary!) would have a better use for the certificate, though. But some non-globalists who just get a free night from the credit card might be candidates for this trick.

  16. Of course, if you have suite upgrade certificates, you probably ARE a Globalist! So it’s hard for me to understand this “problem.” If this is the worst “glitch” in the World of Hyatt program, it’s a GREAT program!

  17. If you don’t like Hyatt’s free night program, then don’t use it. Hyatt isn’t obligated to offer anyone any free nights. The fact that you are collecting free nights anyway, despite all the “problems” you identified, suggests you still find the program useful in some circumstances… unless you just enjoy collecting things for no reason whatsoever.

  18. At this point, for me, the best use for award certificates is to wait for them to expire and then be credited the points.

  19. But I suppose the actual *ideal* use case would be a Category 3 or 4 (as long as the Category 3 isn’t off-peak during your stay) HP or HH whose location just couldn’t be bested by a full-service Hyatt–because in that case your cert is traded for a night that would cost more points than allowing the cert to expire, and you wouldn’t have been eligible to use a suite upgrade anyway.

    One example that comes to mind is the Hyatt Place Orlando Across from Universal. Walking distance to Universal’s parks, therefore much closer than any full-service Hyatt that would be CSU eligible. However, for the time being that hotel is a Category 2, so better to use points. If it ever gets moved to Category 3, that would be an ideal place to use a 1-4 cert, at least for me.

  20. I’m currently at Andaz Condesa Mexico City. I used an SUA on my first 3 nights booked with points. I tagged on a category 1-4 night for my 4th night and they let me keep the suite, no questions asked. I had the same experience at Thompson Austin in January with a Category 1-7.

    Stop complaining. Be more strategic.

  21. @Graham, or anyone else who is familiar with this. This is the first I’ve heard that you can get points added to your account if you don’t use your free night. We ended up running out of time to use mine last year, and I still feel guilty about it. Is there something that needs to be done to get points if you don’t use your cert? Or does it just happen? Thanks!

  22. @chopsticks, it’s particularly useful for a globalist using a cat 1-7 cert + suite upgrade as part of a longer paid stay (either normal points or cash).

  23. Wife and I both signed up for the Hyatt Visa in 2016 when the signup bonus was 2 free nights at any property (when Category 7 was the highest). Used the four free nights to stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney later that year, which made for an awesome trip (and redemption value).

  24. @DixieBoz: you have to wait for it to expire and then contact Hyatt to request the points. I believe the going rate is 10k points for a Cat 1-4 Cert and 20k for a Cat 1-7, but it’s important to know that this isn’t a stated policy anywhere (either the provision of points at all or the actual amount) so it will dependent upon who you speak to. As always, Hang Up Call Back will be your friend if you don’t receive an answer that you like.

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