✈️ How to earn and use Free Night Awards

✈️ How to earn and use Free Night Awards

Estimated read time: 4 minutes and 54 seconds

Tristan da Cunha, the volcanic island about 1,750 miles from South Africa, is the most remote place in the world. The closest inhabited place nearby is Saint Helena, but that's still a pretty long trip… Read more here.

Good morning and welcome back to Daily Drop! Did you have a good weekend?

I know I had a pretty exciting one… but things are about to get even more exciting because I’ve got another week of travel-hacking fun times for you all.

  • 🏨 Free night awards, explained

  • 🏃🏼‍♂️ Mike on the Move: points arbitrage

  • 🖼️ Meme

🏨 Free night awards, explained

Let me preface this section by saying that later today, we’re hosting a masterclass about all things hotel hacking!!! Our community manager, Megan, and I will be sharing all the juicy gossip about our favorite hotel hacks, so it’s not something you want to miss.

You can tune in by joining our Daily Drop Lounge and using the meeting link today at 4:00 pm EST.

Now, on to the good stuff:

What are Free Night Awards (FNAs)?

FNAs are certificates that allow you to book free nights with various hotel chains. There are many types of FNAs, sometimes within the same hotel program.

For example, Marriott has FNAs that vary from being worth 35,000 points all the way up to 85,000 or 100,000 points. The value of the certificate depends on how you earned it.

How do you earn FNAs?

There are a few ways:

1. Credit cards: Many credit cards offer free night awards in one of the following ways:

  • Part of a signup bonus

  • Annual free night for renewing the card

  • Meeting certain annual spending requirements

I also have a number of different Marriott cards that offer annual free night awards just for holding the cards, so every year I end up with a nice stack of free nights 👌

101% of the time (rough estimate), the value I get from these awards far outweighs the annual fees I pay to hold the cards. This is a great way to stretch a $95 annual card fee into hundreds (or thousands) of dollars of value.

For example, one of my Marriott cards gives me an annual free night award worth 35,000 points and only costs $95 per year!

I wanted to show you what it looks like when you earn this award, but the card in question only agreed to participate in this newsletter on the grounds of anonymity, so the image has been redacted:

Earlier this year, I used this award to book a night in an ocean-view Executive Suite at the Ritz-Carlton Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, Oman - a room that otherwise would’ve cost around $2,000 per night 😱 

This hotel ended up being my single favorite in the world… and I got to stay there because of my $95 per year credit card.

2. Milestone Rewards: Many hotel programs like Marriott and Hyatt have some variation of this.

Basically, when you stay a certain number of nights in a year, you unlock rewards.

Sometimes it’s bonus points, sometimes it’s lounge passes or upgrade certificates, and sometimes it’s free night awards.

For example, Marriott offers a free night award worth 40,000 points when you hit 75 nights in a year (as part of earning Titanium status).

And Hyatt has TONS of ways to earn free night awards.

In fact, I posted a video on our Daily Drop Instagram (yes, we have one of those) specifically about all the ways you can earn Hyatt FNAs.

So, I’ll let my past self do the talking for this part:

Which free night awards are the best?

That’s an easy one. Hilton.

Wow, that was a pretty fast response… how am I so confident in that answer, you ask?

Because Hilton free night awards have no cap or limit on where you can use them. The only factor is that there must be availability for a standard room type (i.e. “King Standard” room).

Hilton awards are also pretty easy to earn. There are numerous credit cards that offer awards either as an annual perk or for spending a certain amount of money in a year.

To make things even better, they frequently include free night awards as part of signup bonuses on these cards as well… like right now, for example.

In fact, I signed up for a card last year that has a $0 annual fee but came with a signup bonus of 100,000 points and a free night award (the bonus has changed since then, but it's still pretty good and currently includes a free night).

I used the 100,000 points to book a 5-night stay in Dubai (at a lower-tier property) and then used the free night award to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah in a room that was priced at over $2,000 on that particular night. 🤑

So let me reiterate…

I signed up for a FREE credit card that will never cost me a penny to hold and ended up getting SIX FREE NIGHTS in Dubai—one of which was at one of the most expensive hotels in the Middle East.

Can I get an appropriate reaction, please?

Thank you, thank you… but please, hold your applause until the end of the performance.

Free night awards are a core part of my travel-hacking strategy, but I want to give a quick disclaimer. These free night awards are not exactly “free.” To get them, you need to either pay annual fees or spend money at hotel chains.

Personally, I get so much value from my cards every year that to me, these awards really are free. But you should always be conservative about just how much value you place on credit card perks like this.

Check out our Top Credit Cards page where we have a few examples of cards in this category.

🏃🏼‍♂️ Mike on the Move: Points arbitrage

Wow, what a crazy adventure this trip has turned into…

I’m currently in a remote mountain village in a country that I wasn’t even planning on coming to on this trip… But I’m not going to talk about that today.

Rather, I want to share a sweet hack that I told you about a few months ago, and ended up working out SWIMMINGLY.

Last week, I stayed at a lovely hotel in Malmö, Sweden, with a PERFECT view of this perfect city:

Specifically, it was the Story Hotel, which is part of the World of Hyatt program. As a Category 1 property, the hotel is priced at just 5,000 Hyatt points per night.

I booked this hotel months ago using a pretty sweet hack: points arbitrage.

What I mean is that the cost of buying points from Hyatt to book a hotel was cheaper than just paying cash for the same hotel.

For example, this hotel was priced at $238 per night during my 5-night stay:

Sample booking on Hyatt’s website

That means that my stay would’ve cost $1,190 in total.

But that’s not what I did.

Instead, I purchased 25,000 points for just $450 with Hyatt’s 25% bonus on purchased points (which is also happening now, by the way).

Sample points purchased from Hyatt’s “buy points” page

Since the hotel costs 5,000 points per night, I was able to book the stay for $740 cheaper than if I had done the same thing with cash.

With Hyatt’s two coinciding promotions right now (this one and this one) which both work simultaneously, I also received a return of 11,000 points, which are worth about $220.

So in the end, my net cost was only about $230… Needless to say, I was quite proud of myself.

It’s always fun to plan these things out, but it’s far more satisfying to actually go do it in real life and see it work out the way I had planned.

🖼️ Meme

I feel like someone should start selling neck pillows with this printed on the side…

Want to help Daily Drop take over the world? Share our newsletter with your friends/family/pets/colleagues/enemies and win some rewards in the process!

Sign up for Daily Drop to grab your referral link!

…or you can just buy these prizes from our website if you want to keep us all to yourself. 😉

That’s gonna do it for today, y’all. Don’t you just love it when a good travel hack works out the way you want it to? I know I do.

Speaking of travel hacks, I have a question for you:

Pretty pleeeeease

Only Email Recipients can participate in polls.

Take care and see you tomorrow,

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

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