How to track your hotel free night certificates so you don’t lose them

You know the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it?” I’m not entirely sure they were referring to the annual hotel free night certificates you are awarded for holding various credit cards, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Like so many of life’s lessons, I learned this one the hard way. Imagine my shock when I checked my Marriott Bonvoy account only to find I had a free night certificate that expired the very next day. I did find a way to turn my mistake into a one-night staycation, but that’s not the only silver lining to this story.

Related: Quick Points: How to search for hotel stays with free night certificates

I also now have the opportunity to keep you from making the same mistake and ensure I never find myself in this particular pickle again.

How I almost lost my annual free night certificate
You might think working at TPG would render one immune to these types of mistakes, but I can assure you that is incorrect. We all make mistakes. In this case, I was aware I had earned an annual free night certificate for up to 35,000 points with my Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Every time I checked my Marriott Bonvoy account, I saw it sitting there, and every time, I told myself I would have no trouble using it before it expired.

Related: How to use a Marriott Bonvoy 35,000-point certificate

But then the holidays came. There was lots of travel and Christmas preparations. My kids were out of school for what felt like two full months. In short, life got in the way. Then, as I was reading this very helpful points and miles checklist for 2024 on the TPG website one evening in early January, I was shocked to find that the long-forgotten free night certificate was still sitting in my Marriott Bonvoy account. When I made the even more shocking discovery that it expired the next day, I sprung into action.

Getting creative to save the day
The first idea that popped into my head when I realized my mistake was to pack the family up for a fun hotel sleepover. As I did when I was young, my kids love being in a hotel. There are times they don’t even want to leave the hotel room on vacation, and honestly, I feel the same way. With such little notice, leaving our 120-pound dog behind was not an option, so I fired up the Marriott Bonvoy app and searched for nearby dog-friendly hotels.

The view from the Moxy Louisville Downtown. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY
When I saw the Moxy Louisville Downtown, I knew it was perfect. The lobby doubles as a bar and game room, the rooms offer views of downtown (my middle child is obsessed with skyscrapers), and we could walk our dog at the nearby waterfront park. Everyone was excited about our overnight staycation.

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Related: Why this playful brand won the TPG Award for Best Affordable Hotel Brand

A one-night stay at the Moxy Louisville Downtown typically costs about $150 or 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, but we were responsible only for the pet fee of $35 and $30 for parking. I could have found a slightly more expensive stay to squeeze even more value out of my 35,000-point certificate, but the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card has an annual fee of only $95. Even with this hastily chosen redemption, I covered the cost of the annual fee by using my certificate before it expired.

The next day, I went to Target for supplies. I bought a silly game to play, face masks for a little self-care and a few snacks the kids could eat while we watched a movie. After school, we packed our bags and made the short drive to downtown Louisville.

Marvel the dog at the Moxy Louisville Downtown. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY
This was our dog’s first time staying in a hotel, and she loved it. We are already planning on traveling with her again. We took her for a long walk after we checked in and then walked to dinner.

When we returned, we ordered drinks using the free mocktail coupons we received at check-in (my husband and I upgraded ours to cocktails for a small fee) and played board games in the lobby. When we knocked over the giant Jenga tower one too many times, we returned to the room to continue the party.

The Chieffi family at the Moxy Louisville Downtown. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY
Back upstairs, things got pretty silly. We tried out the game I bought, where you try to pick up objects off the ground while wearing a monkey tail. After that, we put on our face masks. We ended the night watching “Floor Is Lava” in bed until we all fell asleep.

More important than anything we ate or any game we played was that we laughed. A lot. Both with and at each other. Had we been at home, I probably would have busied myself with household tasks. However, since we were on “vacation,” I wasn’t worried about laundry, dishes or other chores. I was as free to have fun and be silly as my kids were, which is one of my favorite things about traveling together as a family.

How you can track annual free night certificates
The best thing about learning a lesson the hard way is that you are unlikely to let history repeat itself. After my little snafu, I turned to my TPG teammates to find out how they track their annual free night certificates so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Related: How to maximize longer hotel stays by using a free night benefit

Here are a few more helpful recommendations:

A couple of times each month, Coordinating Editor Christine Gallipeau audits her loyalty and credit card accounts so she doesn’t lose track of unused perks.

Andrea Rotondo, TPG’s director of content operations, adds the expiration date for her certificates to her calendar and sets up a few automated reminders throughout the year to keep them top of mind.

Gabe Travers, senior director of product management, adds recurring reminders to his phone, giving him enough time to use his certificates and other credit card perks before they expire.

Katie Genter, senior writer, uses an app called Todoist to track her free night certificates, upgrade certificates and other perks, as well as to record hotel stays and progress toward elite status goals.

Mitchell Stoutin, senior director of engineering, prefers to use a hand-written bullet journal. He has a section dedicated to tracking future events like free night certificate expirations.

Hotel credit cards that offer annual free night certificates
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card isn’t the only card that can score you free hotel nights. Here are a few more of our favorite cobranded hotel credit cards that offer annual free night certificates:

World of Hyatt Credit Card ($95 annual fee): One free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort every year after your cardmember anniversary. You can also earn one extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort if you spend $15,000 in a calendar year.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees): One free night reward with your new card and again every year after renewal. You can earn a second night when you spend $30,000 and a third night when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card ($650 annual fee, see rates and fees): One free night award every year after your card renewal month. You can use the free night award for a room at a participating hotel worth up to 85,000 points. Certain hotels have resort fees.

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card ($125 annual fee, see rates and fees): One free night award every year after your card account anniversary, valid for a one-night hotel stay with a redemption level of up to 35,000 points. You can also earn a second free night award (at or under 35,000 points per night) after you spend $60,000 in a calendar year. Certain hotels have resort fees.

IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee): One free night valid at IHG hotels with a redemption level of 40,000 points or less after your account anniversary each year.

IHG One Rewards…

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