Can You Use Someone Else’s Free Night Award For A Hotel Stay?

by SharonKurheg

Not long ago, we received an email from one of our readers:

My parents started dabbling in points, miles and credit cards during the pandemic. They currently have a certificate for a free night at a Marriott hotel that’s going to expire pretty soon (redemption level of 35,000 points or under, if that matters). The certificate is in my mom’s name. Unfortunately, she broke her ankle recently and won’t be able to travel for a while. Neither will my dad, since he’s helping her while she’s recovering. Can she give or transfer the certificate to me?

Free night certificates?

Free night certificates are usually obtained by having specific credit cards that offer these certificates (sometimes called awards or rewards, depending on the program) as a perk. They can also be obtained through stays or special promotions. Each hotel brand (Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton, IHG, etc.) and sometimes each individual credit card will have its own rules regarding how you can use the certificate. These will include how long until the certificate expires, the highest level of hotel room you can use with the certificate, whether or not you can add points and/or cash to the reservation in order to get a better room, etc.

What Marriott Bonvoy says:

a close up of a logoIn direct response to our reader’s question, the answer is no. From Marriott’s website:

A Free Night Anniversary Award issued by Marriott Bonvoy® Partner Credit Cards cannot be transferred or gifted to another Guest; they can only be used by the Member.

Of course, there will always be anecdotes about the Marriott-brand hotel who allowed, I dunno, someone to use their spouse’s Free Night Anniversary Award. But officially, they’re not suppose to.

What about the other major hotel brands?


Hilton doesn’t allow for transfers of Free Night Rewards. From Hilton’s website:

The Free Night Reward is not transferable…

Again, there are always stories about how someone managed to transfer their Free Night Reward to someone else. But according to the rules, that’s not supposed to happen.


Hyatt allows you to “gift” your rewards certificate to others. From Hyatt’s website:

How do I gift an award? Eligible Awards can be transferred to another World of Hyatt member’s account from your account on or on the app. In your account under your Available Awards tab, choose the option to gift your award. You can also call a Global Care Center to gift an award. You will need the last name and World of Hyatt number of the person you choose to gift.


IHG allows others to use your Reward Nights, but your name still has to be on the reservation. From IHG’s website:

Persons listed a secondary guest on a Reward Night reservation may check-in without the member staying. Secondary guest must show valid identification and provide own method of payment. In Greater China (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan) if a Member books a Reward Night on behalf of another person/beneficiary, the Member must contact IHG Customer Care no less than 7 days before the stay date. The Member must provide specific personal details for the guest who will be using the Reward Night, as requested by IHG. Any changes to such guest’s details must be completed through IHG Customer Care. If the Member fails to provide and/or change the requested information on time or the information provided is not correct for any reason, the guest using the Reward Night will not be able to Check-In and the relevant booking will be cancelled. This requirement applies to all Reward Nights earned through Stays, Points, promotions, or in any other way.

How IHG differs

IHG brings up an interesting point. Whereas Marriott and Hilton don’t allow others to use your free night awards and Hyatt does, IHG will allow the “other” person to use it as long as your name is on the reservation.

Which is just one step away from a follow-up question that just came to mind:

Can you make a reservation for someone else with your Free Night Award?

IHG already says for you to make a “joint” reservation with you and your other person (and then you don’t even need to show up), and Hyatt says a a reward night can be gifted to someone else. But what about Hilton and Marriott, who said that someone else using the certificate isn’t allowed? Here’s what the other 2 hotels say:


No can do. You’re the only one who can use your Free Night Reward. The other person can be in the room with you, of course, but according to the rules, you have to be there.

The Free Night Reward is not transferrable…

Marriott Bonvoy

Nope. The only person who can use your Free Night Anniversary Award is you. The other person can be in the room with you, of course, but according to the rules, you have to be there.

A Free Night Anniversary Award issued by Marriott Bonvoy® Partner Credit Cards cannot be transferred or gifted to another Guest; they can only be used by the Member.

OK. But what if your “other person” has the same name as you?

This was an interesting question that came up on Reddit a couple of months ago. It was specific to Marriott, but could probably be asked of any of the programs:

Using my dads free night certificates when we have the exact first name and last name?
Would I encounter any issues with this? We have the exact same name but I live in a different location. I could always just say I moved right? Is the name the most important thing for Marriott employees when verifying someone at check in? I would obviously also have his credit card with me. Thanks!

Granted, this wouldn’t come up very often. But it’s of interest to me, since I have a relative who has the same first and last name as his dad, and on rare occasion the Younger may or may not have used something intended for the Elder. There are also apparently whole GROUPS of people who have the same name (say, “John Smith,”) for the sole purpose of using each other’s “stuff” before they expire.

Anyway, it was suggested on the Reddit post that the hotel doesn’t check the address on the ID or the reservation; just the name, and it shouldn’t be a problem.

TECHNICALLY though, it would be against the rules for both Marriott and Hilton.

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Mark R May 3, 2024 - 10:48 pm

I’m in the middle of gifting my brother a Hilton FNC for his honeymoon. It’s all set up, and they’ll stay in 2 weeks. When I called Hilton to reserve the FNC, I let them know I was not staying, and it would be for my brother. They took his name down, he is in the system as the person checking in, and it was totally kosher. This is in line with many reports I read on Flyertalk.

So I think the Hilton info above needs updating. You can’t “transfer” it to someone else, but you can book it for someone else to use without issue.

SharonKurheg May 4, 2024 - 7:06 pm

As I said, anecdotally, people have done things like you said. However according to Hilton’s rules (I gave the link), that’s not how it’s supposed to be done. If Corporate has had a change of heart, they’d need to update their website before we’d change what we wrote, which was cut and pasted from said website.

wat2do May 4, 2024 - 5:41 pm

What about using points to book a free night for someone else?

AC May 4, 2024 - 10:41 pm

Just have the person that has the FNC book a stay and add someone to else to the reservation (pretty standard). Then that person can show up and check in. I have instructions on how to use my points and miles after I die. Just log into the account and make a booking. No big deal.


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