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3rd Night Free at Starwoods with MasterCard

“3 Nights for the Price of 2 at Starwood Hotels”

That’s the headline version of a new promotional offer from Starwood and MasterCard. As headlines are wont to be, it’s a bit of an oversimplification. And arguably a misleading one at that.

It’s actually not one offer, but several. Through December 31, buy two or three nights, get one night free. Or buy four nights, get two nights free. No issues there. But the purchase must be made with a MasterCard. Not a particularly onerous requirement; most travelers have a MasterCard in the wallets. More notably, however, the offer only applies to bookings at participating Starwoods, and only Starwoods in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

So, even before getting into the fine print at the bottom of the page, there’s already less to this offer than promised in the headline.

As is generally the case with such promotions, there are a slew of conditions in the fine print that must also be considered.

  • Arrival days may vary for each property.
  • offers are based on Starwood’s best available unrestricted retail rates.
  • A limited number of rooms may be available at these rates.
  • Advance purchase required.
  • Reservations cannot be changed, are pre-paid and non-refundable; if cancellation takes place, guests forfeit total room charge plus tax.

What all those terms and conditions come down to is this: To get that free room, you’ll pay an unrestricted rate (more expensive) but be subject to the limitations of a restricted rate (pre-paid, non-refundable). Plus, rooms are limited, and arrival/departure dates may be limited as well.

Taking advantage of this offer might still be a net plus financially, if you end up spending less for two nights at the required rate than you would by booking three paid nights at restricted rates. But it’s not a given. To be sure you’re getting the best value, you’ll have to test-book the competing options and compare the results.

Headlines rarely tell the whole story. For that, you’ll have to read the fine print and do your research.

Reader Reality Check

Deal or no deal?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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