People open credit cards for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s for 0% APR or to stockpile airline miles, other times it’s simply to get a cash rebate on purchases. Another great benefit is to get free hotel stays.
There are a handful of co-branded hotel credit cards that offer free nights at hotels, handy if you’ve already got the airline miles (and the airline tickets), but need some place to stay. And don’t want to pay for it.
Let’s take a look at the many hotel credit cards you can apply for to determine which offers the best value, based on sign-up bonus, annual fee, and so forth.
In general, hotel credit cards are mostly good for the sign-up bonus, aka the free nights. Beyond that, there are probably better ways to earn points via general purpose rewards credit cards, which can then be transferred to hotel loyalty programs.
However, some do offer an anniversary night for free, which is a compelling reason to keep the card in your wallet year after year, assuming you’ve got somewhere to go.
Also note that some of these cards allow you to earn free hotel stays while avoiding an annual fee, at least for the first year. And the minimum spending requirements are also quite manageable.
If you’re savvy, you might be able to score free hotel stays everywhere you go, even if you take a trip for a week or longer. Combine free nights offers from multiple cards (and with your travel partner) to maximize these benefits.
For example, if you apply for 2-3 of these cards and your spouse does too, you could wind up with nearly two weeks of free nights all over the world!
Pro tip: Use hotel points for lower-tier hotel redemptions in developing countries and other sweet spots, and free night certificates at the most expensive hotels worldwide to maximize your value.
Hotel Credit Card Comparison
|Card Issuer||Card Name||Free Nights||Min Spend||Hotel Chain||Annual Fee|
|Amex||Starwood Preferred Guest||35k points (varies by category, 1-10+ free nights)||$3k in 3 months, addt. $2k in first 6 months||Aloft, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Westin, W Hotel, Sheraton, Marriott||$95 ($0 the first year)|
|Amex||SPG Biz||35k points (varies by category, 1-10+ free nights)||$5k in 3 months, addt. $3k in first 6 months||Aloft, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Westin, W Hotel, Sheraton, Marriott||$95 ($0 the first year)|
|Amex||Hilton HHonors Card||50k points (1-10 free nights)||$750 in 3 months||Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Waldorf Astoria, etc.||$0|
|Amex||Hilton HHonors Surpass||75k points (1-15 free nights)||$3k in 3 months||Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Waldorf Astoria, etc.||$75|
|Barclaycard||Choice Privileges Visa||32k points (up to 4 free nights)||$1k in 90 days||Comfort Inn & Suites, Clarion, Econolodge, Rodeway Inn||$0|
|Barclaycard||Wyndham Rewards Visa with No Annual Fee||15k points (1 free night)||First purchase||Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Ramada, Super 8, Wyndham, etc.||$0|
|Barclaycard||Wyndham Rewards Visa with Annual Fee||30k points (2 free nights), 6k points on anniversary each year||First purchase, addt. 15k after $1k in 90 days||Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Ramada, Super 8, Wyndham, etc.||$75|
|Chase||Hyatt Credit Card||2 free nights for $2k spend, 1 free night each anniversary||$2k in 3 months||Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, etc.||$75 (sometimes waived 1st year)|
|Chase||IHG Rewards Club Select||60k points (1-12 free nights), 1 free anniversary night||$1k in 3 months||Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, etc.||$49 ($0 first year)|
|Chase||Marriott Rewards Premier||80k points worth 2-10 nights, 1 free night each anniversary||$3k in 3 months||Marriott, JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, etc.||$85|
|Chase||Marriott Rewards Premier Biz||80k points worth 2-10 nights, 1 free night each anniversary||$3k in 3 months||Marriott, JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, etc.||$99|
|Chase||Ritz-Carlton Rewards||2 comp nights in Tier 1-4 (sometimes 3 free nights!)||$4k in 3 months||Ritz-Carlton||$450 ($300 travel credit)|
|Citi||HHonors Visa Signature||75k points (1-15 free nights)||$2k in 3 months||Hilton brands worldwide||$0|
|Citi||HHonors Reserve||2 free weekend nights, free anniversary night when you spend $10k||$2,500 in 4 months||Hilton brands worldwide||$95|
|First Bankcard||Best Western Rewards MasterCard||16k points (one night)||First purchase||Best Western, GLō, Vīb||$0|
|First Bankcard||Best Western Rewards Premier MasterCard||50k points (up to 4 free nights)||$1k first 3 billing cycles||Best Western, GLō, Vīb||$59 ($0 first year)|
|US Bank||Club Carlson Rewards Visa||30k points (up to 3 free nights)||$1k in 90 days||Country Inns & Suites, Radisson, Quorvus Collection||$0|
|US Bank||Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature||60k points (up to 6 free nights)||50k after first purchase, 10k when spend $1,500 in 90 days||Country Inns & Suites, Radisson, Quorvus Collection||$50|
|US Bank||Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature||85k points (up to 9 free nights)||50k after first purchase, 35k when spend $2,500 in 90 days||Country Inns & Suites, Radisson, Quorvus Collection||$75|
|US Bank||Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa||85k points (up to 9 free nights)||50k after first purchase, 35k when spend $2,500 in 90 days||Country Inns & Suites, Radisson, Quorvus Collection||$60|
The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) personal and business cards are easily the most popular hotel credit cards out there, and definitely the most popular hotel card offerings from American Express. The reason being that Starpoints can be used for hotel stays in Starwood brands and Marriott brands or transferred to tons of frequent flyer programs. You also get a 5k bonus for every 20k Starpoints you transfer to airlines, making them a very valuable currency. If you use the points for hotel stays, you can get 10+ nights if you stay in low category hotels. Conversely, the top-tier hotels can sap your entire points balance.
The HHonors cards are a lot less exciting, but still offer free hotel stays thanks to their healthy sign-up bonuses. It’s just that the point bonuses may limit you to staying in lower-tier properties. Still, redemptions start at 5,000 points…
The Hyatt Credit Card from Chase is a great hotel rewards card in that you get two free nights at any Hyatt hotel or resort worldwide for simply spending $2k in three months. That’s pretty easy and you can redeem at places like the Park Hyatt in Paris, where rooms often run $800+ per night. In other words, nearly $2,000 in value here. You also get a free night in a category 1-4 room each anniversary year.
There’s also the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card that comes with 80,000 bonus points when you spend $3k in the first three months. That’ll get you 2 free nights in category 8 resorts, such as the Wailea Beach Resort in Maui, or 5 nights in a category 4. There are some decent cat 4 hotels such as JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur or the one in Mexico City. Note that you get a 5th night free when booking 4 award nights in a row.
Chase also has a Ritz-Carlton card that gives you two free nights in a category 1-4 property, including popular destinations like NYC, Maui, DC, San Francisco, and Barcelona. The downside is the $450 annual fee, offset by a $300 annual travel credit. This card also provides complimentary airport lounge access.
Lastly, there’s the IHG card, which comes with a free anniversary night that can be used anywhere in the world with no category limits, including the InterContinental Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa and the InterContinental London Park Lane. Not too shabby!
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers two free weekend nights at Hilton properties worldwide, including some spectacular ones in Tahiti, the Maldives, and Thailand, to name a few. What’s nice about this offer is you can get a ton of value out of the free nights as opposed to just earning X amount of points, similar to the Chase Hyatt card.
Meanwhile, the fee-free Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature only affords you 75k points, which limits where you can stay for free. For example, the top tier costs 95,000 points, so you can get 190k points out of the Reserve card versus just 75k in this one.
There are also hotel credit cards for budget brands like Best Western and Club Carlson (Radisson), or the Wyndham Rewards Visa from Barclaycard that offer lots of free nights. These can come in handy for business travel, family travel, and so on. Not luxurious by any means, but free nonetheless. And some even offer no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees!
Keep in mind that there are other credit cards, such as the Virgin Atlantic Card, Citi Prestige, Citi ThankYou Premier, Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and many others that allow point transfers to hotels as well. Or the Barclaycard Arrival for independent hotels. So there are roundabout ways to rack up free hotel stays without an explicit hotel rewards credit card. And sometimes it’s a much better deal!
(photo: Roderick Eime)