7 Top Hotel Credit Cards for Free Nights

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New offer: The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a great way to pad your IHG balance with 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within the first 3 months.

Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express have expired. View the current offers here –personalbusiness.

With the recent news of the 30,000 point bonuses for Amex Starwood cards (EXPIRED) and the $100 statement credit with the Citi Hilton Reserve card (EXPIRED), I thought it was time to review what I see as the best hotel credit card offers available.

Primer

Sign-up bonuses are the fastest way to rack up points and miles, and in order to maximize the great deals out there, a lot of folks apply for multiple cards in a single day. The benefit of this is that card issuers generally won’t see your other applications on that same day, increasing your chances of approval and making it easier over time to track how long credit card inquiries remain on your credit report.

When you complete all your applications in one day, the inquiries generally fall off your credit report in batches as well. Let me be clear here, this is not an exact science, and I don’t stick to a strict quarterly schedule myself. If there’s an incredibly generous limited-time offer, I’ll still apply even if it’s not timed to my quarterly schedule.

This is not a list of every offer on the market. For that I recommend going to the Top Deals page, and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Before you get started, be sure to check out my posts on How To Check Your Credit – Preparing For The Credit Card Application Process, and When To Cancel A Card – My Personal Card Inventory and Decision Process.

Time for a round of applications? Here are some great current offers for hotel branded credit cards.

**For all point valuations I used my monthly valuation series post as a guide to values

AMEX

Starwood Preferred Guest Card
Current bonus (through June 30, 2014): 30,000 points – 10,000 after your first purchase, and an additional 20,000 when you spend $5,000 within 6 months.
Other Benefits: 2 Starpoints per dollar spent on Starwood spend, 2 stays/5 nights towards elite status qualification, Gold status after $30,000 in spend per year. 
Annual Fee: 
$65, waived the first year.
Value: I value the Starpoints at about 2.1 cents a piece ($630 for the sign-up bonus) and I leverage the 2 stay/5 nights elite benefits (~$100) to hit Platinum status, so the total value to me is about $730 for this card.


CHASE

Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Signature
Current Bonus: 70,000 
points after $1,000 spend in 3 months plus a free night at a category 1-4 hotel on account approval
Other Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at Marriott properties, 2 points per dollar for airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, car rental agencies, and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar elsewhere, free night at category 1-5 property each year upon account anniversary. Silver Elite status, and 1 Elite credit for every $3,000 spent on card.
Annual Fee: $85, waived first year
Value: I value Marriott points at about .5 cents a piece, so the 70,000 points = $350 plus the category 1-4 hotel is worth roughly $125 for a total value of $475, though if you know how to leverage Marriott points (like I did recently to snag a Southwest Companion Pass, you can drastically increase the value of these points). 

Fairmont Visa
Current Bonus: 2 free nights
 plus breakfast for 2 with $1,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits:
Earn 5 points per dollar at Fairmont Hotels, 2 points per dollar spent on airline tickets booked directly with the airline, car rentals, or local transit. Free night annually with $12,000 of spending. Fairmont Premier Status. Complimentary membership to LOUNGE CLUB (2 free visits per year, then $27 per visit). 1 Fairmont Stay Credit for every $7,500 in spend (maximum of 2 anually).
Annual Fee:
$95 waived the first year
 
Value: The value of the 2 free nights is easily $600 plus $100 for the breakfast benefit and $100 for elite status, and $50 for lounge access equals a value of about $850

IHG Rewards Visa
Current Bonus: 60,000 points after $1,000 spend in 3 months. (It may be possible to get 80,000 points per this Flyertalk thread). 
Other Benefits: 
Earn 5 points per dollar spent at IHG properties, 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Platinum Elite status. 10% points back on all IHG Rewards bookings. Annual free night at any property worldwide upon card anniversary.
 
Annual Fee:
$49, waived first year
Value: I value IHG Rewards points at about .7 cents a piece so 60,000 = $420 (if you can get an 80,000 point offer that = $560) plus the 10% return on all award bookings would be at a minimum 60,000 from the sign-up bonus, so 6,000 points ($42) and Platinum status ($50) for a total value of about $512

Hyatt Visa
Current Bonus: 2 free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide after $1,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits: Receive automatic Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum elite membership (and up to 20% off room rates thanks to Hyatt’s new Elite Nights benefit). Earn 3 points for every $1 spent at all Hyatt properties. Earn 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and at car rental agencies. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent elsewhere. No foreign transaction fees. Smart Chip technology and extra protections. Free night at category 1-4 property every year after your card anniversary.
Annual Fee: $75, waived first year
Value: Those two free nights could easily be worth $800 a night considering they’re valid at all Hyatt hotels including swanky Park Hyatt properties around that world, plus $50 for elite membership gives this card an value to me of about $850.

I used my Citi Hilton Reserve two free weekend nights at the Conrad Maldives
I used my Citi Hilton Reserve two free weekend nights at the Conrad Maldives

CITI

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve 
Current Bonus: 
Two weekend night certificates, each good for one weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) at most hotels and resorts within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, after $2,500 spend in 4 months. 
Other Benefits: 
10 points for every $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio. 5 points for every $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases. 3 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status; Diamond status with $40,000 annual spend. No foreign transaction fees. SmartChip technology. Visa Signature benefits. Cardholders who spend $10,000 annually get an anniversary free weekend-night certificate that can be used at any property 
Annual Fee:
$95
Value: The value of the two free weekend nights could easily be worth $700, plus the free night at $10,000 in spend ($300) plus Gold status ($100) minus the annual fee of $95 = value of about $1,005 to me. 


US BANK

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature 
Current Bonus:
 85,000 Gold Points – 50,000 after first purchase, 35,000 after $2,500 spend in 90 days
Other Benefits: 
10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide, and 5 points per dollar elsewhere. 40,000 bonus points each year after you renew your card and pay the annual fee. Bonus Award Nights –when Gold Points are redeemed for two or more consecutive award nights, the last night is free – exclusively for cardmembers. Automatic Gold Elite Status once the card is used. Existing Gold Elite members receive 15 qualifying nights toward Concierge Elite Status.
Annual Fee: $75
Value: I value Club Carlson points at about 0.6 cents a piece, so the 85,000 = $510 plus the free award night benefit is an easy way to save at least 70,000 points a year ($420) plus $25 in elite status perks – $75 = $880 in value to me.

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