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7 Top Hotel Credit Cards for Free Nights

by on June 5, 2014 · 46 comments

in American Express, Card review, Carlson, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards, Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG Rewards, Marriott, Starwood, US Bank

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Kevin

    Good article! Small typo under Hyatt: “Those two free Marriott 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 value to me of about $850.” I believe that should say those two free Hyatt nights…. Thanks for the post!

  • tls62pa

    I already have the Citi Hilton Reserve, love it, but if I had my fiance get it now for two free nights for our honeymoon next September, do the certificates have to be used within a year of you receiving your card, or from the statement that you complete the minimum spend?

  • Justin

    I wonder how long until I get the two free nights from Hyatt. I met the spend req yesterday and I’m going to the Hyatt in Aruba on Saturday for 3 nights. Those two free nights would save 50,000 UR points.

  • SL

    Hey Brian, can the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Signature benefits
    be used at Ritz Carlton properties? I was not sure that even though Marriott owns Ritz there is no cross over benefits etc? Can you confirm that..

  • Joel Parker

    I was wondering how quickly the Fairmont free nights post. I was thinking about applying for the card and using the free nights for a trip to boston over the fourth of july. Do you think they will post quickly after the minimum is spent?

  • Bob

    I’d personally save those 2 free nights for higher value redemptions if you have any such trips in the next year….such as Park Hyatt Tokyo/Sydney/Paris/NYC….where the room price can be over $1k a night.

    For Aruba, I’d prefer to use a cash and points redemption by using 12.5k points + a $150 copay.

  • Savvy Consumer

    Agree! Citi Hilton Reserve has great value. Have extracted value of over $1,000 with the 2 free nights certificate. Depends on how you use it!

  • JakePB

    Brian, I’ve never considered the Fairmont card, but perhaps I should. Are the 2 nights limited to certain properties? I ask because the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui would be a great redemption.

  • Mike

    If I’m not mistaken, it can’t. But the Ritz benefits can be used at Marriot. I know that for sure. Ritz visa is pretty fantastic now. Primary rental insurance and 300 dollar airline reimbursement that can be used towards gift cards. Plus it offers the highest insurance, lost baggage reimbursment, airline delay and item return protection of any card. It’s a good one.

  • mv

    i have a hyatt membership but not the credit card. i read in the fine print that only new cardmembers and new hyatt members can receive the the 2 nights free? can anyone clarify please :)

  • Justin

    Thanks Bob. I’ll check that out for the trip. I was going to transfer the 75k UR points for the 3 nights but I like the cash + points option. I’m with you…would like to hold those nights for a better option. Thanks again.

  • mv

    It states- This one-time bonus offer is valid only for first-time Hyatt Credit Cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing Hyatt Credit Cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer. Chase is not responsible for offer fulfillment. If your account is not open for at least 3 months, Hyatt and Chase reserve the right to deduct the Free Night Awards from your Hyatt Gold Passport account.

  • Geoff Wells

    My wife and I stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani in January. I didn’t have any issues when booking the rooms, and we booked relatively late for award stays (3 months prior to arriving). In addition to the 4 free nights, all of the various statement credits totaled up to $300. (My wife and I each got the card).

  • i_hereby_resign

    I got over $2500 value from the Hyatt card — booked two nights at the Park Hyatt New York. Awesome!

  • JakePB

    @Geoff – thanks! We stayed there a few years back, and if I recall paid about $550/night so 4 free is quite the score!

  • Geoff Wells

    @Jakepb:disqus Not a problem. We took an 8 day vacation and stayed 4 nights at the Fairmont and 4 nights at the Andaz Maui which just recently opened and is right down the street from the Fairmont (2 free nights with the Hyatt card). 4 simple credit card applications for $4000-$5000 in hotel stays. Can’t beat it.

  • Grant W

    If you’ve never had the Hyatt credit card, you are eligible.

  • Bob

    I’m actually doing the same thing myself for Hyatt Aruba for July 4 to 6th…..25k points + $300 copay for the two nights :) Hope enjoy

  • Justin

    We were supposed to go for a week but we have to cut it short. I weighed paying the $400 in change fees from AA vs 35k miles on a non-stop back to EWR (so flying out of PHL and coming back to EWR). The nonstop on UA is much better time wise so we grabbed it. Now we’ll just have to cancel the return on AA. Gotta love travel plans changing on the fly.

  • Savvy Consumer

    Banks have gotten smarter. The ‘multiple applications trick in a day’ doesn’t work any more. Chase reps have confirmed that they can see all the apps LIVE as they happen.

  • Corey

    If I were to only get two of the cards above, which would be best for travel in Asia ( Japan, Korea, China mainly)?

  • guyver2077

    Amazing. It doesn’t look like theres many of those Park Hyatt and I never really travel outside of US. So the main advantage is just those two free nights? What else does the card get you? I thought i read something about discounted rates

  • MYRflyer

    ymmv, haven’t had any problems on the last 6 churns using this method

  • i_hereby_resign

    It also gets you Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status which will provide you with an ‘Elite Rate’ (when available) which is a 20% discount over the standard rack rate, and 3 points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties. You get a free night in a category 1-4 hotel on each anniversary of holding the card, but you have to pay the annual fee of $75. To me it is worth holding the card because I can get more than $75 in value from the free night.

  • Makinan Dan

    Hi Corey, first thing is the AmEx cards are a bit harder to get accepted in some Chinese areas. If you are staying in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities, should be OK, but when you get to say Rizhao you’ll have better luck with a Visa. Although some just accept Chinese Union Pay cards, so remember cash is king! Past that, the IHG group has probably been the most aggressive with new properties, especially Intercontinental hotels (can’t wait for the new Wuhan one to open) so probably best chance to earn points. Hilton probably has the best card, and they are opening up some new properties in China. Plus in Japan the Narita property is probably best value there, and can’t beat the Millennium Seoul-especially when you have a bit of luck at the casino! I just opened up the Hilton card, as I travel a lot to SE Asia, and Hilton has a number of great properties there, including new Doubletrees. Marriott also good choice, I think they have close to 75 Chinese properties plus a lot in SE Asia (only international group present in Medan). Don’t hear much about Hyatt, I think they have less than 30 properties in China, and that includes several in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Carlson group? Again don’t hear much about in the region. Starwood has a few nice properties in China (the Tianjin TEDA is a nice oasis) so might consider that one.

  • Darren

    Our Hyatt free nights posted a few days after the statement date where we met the spend

  • Dr. C

    No mention of the Carlson Premier Rewards Visa? 85K signup, and FIVE POINTS per every dollar spend. Its a good exercise to map how many nights you might get based upon some fixed spend on your card. For me, Carlson is near the top, especially since you get an extra day tacked on to any award stay if you have the card. $10,000 spent on the Carlson gets you 50K points which is 2 nights at their New York City Radisson.

  • guyver2077

    Does look tempting. thanks for the info. Is this their typical deal year round or is it a special offer going on now?

  • Corey

    Thanks for all the info.
    Since I already have the IHG I guess I’ll go with the Hilton plus either hyatt or marriott. I wish chase would give me two cards this go around =]

  • David

    You meant you have succeeded in applying 2-3 or multiple different
    cards but from same bank in same day? Ex: sapphire prefferred , freedom,
    marriott …all from Chase….can I apply all in same day and won’t
    lessen my chance of getting approved?

  • Yossi

    Posted to where?

  • Darren

    To our Hyatt Gold Passport Account

  • girlycheckin

    Thanks! I’d somehow missed your previous posting about the $100 statement credit for Hilton and I’d been waiting for something like that to pull the trigger so just did. One thing I’m wondering… why do they always seem to be Visa (or Amex) and not MasterCard? Is it just coincidence? All of my loyalty cards seem to fall under the two, but I know that I’ve seen the occasional travel promotion for paying with MasterCard and I’m never able to take advantage of them unless I want to use my (gasp!) debit card.

  • justthebest

    My question is what you have to do to get ocean-front. I’m not really interested in going to Hawaii if I don’t have a good view of the ocean, and I’m guessing that they aren’t giving those away free. But, can you upgrade for a reasonable fee, or is that a non-starter? I love the Orchid, but need that ocean view to make it worth the trouble.

  • justthebest

    The status doesn’t transfer, but the points are all the same. But, Ritz properties are pricey–up to 70,000 Marriott points per night. And, not many deals. I’ve got the Ritz card and wish I’d gone with the Marriott (you can’t have both). All in all, I’d have gotten more out of the Marriott card and status.

  • http://www.mrfreemiles.com/ mrfreemiles

    Visa is the preferred brand for nearly every issuing bank (save Citibank), especially for their rewards products. As for American Express, they act as the payment brand and issuing bank which is why historically they’ve been able to offer such high rewards.
    If you do want a MasterCard, I’d check out the American Airlines cards offered by Citibank.

  • Guest1227

    I applied for a Marriott card for the 50K points bonus and free night (cat. 1-4) two days ago. SInce then I have seen the same card but with a 70K point sign on bonus and free night cat. 1-5. Is there any way to achieve the additional points and category increase once the application has been submitted and approved?

  • Zeedub

    Same exact thing happened to me. Called Chase, explained the situation, and within a couple weeks they credited my account with the additional 20k points on top of the 50k I’d already received.

  • Travis

    same thing here, just call them, and they will add the points.

  • Angelina Jullie

    Modern times when internet has so much facility of gossip and
    stuff, your articles have awfully refreshed meReichenhall
    hotel

  • normand

    Hi, I am new reader here. Just curious, is it possible to get approved for more than one Marriott card from Chase? Currently there are Marriott Rewards Premier credit card, reward credit card and business credit card.

  • Brian

    How did you book at the Park Hyatt New York with points? We are going to New York at the end of September and I tried booking online for both the Park Hyatt and Andaz 5th Avenue with points. For both of these hotels, it told me that this option wasn’t available.

  • Brian

    If it’s $800 per night for TWO free nights, then the card value is $1650!

  • i_hereby_resign

    didn’t book with points – used the two free nights from the visa card – and booked a sunday and monday night. at hyatt hotels, most friday and saturday nights in new york city will not allow any point or free night redemptions. look at andaz wall street for a cheap weekend night stay.

  • Brian

    Holy cow! Thanks for that info! I was going to apply for the Hyatt card today for the 2 free nights at the Park Hyatt, so I’m glad I saw your post first. But how can they get away with those restrictions? I’ve read the fine print everywhere, but never saw anything that mentions this. It also doesn’t make sense because the Andaz 5th Avenue charges $675/night during the week and you can use points, but they charge $500/night during the weekend and you can’t use points? The lower rate tells me that room demand is lower on the weekends, so why wouldn’t they allow the use of points?

  • Bryson

    You will get denied for all the cards but the first if you apply in the same day. I recently tried to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Hyatt in the same day. The Hyatt was instantly approved but the CSP was rejected. When I called the reconsideration line, I was informed that they auto reject multiple applications in the same day. Fortunately, she was able to approve the CSP while on the phone.

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