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Which Credit Cards Are Best for Free Hotel Stays in Europe?

by on July 6, 2014 · 11 comments

in Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Club Carlson, Europe, Hyatt, IHG Rewards, Sunday Reader Questions, Ultimate Rewards, Video Blog Post, Visa

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I love Europe (I was in London last weekend, and I’m actually filming this week’s reader questions in beautiful Madrid, Spain), and I thought it was topical that TPG reader Anthony tweeted me to ask:

“What are your thoughts on the best credit cards for free hotel stays in Europe?”

Hotels can be expensive in Europe, especially in London. I think there are two ways to look at credit card offers: the sign-up bonus (how many nights it will get you) and ongoing perks.

If you can leverage the Club Carlson Visa, I think that’s one of the best cards out there for travel within Europe. They’ve got tons of properties across the continent, including nice Radisson Blu hotels. (TPG Creative Director Adam Daniel Weiss just stayed at the Radison Blu Le Dokhan in Paris, and I stayed at the Radisson Blue Prado in Madrid, which is in a great part of town).

With the Club Carlson credit card you get one free night whenever you redeem points on stays of two nights or more. So on a two night stay you’re getting one of those nights free and essentially doubling the value of your points. So I think the Club Carlson Visa is a great card if you know to leverage it; just don’t use it abroad because it incurs foreign transaction fees.

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The Club Carlson Visa can double the value of your points with a free night for every award stay of two nights or more (photo by Adam Daniel Weiss).

In terms of other bonuses, the Chase Hyatt card gets two free nights at any Hyatt in the world, so you can really leverage that at upscale properties like the Andaz in London or the Park Hyatt Vendome (and other new hotels) in Paris. The IHG Rewards Visa offers a great benefit in the IHG PointBreaks list, which offers award nights for just 5,000 points, so you can really stretch the value of your IHG Rewards points. This card currently has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 IHG Rewards points, though Chase sometimes offers a bonus of 80,000 points.

Of course, when paying for hotels in Europe I always use my Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has no foreign transaction fees and offers double points on all hotels regardless of brand. With the 7% annual dividend that will get you 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points for all travel and dining expenses, so I use that card a lot while I’m in Europe.

If you have other questions, please message me on Facebook, tweet me @ThePointsGuy, or send me an email at [email protected]

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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  • VVFF

    What is your opinion about using the SPG Amex card? Starwoods has some good properties in Europe.

  • Robert

    SPG Amex incurs foreign transactions fees, so best to use another. As TPG suggests, the best option is the CSP. Arrival would be another fine choice. CSP and Arrival both have no foreign fees.

  • Kevin Greene

    Starwood has modern chic properties across Europe and Asia; stayed at Le Meridien Barcelona using points last week. Highly recommended. I’m Platinum & love my SPG Amex domestically, however as suggested I used my CSP with no foreign fees when abroad.

    Sidenote: Cap One Venture card is also great to use for merchandise and non-dining/travel abroad.

  • Mr. Cool

    @thepointsguy:disqus
    what about wyndham, bestwest, choice?
    any sweet spots?

    thanks!

  • TheMontaneVole

    I totally agree about the Club Carlson program and credit card. I just returned from a trip to Amsterdam, Utrecht, and London (on a free ticket via Delta Skymiles with 8 nights free in Club Carlson hotels!), I highly recommend the Park Plaza Westminster in London (directly across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament and ultra-elegant!), the Radisson Blu in Bloomsbury (diagonally across from the British Museum), and the Park Plaza Utrecht (near central station but a 15 minute walk to the main part of the city). Thanks, TPG, for teaching me how this can really be done!!

  • grttip

    great post TPG — and great timing for me! With your tips in the last year I’ve gotten more than 250,000 bonus airline miles, so now I’m going after hotel miles :)

  • Justin

    I’ll vote for the Hilton Reserve and the Marriott card. We’re staying 2 free nights at the Hilton Garden Inn in Glasgow, 3 free nights at the Glasshouse in Edinburgh (Marriott) and a free night in Dublin at the Morrison next month all thanks to those two cards. Wife and I each got those cards and met the spending req’s for the 2 free weekend night certs with Hilton & the points needed for the Marriott.

  • beth_odonnell

    Does the bonus get any better than the 85000 available now?

  • girlycheckin

    We stayed in London (3 nights at the Sheraton Park Lane) on SPG points last year. I didn’t mind that there were foreign transaction fees since we didn’t really have a hotel bill to pay but if we had run up incidentals or paid for extra nights (or done cash & points) it would’ve been a different story. So, in terms of a card that’s great for free nights in Europe, I felt that SPG offered a good value for us. I do have three other cards that don’t have the foreign transaction fees, which I’d use for everything else.

  • V.i. Lenin

    With inexpensive flats available in centers of the cities via Airbnb, the hotel cards are the second choice nowadays. Whatever card pays the Airbnb fee and generates some points is good and staying in a flat in a typical residential neighborhood is in my opinion and experience superior to any hotel. This way I believe Europe can be experienced to the fullest.

  • brunellofan

    club carlson hands down! I have booked two radisson blu hotels in Paris last fall using “book one night get 2nd free”, for a total of 4 nights. Plus I just booked 2 nights got third free at Park plaza in London for End of July. I estimate I have saved thousands on these 7 nights alone.

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