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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
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 Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, 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.
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 Club Select Credit Card 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 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
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, so I use that card a lot while I’m in Europe.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees