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If you’re looking to plan travel with minimal out-of-pocket expenses, hotel award nights can come in very handy. Even if your loyalty program balances are currently low, there are a variety of solid credit cards that can help you score free stays for simply meeting the sign-up bonus. TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert dives into the top options below.
Collecting points and miles through credit card sign-ups, bonuses and everyday spending can be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day the goal behind all this earning is usually free award travel. In today’s post, I’ll take a look at the top credit card options for earning free hotel nights, including products that offer free night certificates as part of their sign-up bonuses.
1. The Hyatt Credit Card
Currently, you can earn two free nights at Hyatt properties around the globe after spending $1,000 in the first three months with this card. Since these free nights can be redeemed at even Category 7 hotels like the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, you can get hundreds of dollars in value from this sign-up bonus.
Cardholders also get a free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt property on each account anniversary, and they’ll enjoy Hyatt Discoverist status as long as they remain cardmembers. Other benefits include 3x points on Hyatt purchases; 2x points at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies; and 1x on everything else. The Hyatt Credit Card has a $75 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
2. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
TPG routinely ranks Starpoints above all other program currencies in his monthly valuations, due to the variety of great options for redeeming them — from free hotel nights, complete with the fifth night free, to the ability to transfer points to more than 30 airline partners with a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred in a single transaction.
Considering how valuable Starpoints can be, now’s a great time to sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. You can currently earn 25,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months — or $5,000 on the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express of the card.
As for other benefits, the Starwood Amex and Starwood Business Amex each offer 2 stay and 5 night credits toward SPG elite status, and both cards earn 2 points per dollar on Starwood purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
3. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
This card’s a great option for those who prefer the Hilton brand, as it offers two free weekend night certificates after you make $2,500 in purchases in the first four months of account opening. Each certificate is good for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday stay in a standard room with double occupancy — and you can really maximize the free nights by redeeming them at a higher-category property like the Conrad Tokyo or the Conrad Maldives. Plus, when you spend $10,000 on the card in a cardmembership year, you’ll get an additional free weekend night certificate.
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card confers automatic HHonors Gold status, and you’ll be upgraded to Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on the card each calendar year. Other card benefits include 10x points on Hilton purchases, 5x points on airline and car rental purchases and 3x points on everything else. The card has a $95 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees.
4. Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card
If you’re interested in free stays within the Hilton brand, the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card is another worthwhile option — especially now, since it’s offering an elevated sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months of account opening. That’s nearly double the usual bonus of 40,000 points, and though it requires spending $2,000 rather than $1,000, it could be worth it if you have any upcoming travel. You could book a free night at a Category 9 property like the Hilton Moorea, or redeem the sign-up bonus for a week-long award stay at lower-level properties like the Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort.
In addition to offering 75,000 points as a sign-up bonus, the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card gets you 6x points on Hilton hotel stays; 3x points on spending at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations; and 2x on everything else. You’ll also enjoy complimentary Silver status as long as you’re a cardmember, with the opportunity to upgrade to Gold status after completing four stays in your first 90 days as an account member or when you make $20,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year. Finally, you’ll receive a loyalty bonus of 10,000 HHonors points at the end of each calendar year when you spend $1,000 or more on Hilton stays. This card has no annual fee, though it does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee.
5. Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. You can even earn an extra 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months, bumping your haul up to 87,500 points. That’s enough to book a two-night stay at the Category 8 Kauai Marriott Resort or a longer stay at a lower-level Marriott property.
Cardholders will also receive one free night at a Category 1-5 property each year after their account anniversary, plus 15 credits toward elite status — enough to qualify for Silver. Other benefits include 5x points on Marriott purchases; 2x points on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies and restaurants; and 1x on all other spending. The card has an $85 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
6. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Currently, you can earn 60,000 points when you sign up for this card and spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. You could use that haul to book a free three-night stay at a Category 3 property like the Hotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown – Alamo, or a four-night stay at a Category 2 property. You’ll also get a free night each account anniversary, and will receive a 10% points rebate on redemptions — up to 100,000 points each year.
Other benefits include complimentary Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a cardmember, plus 5x points on IHG purchases; 2x at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1x on everything else. The card has a $49 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
TRANSFERABLE POINT CARDS
The above options are great if you know you want to stay within a specific hotel brand, but if you aren’t loyal to a specific chain, you might want to consider one of these cards. Both earn transferable Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed with a variety of hotel partners including Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. The transfer rate for all partners is 1:1. For more information on why you should earn transferable points, see this post.
7. Chase Sapphire Preferred
You can currently earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Depending on how you choose to redeem it, the sign-up bonus could get you a one-night stay at a Tier 3 Ritz-Carlton property or 11 nights at an IHG PointBreaks hotel. Other card benefits include 2x points on all travel and dining purchases and 1x on everything else. The card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees.
8. Chase Ink Plus Business Card
This is another great Ultimate Rewards-earning options — especially for small-business owners who can maximize the bonus categories — and it’s currently offering 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening. That’s enough for a two-night stay at a Category 7 Hyatt property, or 10 nights at a Category 1 Marriott hotel booked at the PointSavers rate.
Apart from the generous sign-up bonus, the Ink Plus offers 5x points on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year, plus 2x points on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year and 1x points on everything else. This card has a $95 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees.
No matter your hotel program of choice, there’s a credit card option that will help you earn free nights quickly. Plus, many of these products include free night certificates as a sign-up bonus, so you don’t need to spend months racking up rewards before you can enjoy a complimentary stay. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for using cards to earn and redeem hotel award nights.
What’s your favorite card for earning hotel award nights quickly?
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