Which hotel credit card offer gets you the most free nights?
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The key difference that keeps the value proposition of hotel credit cards thundering along is the annual free night certificate offered by most of them. While a single airline credit card might not be enough to plan your entire vacation, when you stack a hotel credit card’s valuable sign-up offer or welcome bonus alongside its annual free night certificate, you can end up with close to a week’s worth of free hotel nights.
Today, we’ll take a look at how the credit cards from the four major hotel chains stack up and which one can get you the most free nights.
For the purpose of this guide, I’m only going to consider the hotel credit cards that offer an annual free night certificate.
I’m also going to stick to personal credit cards to keep things simple, although you could, for example, swap out the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
And one last note before we get started. Since almost every card awards its free night certificate at the end of the year (on your account anniversary), we’re going to be looking at the total first year-value, not just the sign-up offer or welcome bonus, to get an accurate comparison. Let’s dive in.
The cards with a free night award
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after using your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.
- Perks: Up to $300 annual Marriott statement credit towards eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status
- Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
- Sign-up offer: Earn 100,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Free night: Worth up to 35,000 points
- Perks: Marriott Bonvoy Silver elite status, earn Bonvoy Gold by spending $35,000 a year
- Annual fee: $95
- Sign-up offer: Earn up to 60,000 bonus points, 30,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more points by earning 2 points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.
- Free night: Valid at a Category 1-4 hotel
- Perks: Enjoy Hyatt Discoverist status, receive an extra Category 1-4 free night by spending $15,000 a year
- Annual fee: $95
- Welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening
- Free night: Enjoy one free weekend night on account opening and another each year on your account anniversary
- Perks: Automatic Hilton Diamond status, up to $250 annual airline fee credit, up to $250 annual Hilton resort credit, up to $100 credit on eligible stays of two nights or more at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad Hotels, Priority Pass Select membership. Enrollment required for select benefits.
- Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
- Sign-up offer: Earn 125,000 bonus points, plus a reward night after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Reward night: Worth up to 40,000 points
- Perks: Enjoy IHG Platinum Elite status, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100)
- Annual fee: $89
Which card offers the most free night awards?
While welcome bonuses may include free nights from time to time, this is the only card that will always award you a free night certificate when you open your account without having to wait a full year. You also get a second free night on your account anniversary, meaning in your first year you’ll get two uncapped weekend free night certificates valid at just about any property in the Hilton portfolio. In 2021, weekend free night certificates can also be used on any day of the week.
Not only is two obviously better than one, but the lack of point or category restriction makes these some of the most valuable free nights on the market.
Every other card here offers one free night on your account anniversary, so the difference comes from the welcome bonus or sign-up offer.
Nights from the sign-up bonus/welcome offer
We can’t just compare 100,000 Marriott points to 60,000 Hyatt points, so instead, we’ll look at a hypothetical example to see how many nights each card would offer you if you went for the lowest-tier awards possible.
Low-category awards: Marriott
For the sake of comparison, I’ll be looking at standard award redemptions (instead of peak or off-peak).
Marriott’s lowest category, 1, costs 7,500 points for a free night at the standard redemption level. Standard Category 2 nights jumps up to 12,500.
This means that the 100,000-point sign-up bonus on the Bonvoy Boundless card could get you up to 13 nights at 7,500 points. Meanwhile, the 75,000-point welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card can get you 10 nights.
Marriott offers every fifth night free on award stays, so you can get up to 16 nights total on the Bonvoy Boundless and up to 12 nights on the Bonvoy Brilliant.
Total: 16 nights on the Boundless, 12 nights on the Brilliant
Low-category awards: Hyatt
Hyatt is a much easier case to address since Hyatt’s 5,000-point-a-night Category 1 properties are among the main reasons the brand is so popular with award travelers. This means your 60,000-point bonus on the World of Hyatt card translates to an even 12 free nights.
Total: 12 free nights
Low-category awards: Hilton
Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart anymore but instead uses a quasi-dynamic pricing system where each hotel has a range of prices with a published minimum and maximum.
This makes it difficult to figure out what a reasonable low-tier award is, but I’m going to use 20,000 points a night as the lower threshold here. It’s certainly possible to find cheaper rates if you stick to small cities and less popular destinations, so feel free to adjust the numbers accordingly if you’re a deal-hunting budget traveler.
At 20,000 points a night, the 150,000-point welcome offer on the Hilton Aspire card could stretch into a full seven nights of free hotels (eight nights since the fifth night is free on award stays).
Total: 7 free nights
Low-category awards: IHG
While IHG uses dynamic pricing and no longer publishes an official award category chart, for now, the cheapest free nights start at 10,000 points a night. However, properties this cheap are relatively hard to come by in the U.S. Either way, this makes the 150,000 point bonus on the IHG Premier card good for roughly 15 nights.
Cardholders will receive the fourth night free on award stays, letting you stretch your bonus to a total of 16 free nights when booking stays of four nights or more.
Total: 16 free nights
At the end of the day, figuring out which card will get you the most free nights depends on the way you travel.
If you’re looking to simply get the most nights in lower-category hotels, there’s no competing with the Marriott Bonvoy and IHG cards, which offer large bonuses and can get you at least two weeks of free hotel nights.
If you’re looking for a slightly more luxurious stay, Hyatt starts to gain a considerable advantage as you move up the rungs of the award chart. Don’t forget about the Hilton Aspire, though, as the two weekend free night certificates you’ll get in the first year can easily be worth several hundred dollars each at the right property.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured image of Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, click here.
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Aside from the welcome offer you'll earn up to $300 in statement credits each year at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program and 1 free night (worth up to 50k points) every year after your cardmember anniversary. Terms apply.
- Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
- Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive 1 free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $450 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees