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Many credit cards come with benefits you can enjoy just for having an account, without having to meet a certain spending requirement. Among hotel rewards cards in particular, some options offer a free night stay each year, either on a complimentary basis or when you meet certain spending thresholds.

How Credit Card Free Nights Work

Each of the cards featured below offers you a free night, in some form or another, each cardmember year. Typically, you’ll receive this free night automatically when your statement closes following the anniversary of your account opening. However, some cards require you to actually renew your card by paying the annual fee.

These free night certificates are usually restricted to the lower half of the hotel categories offered. Sometimes you must also meet a minimum spending requirement for the previous year to earn the certificate.

Once redeemed, you can use your free night by itself, or as part of a larger stay with cash, points or a mixture of the two. Typically, I tend to use these free nights by themselves, however, there’s no reason you can’t use a free night adjacent to a paid or award stay.

I also try to maximize these certificates by using them at hotels in the highest category I can. For example, I’ve used annual free night certificates from my Hyatt Credit Card at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and the Hyatt Regency inside of the Orlando airport terminal, which are all Category 3 or 4 hotels.

As with other hotel award nights, you usually aren’t taxed on the value of your free night, as most cities only impose taxes on cash purchases, not awards. Nevertheless, you could still be responsible for paying any mandatory “resort fees” or optional parking charges.

Hyatt Credit Card

Annual free night benefit: This card offers a free night at a Category 1-4 hotel each year after your cardmember anniversary. The free night gets added to your account as an electronic certificate that you can redeem online or over the phone.

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 points after making $2,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. You can also receive an additional 5,000 point bonus when you add an authorized cardholder who makes a purchase within three months of account opening.

Rewards: This card offers 3x points at Hyatt properties; 2x points at restaurants, on airline tickets purchases directly from the airline and at car rental agencies; and 1x elsewhere.

Other benefits: You receive Discoverist status in the World of Hyatt program. This offers you room upgrades, a 10% bonus points, priority service and 2pm late checkout.

Annual fee: $75

Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo courtesy of Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires)

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Annual free night benefit: This free night benefit used to be unrestricted, but it changed, and now free nights will be limited to a redemption value of up to 40,000 points. However, existing holders of the old IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card won’t be capped at 40,000 points for free night certificates issued before May 1, 2019.

Sign-up bonus: 80,000 points after making $2,000 in purchases within three months of account opening.

Rewards: This card offers you 10x points for all purchases at IHG properties, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Other benefits:  Cardholders receive a $100 Global Entry or PreCheck fee reimbursement. You also get your fourth night free when you redeem your points for a stay of four or more consecutive nights. It includes Platinum Elite status, which offers you room upgrades, late checkouts and Raid the Bar privileges which offers a $10 credit at the bar or restaurant at the hotel.

Annual fee: $89

IHG property InterContinental Paris - Le Grand, France. (Photo courtesy of InterContinental Paris - Le Grand)
InterContinental Paris – Le Grand, France. (Photo courtesy of InterContinental Paris – Le Grand)

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

Annual free night benefit: You receive a free night every year after your account anniversary at a property with a redemption level up to 35,000 points. This card replaces the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, which offered an annual free night at a Category 1-5 hotel.

Sign-up bonus: 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening.

Rewards: This card offers you 6x points for all purchases at Marriott and Starwood properties and 2x on all other purchases.

Other benefits: You receive automatic Silver Elite status and 15 elite night credits (starting in 2019). Plus, you can earn Gold Elite status by spending $35,000 on the card each account year.

Annual fee: $95

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida. (Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami)

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Annual free night benefit: Starting in August 2018, this card offers an annual free night award, with a redemption level at or under 35,000 points. You will receive this award each year after your account renewal.

Bonus: The current bonus is 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

Rewards: This card currently offers 6x points at SPG and Marriott Rewards properties, and 2x points per dollar spent elsewhere.

Other benefits: This card offers complimentary Silver Elite status in the new combined Marriott Rewards program. You can earn Gold Elite status by spending $30,000 in 2018, which rises to $35,000 in 2019, and you get 15 elite night credits beginning in 2019 (limited to once per member per year, not once per card). Cardholders also receive free premium in-room internet service.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Annual free night benefit: Starting on August 1, 2018, the small business version offers an annual free night award, with a redemption level at or under 35,000 points. You’ll receive this award each year after your account renewal.

Bonus: Currently offering a limited-time bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends October 31, 2018.

Rewards: Starting August 1, 2018, the terms will updated to offer 6x points at the combined portfolio of Starwood and Marriott properties. You’ll also receive 4x points in small business categories including US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers and on US shipping purchases. You’ll receive 2x points for all other purchases.

Other benefits: This card offers complimentary Silver Elite status in the new combined Marriott Rewards program. You can earn Gold Elite status by spending $30,000 in 2018, which rises to $35,000 in 2019. The business version also offers Boingo Wi-Fi access. Cardholders also receive free premium in-room internet service.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

St. Regis Florence, Italy. (Photo courtesy of St. Regis Florence)
St. Regis Florence, Italy. (Photo courtesy of St. Regis Florence)

The SPG Luxury Credit Card from American Express 

Annual free night benefit: This new card, available starting in August 2018, will offer an annual free night award, with a redemption level at or under 50,000 points. You’ll receive this award each year on your account renewal.

Bonus: Not released at this time, as the card wasn’t accepting applications yet as of publish time.

Rewards: 6x Marriott Rewards points at the combined portfolio of Starwood and Marriott properties, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x points for all other purchases.

Other benefits: Complimentary Gold Elite status, and Platinum status after spending $75,000 in a calendar year. $300 in statement credits for purchases at participating Marriott hotels each cardmember year and a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck fee credit. Priority Pass Select membership (including two guests). 15 elite night credits beginning in 2019 (limited to once per member per year, not once per card). Boingo Wi-Fi access and free in-room premium Wi-Fi (beginning in August of 2018).

Annual fee: $450

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Annual free night benefit:  You receive one weekend night award your first year and every year after renewal, and you can also earn an additional night after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year

Bonus: 150,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases within three months of account opening.

Rewards: This card offers 14x points for charges at Hilton portfolio hotels. You also earn 7x points for flights booked with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly with select companies and at US restaurants. You’ll earn 3x points for all other eligible purchases.

Other benefits: Complimentary Hilton Diamond status, $250 Hilton resort statement credit, $250 annual airline fee credit, $100 Hilton on-property credit. You also get Priority Pass Select membership for the primary account holder and up to two guests.

Annual fee: $450

View from the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik. (Courtesy of Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik)
View from the dining balcony of the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik. (Courtesy of Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik)

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card 

Annual free night benefit: Earn one free night when you charge $10,000 then renew your card. You also receive 40,000 points each year when you renew your card.

Sign-up bonus: Receive 50,000 points after your first purchase plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days.

Rewards: 10x points at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels and 5x points for purchases everywhere else.

Other benefits: Gold Elite status or 15 qualifying nights for those who already hold that status

Annual fee: $75

Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card

Annual free night benefit: Earn one free night when you charge $10,000 then renew your card. You also receive 25,000 points each year when you renew your card.

Sign-up bonus: Receive 50,000 points after your first purchase plus 10,000 points once you spend $1,500 on your card within the first 90 days.

Rewards: 6x points at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels and 3x points for purchases everywhere else.

Other benefits: Silver Elite status or 10 qualifying nights for those who already hold that status.

Annual fee: $50

Radisson Blu Palace Resort Fiji. (Courtesy of Radisson Blu Palace Resort Fiji)
Radisson Blu Palace Resort Fiji. (Courtesy of Radisson Blu Palace Resort Fiji)

Club Carlson Rewards Visa Card 

Annual free night benefit: Earn one free night when you charge $10,000 then renew your card.

Sign-up bonus: Receive 30,000 points after you spend $1,000 on your card within the first 90 days.

Rewards: 3x points at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels and 1x points for purchases everywhere else.

Other benefits: None

Annual fee: None

Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card

Annual free night benefit: Earn one free night when you charge $10,000 then renew your card. You also receive 40,000 points each year when you renew your card.

Sign-up bonus: Receive 50,000 points after your first purchase plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days.

Rewards: 10x points at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels and 5x points for purchases everywhere else.

Other benefits: Gold Elite status or 15 qualifying nights for those who already hold that status.

Annual fee: $60

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
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Regular APR
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Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
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Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.