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Just a few years ago, a $450+ annual fee on a credit card seemed absolutely ludicrous to all but the heaviest spenders. But nowadays the premium credit card market is heating up with increased competition from both transferable points cards and co-branded airline and hotel credit cards. In order to attract customers, these cards are coming up with more creative and valuable perks, including the now ubiquitous Priority Pass select membership, concierge services, travel/airfare/hotel credits and free hotel nights.

Now that the new Marriott loyalty program is in place, there are two types of annual free night certificates available on the company’s co-branded credit cards. The mass-market cards, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, offer a free night worth up to 35,000 points at each cardmember anniversary starting with the first one. On the other hand, the new Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card offers a free night worth up to 50,000 points at each anniversary after the first year. (The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card also offers the same 50,000-point certificate, but that card is no longer available to new applicants).

The SPG Luxury Card comes with a $450 annual fee, and this free night is one of the best ways to recoup that value. With that in mind, here are seven high-value redemptions for the free night certificate that comes with this premium card and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card. In compiling this list, I focused on three main factors:

  1. The brand of the hotel — specifically luxury brands like Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis — that are eligible for free night redemptions.
  2. Average nightly rate, to make sure you’re getting a good cash value in exchange for your $450 annual fee.
  3. Location and other unique amenities that can enhance your stay.

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $400

Standard points rate: 50,000

Don’t let the name fool you. Although the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne is in fact located on Miami’s Key Biscayne, the hotel’s serene beaches face outwards toward the Atlantic Ocean. Key Biscayne was one of the latter parts of Miami to be developed, so while the hotel provides easy access to Miami International Airport (MIA) and South Beach, it remains private and exclusive. The only luxury resort on the island offers guests stunning ocean views or tropical island views in modern but luxurious guest rooms. You can choose to dine on the beach, by the pool or at the on-site ice cream parlor to escape Miami’s heat.

Atlantis Royal Towers, Bahamas

Photo courtesy of Atlantis
The Atlantis complex in the Bahamas. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $400

Standard points rate: 50,000

While this mythical hotel complex is starting to show its age, it’s still a dreamy vacation spot and a bucket list item for many travelers. Pros include the 141-acre Aquaventure water park, 11 pools, five miles of beaches, the Atlantis casino and endless dining options to suit every taste and budget. With cash rates routinely topping $500, this redemption can be an easy way to recoup your annual fee in one easy move. The cheaper Atlantis Coral Towers is a category 5 property costing 35,000 points a night, meaning you can use your regular SPG Amex or Marriott Premier Plus free nights to stay there.

W Shanghai

Photo courtesy of W Shanghai
The W Shanghai. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $350

Standard points rate: 50,000

You haven’t seen Shanghai until you’ve seen it come to life at night, and the W Shanghai offers some of the best views of the city skyline. Although it bills itself as being on The Bund, it’s actually a few minutes north in the Hongkou district, and when TPG Contributor Eric Rosen stayed there late last year, he said he actually appreciated not being surrounded by throngs of tourists. He also remarked how even the standard rooms were incredibly spacious at almost 500 square feet, but my personal favorite were the chopstick and dumpling pillows he found waiting on his bed.

W Shanghai bed 2
The accoutrements provided at the W Shanghai (Photo by Eric Rosen / The Points Guy).

With 374 rooms, 35 suites and a WET pool that attracts locals and tourists alike, this hotel should be high on your list if you ever stay in Shanghai.

The Ritz-Carlton Bali

Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Bali
The Ritz-Carlton Bali. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $500+ (highly seasonal)

Standard points rate: 50,000

Although Bali can be a painfully expensive hotel market and it’s not unusual for The Ritz-Carlton Bali to go for $700 to 800 a night, Marriott decided to make this property a category 6 and eligible for free night redemptions. Located in the upscale Nusa Dua area, all 313 “rooms” at this property are either suites or villas and almost all of them feature private plunge pools. With six on-site dining options and a seemingly endless stretch of pristine beach, guests are sure to never get bored, but there are unique options for those looking for more structure in their day. The Ritz-Carlton offers a unique impact program that allows guests to give back to the local community through various service programs, which are perfect for a meaningful family vacation or team building activities at your next corporate event.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $370

Standard points rate: 50,000

A little closer to home, The Ritz-Carlton Cancun blends high-end luxury with exotic touches of history. Relax and unwind on the pristine white sand beaches, or venture off-site to explore the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen-Itza. Spice up your stay with a Cirque Du Soleil ticket package, or spend your time snorkeling and SCUBA diving through the pristine waters. At the end of the day you can indulge in tequila and locally caught seafood, or stretch your culinary tastes with sushi and Mediterranean cuisine at one of the many on-site restaurants. Ready to get going? Sub-$200 flight deals to Cancun pop up regularly, making this destination incredibly accessible.

Mykonos Theoxenia, Design Hotels

Photo courtesy of Mykonos Theoxenia
The Mykonos Theoxenia hotel. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $550

Standard points rate: 50,000

The white marble buildings of Mykonos and Santorini make them two incredibly sought after travel destinations, but a limited selection of hotels and sky-high cash rates put them out of the reach of most travelers… at least until now. Guest rooms at the Mykonos Theoxenia feature homey wood floors and balconies overlooking either the sea or garden. The windmills on the property, as well as the blend of stone, wood and marble, give it a rustic but luxurious feel. On-site amenities are especially important on a small island, and the Mykonos Theoxenia has it all. From high-end dining to a concierge that can help you book boats, helicopters and even Learjets, the Mykonos Theoxenia has all your high-end vacation needs covered.

St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort, Hainan

Photo courtesy of St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort
The St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort in Hainan. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Average cash rate: $175

Standard points rate: 50,000

Hainan, often referred to as “China’s Hawaii,” is going to great lengths to attract more tourism. First the island province announced visa-free travel for Americans, followed by a plan to uncensor the internet for tourists. There are also a whopping three St. Regis resorts under construction at the moment, but the one that’s already open in Yalong Bay is worth checking out. The 396 rooms and 38 suites at the St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort are visually stunning, as is the multi-level pool that makes up the centerpiece of the hotel. With beaches on one side and mountains on the other, a marina, golf course and spa, this hotel is reason enough to pick Hainan for your next Asian getaway.

Bottom Line

The SPG Luxury Card offers other perks such as elite status, hotel credit and elevated bonus categories to make sure you get your money’s worth from its steep annual fee. That’s good since you won’t be able to take advantage of your free night certificate until your first year is up (Ritz-Carlton cardholders will get earlier opportunities depending on their anniversary date). But while you should absolutely maximize the card’s benefits every year, it’s possible to get more than $450 in value from the annual free night alone starting in year two, making the SPG Luxury card a no-brainer.

Featured image of the W Shanghai courtesy of the hotel.

Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card

This card has a $450 annual fee, but that's offset by up to $300 in statement credits that you can earn each year for Marriott and SPG purchases. You'll earn 6x points at Marriott and SPG properties, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights purchased directly from the airline and 2x points on everything else.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use the Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points on eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels, 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotels.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International 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 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.

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