I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog helping you get in the air for free with the best airline credit cards. Today I’ll share some tips on getting free hotels with hotel credit cards.
For the sake of this post, I’ll focus on hotel earning opportunities in Honolulu. Why? Because I’ve been helping a Help Me Travel Cheap reader book flights from Philadelphia to Honolulu. He and his wife got the British Airways Visa when it had the 100,000 point bonus. Now they’re on their way to HNL for 70,000 miles and $20 (total).
I suggested that I could help him snag free hotels if he was interested.
He’s interested, and I hope you are too.
Hotel Points Vs. Frequent Flyer Miles
In many ways, I prefer hotel points. The reason is that they are a lot less hassle.
In my eBook on how to earn frequent flyer miles, I point out that 54% of people have success when attempting to book flights with air miles. However, 79% have success booking hotel rooms. Personally, I’ve never once (out of 15+ nights) not been able to get a room on my desired date of stay.
If you’ve ever been frustrated with flight miles, you need to know that, in comparison, getting your free hotel is as easy as pie.
By the way, one other advantage is that you don’t (typically) pay taxes or fees when you use hotel points. When you check out, you get a bill for $0 (unless you use extra services during your stay).
Best Hotel Credit Card Offers for Free Hotels
Marriot Rewards & Marriott Rewards Credit Card
The first thing you’ll want to do is familiarize yourself with the hotel categories and tier list. If you know where you’re going, it is important to see how many points it will take to get a free hotel.
|Hotel Category||Hotel Reward||PointSavers Reward||Extra Value|
|1||7,500||6,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|2||10,000||7,500||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|3||15,000||10,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|4||20,000||15,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|5||25,000||20,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|6||30,000||25,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|7||35,000||30,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|8||40,000||35,000||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
Select hotels are available for select dates at a discounted rate (as shown above). Expect the list to be quite limited. (Currently only nine States have a PointSaver location.) It is impossible to predict what hotels will be offered so it is best to plan your mileage earning strategy around the known standard rate and consider it a bonus if you are eligible for a PointSaver location.
Marriott Rewards Credit Card
- What you get when you sign up is 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
- One night free hotel certificate (must be redeemed at category 1-4).
- No foreign currency exchange
- No annual fee for the first year ($85 value)
Let’s assume you wanted to stay at the only category 4 in Hawaii. The Courtyard Waikiki Beach is usually $145 per night.
By signing up for two Marriott Rewards credit cards(one for you and one for your hubby), you could get 6 nights free. That’s an $870 value or a value of $435 per application (with 10,000 points left over).
Hilton HHonors & Hilton HHonors American Express
|Hotel Category||Hotel Reward||Cash and Points|
|2||12,500||6,250 Pts + US$30|
|3||25,000||12,250 Pts + US$40|
|4||30,000||15,000 Pts + US$50|
|5||35,000||17,500 Pts + US$60|
|6||40,000||20,000 Pts + US$70|
|7||50,000||25,000 Pts + US$85|
There is an opportunity to get points for less. When you find an eligible Point Strecher location, you can save 40% off the required points.
As reported by Loyalty Traveler, if you are a silver member you can get the following discounts:
The primary benefit of Silver VIP is the ability to book discounted VIP awards which provide a 15% discount on 4-night stays, 20% discount on 5-night stays and 25% discount on points required for stays of six nights or more. American Express AXON 6 and AXON 7 awards for stays of 4 nights are even lower priced than HHonors VIP awards.
- 4-nights VIP category 5 = 119,000 points; AXON category 5 = 125,000 points.
- 4-nights: VIP Category 6 = 136,000 points; AXON category 6 = 125,000 points.
- 4-nights VIP Category 7 = 170,000 points; AXON category 7 = 145,000 points
Once again, let’s look at our Hawaii sample:
The Hilton Waikiki Beach costs $209 per night. It is a category 6 hotel.
Hilton HHonors AMEX
The Hilton HHonors AMEX card offers 50,000 points with a $500 spend. That is the biggest current offer. The Hilton Surpass offers 40,000 points and offers Gold Status (but also comes with a $75 annual fee).
Updated August 2012. The current best Hilton credit card is the Hilton Reserve card.
If a husband and wife each signed up for the Hilton HHonors plastic, their combined 100,000 points would cover two nights at a Category 6.
The value of both would be $418. Each card application would be valued at $209.
One advantage of Hilton is that you can get one card from AMEX and one card from Citi and get even more points. After spending $1,000 on the Citi Hilton Signature you can get another 40,000 points.
Starwood & Starwood American Express Hotel Credit Card
Starwood has been one of my favorite hotel programs for a little while. They seem to have the best options for earning free hotels. However, in this Hawaii sample, the card came out short.
|Hotel Category||Hotel Reward||Cash and points||Extra Value|
|1,200 Starpoints + $25||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|1,600 Starpoints + $30||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|3||7,000||2,800 Starpoints + $45||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|4||10,000||4,000 Starpoints + $60||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|5||12,000-16,000||4,800 Starpoints + $90||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|6||20,000-25,000||8,000 Starpoints + $150||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
|7||30,000-35,000||n/a||Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.|
- Sheraton Princess Kaiulani – $129. Category 4.
The standard offer on the Starwood American Express card is up to 25,000 points. You get 10,000 points after the first use and 15,000 after you spend $5,000 in six months. This applies to both the personal and business card. With both cards you have the potential to earn 50,000 points per person (100,000 if both you and your spouse get the card).
Both people getting both cards (with the $5,000 minimum spend) would translate into 10 nights or 20 nights with $600 (using Starwood cash and points).
The value for the five nights is $645 or $323.25 per application.
Priority Club & Priority Club Select Visa
The Priority Club does have a great (but very limited) discount program called PointBreaks. You can get eligible hotels for 5,000 points.
The WAIKIKI BEACHCOMBER is a Priority Club Hotel. It costs $162 per night.
Using points, it is 25,000 Priority Club Points or 20,000 Points + $40 or 15,000 Points + $60.
The current public offer for Priority Club Select Visa is 60,000 (though there are some target offers for 80,000 that I’ve heard about).
With two applications, a husband and wife could get 120,000 Priority Club Points.
That would translate into four nights (with an extra 20,000 points). The value would be $648 or $162 value per application.
Hyatt Rewards & Hyatt Visa
Hyatt has a simple reward policy. Two free nights with a new credit card ($75 annual fee – not waived).
Fortunately, for this analysis Hawaii has one of their more expensive hotels.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa costs $459 US per night.
If a husband and wife each applied for the Hyatt Rewards credit they’d get a combined total of four free night certificates.
A person could save $1,836 per card with a $843 value per application (adjusted for annual fee of $75).
* Don’t forget that we should account for the $150 annual fee between the two accounts.
Non-Brand Specific – Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the current best credit card offers available. After spending $3,000, you can get $500 worth of travel.
Thus, two accounts would net you $1,000 worth of hotels or $500 per application.
If you prefer, you could get $500 worth of Best Western gift cards. At $500, you could almost get 5 nights at the BEST WESTERN The Plaza Hotel. Two cards, of course, would give you $100 short of 10 nights at the Best Western.
Best Credit Card for Free Hotel Summary:
Best plastic for free hotels:*
- Hyatt Rewards – $843 value per application
- Marriott Rewards – $435 per credit card application
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – $500 value per application ($3,000 credit card minimum spend in 90 days)
- Starwood American Express personal and/or Starwood American Express Business– $323.25 per credit card application *with $5,000 spend in six months
- Hilton HHonors AMEX – $209 value per credit card application
- Priority Club Select Visa – $162 value per credit card application
*Remember that your results will change based on your destination. For example, if you were to use two nights at a Hyatt in Dallas, your card value would be $200 instead of $918.
If you’re trying to decide on the best credit card based on your destination, feel free to email htcheap at gmail dot com, and I’d love to help you out.