If you've been following this blog for a while, you know enough to run an airline, and you should have enough points to buy one. Sadly even if you own an airline, you still need to consider a place to sleep. Free flights allow you to arrive at your destination in style yet free hotels allow you to enjoy your destination in comfort. There are some extremely lucrative credit cards which earn you free nights from every day spending. Since I don't want either our UK readers or US readers to complain, I've broken down the best by country. As you can see, we in the United States really luck out...
Hilton Citi Reserve: You earn two free weekend nights at most Hilton properties (some well over $1,000 a night), after $2,500 in spending in the first four months. Additionally you receive Hilton Gold Status which offers some basic amenities and breakfast at each stay. A major benefit is the retention bonus where you receive a free night yearly every year you spend over $10,000 on the card. If you've got your airline miles covered, it's hard to beat two free nights and a new free night every year for a less than insane amount of spending.
Annual fee: $95
Ritz Carlton Rewards Card:
Ritz Carlton is a name synonymous with top notch luxury and the current two free night offer makes this card very lucrative. It's rare to see a Ritz Carlton room going for less than $600 per night and this card earns you two free nights at most properties and many stunning locations. The card carries a high annual fee at $395 but you instantly receive a $300 travel credit good for baggage fees, lounge access, upgrades, Global Entry and just about anything else. A superb benefit for those who don't mind shelling out but like an upgrade is the complimentary 3x annual Club level upgrade on paid stays as well the $100 hotel credit on stays of two nights or longer. Club level means free food and drinks like an airport lounge. Sweet! I think this will be our next card addition to help offset honeymoon expenses in the air and on the ground.
Annual Fee: $395 w/ $300 airline credit.
Hyatt Credit Card:
Hyatt has really upped their game especially with the addition of the Park Hyatt New York, a true five star hotel. The card has also upped the sign up offer to bring you two free nights after only $1,000 in spending in the first three months. You receive a nice bump to Hyatt Platinum status and just like the Hilton Reserve you receive a free night annually for your continued membership. With so many Hyatt properties worldwide this is an excellent consideration.
Annual Fee: $75, Waived for first year.
Starwood Preferred Amex: This card is recommended by many for its earning potential rather than it's sign up bonus. You receive 25,000 Starpoints in total, 10,000 after the first purchase and 15,000 after $6,000 in purchases in the first five months. These are enough for one night at a high end property or multiple nights at a roadside motel. Starwood Points are very lucrative because they can be transferred to almost every airline at a 1:1 ratio essentially making this a flexible points card. I personally would prefer two free nights which many other cards offer but this is a solid option.
Annual Fee: $65, Waived for first year.
Starwood Preferred Amex: Once again UK folks, you are getting robbed. The SPG Amex offers only 10,000 Starpoints which are not enough for a night in any extremely desirable place. There are a few spending incentives such as a free night in a category 1-4 (not that desirable) hotel after £25,000 spend in a year.
Annual Fee: £ 75
Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa: Though it's not the two nights offered in the US, a free night for only £750 spend within the first three months. You automatically receive Hilton Silver status but if you'd like to reach gold you will need to spend 10,000 annually. I would suggest putting my spend elsewhere such as the Gold or Platinum Amex earning flexible (transferrable) points.
Annual Fee: £0
IHG Rewards Premium Visa: For once a card with a 20,000 point sign up bonus which is enough for an actual free night. On top of the healthier bonus you receive IHG Platinum status which is good for some perks while traveling, two times points on foreign purchases and a free night at any IHG property each year you spend £10,000. As far as outright value, it's tough to argue with this one.
Annual fee: £99
I personally think that you are best off doing your spending on cards that offer transferrable points such as the Amex Gold or Platinum, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi Prestige. I think hotel cards are great to extract just enough value for your spending, cash in for as expensive a free hotel stay as possible and then going back to points earning on another card. As always I am completely jaw drop shocked at how poor bonuses are in the UK. You may or may not have seen that they will likely get worse in THIS article. Make hay while the sun shines.
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