How to Plan Your Next Great Hotel Stay With Points

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Planning a trip can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re new to the world of miles & points.  So I’ve created a step-by-step guide to show you how to plan your hotel stay with points!

Free Hotels With Points
Plan Your Trip to Paris and Stay at the Beautiful Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome.  It’s Within Walking Distance to the Louvre!

Let’s take a look at the best ways to find a hotel and how to find the credit card that’s best for your particular trip.

How to Find Free Hotels With Points

Step 1.   Choose Your Destination

Where do you want to go?  If you already have a spot in mind, then move to “Step 2.”  But if you’re looking for inspiration, check out our Trip Reports for ideas!

Free Hotels With Points
Deciding Where You Want to Go Will Make It Easier to Plan Your Award Trip

Narrowing down a specific spot will make it easier to plan.  And decide which credit cards might be worth applying for.

Step 2.   Find a Hotel and Determine the Number of Points You’ll Need

Once you decide where you want to go, figure out which hotels are in the area.  And what kind of points you’ll need for your stay.

I’ve written about Hotel Hustle and AwardMapper to help you search for award nights at different chain hotels at the same time.

Hotel Hustle has more functions, like showing available rooms, the cash price for comparison purposes, and alerts.  But I find it runs slow sometimes.  So use whichever tool works best for you!

Step 3.   Check Reviews

Knowing which hotel actually has award nights available and how many points you’ll need is important.  But it’s also helpful to check hotel reviews before you decide to book.  Because sometimes it’s worth paying more points to have a better experience during your vacation.

I like using TripAdvisor to read guest reviews.  And I’ve written how to find the right hotel with TripAdvisor.

Free Hotels With Points
TripAdvisor Makes It Easy to Find First-Hand Reviews for Things Like Hotels, Restaurants, and Tourist Attractions

I also like for reviews.  And even a simple Google search can sometimes turn up interesting anecdotes from other travelers!

Plus, you can always search our site to see if we’ve written about a particular hotel before. 😉

Step 4.   Use the Hot Deals Tab to Find the Best Card Offers

You can use the Hot Deals tab to find the latest credit card offers.  We’ll always tell you about the best deals, regardless of whether we earn a commission!

You Can Always Find the Best Credit Card Deals in the Hot Deals Section of Our Website!

There’s even a section dedicated specifically to the best Hotel Cards.

But don’t forget about Chase’s “5/24 rule” when deciding between cards.  Because if you’ve opened ~5+ cards from ANY bank (except these business cards) in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for MOST Chase cards.

That said, there are some Chase cards that are NOT impacted by the 5/24 rule, including the Chase Hyatt and Chase IHG hotel cards.  And the Chase IHG card currently has a best-ever public offer of 80,000 IHG points after meeting minimum spending requirements.

For folks over Chase’s 5/24 rule, the AMEX Starwood card or AMEX Hilton Surpass are worth considering.  Just remember, American Express only allows folks to get the sign-up bonus ONCE per person, per lifetime on ALL their cards.

Step 5.   Know the Tricks

Finally, once you’ve picked a hotel and chosen the credit cards that will work best for your trip, remember the most important tricks about hotel award stays.

Check out these posts for details:

Now let’s go step-by-step through 2 examples.

A Weekend in Paris

Step 1.   Choose Your Destination

Say you want to spend a weekend in Paris.  Doesn’t that sound nice?

Step 2.   Find a Hotel and Determine the Number of Points You’ll Need

Head to Hotel Hustle or AwardMapper to find a hotel.

For this example I used Hotel Hustle.  And entered Paris along with weekend dates in the search boxes.

After you’ve entered your trip information, click the “Search” button.

Hotel Hustle Is an Easy-to-Use Tool to Help You Find Award Nights at Many Hotel Chains at Once!

As you can see, there are LOTS of hotels in Paris.  But once you click on a pin on the map, you’ll see the hotel’s specific details.

Free Hotels With Points
You Can See the Cash Rate, Points Price, and Cash & Points Rate (If Available) at Any Hotel on the Map

I was able to find nights at the luxurious Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome for 30,000 Hyatt points or ~$801 per night!   So using points here would save a LOT of money.

Step 3.   Check Reviews

I know this is a fantastic hotel because Emily and I stayed here.  But it also gets outstanding reviews on TripAdvisor and!

Step 4.   Use the Hot Deals Tab to Find the Best Card Offers

Because I know I’ll need Hyatt points for my stay, I can search Hot Deals for cards that earn Hyatt points, free night certificates, or points that can be transferred to Hyatt (like Chase Ultimate Rewards).

For free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, I’d consider the Chase Hyatt Credit Card first, because you’ll earn 40,000 Hyatt points after meeting the card’s minimum spending requirements.

And for an even longer stay, you could apply for a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards that are transferrable to Hyatt points.  Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Preferred.  And the Chase Sapphire Preferred is my favorite card for beginners!

Step 5.   Know the Tricks

In this example, it’s important to remember the rules for transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners.  Because you could be using Ultimate Rewards points for a stay at a Hyatt hotel!

Or maybe a trip to Japan sounds more exciting?  Here’s an example.

A Few Nights in Tokyo

Step 1.   Choose Your Destination

Let’s search for an award stay in Tokyo.

Step 2.   Find a Hotel and Determine the Number of Points You’ll Need

Using Hotel Hustle is easy.  Just enter your trip information in the search boxes and click the “Search” button.

In this example, I searched for hotels in Tokyo for a weekend.

Finding Award Nights in Tokyo Is a Lot Easier With Hotel Hustle

I found rooms at the Conrad Tokyo for ~$568 or 95,000 Hilton points per night.

That’s a lot of points, but the good news is, you can use part of the 75,000-point sign-up bonus from the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express here.

Free Hotels With Points
A Night at the Conrad Tokyo in April 2017 Costs ~$568!

Step 3.   Check Reviews

The Conrad Tokyo gets almost all 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor.  And is rated the #1 hotel in Tokyo!  So getting a free night here is definitely a great deal.

Free Hotels With Points
Folks on TripAdvisor Rate the Conrad Tokyo the Best Hotel In Tokyo!

Step 4.  Use the Hot Deals Tab to Find the Best Card Offers

You’ll need lots of Hilton points for an award stay at the Conrad Tokyo.

On the Hot Deals page, there are 2 Hilton cards available, including the AMEX Hilton and Hilton Surpass cards.

The 75,000 Hilton point sign-up bonus from the AMEX Hilton Surpass card is most of the way toward 1 free night at the Conrad Tokyo.  So you might consider this card if a free night at the Conrad Tokyo is your ultimate goal.

Step 5.   Know the Tricks

Did you know Hilton gives the 5th night free on award stays to its elite status members?  It’s 1 of the 3 hotel chains that give you free nights on award stays.

And because the AMEX Hilton and AMEX Hilton Surpass offer automatic elite status, having either cards makes you eligible for the 5th night free perk!  That can save you tens of thousands of points!

Bottom Line

I created a step-by-step guide to show folks how to plan a hotel stay with points.  Including how to find hotels with award night availability, how to search for hotel reviews, and how to find the best credit card for your trip!

Plus, it helps to know the most important tricks about hotel award stays.  Like which hotels give you free nights on award and paid stays, the IHG Points & Cash Trick, and ways to get better travel with your Marriott & Starwood points.  Because it’s always nice to know you’re getting the best deal!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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