How to Stay Free at Your Dream Hotel With These Card Combinations

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It’s fun to make a travel goal and go for it!  But how about doing it with small money?  Or even free?

Whether you’re planning a yearly vacation or special occasion like a honeymoon, you can stay for free at your dream hotel with certain credit card combinations!

Hotel Rewards Programs
Use Credit Card Bonuses to Book a Free Stay at Your Dream Hotel, Like the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome!

I’ll explain how you can book a free stay at Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, or Starwood hotels!

Step 1 – Pick Your Dream Hotel

When planning your dream hotel stay, first you’ll want to pick the hotel chain.  This will determine which credit cards you’ll need to get a free stay!

Here’s a look at the different hotel brands within each chain.

1.   Hyatt

Hyatt hotels include:

Emily and I have enjoyed amazing stays at Hyatt hotels throughout the years, including at the Hyatt Regency MauiPark Hyatt Chicago, Park Hyatt MilanPark Hyatt Zurich, and many others!

2.   Marriott and Ritz-Carlton

Marriott hotels have many brands including:
Hotel Rewards Programs
Marriott Has Many Luxurious Hotels, Like the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour in Miami

3.   Starwood

Starwood hotels include AloftDesign Hotels, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury CollectionTribute Portfolio, Westin and W brand hotels.

It will depend on your destination, but the most high-end hotel brands are usually Park HyattRitz-Carlton, and St. Regis.  So if you’re dreaming of a luxurious stay, you might want to check out these brands!

Step 2 – Make a Credit Card Strategy Based on Your Hotel Rewards Programs

Link:   6 Chase Travel Cards Not Restricted by the “5/24 Rule”

Link:   Why Chase Ultimate Rewards Is My Favorite Points Program

Next, to make your dream stay come true, you’ll want to have the right credit cards in your wallet!  And there’s an important strategy to make sure you get the best cards!

The key is to first get Chase cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Because these points are very flexible and can transfer directly to hotel partners like Hyatt, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton.  Plus, these cards usually have fantastic sign-up bonuses.

But earlier this year, Chase started to make it difficult for folks to be approved for Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards.  If you’ve opened ~5 or more credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months (excluding certain business cards), you’re unlikely to get approved for most Chase cards.

Before applying for any cards, consider:

  • Sign-up bonus offer
  • Ongoing bonus spending categories
  • Special perks like elite hotel status
  • Annual fee

Many times, cards with annual fees come with terrific sign-up bonuses that are worth much more than the annual fee.  That’s why even thrifty folks like me get annual fee cards!  But do the math to make sure the perks and bonuses are worth any fees you’ll pay.

With that in mind, I recommend these cards first:

You can have all of the above cards.  But don’t apply all at once!  Instead, set a timeline for applying to make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements on each one.

Hotel Rewards Programs
You Can Build a Portfolio of Terrific Travel Credit Cards to Make Your Dream Hotel Stay Possible!

Chase also has fantastic hotel cards.  To achieve your goals, consider:

These hotel cards come with great sign-up bonuses and perks that can help you get room upgrades and late check-out!

To round out your Chase cards, consider the Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited.  Because these cards have no annual fee!  And you’ll be able to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners when you also have one of the other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards listed earlier.

Depending on your dream hotel choice, you might also look into getting the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express (personal or small business).  Because you can redeem points with these cards at Starwood hotels or transfer to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton at a 1:3 ratio.

Step 3 – Collect Points for YOUR Dream Hotel Stay

Now that you know the strategy to apply for the best cards, you’ll want to collect points with hotel rewards programs to make your dream hotel stay possible.

1.   Hyatt

If your dream hotel is a Hyatt brand, you’ll want to get:

Because you’ll earn 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel with the Chase Hyatt card after meeting minimum spending requirements.

Then, transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Hyatt from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Plus if you need more.

For example, Million Mile Secrets team member Scott’s dream Hyatt hotel is the all-inclusive Hyatt Zilara Cancun.  With the Chase Hyatt and Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonuses, he could get 6 free nights at this hotel!

Hotel Rewards Programs
Use 2 Chase Card Sign-Up Bonuses to Enjoy 6 Free Nights at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun!

For free nights, he could also use Chase Ultimate Rewards points from 5X bonus spending on the Ink Plus or Freedom cards.  Perhaps a way to extend the length of a dream stay!

2.   Marriott

If your dream hotel is a Marriott hotel brand, you’ll want:

For example, you can earn 25,000 Starwood points with the AMEX Starwood personal card after meeting minimum spending requirements.  Then, transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio.  This means you’ll have 75,000 Marriott points.

Combine this with the 80,000 Marriott point sign-up bonus on the Chase Marriott small business card and you’ll have a total of 155,000 Marriott points!

That’s more than enough for 4 nights at team member Keith’s dream hotel, the Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach.

Hotel Rewards Programs
4 Free Nights at a Marriott Beach Resort in Thailand Sounds Fantastic!

And if you’re close to an award stay, you can always transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott to top off your account.

3.   Ritz-Carlton

If your dream hotel stay is at a luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel, you’ll do well with:

The Chase Ritz-Carlton card alone gets you 3 complimentary nights at participating Ritz-Carlton tier 1 through 4 hotelsafter meeting minimum spending requirements!

This would be a great option for team member Harlan whose dream hotel is The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.  He’d love to stay here as part of a trip to northern California.  Plus, this hotel can regularly cost $700+ per night!

Hotel Rewards Programs
Watch the Sunset Over the Pacific Ocean With 3 Complimentary Nights at The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay Thanks to 1 Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus!

He could also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Ritz-Carlton from cards like the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus.  But it costs 60,000 Ritz-Carlton points for a free night!

4.   Starwood

And if your dream stay is at a Starwood hotel, you can get free stays with points from:

Team member Meghan’s dream Starwood hotel is the The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort in Spain.

Hotel Rewards Programs
Enjoy Outdoor Dining on the Outdoor Patio at the St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort

Free nights at this beautiful hotel cost 30,000 Starwood points per night.

So you could get the Sapphire Reserve card, which comes with a 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point sign-up bonus.  Then, transfer 90,000 points to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio.  Finally, convert the Marriott points to 30,000 Starwood points for a free night.

For more free nights, use Chase Ultimate Rewards points from other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus.

Of course, you can also redeem Starwood points earned directly from the AMEX Starwood personal and small business cards.  Both come with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starwood points after meeting the minimum spending requirements.

What About IHG or Hilton?

If your dream hotel is part of the IHG or Hilton chains, check out these posts:

Bottom Line

You can make your dream hotel stay a reality by combining sign-up bonuses from different credit cards.  And it can potentially save you thousands of dollars out-of-pocket!

If your dream hotel is part of Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, or Starwood, I’d recommend getting Chase Ultimate Rewards cards first.  Because many Chase cards come with fantastic and valuable sign-up bonuses!  And you can access all 4 chains through Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

But Chase also has tougher application rules.  So it’s harder to get the stays you want if you don’t apply for them first.

Remember some of the best rewards cards come with annual fees.  But the ongoing perks can more than offset the expense!

Which hotel is on your dream list?

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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