Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
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!
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.
Hyatt hotels include:
- Grand Hyatt
- Hyatt House
- Hyatt Place
- Hyatt Regency
- Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva
- Park Hyatt
2. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton
Marriott hotels have many brands including:
- AC Hotels by Marriott
- Autograph Collection Hotels
- Bulgari Hotels
- Courtyard by Marriott
- Delta Hotels
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
- Gaylord Hotels
- JW Marriott
- Marriott Executive Apartments
- Marriott Hotels
- Marriott Vacation Club
- Moxy Hotels
- Protea Hotels
- Renaissance Hotels
- Residence Inn by Marriott
- Springhill Suites by Marriott
- TownePlace Suites by Marriott
It will depend on your destination, but the most high-end hotel brands are usually Park Hyatt, Ritz-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
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:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (huge 100,000-point sign-up bonus & $300 annual travel credit!)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (great card for beginners with no annual fee the first year!)
- Ink Business Preferred (coming soon with an 80,000-point sign-up bonus!)
- Ink Plus (last chance to apply to earn 60,000 points)
Chase also has fantastic hotel cards. To achieve your goals, consider:
- Chase Hyatt (not restricted by the “5/24 Rule”)
- Chase Marriott personal and small business
- Chase Ritz-Carlton
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.
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!
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.
And if you’re close to an award stay, you can always transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott to top off your account.
If your dream hotel stay is at a luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel, you’ll do well with:
- Chase Ritz-Carlton (3 free nights sign-up bonus)
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transfer directly to Ritz-Carlton at a 1:1 ratio)
- AMEX Starwood personal or small business cards (transfer Starwood points to Ritz-Carlton points at a 1:3 ratio)
The Chase Ritz-Carlton card alone gets you 3 complimentary nights at participating Ritz-Carlton tier 1 through 4 hotels, after 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!
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!
And if your dream stay is at a Starwood hotel, you can get free stays with points from:
- AMEX Starwood personal or small business cards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (transfer points via Marriott at a 3:1 ratio)
- Chase Marriott personal and small business cards (transfer points to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio)
Team member Meghan’s dream Starwood hotel is the The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort in Spain.
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.
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?
- How to Get the Most Big Travel With Small Money From the IHG Card
- 2 Free Weekend Nights & Free Gold Elite Status with Citi Hilton Reserve Card
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?