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.
Now that you’ve earned airline miles for your flights, it’s time to figure out your accommodations.
How to Find Out Which Hotel Card Is Right for You Series:
Have a Goal
You should have a destination goal in mind such as Hawaii, Florida, or Italy before you apply for a hotel credit card. This way you get the right card so that you can get your accommodations for free (or mostly free)!
Most hotel redemptions are actually free because you don’t pay any taxes and fees. In some cases, you might pay a few dollars in taxes if there is a local tax or fee.
Before you start applying for every hotel credit card, you should do dummy searches on the hotel websites to see:
- The locations of the hotels
- How many points you need
- What types of rooms you can get for your points
And remember that hotel availability keeps changing and if a hotel is not sold out, you are likely to find award rooms closer to the time of your stay. So keep checking back!
If your dream destination is a week in Hawaii on the island of Maui, your 1st step is to see which hotels are on Maui.
They’d be a consideration if you wanted to travel to Europe or another country where Choice, IHG, and Club Carlson have hotels.
Step 1 – Search For Hotels
If you stayed 7 nights, from June 29, 2014, to July 6, 2014, you have the following choices:
The Hilton website shows 2 Hilton hotels in Maui:
The Hyatt website also gives you a choice of 2 hotels:
There are 5 Marriott hotels in Maui:
- Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport
- Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club – Lahaina & Napili Towers
- Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club – Molokai, Maui, & Lanai Towers
- The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
- Wailea Beach Marriott
But only the Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport, the Ritz-Carlton, and Wailea Beach Marriott have rooms available for award nights for June 29, 2014, to July 6, 2014.
There are 3 Starwood hotels in Maui:
But none have rooms available for award nights for June 29, 2014, to July 6, 2014.
You can sometimes find SPG cash & points rooms by calling 888-625-4988 even when the website says none are available.
There is only 1 Wyndham hotel in Maui, the Days Inn Maui Oceanfront.
Step 2 – Check Out Your Options
Now that you know your hotel options, you can narrow your choices.
But there are a few things you’ll want to check before deciding on a hotel:
- Hotel reviews on Yelp, Travelocity, Flyertalk, and Milepoint to prevent any unexpected surprises
- If award nights are available
- Number of points needed
- Extra costs such as resort fees and parking
- Distance from the airport and sites
How Far is the Airport: Using Google Maps
You can use Google Maps to see how far the hotel is from the airport and sightseeing.
Step 1 – Search for Hotel
Enter the hotel name in the Google Maps search box. Click on one of the search results.
Using the Hyatt Regency Maui for my example, I entered “Hyatt Regency Maui” in the Google Maps search box. Then I chose the Hyatt Regency Maui from the search results.
Step 2 – Get Directions
Click on “Directions.”
Step 3 – Enter Starting Point
Type in your starting point.
In this case, I would enter Maui airport.
Step 4 – Click on the “Car” Icon
Immediately after you type in a starting point, you’ll get directions. Click on the “car” icon if you’re renting a car.
Step 5 – Click “List All Steps”
To see the detailed directions, click on “List all steps.”
You’re given detailed directions from the Maui airport to the Hyatt Regency Maui.
Let’s say you liked reading about our stay at the Grand Wailea, but don’t have the 1,075,200 Hilton points (153,600 points x 7 nights). Usually the Grand Wailea is 70,000 to 90,000 Hilton points a night but no standard awards are available for our dates of June 29, 2014, to July 6, 2014.
Instead, you pick the Hyatt Regency because it would only cost 140,000 Hyatt points. And there are lots of ways to get Hyatt points, including free nights from the credit card. Or you can keep checking to see if award nights become available at the Grand Wailea.
Apply for the Cards
Once you’ve decided on a destination and know which hotel you want, the next step is to apply for the card or cards to get the points you need.
If you aren’t sure which hotels have credit cards, you can see all hotel cards and their current offers on the Hot Deals page.
Because you’ve decided on the Hyatt Regency, the best card would be the Hyatt credit card which gives you 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
You and your partner could each apply for a Hyatt card giving you 4 free nights.
For the remaining 3 nights, you have a few choices:
A. 3 More Free Nights at Hyatt
You could each apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa with a 40,000 Ultimate Rewards point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the 1st 3 months.
Then you can can combine your sign-up bonuses and you’d have 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Hyatt points at a 1:1 ratio. You could transfer 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and redeem 3 nights at the Hyatt Regency at a cost of 20,000 points a night.
Here are all the ways to earn Hyatt points.
B. 3 Free Nights at the Fairmont
You could break up your visit and spend 3 nights at the Fairmont Kea Lani.
Each of you could apply for the Fairmont credit card which gives you 2 free nights + breakfast at any Fairmont worldwide after spending $1,000 in the 1st 3 months.
You can’t search for award nights on the Fairmont website unless you have the Fairmont credit card. Then you’d log into your Chase account to see the price in Fairmont points per night. Then you’d book by calling Fairmont at 877-232-7070.
C. Other Credit Cards
As already mentioned, both Hyatt and Fairmont offer credit cards as do most of the larger hotel chains.
1. Starwood Credit Cards
Starwood has both a personal Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express card and a business Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Each card gives you 2 stays or 5 nights towards elite status. Starwood points transfer to ~30 airline partners letting you use your Starwood points for hotels or flights.
2. Club Carlson Credit Card
The Club Carlson credit card gives free Gold elite status and a free night when redeeming 2 or more nights at the same hotel.
3. Hilton Credit Cards
Hilton has more hotels than any other chain.
There are a variety of Hilton credit cards available:
There’s also the Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve card that gives you 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton worldwide and Gold elite status for as long as you have the card. This is my favorite Hilton card.
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express gives you free Silver elite status.
And the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express gives you free Gold elite status for the 1st year and Diamond status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year.
The Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card gives you Silver elite status.
4. IHG Credit Card
You can get the Chase IHG Rewards Club that gives you Platinum elite status and a free night on your card anniversary.
5. Marriott Credit Card
The Marriott card has a sign-up bonus, a free night in a Category 1 to 4 hotel, a free night on your card anniversary, and 15 elite credits.
6. Wyndham Credit Card
Wyndham has a credit card.
7. Choice Credit Card
The Choice credit card gives you Gold elite status.
Hotel Loyalty Programs
Like their credit cards, each hotel loyalty program offers different benefits and amenities to their guests. Below is a list of the more familiar hotel loyalty programs with links to their reward redemption page and hotel brands.
1. Choice Privileges
Link: Choice Privileges
2. Club Carlson
Link: Club Carlson
3. Hilton Honors
Link: Hilton Honors
4. Hyatt Gold Passport
Link: Hyatt Gold Passport
5. IHG Rewards Club (formerly Priority Club)
Link: IHG Rewards Club
6. Marriott Rewards
Link: Marriott Rewards
Marriott hotels include Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott, AC Hotels by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company L.L.C., ExecuStay, and Marriott Executive Apartments Grand Residences by Marriott brands.
7. Starwood Preferred Guest
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest
8. Wyndham Hotel Rewards
Link: Wyndham Hotel Rewards
Wyndham hotels include Baymont Inn, Days Inn, Hawthorne Suites, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, Wingate, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Garden, and Wyndham Grand Collection.
You should have a destination goal before you apply for a hotel branded credit card.
Dummy searches on hotel websites will give you an idea if
there’s a hotel located where you want to go and how many points it would cost.
Then you can figure out which hotel credit card you should apply for.