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There are 2 principal expenses when you travel: Airfare and hotels! Fortunately, both are laughably easy to get for free.
The often more costly expense is the glamorous hotel stay. There are TONS of credit cards with welcome bonuses and ongoing benefits that can unlock free nights in 5-star resorts (or regular ol’ hotels, if that’s your preference). But which card is right for you?
It depends mostly on your travel goals. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the best hotel credit card offers, so you can be sure you open the one that will best fulfill your travel dreams.
Looking for the Best Hotel Credit Card?
To have a cheap (or free) hotel stay, be willing to look past “hotel” credit cards. Some of the best options are flexible rewards cards for general travel, which you can redeem for other things like airlines and car rentals, too. Just because your favorite hotel chain is Hyatt doesn’t mean the Hyatt card is your best bet!
Here are the best credit cards you can get for free hotel stays right now!
Best Hotel Credit Cards
- Easiest to Use for Free Hotel Stays: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Most Valuable Welcome Bonus for Hotel Stays: Ink Business Preferred Card
- Best Hotel Credit Card With No Annual Fee: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Best Hotel Credit Card for Value and Comfort: The World of Hyatt Credit Card
- Best Hotel Credit Card for Casual Hotel Stays: Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
- Best Hotel Credit Card for Big Spenders: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
- Best Hotel Credit Card for Elite Status: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Easiest to Use for Free Hotel Stays: Capital One Venture Cards
Apply Here: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Apply Here: Capital One VentureOne
The Capital One Venture card comes with 50,000 Venture miles (worth $500 in travel) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. What does that mean for you?
Capital One Venture miles are worth 1 cent each. And you can use your miles for nearly any travel purchase, including hotels. Without having to worry about searching for available award nights! It might just be the simplest card for getting any free travel, let alone hotel nights.
When you spend with this card, you’ll earn 2 Venture miles per $1 you spend on all purchases. That’s effectively 2% back. You’ll also earn 10 Venture miles per $1 you spend on hotel stays booked and paid through this Hotels.com link (through January 31, 2020).
To redeem your miles for travel, just buy travel like you normally would with your card. Then, you have 90 days to sign-in to your online account, find the travel purchase, and “erase” it with your miles!
This card is particularly good if you want to stay at a hotel that does NOT have a loyalty program. Like boutique hotels, or a hotel off the beaten path.
During a visit to South Africa, my friend found an amazing hotel called The Residence Johannesburg. The hotel doesn’t have a loyalty program or a co-branded credit card. But if you have the Capital One Venture, you don’t have to base your travel on where the chain hotels are. Just buy your night at any hotel, and erase the purchase with your Venture miles later!
There are also plenty of perks to write home about.
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are trusted traveler programs designed to help folks spend less time (and experience fewer headaches) at security checkpoints.
For example, with TSA PreCheck, you can pass through security without taking off your shoes, belt, or light jacket. You also won’t need to remove your laptop and liquids from your bag! This helps the security line to progress much faster.
Some cards charge fees for swiping outside of the US. That fee is for suckers. This card has NO foreign transaction fees, so it’s good to bring internationally.
The card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year. With the great welcome bonus, it’s a definite no-brainer for the first year.
- 20,000 Venture miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
- 1.25 Venture miles per $1 on all purchases
- 10 Venture miles per $1 you spend on hotel stays booked and paid through this Hotels.com link (through January 31, 2020)
- NO foreign transaction fees
This is the simplest no-annual-fee card to use for hotel stays!
If you don’t want the headaches of juggling hotel points, collecting Venture Miles is the way to go.
Most Valuable Welcome Bonus for Hotel Stays: Ink Business Preferred
Apply Here: Ink Business Preferred
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Reserve
You all know how much Million Mile Secrets loves Chase Ultimate Rewards points. They’re great because they are flexible and easy to earn.
You can transfer them to hotel programs like Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt (though we only recommend the last option, as the other 2 don’t give you a very good value for your points). Or you can use them to buy travel, including hotel rooms, through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
The value you’ll receive per point depends on which Chase Ultimate Rewards points earning card you have. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, you can redeem them for a value of 1.25 cents per point towards your hotel stays. And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get a value of 1.5 cents per point.
Here are the current offers for these cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($625 in travel)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($750 in travel)
- Ink Business Preferred – 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($1,000 in travel)
Million Mile Secrets team member Scott likes to use his Chase Sapphire Preferred (our favorite credit card for beginners) to book certain paid stays. He likes earning 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1. Later on, he transfers those points to Hyatt for luxury hotel stays!
Plus, these cards come with a benefit that allows you to get additional hotel perks, like possible upgrades and amenities when you check into certain hotels!
Note: If you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (NOT counting Chase business cards and these other business cards) in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for these cards. So if you’re a beginner to miles & points and aren’t sure what your strategy is yet, I recommend these cards first. They’re the most valuable in my opinion, anyway!
Best Hotel Credit Card for Value and Comfort: The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Apply Here: The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Hyatt is a Million Mile Secrets favorite. They have great hotels with a very fair balance of value and comfort.
With The World of Hyatt Credit Card, you can earn up to 60,000 Hyatt points after meeting tiered spending requirements. You’ll earn:
- 40,000 bonus Hyatt points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
- Another 20,000 bonus Hyatt points after you spend an additional $3,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of opening your account
That’s a great bonus, considering you can reserve astronomically expensive hotels, like the 5-star Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, for 30,000 Hyatt points per night. Rooms at that hotel can go for $900+ per night!
I recently booked a stay at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki for 20,000 points per night. The room sold for $400+, so this 60,000 point intro bonus could be worth ~$1,200 if you used it at this hotel!
You’ll also earn:
- 9 Hyatt points per $1 spent at Hyatt – 4 bonus points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5 base points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
- 2 Hyatt points per $1 on restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships
- 1 Hyatt point per $1 on everything else
This card has a $95 annual fee, which is NOT waived the first year. But you’ll receive 1 free night each anniversary year at a category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel or resort. That can easily offset the annual fee! Million Mile Secrets team member Scott has held onto his Hyatt card for years because of this annual free night.
You’ll also get an additional free night at a category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel or resort after spending $15,000 in an anniversary year.
A delightfully unique perk of using Hyatt points is that you don’t have to worry about blackout dates. If Hyatt is selling a standard level room, you can reserve it with points.
That said, there are some quirks and exceptions at certain hotels, where you’ll inexplicably have difficulty finding available rooms (sod off, Andaz Maui!!). But I’ve found this benefit to be EXTREMELY valuable.
I spent a night at the Hyatt House Charleston Historic District during last year’s solar eclipse. The hotel was packed, and rooms were selling for $500+ per night! But I was able to reserve a room for just 12,000 Hyatt points. That’s a value of ~4.1 cents per point ($500 per night / 12,000 Hyatt points)!
And because this is a Category 3 hotel, I could just as well have used the annual free night that comes with The World of Hyatt Credit Card. That would have offset the annual fee many times over!
This card comes with automatic Hyatt Discoverist Status, which gives you more bonus points per stay, upgrades to a preferred room based on availability at check-in, late check-out upon request, and more! Plus, you’ll be able to climb the elite status ladder quick, because you’ll receive 5 qualifying night credits every year, and 2 qualifying night credits after every $5,000 you spend on the card.
This card also has NO foreign transaction fees.
Note: If you see a base hotel room available on the Hyatt website, but it’s not showing any available reward nights, you can call Hyatt and they’ll book the room for you.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card card is currently not affected by the 5/24 rule. So even if you’ve opened 5+ cards in the past 24 months, it’s still possible to be approved for the card. Although it’s not a guarantee.
Hyatt hotels include:
- Grand Hyatt
- Hyatt House
- Hyatt Place
- Hyatt Regency
- Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva
- Park Hyatt
Best Hotel Credit Card for Casual Hotel Stays: Chase Marriott Cards
Apply Here: Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card comes with a 75,000 Marriott point welcome bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. It also comes with:
- 6 Marriott points per $1 spent at Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood hotels
- 2 Marriott points per $1 spent on all other purchases
The card has a $95 annual fee. But similar to The World of Hyatt Card, you’ll get 1 free award night (valued up to 35,000 Marriott points) every year after account anniversary. As long as you stay in a hotel that costs $95+ per night each year, the card is worth the annual fee. Most hotel nights are more expensive!
I have the old Marriott Rewards Premier card and always get more value from it than I pay for the annual fee ($85). Last time I used the free night, I reserved a room that cost $185. That’s $100 more than that card’s annual fee!
You can stay at some excellent hotels with 75,000 Marriott points.
For example, I stayed at the Palacio Del Inka in Cusco, Peru, a few months ago with points. Rooms can easily cost $350 per night. So you could stay 2 nights here for 70,000 Marriott points (35,000 points per night), and save $700!
The card comes with automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year. And Gold Elite Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year. These come with things like bonus points, priority late checkout, room upgrades, and more. And each calendar year you have the card, you’ll get 15 elite night credits on or before March 1.
You also will pay NO foreign transaction fees!
Marriott has a TON of hotels in their portfolio, because they’ve absorbed Starwood hotels, as well:
- Four Points
- Le Meridien
- St. Regis
- The Luxury Collection
- AC Hotels by Marriott
- Autograph Collection Hotels
- Courtyard by Marriott
- 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
- Ritz-Carlton Reserve
- Springhill Suites by Marriott
- TownePlace Suites by Marriott
Note: There are new (and very confusing) application rules for the Chase Marriott and Starwood cards. Check out our post on Marriott and Starwood card rules to see if you qualify for this card’s welcome bonus.
Or, if you’d rather not mess with the shell of a loyalty program Marriott is turning out to be, you can go the Hilton route like many of us.
Best Hotel Credit Card for Big Spenders: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
Apply Here: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
If you’re a Hilton fan, you need to take the AMEX Hilton Ascend card seriously.
You can earn 125,000 Hilton points after you spend $2,000 in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of opening your account.
That’s a lot of points. Though they aren’t as valuable as many other hotel points, like Hyatt.
That’s because top-end Hilton hotels can cost 95,000 points per night. You can definitely find ways to get Big Travel with Hilton points, though. I use them exclusively for very low-category hotels, because that’s where I find the best value.
For example, the gorgeous Conrad Tokyo costs upwards of $350 per night. But you’ll have to pay 95,000 Hilton points for the same room. That means you’ll get a value of just ~0.37 cents per point ($350 per night / 95,000 points)
But if you use your points on a low-rent hotel, you’ll often get a better value. You can book 6 nights at the Hampton Inn Dayton/Dayton Mall, and hang out with me for a week! The hotel can sell for $200 per night, depending on the season. And it costs 20,000 points per night, giving you a value of 1 cent per point ($200 per night / 20,000 points).
The card also comes with:
- 12 Hilton points per $1 spent at a Hilton hotel or resort
- 6 Hilton points per $1 of eligible purchases at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations
- 3 Hilton points for all other eligible purchases on your card
You’ll receive complimentary Hilton Gold status, which comes with bonus points for hotel stays, room upgrades when available, free breakfast, and lots more! And because the card has NO foreign transaction fees, it’s good to use for hotels abroad.
If you’re a big spender who likes staying with Hilton, this card is up your alley.
You’ll earn 1 weekend night after spending $15,000 on purchases each calendar year. That alone can easily make it worth paying the annual fee. You could use it at a super fancy hotel, like the London Hilton on Park Lane, which costs $450 per night!
And if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn Hilton Diamond Status. That will help you rack up Hilton points way faster (100% bonus on base points), and the upgrades and free breakfast you’ll receive can revolutionize your hotel experience.
Another unique feature of the card is that you’ll get 10 free airport lounge visits each year once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass Select membership!
But just remember, if Hilton doesn’t make a frequent appearance within your travel goals, this is NOT a good card for you. Hilton hotels include:
- Embassy Suites
- Hampton Inn
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Hilton Grand Vacations
- Homewood Suites
- Waldorf Astoria
Best Hotel Credit Card for Elite Status: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Apply Here: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
I know annual fees can be scary. But what’s even scarier is losing money because you neglected to crunch a few numbers.
The AMEX Hilton Aspire Card is fancy. It has an annual fee of $450 (NOT waived the first year), but it comes with a mountain of benefits that make it worth the extra cost.
You’ll earn 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. That’s a lot of points.
This card also comes with 1 weekend night each year, which you can use at most Hilton hotels! And you’ll get an additional weekend night if you spend $60,000 on your card in a calendar year. So you could end up with a weekend at a super fancy hotel, like the London Hilton on Park Lane, which costs $450+ per night!
The weekend nights alone can easily make it worth paying the annual fee.
The card also comes with:
- 14 Hilton points per $1 spent at a Hilton hotel or resort (highest earning rate of any Hilton card!)
- 7 Hilton points per $1 of eligible purchases at US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
- 3 Hilton points for all other eligible purchases on your card
If you like staying with Hilton, this card is truly a no-brainer. You’ll get automatic Hilton Diamond status, which is insane. It usually takes 30 stays or 60 nights to achieve! With Diamond Status, you’ll rack up Hilton points way faster than all your pedestrian friends, and the upgrades and free breakfast you’ll receive can revolutionize your hotel experience.
The card also comes with $250 in airline incidental credits and $250 in statement credits at participating Hilton resorts every year! If you max out those benefits, you’ll get a value $50 greater than the annual fee ($250 airline credit + $250 Hilton resort credit – $450 annual fee).
I personally don’t think I would take full advantage of the incidental fee credit, which reimburses things like checked baggage, seat upgrades, etc. But the other benefits of the card DO make it worth the fee. Especially if you don’t have a card that grants you airport lounge access, this benefit is solid gold.
You can also get $100 in credits on qualify charges (room rates & fees do NOT qualify) for every stay of 2 or more nights at a Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotel! But you’ll need to book through the AMEX Hilton Aspire card website to verify you’re eligible for the credit.
You’ll even get unlimited free Priority Pass lounge visits as long as you hold the card! And it charges NO foreign transaction fees.
As you can see, Hilton is showering AMEX Hilton Aspire cardmembers with credits, bonuses, and benefits. If you frequently stay at Hilton hotels, this is an excellent card for you!
Best Hotel Credit Card for Road Warriors: Chase IHG Premier
Apply Here: Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
We’re all still miffed about the old Chase IHG Rewards Card’s unrestricted free night getting sacked. Here’s the best alternative for folks who love IHG hotels.
The Chase IHG Premier comes with 100,000 IHG points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. And another 5,000 bonus IHG points when you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the same time frame.
The Chase IHG Premier earns:
- 10 IHG points per $1 at IHG hotels
- 2 IHG points per $1 at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
- 1 IHG points per $1 on everything else
You’ll also get a bonus 10,000 bonus IHG points after you spend $20,000 and make one additional purchase each cardmember year.
The card comes with an $89 annual fee, NOT waived the first year. But listen to the benefits!
You’ll receive an annual free night at participating IHG hotels that cost 40,000 IHG points or less per night. If you can use it every year, you’ll get much more value than what you’re paying for the annual fee. Especially if you do some research and find the best hotels for your points!
For example, the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa costs 40,000 points per night. So you can use your annual free night to stay here!
There are 2 other intriguing benefits of this card that we didn’t see on the previous card.
You’ll get the 4th night free on award stays. So your points will be worth 25% more when you stay for 4 nights. But if you’re like me, there aren’t many occasions when you’re staying in the same hotel for 4 nights.
You’ll also get 20% off when you purchase IHG points. You’ll be able to stack this deal with any points sales IHG has (and they have them often). So even if you don’t have the points you need, it will be cheaper than ever to top off your account.
As with many other cards on this list, you’ll get automatic elite status for having the card. Platinum Elite Status comes with perks like priority check-in, extended checkout, complimentary room upgrades when available, and a welcome amenity (like points!).
IHG hotels include:
- Candlewood Suites
- Crowne Plaza
- EVEN Hotels
- Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
- Holiday Inn Express
- Holiday Inn Resorts
- Hotel Indigo
- InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
- Staybridge Suites
There are plenty of options when it comes to hotel cards. If you’re new to this hobby, read our beginner’s guide to help crystallize your travel goals. That will help you know which card to apply for!
If you’re a casual hotel guest who stays once in a blue moon, check out the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus. You’re sure to get more than the annual fee each year from the free anniversary night (valid at hotels that cost 35,000 Marriott points or less), so long as you stay in a Marriott hotel at least once per year.
Or, if you don’t like the hassle of juggling different hotel points or searching for available reward nights, you might prefer the Capital One Venture! It’s perhaps the easiest way to get free nights, because you can use them for ANY hotel stay. You don’t have to stick with the chain hotels that have loyalty programs.
Let me know your favorite hotel card in the comments! And tell me if your preferred card isn’t on the list, so we can squabble about who’s right!