There are two different types of hotel credit cards—ones that only earn points and ones that provide free night certificates. These free hotel nights are usually worth more than the annual fee. And, the best free night certificates can let you stay at a high-end property that could cost $500 or more a night.
How Do Free Night Certificates Work?
Each hotel credit card has different rules and stipulations for how to earn the free night certificate and which properties it can be redeemed at. Some hotels let you redeem the certificate at any property and others only let you redeem them at lower category hotels or only on the weekends.
So, which hotel credit card should you apply for, and should you apply for a hotel card over other top travel rewards credit cards? We’ll cover the individual guidelines with each rewards program listed below.
Chase Hyatt Credit Card
Free Night Details: One free anniversary night valid at any category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort
Spending Requirement: None
Each card anniversary, Chase gives you one free night valid at any category 1-4 hotel or resort. The annual fee for the Hyatt Credit Card is $75, so you’ll save $150 easily with this free night.
While there are dozens of options to use your Hyatt anniversary night, you should consider a category 4 hotel or resort first as these properties are mostly located in major metro areas where hotel rates sell for a premium. To relax, consider the Hyatt Regency Trinidad with a rooftop infinity pool and views of the sunset overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Hilton Honors Credit Cards
Hilton offers four rewards cards through American Express and it’s possible to get a free night certificate with the three annual fee cards: Hilton Ascend ($95/year), Hilton Business Card ($95/year), and Hilton Aspire ($450/year).
The no-free Hilton Honors Card doesn’t offer free night certificates, but you can still get the 5th night free on a 5+ night reward stay.
Hilton Honors Ascend Card
Free Night Details: One free weekend night at most Hilton properties
Spending Requirement: Spend $15,000 in total card purchases in a calendar year
With either the personal Hilton Honors Ascend Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, you can earn one free weekend night certificate by spending at least $15,000 in a year in total card purchases.
Because the annual fee for either card is $95 per year, you will want to make sure the free night is worth at least $100. Unless you stay at a Hampton Inn during the off-peak season, this shouldn’t be an issue.
You can find a list of the excluded Hilton properties here, but one of the best options to consider for exotic travel is the Conrad Bora Bora Nui private lagoon. A single night can cost as much as $1,600 and you can stay here for free! You will stay right on the famous Bora Bora lagoon and also have access to the private islet for additional relaxation in this corner of the world.
Hilton Honors Aspire Card
Free Night Details: Two free weekend nights
Spending Requirement: First night is free each year. Spend $60,000 a year to earn the second night.
This is the ultimate Hilton Honors credit card because it’s bountiful in Hilton benefits.
Your first weekend night certificate arrives as soon as your application is approved and each card anniversary. Your second weekend night is awarded when you spend $60,000 in annual card purchases.
Besides the two free weekend nights, you will also receive an automatic $250 Hilton Resort credit, $100 on-property credit for 2+ night stays, and a $250 air travel credit. Plus, you’ll get complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge membership.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Free Night Details: One free night at category 1-5 Marriott property
Spending Requirement: None
Although the Marriott Rewards program doesn’t value points as high as the World of Hyatt or Starwood Preferred Guest programs, the annual free night certificate can be used any night of the week at some ritzy hotels that easily nullify the Marriott Rewards Premier $85 annual fee.
You might consider staying at The Algonquin Resort Autograph Collection in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada. These rooms generally cost $200 USD or 25,000 points, and you can enjoy breathtaking fall colors in the fall or even enjoy a Canadian summer holiday to escape the heat.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
Free Night Details: Two free nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel
Spending Requirement: Spend $4,000 in the first three months
Because of the brand prestige, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card could possibly have the best free night certificates. Unlike the other credit cards mentioned on this list, you only get the two free nights as a sign-up bonus, so it’s a one-time deal.
As a consolation, you can get these special, recurring hotel privileges:
- Upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club status three times a year when you book a 7+ night stay
- $100 hotel credit on 2+ night stays
- Complimentary Gold Elite status
You will also enjoy these three premium air travel benefits:
- $300 annual travel credit
- Priority Pass Select lounge membership
- Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement
In a way, you could say this is the hotel rewards alternative to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
IHG Rewards Club Credit Card
Free Night Details: One free night at most IHG properties
Spending Requirement: None
The IHG Rewards Club Credit Card gives you one free night each year. The potential upside is huge because the annual fee is only $49–the lowest annual fee for any hotel credit card that provides a free night certificate. Even if you only keep this card for the free anniversary night and use another card for your non-IHG spending, you still win.
This night can be used at most properties, but a few properties don’t participate in the Chase anniversary night program. Kimpton properties are the least likely to accept the free weekend night. On the bright side, your free IHG night can be redeemed 365 days a year at the ubiquitous brands like Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites or the more upscale InterContinental.
When you travel to Europe, keep the Intercontinental Geneva on your radar. The nightly rate for a basic room starts at $350 per night (330 Swiss Francs) and you can potentially overlook Lake Geneva from your room. There’s also an on-site spa and wellness center, plus you’re within walking distance of the major Geneva landmarks including the United Nations and Old Town Geneva.
Each hotel brand offers free nights differently. The best part is that even if you use a card that comes with a free anniversary night, you pay the annual fee and still come out ahead financially. Frequent hotel travelers can benefit from a card offering multiple earning opportunities beyond redeeming purchase rewards for award nights.