The picture above is from the InterContinental Hotel in Bora Bora, Tahiti. If you had to take a guess, how much do you think it costs to stay there for one night? $300? $500? $800? Try $1,000 (one dollar equals roughly 105 CFP Francs).
What if I told you that you could stay there once a year for $49? You might think I was crazy. And I probably would have too before I started getting into the credit card game. After all, that’s cheaper than getting a private room at a hostel in Tahiti:
But unlike airline credit cards, which are rarely worth keeping after the annual fee hits following the signup bonus, most hotel credit cards are actually worth keeping and paying the annual fee on every year, given that every year often comes with a free hotel night.
In this particular case, I’m talking about the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which for a $49 annual fee (waived the first year), gives you one free night every year at any IHG property in the world. On top of this, there is a signup bonus that often ranges from 60,000 to 80,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months (though it’s not always publicly available and may require some research to find this offer), which is good enough for two nights at a reasonably nice hotel, or one night at an extremely nice hotel. On top of that, you’re instantly granted Platinum status (the second-highest tier) as long as you have the card, which increases your chances of receiving an upgrade.
Of course, in the interest of not bankrupting IHG, it’s not as if you can get this and then use your free night at any property in the world on whatever date you want. IHG does limit the amount of free nights it allows per night per hotel, so if you want to use it at a place that regularly goes for $1,000/night, you might have to be prepared to book it almost a year in advance. That being said, hotels that don’t quite regularly go for quite as much often can be booked with less advance notice.
While the IHG credit card is the only hotel credit card that offers a free night every year at any property in the hotel chain, several other hotel credit cards offer more restricted free nights that can still come in handy.
While the Hyatt credit card also offers a free night every year (though it has a slightly higher annual fee of $75), this is limited only to Hyatt properties in Categories 1-4. Of course, if you’re familiar with the Hyatt brand, you know that unlike other hotel chains, it exclusively focuses on higher-end offerings. In other words, while you may not be able to stay at the absolutely nicest Hyatts in the world, you’ll still get to stay at a really nice hotel for free. Thankfully if you do want to experience one of the top tier Hyatts (select Category 7), this card usually comes with a signup bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt in the world (I recently got this card and am currently looking at using my free night at the Hyatt Andaz in Tokyo, where rooms can go for $1,000/night). It also offers Platinum status as long as you have the card.
Like the Hyatt and IHG cards, the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card also offers a free night every year, in any Marriott property in Categories 1-5. Unlike Hyatt though, Marriott propertiets span a much wider gamut, and most hotels in Categories 1-5 in the US tend to be in suburban areas, or very cheap urban areas (though obviously in countries with a lower cost of living you’re more likely to find something in a major city). The signup bonus often runs as high as 80,000 points (usually after spending $2,000) with a $85 annual fee waived the first year, which is nice enough to redeem at any Marriott property in the world, as well as a free night certificate at any hotel in Categories 1-4. It also offers Silver status as long as you have the card.
Unless you spend a lot of money a particular hotel chain every year, I wouldn’t recommend making a hotel card your primary card, but if that is the case for you, there are several more hotel credit cards that offer a free night every year after spending a certain amount of money in the year, like the Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hilton, and La Quinta credit cards. The Wyndham credit card will also give you almost half the amount of points needed for a free night every year with no spending threshold.
Have a question? Story to share? Feel free to post in the comments below or email me.
While I have yet to set up my site with credit card referral links that will pay me a commission if you sign up for a credit card through my links (as is often common on these sites), if you’re interested in getting on of the cards mentioned here and want me to get something for it, let me know and I’d be happy to refer you.