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At my recent Intro to Miles and Points sessions at both the Frequent Traveler University and the Chicago Seminars, one of the points that I tried to make was to not overlook hotel credit cards. For whatever reason, airline cards seem to get a little more of the spotlight on them, but hotel cards can be just as lucrative, and the rewards are often even easier to use than airline awards. You frequently need some base level of knowledge to get the most bang for your buck out of airline miles, but hotel points are more straight forward since you don’t need to know about partners, routing rules, award chart sweet spots, etc. You just need to know when you want a room, where you want a room, and perhaps a quick glance at the return per point you are getting based on the going rate.
This post is actually dedicated to my four favorite hotel credit card perks that you get beyond just the initial sign-up bonus, though I will mention the sign-up bonus as well.
1. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature last award night free
The card comes with a 85,000 point signup bonus — 50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after $2500 spend within 90 days ($75 annual fee), but that’s not my favorite perk. My favorite perk on this card is the “last award night free” AND the 40,000 points you can at the renewal each year. You also get Club Carlson Gold Elite status just for having the card! There is still a bunch of confusion out there about the “last award night free”, but what it means is literally what it says. When you make an award reservation you get the last night in that stay free. This means that a two night award stay will result in being charged the points for the first night, and the second night is free. In a four night award stay, you are charged the points for the first three nights and then the fourth night is free. This means that on two nights stays, you are essentially getting a buy one (with points), get one free deal! You can do this up to 50 times in a calendar year.
2. IHG Rewards Club Credit Card annual free night certificate
The IHG Rewards Club Credit Card gives you up to 80,000 points when you sign-up (details here) and spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, but the best parts of this card go well beyond the sign-up bonus. The card comes with top-tier Platinum status, a 10% rebate on redeemed points, has an introductory $0 annual fee the first year and then a very reasonable $49 per year in subsequent years. This $49 annual fee is more than off-set by my favorite perk of this card, the annual free night that you get to use at any of their almost 5,000 hotels worldwide. I know many who use their free night (which is valid for 12 months from date of issue) at the Intercontinental Times Square that can easily go for $500 per night. A $49 annual fee that results in a free night at a hotel that can go for $500 per night? Sounds like a great perk to me!
3. The Hyatt Credit Card Category 1-4 annual free night
Hyatt is one of my favorite hotel chains and their credit card has one of my favorite hotel rewards card perks. In addition to the two free nights you get at sign-up after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months and mid-tier Platinum status, one of the best perks is the annual free night you get at a Category 1-4 hotel at each anniversary. This card has a $0 introductory fee the first year and a $75 annual fee in subsequent years. As a reward for renewing the card each year you get a free night at a Category 1-4 hotel. Hyatts go up to Category 6, so you can’t use this at all Hyatts, but you can use it at hotels such as: Hyatt Place New York MidTown, Andaz West Hollywood, Hyatt at Olive 8 (Seattle), Hyatt Chicago Mag Mile, and Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City. It is easy to get several hundred dollars in value out of that annual free night at some of these very nice properties! If you are a big spender, note that upon spending $20,000 in a calendar year, you’ll receive 2 stay and 5 night credits toward elite status, and upon spending $40,000 in a calendar year, you’ll receive an additional 3 stay and 5 night credits. To get the best sign-up bonus on this credit card, pay attention the next time you are making a reservation on Hyatt.com to see if you get a special offer!
I think that those three hotel credit cards have the best ongoing perks, but there are a couple of others that should at least get an honorable mention as they can also be very valuable, so here are two honorable mentions that I love, but didn’t quite crack the top three in terms of ongoing bonuses.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card annual free weekend night + Gold elite status
This card gives you two free weekend nights at sign-up after hitting the spending requirement (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night), but it also gives you HHonors Gold status which will land you free breakfast for two and possible upgrades for your family on trips! If you put $40k on it annually, you get top tier Diamond status. If you put $10k on the card each year you can also get a free annual weekend night when you renew for $95 each year.
Starwood Preferred Guest Amex or Starwood Preferred Guest Business Amex nights/stays toward elite status and SPG points
Beyond the sign-up bonus of 25,000 points (10,000 after first purchase and 15,000 after spending $5,000 in six months), the two things I like best about this card aren’t flashy, but they can be very useful. First, putting spending on this cards is one of the few ways to rack up SPG points since SPG doesn’t have anything like an online shopping portal, dining plan, etc. That is kind of a lame perk in some ways, but an extraordinarily useful one in others. Also, if you go for elite status with SPG, a useful perk is that each one of these cards gives you 2 stays and 5 nights toward elite status, and yes you can get that perk from both cards at the same time. My husband is making good use of that perk to re-qualify for SPG Platinum status this year!
Did I hit on some of your favorite perks of hotel rewards credit cards? If I left off your favorite, please let me know!
Disclosure, some (but not all) of the credit cards in this post are my affiliate links and I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my links. All are to the best offers I am aware of. Thanks for your support!