Best Hotel Credit Cards For Free Rooms & Benefits

We’re always searching for the best hotel credit cards so that we can maximize our travel, but stay for free as often as we can with the best perks available.  Banks are always coming up with great new offers, so we made this list of the best hotel credit cards to help you narrow down the choices.  Some of the best hotel credit cards are co-branded with the specific hotel, while others great cards use points from banks to pay for your room.


The Hottest Card Available – Chase Sapphire Reserve

chase-sapphire-reserve-cardThe Chase Sapphire Reserve has been blowing up the Internet with its amazing offer.  When you apply, you will receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be worth $750 when you use them to purchase hotels through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.  On top of that, you also receive $300 in travel credits per calendar year to purchase airfare or pay for baggage fees, upgrades, etc when you fly to your destination.

Unfortunately, many people are finding themselves declined for the CSR card due to Chase’s 5/24 Rule, which leads to a declined application if you’ve opened more than 5 new personal credit cards in the last 24 months.  Because I get new cards all the time, I was declined for this offer… but maybe you can qualify!


Best Hotel Credit Cards

Below are the best hotel credit cards from our favorite hotel brands.  I have many of these cards for the annual free night benefit, the automatic upgrade to loyalty status, and the free perks that come with having their card.

Step #3 of my 5 simple steps to start travel hacking is to pick a hotel brand and focus all of your spend and stays with that hotel brand.  You will earn free nights and elite status faster, and reap the rewards of that loyalty with upgraded rooms, better availability, and more appreciation of your loyalty from the hotel staff.


Club Carlson from US Bank

US Bank Club Carlson Visa credit card

US Bank offers 3 versions of the Club Carlson Visa – no-fee & annual fee personal cards and a business card.  I have the paid versions of the personal and business card because they come with automatic Gold status and 40,000 annual points upon renewal.  With first-tier redemptions starting at 9,000 points, you could get 4 free nights with those points in basic accommodations or it’s almost enough for higher-end redemptions that range from 50,000-75,000 points a night at their best properties.

Club Carlson is a name most people have never heard of, but you’ll recognize their hotel brands: Quorvus, Radisson, Radisson Blu, Radisson Red, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inn & Suites.  Most of the US-based Club Carlson properties are average at best, but their Radisson Blu properties are really nice — Aqua in Chicago and Mall of America and Blu Downtown in Minneapolis.  And Club Carlson’s newest concept, Radisson Red, was recently launched in Minneapolis for the first time in America.  Not sure what’s going on with Minneapolis, but they have a big concentration of nice Club Carlson hotels.


Hilton HHonors from Amex and Citi

Citibank Hilton HHonors Reserve credit card

Hilton HHonors offers two cards each from Citibank and American Express.  Each bank offers a no-fee version and a version with an annual fee.  The no-fee cards are good to hold long-term to build your credit history, but the real value is with the annual fee cards.

When you pay the annual fee, you automatically receive Hilton HHonors Gold status.  And each card offers the opportunity to reach Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card within a calendar year.  I prefer the Citibank Hilton Reserve over the American Express Hilton Surpass because you receive a free weekend night for spending $10,000 within a calendar year.  This free night can be used at almost any Hilton property, including the high-end Waldorf Astoria brand.


Hyatt from Chase

Chase Hyatt Visa credit card

The sign-up bonus from Chase is probably one of the best available.  You get 2 free nights to ANY hotel in the Hyatt portfolio.  Most people use these 2 free nights to redeem for stays at the luxurious Park Hyatt properties in Paris, Milan, or Sydney.  Anna and I used mine at the Park Hyatt Milan during our romantic Italian vacation.

After the first year, when you renew, you receive one free night at any Category 1-4 property each year.  It was a total steal to use the free night at the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica!  The card also comes with automatic Hyatt Platinum status, which is the 2nd highest status in Hyatt’s loyalty program and provides nice upgrades when staying at their properties.  The Platinum status can be parlayed into MLife Gold status for high-roller treatment in Las Vegas.


IHG from Chase

Chase IHG MasterCard credit card

The Chase IHG card offers some of the best value for the lowest annual fee ($49) of any card on this list.  IHG generally offers a large amount of points (60,000-80,000) when you sign up for the card.  And, when you renew, you get one free night at ANY property in the IHG family.

IHG is short for the InterContinental Hotels Group and is home to lower-end brands like Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, and Candlebridge Suites, but also offers luxury brands like Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Hualuxe, and Crown Plaza.  The EVEN Hotels brand was launched recently and it is similar to SPG’s Aloft brand with its focus on fun and quirkiness.  IHG bought Kimpton in 2014, but is currently treating them completely separate and this card offers no perks or benefits with Kimpton properties.


Marriott Rewards card from Chase

marriott-credit-cardI’ve had both the personal and business version of the Chase Marriott Rewards Visa for many years because of the free annual night benefit, which more than offsets the annual fee.  If you get these cards at the right time, I’ve seen bonuses of up to 80,000 Marriott Rewards points!

Marriott points can be useful for more than just hotel stays.  Many people don’t know about the air and hotel packages.  And with these packages you can actually receive more using less Marriott Rewards points!

For example, you can use 270,000 Marriott Rewards points to receive 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points AND a 1-week stay at any Marriott Category 1-5 property.  Compare that to the normal transfer rate from Marriott to Southwest where it would cost you 280,000 Marriott Rewards points to receive 100,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  The Flight + Hotel package costs 10,000 points less and you receive an extra 20,000 SW points AND a 1-week Marriott stay.  There are a lot of other airlines that are available to transfer to as well, including domestic and international airlines.

With the recent merger of loyalty programs between Marriott and SPG, you can transfer SPG points at a 3:1 ratio to boost your Marriott balance to redeem for this package.  For example, if you have 90,000 SPG points, that would be 270,000 Marriott points, which is enough to redeem for the 120,000 Southwest points and 1-week Marriott stay.


Ritz Carlton from Chase

Chase Ritz Carlton credit card

Although Ritz Carlson is owned by Marriott, they have their own high-end card that caters to their luxury-focused clientele.  I had this card before when it was offering 140,000 points, which I transferred to Marriott.

If you want to enjoy aspirational travel, this card is for you!  The current card offers 3 complimentary free nights at participating Category 1-4 properties.  Additionally, on paid stays of up to 7 nights with Ritz Carlton, you can upgrade to the Club level 3 times annually.  You’ll also enjoy a 10% premium on points earned through the card each year.


 Starwood Preferred Group by American Express

starwood-preferred-guest-credit-cardThe American Express SPG card offers both a personal and a business version.  The business version comes with lounge access at participating Sheraton locations.  Both versions provide automatic Gold status when spend $30,000 within a calendar year.  You’ll also reach upper tier loyalty status faster with credit for 5 nights and 2 stays from each card.  With the Amex SPG card, you also receive unlimited Boingo wifi on up to 4 devices, which is great whether you’re traveling by land or air.

Although the SPG card from American Express is based on earning points that can be used at Starwood properties (like W, Westin, Sheraton), the points have tremendous value when it comes to airlines.

SPG has one of the most extensive list of airline transfer partners of any hotel program.  But what makes the Amex SPG card so valuable is that you receive a 25% bonus on points transferred for every 20k SPG points that you convert into airline miles.  For example, you will receive 25k American Airlines AAdvantage miles when you transfer 20k Starwood points.

This card may not be around much longer now that Marriott has bought SPG and they are in the process of merging their programs.  The programs are separate at this point, but they now offer reciprocal status matching and transfer of points to/from SPG and Marriott.  Marriott’s card is from Chase, so you can imagine the SPG card will eventually transfer over there, unless it is eliminated altogether.


Wyndham from Barclaycard

Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards credit card

Wyndham’s loyalty program is pretty interesting because they have a flat price of 15,000 points per night, regardless if you’re staying at a bargain basement property in the middle of nowhere or one of their all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean.  Wyndham recently announced that you can redeem their points for stays at their timeshare properties as well, but they charge 15,000 points PER BEDROOM per night, which can get really expensive!

Barclaycard offers two versions of the Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card – a no-fee version and a paid version.  The paid version has a higher sign-up bonus and earns more points per $1 spent at Wyndham or at their chosen category bonuses of gas, utility, and grocery purchases.  The no-fee version provides automatic Wyndham Rewards Gold status, while the paid version provides Platinum loyalty status and 6,000 bonus points each anniversary.


In addition to the hotel co-branded cards described above, the best hotel credit cards can sometimes be cards that offer bank points that can transfer into hotel loyalty programs or be used the same as cash when booking a reservation.


American Express Membership Rewards

american-express-business-platinum-credit-cardAmerican Express Membership Rewards are flexible points that can be used to pay for reservations directly with hotels or you can transfer them Amex’s hotel partners to redeem for hotel stays.

There are many personal and business Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards points, which is a good thing because you can only receive the bonus from each one once thanks to Amex’s current “once per lifetime” bonus rules.

Two of my favorite versions of the American Express Membership Rewards cards are the Platinum and EveryDay cards.  The Platinum card offers Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass airport lounge access, a $200 per year airline credit, and automatic Hilton Gold status, plus it now earns 5x on spend with airlines.  The EveryDay Preferred card offers a 50% bonus on points earned when you have 30 or more transactions, which increases the value of the 3x at grocery and 2x on gas.

Membership Rewards can also be redeemed for cash, statement credits, or to make purchases at stores like Amazon or McDonalds.  You have the option to transfer Membership Rewards to Hilton HHonors (1,000 MR = 1,000 Hilton) or Starwood Preferred Group (1,000 MR = 500 SPG).


Bank of America Travel Rewards

bank-of-america-travel-rewards-credit-cardBank of America Travel Rewards is one of the lesser used programs among the travel community, but there can be value found in their points.  First off, the good thing is that this card has no annual fee, earns 1.5 points for every $1 you spend, and you receive a 10% bonus if you have a banking relationship with BofA.

For customers with larger combined balances with their bank and investment companies, you will receive up to an extra 75% bonus points on each purchase so you can really maximize your rewards for travel redemptions.


Barclay Arrival

barclay-arrival-cardThe Barclay Arrival card allows for redemptions of your points towards travel expenses.  It used to have two flavors – one with an annual fee and the Plus version with an annual fee – but the no-fee version was eliminated in September 2016.

You earn 2 points for every $1 you spend on the Arrival Plus, which makes this card a 2% cash back card when redeeming for travel expenses.  The travel expenses don’t have to be purchased through a specific portal or by calling a certain number.  Instead, you charged as you normally would, then log in and manually select which travel expenses you wish to redeem for.  If you redeem for gift cards or other expenses, the value is only 1%.

When you redeem points, you receive a 5% rebate that you can use towards future redemptions.  That increases your cash back value of the Arrival to 2.1%, which is better than many other cash-back cards that usually top out at 1.5% or 2.0%.


Chase Ultimate Rewards

chase-sapphire-reserve-cardChase Ultimate Rewards can be earned from multiple cards in the Chase portfolio.  The personal versions are under the Freedom or Sapphire brand names, while the business versions are known as Ink.

Chase Freedom can earn 5x points with specific categories that rotate each quarter, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5x points on everything.  Both of these cards have no annual fee.  They earn Ultimate Rewards points, but they can only be redeemed for cash (meaning no transfers to airline or hotel partners) unless you also have a Sapphire or Ink card.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards are the most powerful personal Ultimate Rewards cards.  With these cards, you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points up to $0.015 per point value for travel or you can transfer the points to hotel partners Hyatt and Marriott for potentially even higher value.

The business cards are known as Ink, and they earn 5x points for office and telecom spend and 2x on dining and gas.  The Ink Cash is the no fee version, but, like the Freedom card, you cannot transfer points.  The Ink Plus has an annual fee which unlocks the full power of your Ultimate Rewards.  Additionally, with the paid version, your points are worth $0.0125 per point when redeeming for travel.

Pro Tip: If you and your spouse have multiple Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, you can household and transfer points to your Sapphire Reserve account to get $0.015 per point on all of them, even if some of those points were earned with the lower value Freedom, Ink, or Sapphire Preferred cards.


Citibank ThankYou Points

citibank-prestige-credit-cardCitibank’s ThankYou points can be earned from several personal and business cards.  There are no-fee personal and business versions available, but the Prestige card gives 3x on travel (airlines, hotel, online travel agency) spend and 2x on dining & entertainment.  You will receive a $250 annual travel credit for airfare, baggage fees, lounge access, and some in-flight purchases which help offset the annual fee.  Additionally, this card gives the cardholder 3 free rounds of golf per calendar year.

You also receive $100 in Global Entry reimbursement, airport lounge club access through Priority Pass, and your 4th night free when booking with the Citi concierge service!  This card gives HUGE value that totally offsets the annual fee.

ThankYou points can be redeemed for cash, statement credits, gift cards or shopping at $0.01 or less in value per point.  When you redeem ThankYou points for travel, they are worth up to $0.0133 per point.  You can transfer ThankYou points to Hilton HHonors at a rate of 1,000 ThankYou Points = 2,000 Hilton HHonors points.


US Bank FlexPerks

us-bank-flexperks-american-express-credit-cardFlexPerks from US Bank are one of the lesser known points programs in the mileage community, but I’ve found great value with them.  The points that you earn are worth up to $0.02 each and you can earn 2x on grocery spend, equating up to 4% in value when you redeem for travel!  I applied for the Visa version of this card during the Summer Olympics and received additional sign-up bonus points based on how many medals the US Olympics team won.

US Bank offers both a Visa and American Express version of the card for personal use.  There is a business version as well, which is called the FlexPerks Business Edge.  For people who like to donate or use Kiva, you earn 3x points when using this card for charitable spending.

When you spend $24,000 on your card in a calendar year, you will also earn bonus points which helps to offset the annual fee!  And there is a little extra benefit when you fly on redemption flights… you get a credit of up to $25 for baggage fees, upgrades, or in-flight food or drink.