When you travel, you’re not always going to be able to stay at a friend’s house or rent an Airbnb. Where do you stay? A hotel! And if you travel with hotel rewards points, you can still sleep for free when on vacation.
What Are Hotel Rewards Points?
Maybe you already own a rewards credit card where you earn points for every dollar you spend. You can redeem these points for cash, travel rewards, or gift cards.
If you fly on a regular basis you also accumulate frequent flyer miles that can be redeemed for free flights. Apply the same principle for hotel rewards points. For each night you pay cash, you earn points that can be redeemed for free nights.
The only problem is that not every hotel loyalty program offers the same value for each point. Relatively speaking, some hotel brands require a mountain of points for a single night while some hotels let you get two or three nights for the same number of points and a similar quality room.
How To Quickly Earn Hotel Loyalty Points
Two ways to earn hotel points is to get a hotel rewards credit card. If you’re loyal to a particular brand, every purchase earns loyalty points. And, you can even enjoy free hotel nights as an anniversary bonus when you renew your card. This annual benefit alone is worth more than the annual fee. If you pay an $89 annual fee but the free night rewards is worth $150, you save $60 on your free night.
The Best Hotel Loyalty Programs
While you should join whichever hotel loyalty program you happen to stay at the most. Maybe you travel for business and they have a partnership with Marriott! Or, you’re a bargain hunter and stay at a budget hotel with a national footprint and a loyalty program. You have to be able to earn points to redeem points for free nights. So, it might be better to go with a program with lower-valued points if you can use them.
You should always try to redeem hotel points for stays that make each point worth at least 1 cent each. On a $100 stay, you must spend 10,000 points or less. Because hotel points are not as valuable as airline miles, you might be hard-pressed to beat the 1-cent benchmark. Even so, paying with points can still be better than paying with cash.
World of Hyatt
One of the most valuable hotel loyalty programs is World of Hyatt. Not only are their hotels more upscale than the average hotel, they also have some of the lowest point requirements and an average redemption rate of at least 2 cents per point. Most loyalty programs offer free nights starting at 5,000 points per night. What they don’t tell you is that the high-end hotels can cost up to 60,000 points per night! Looking at the World of Hyatt award chart below, you can get a standard room for only 30,000 points at a swanky resort like the Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe. With most hotels, 30,000 points only get you in a mid-tier property like a Crowne Plaza, Hilton, or Marriott.
With the World of Hyatt Visa, you also have the opportunity to get two free nights every year! You automatically receive your first free night each card anniversary year. After spending $15,000 in total card purchases each year, you get a second free night.
If you don’t stay at Marriott or Starwood Preferred Guest properties often, you probably don’t know that the two programs have merged and now operate under the single rewards program called Marriott Rewards. In January 2019, the program is going to introduce a new name as the merger finalizes.
Pre-merger, Starwood Preferred Guest offered free nights starting at 2,000 points per night and had an award chart similar to World of Hyatt. Below is the new award chart with free nights starting at 7,500 points for the rest of 2018. Starting in 2019, Marriott will begin charging off-peak and peak season award night rates. So, you might pay less or more than you do now.
Both Chase and American Express offer Marriott and Starwood rewards credit cards. With either card, you can get a free hotel night each year. One of the only differences (besides the card issuer) is the bonus categories that earn bonus points besides Marriott and SPG hotel purchases.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG has several hotel brands including Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, and Candlewood Suites. Free nights start at 5,000 points but expect to pay between 15,000 and 25,000 for most nights. They also have a PointBreaks program with 5,000 and 10,000-point rooms, but these hotels are usually in less-traveled areas.
You can also apply for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card to get one free anniversary night.
Hilton Honors is another large hotel portfolio with names like Hampton Inn and Embassy Suites, but they usually require more points than some of the other brands. However, Hilton has one of the most extensive international portfolios if you enjoy traveling abroad. Free nights start at 5,000 points per night, but you should expect to pay between 20,000 and 30,000 points per night on average.
You have three different rewards credit cards to choose from issued by American Express. The Hilton Honors Ascend Card has a $95 annual fee, but you don’t get a free night unless you spend $15,000 a year. To get a guaranteed free night, you must upgrade to the Hilton Honors Aspire with a $450 annual fee.
Wyndham Rewards takes a flat-rate approach to free nights. You will want to keep your points for properties that cost at least $150 per night. While many of the 25,000 properties are budget hotels like the Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Days Inn and Microtel, you can easily find upscale properties across the world. Some of the upscale brands include Wyndham, Splendor, Wingate, and several Las Vegas casino hotels that can make for a fun vacation or weekend getaway.
Bonus Hotel Recommendation for Flexible Travelers
If you simply want the cheapest hotel regardless of the loyalty program, Hotels.com gives you the 11th night free after paying for the first 10 nights. You won’t find every hotel here, but you can find local boutiques, beds and breakfast, extended stays, and many national brands too. Sometimes, flexibility can be the most factor for traveling on a budget without sacrificing quality.
Hotels are an almost-unavoidable expense when you travel. By collecting rewards points, you get rewarded for your loyalty with free nights. Since the average night costs $100 or more, these free nights come in handy when you take a multi-night trip and you love saving money.