Score Free Nights and Hotel Upgrades To Surprise Your Sweetie This Valentine’s Day

Hotel and chill with this proven strategy that mixes credit card rewards and hotel loyalty programs to earn free lodging.

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Valentine’s Day is coming soon! Have you thought about what you want to do to surprise your sweetie? We know you love a good deal, so we’re going to walk you through some of the ways you can score free hotel rooms and even upgrades for free. That way, you can totally impress them without spending a ton of cash.

While it does require a bit of planning, it’s nothing that you can’t manage. As a bargain hunter, you possess many of the skills already. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Table of Contents

Pick an Accessible Hotel Loyalty Program

Hotel loyalty programs are where it’s at. They’re free to sign up for, and you get access to some amazing perks once you earn enough points. Many have different tiers you can “unlock,” offering benefits like bonus points, room upgrades and more. You’re essentially leaving money on the table and missing out on the best deals if you don’t take advantage of hotel loyalty programs.

Choosing the right hotel loyalty program is essentially a first step to getting free stuff. Though with so many to offer, which is the right one?

Choosing one means picking your own selection criteria for a program. Are you interested in hotels in your immediate location? Or do you want to surprise your sweetie with a fancy suite, therefore needing a way to accumulate as many points as possible?

For example, I am obsessed with getting enough points to get a room at the Ritz-Carlton one day (don’t tell my husband, it’s supposed to be a surprise!) so I picked the Marriott Bonvoy program. Marriott has hotels in 130 countries. Plus, I found a co-branded credit card that offers free perks like a hotel stay each cardholder anniversary.

Here are some of the most popular hotel loyalty programs:

  • Marriott Bonvoy: Since merging with Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, the program has around 6,900 properties worldwide, including Westin and St. Regis
  • Wyndham Rewards: The hotel chain has over 8,000 properties and more than 700,000 rooms worldwide in chains like Ramada and Travelodge.
  • World of Hyatt: Hyatt offers over 850 properties worldwide.
  • Hilton Honors: Perks include properties in more than 100 locations worldwide, complimentary WiFi and member-only rates.
  • Accor Le Club: Most properties are overseas and include brands like Pullman and Sofitel. There are properties in the U.S. but it’s mainly limited to large cities.
  • IHG Rewards: There are over 5,272 properties in around 100 countries. You get access to member -only rates and complimentary high-speed WiFi.

How To Score Free Nights

Here’s where co-branded credit cards factor into the strategy. Depending on what card you get, you can score free nights just by being a cardholder. Getting a hotel credit card gives you the opportunity to turn your everyday purchases into rewards.

>>EARN: “I Get 10 Free Hotel Stays a Year; Here’s My Strategy”

Many of these cards do charge an annual fee and might require you spend a certain amount to qualify for a free award stay. However, the free nights you receive can more than outweigh the fee.

Here are a few cards I’ve got my eye on.

How To Score Room Upgrades

Aside from free nights, hotel loyalty programs offer different rewards tiers. Members can score room upgrades when they follow the rules. For example, Hilton Honors Diamond members are eligible for room upgrades based on availability. The Marriott Bonvoy program allows Platinum members to receive unlimited complimentary suite upgrades (sadly not at Ritz-Carlton).

Unfortunately, these statuses can be hard to come by since you are required to meet a certain spend requirement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for room upgrades. Travelers have reported that if they check in later in the day (and usually in the off-season) and ask nicely for one, it tends to work.

Getting married, or celebrating a special anniversary? Make sure to tell the check-in staff. You might score some free stuff, including a room upgrade!

Apply for Cards With Big Sign-Up Bonus

If you signed up for a “regular” travel rewards card, you can still nab a free room. For example, let’s say you got the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and grabbed the sign-up bonus by spending $4,000 within the first three months. According to Chase, that’s $750 worth of travel.

The Slickdeals guide to the best sign-up bonuses can help you find credit cards with valuable welcome offers worth hundreds of dollars in free travel.

Guess what? You can hold onto those points for a special occasion and transfer them to a partner hotel of your choice when the time comes. It does mean planning ahead a little bit. But all that effort will be worth it when you see the look of sheer joy on your sweetie’s face.

Apply for a Popular Hotel Rewards Credit Card

Applying for a hotel rewards card is a key part of the strategy to earn free hotel stays and room upgrades. The cards below are among the most popular in the Slickdeals affiliate marketplace. Who knows? Maybe you and your sweetie will soon be checking into a romantic getaway for two at your favorite hotel.

Are you ready to apply? Click the links to begin a secured application process directly with the issuer.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

two people take a break from a wedding
Credit: Twenty20

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold has quite a few perks for a card without an annual fee. Like many Chase cards, it offers lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay insurance and purchase protection. Points don’t expire and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Apply Today

Annual Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: 3x points per dollar spent with Marriott, 2x points per dollar on travel expenses and 1x point per dollar on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Hilton Honors™ American Express Card

a couple sunbath their feet outside
Credit: Twenty20

The Hilton Honors card rewards cardholders with little perks like complimentary Silver status, late check-out and free WiFi. But you can also quickly rack up the points at grocery stores and gas stations, which will help you reach Gold status quickly.

Apply Today

Annual Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: 7x points per dollar spent with Hilton, 5X points per dollar spent on groceries and gas and 3x points per dollar on all other spending.

Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 during the first three months.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Credit: iStock.com/martin-dm

The upgraded Hilton Honors Surpass card earns points faster than the Hilton Honors card. Plus, cardholders begin with Gold status and can upgrade to Diamond status after spending at least $40,000 with the card in a calendar year. Beyond that, Surpass customers can earn a free weekend night for their spending.

Apply Today

Annual Fee: $95

Rewards Rate: 12x points per dollar spent with Hilton, 6x points per dollar spent on groceries and gas and 3x points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $2,000 during the first three months.

IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card

luggage rests on the floor of a hotel room

While the IHG Rewards Club Travel Card doesn’t offer as many perks as its competitors, it does offer 2 points per dollar spent on groceries, gas and dining. This rewards rate comes in handy when you’re trying to earn lots of points quickly.

Apply Today

Annual Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: 15x points per dollar spent with IHG, 2x points per dollar spent on groceries, gas and dining and 1x point per dollar on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 during the first three months.

>>NEXT: The Best Travel Credit Cards: Compare Current Offers, Rewards and Sign-Up Bonuses

We want to make sure you get the best deal! Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply. Also, please remember this content wasn’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any company mentioned in this article.

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Redbook, LendingTree and Financial Planning Association. She's also the host of Beyond The Dollar, where her and her guests have deep and honest conversations on how money affects your well being.

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