How to Get Free Hotel Stays and Room Upgrades With Credit Card Points

Find out how you can get free hotel stays with these travel reward credit cards.

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Hotel credit cards aren’t the most flexible when it comes to your rewards. If you want any kind of value, you have to use your points to book free hotel stays. And even then, some hotel programs give you as low as half a cent per point in value.

But I still have co-branded credit cards with almost every major hotel brand for one reason: anniversary nights.

How I Get Several Free Hotel Nights Every Year

If you aren’t loyal to any one hotel brand, you might wonder if you should consider getting a hotel credit card. But in my experience, these are among the only travel rewards credit cards that make up for their annual fees every year without you needing to do anything.

Many of these cards offer a free anniversary night when you renew your card membership. While some require you spend a certain amount during the year to qualify for the award stay, most don’t.

So all I have to do is pay the annual fee each year and the free night certificate or bonus points are deposited directly into my loyalty program account.

Here are the cards I use to make it happen:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire CardThis card charges a steep $450 annual fee but also comes with a $250 annual Hilton resort credit and one free weekend night good at most Hilton properties. I got two free nights worth about $500 total out of this card this year.
  • IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit CardThis one offers a free night worth up to 40,000 points each year when you pay its $89 annual fee. I just received my first anniversary night on this card and have found properties that charge a nightly rate that’s more than double the card’s annual fee.
  • IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit CardMy favorite of them all, this one gives me one free night each year at any IHG in the world but only charges a $49 annual fee. Last year, I used my free night at the Intercontinental New York Times Square that ran $450 in cash. Unfortunately, this card is no longer available for new signups.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card:  The card charges a $95 annual fee and gives me a free anniversary night worth up to 35,000 points. Last year, I used it at the Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square for a night that would’ve cost me $450.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express CardAnother premium credit card, this one charges a $450 annual fee, which is easily compensated by a $300 annual statement credit on eligible purchases at Marriott hotels and a free anniversary night worth up to 50,000 points.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus™ Business Visa Signature® Credit CardWhen I pay this card’s $99 annual fee, I get a free anniversary night worth up to 35,000 points. The card is no longer available for new applications, but you can get the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
  • Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Credit CardThis card is no longer available for new applications but offers me 40,000 bonus points every year when I pay its $60 annual fee. Award nights with Radisson start at 9,000 points, giving me up to four free stays.
  • Hyatt Credit Card: Not to be confused with the current World of Hyatt Credit Card, this discontinued one gives me one free night at a Category 1-4 property every year—that’s up to 15,000 points for a standard room—against a $75 annual fee. World of Hyatt points are the most valuable of all the major hotel programs, so it’s easy to get more than $75 in value every year.

Keep in mind that while I do use these cards now and then, I don’t have to use them at all to take advantage of this valuable perk.

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Other Hotel Credit Cards That Offer Free Anniversary Nights

In addition to the cards I’ve been using, here are some other hotel credit cards that offer free anniversary nights or annual bonus points that are worth enough to book at least one night:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® CardYou get a free weekend night award every year good for most Hilton properties but only if you spend $15,000 during the calendar year. The card’s annual fee is $95.
  • Hilton Honors American Express® Business CardYou can get up to two free weekend night awards each year at most Hilton hotels and resorts, but you have to spend $15,000 during the calendar year for the first and $60,000 for the second. Plus, there’s a $95 annual fee. 
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® CardThe card offers one free anniversary night with no spending requirement and a second when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year. Both are worth up to 35,000 points and the annual fee is $125.
  • Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® CardYou’ll receive 40,000 bonus points every year when you pay the card’s $75 annual fee (worth up to four free nights), plus you can earn up to three free night certificates when you spend $30,000 during the year (one certificate for every $10,000 spent).  
  • Radisson Rewards™ Visa® CardThe card doesn’t offer free bonus points but does give you the chance to get up to three free night certificates when you spend $30,000 during the year (one certificate for every $10,000 spent). Also, there’s no annual fee.
  • World of Hyatt Credit CardGet a free night when you pay the $95 annual fee and a second when you spend $15,000 or more during the anniversary year. Both are good at any Category 1-4 property.

Should You Get a Hotel Credit Card for the Free Anniversary Night?

Of all the credit card benefits I’ve used over the years, free anniversary nights are my favorite. They don’t require a lot of work and, in most instances, they’re automatic. But they work for me only because I travel enough that I’d be paying for all those hotel stays anyway.

If you don’t travel much, getting one hotel credit card with a free annual stay may be worth it. But avoid going overboard, especially if you think you’ll end up allowing your free nights to go unused.

If you’re interested in comparing the terms, benefits and sign-up bonuses of popular cards in the Slickdeals community, visit our credit card hub to learn more. Also, if you’re new to credit card rewards and not sure if being a cardholder is right for you, our beginner’s guide to credit cards will help you decide if being a cardholder is right for you.

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Ben Luthi

Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer and credit card expert. He has a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and worked in financial planning, banking and auto finance before writing full-time for NerdWallet and Student Loan Hero. Ben is now a full-time freelance writer and enjoys traveling and spending time with his two kids. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Money, Success and Slickdeals.

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