The Best Credit Card Welcome Bonuses for Free Hotel Stays

Mar 2, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, The Hyatt Credit CardRitz-Carlton Rewards Credit CardIHG Rewards Club Select Credit CardStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

If you’ve jumped on one of the many airfare deals to Europe or beyond that we’ve seen recently — or if you simply have travel plans in mind — booking a hotel stay is likely a top priority. And while you can always pay out of pocket for accommodations, it’s easy to save money by covering your stay with points and miles.

The following credit cards are currently offering bonuses that either award you enough hotel points to cover a multiple-night stay or get you two free nights outright. Plus, most of the cards below don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, except as noted.

1. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Bonus:  Both cards are currently offering 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year) (SPG Amex – See Rates & Fees) (SPG Business – See Rates & Fees)

There are plenty of great ways to put Starpoints to use, from redeeming them for nights at a Category 1 property to transferring them to Marriott to book two nights at a high-end Category 9 hotel. If you were to apply for both the personal and business versions of this card and earn both bonuses, you could even transfer more than 50,000 points to Marriott (at a 1:3 ratio) that can go toward booking a Hotel + Air package.

2. Hilton Honors Surpass Credit Card from American Express

Bonus: 75,000 Hilton points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $75 ($95 for applications received on or after January 18, 2018)

Now’s an odd time for Hilton credit cards, as the hotel chain has dropped Citi as a co-brand card partner and moving to an exclusive partnership with Amex. You can no longer apply for the Citi Hilton cards, and those cards will be transitioned into new Hilton Amex cards in January 2018. Hilton Surpass Card and Hilton Honors Card from American Express will also be transitioning to new products at that time, though many of the benefits will remain the same.

The Hilton Surpass is the more premium of the two currently available Hilton cards, with a $75 annual fee and benefits like complimentary Gold Hilton status. While it will transition to the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend in 2018, you can still apply for it in its current incarnation and earn 75,000 points. That’s enough for two nights at a mid-tier property like the Hilton Niseko Village in Japan, among other redemption options. Note that the Surpass card currently charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, though when it becomes the Ascend in 2018 it will drop this fee. At that time, it will also add the ability to get a free weekend night if you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.

3. Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: 75,000 Marriott Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $85 (currently waived the first year)

You have plenty of options for redeeming 75,000 Marriott Rewards points, from booking two nights at a Category 8 hotel to nabbing a one-night stay at a luxurious Tier 5 Ritz-Carlton property. Of course, thanks to this hotel chain’s merger with Starwood, you can also move points over to the Starwood Preferred Guest program, which could make sense if you want to book a low-tier SPG hotel stay or if you want to move rewards over to one of SPG’s 30-plus airline partners. Keep in mind that you’ll earn an extra 7,500 points for adding an authorized user and having them make a purchase in the first three months of cardmembership — this is an easy way to maximize the sign-up bonus and work toward a more expensive redemption.

4. The Hyatt Credit Card

For maximum value, redeem the free nights from the Hyatt Credit Card at an expensive property like the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 Hyatt points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months

Annual fee: $75

Previously this card offered a more straightforward sign-up offer of two free nights at any participating Hyatt property. However, now you’ll get 40,000 points to redeem at Hyatt properties instead — which is honestly nowhere near as valuable, since the previous offer let you use those nights even at top-tier Hyatt properties. Still, you can put those 40,000 points to use for one night at a Category 7 Hyatt hotel such as the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme or the Park Hyatt Sydney, or stretch them further at less luxurious properties if you want to save cash on preexisting travel plans.

In addition, this card gets you an annual free night at any Category 1-4 property after your account anniversary.

5. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card offers two free nights at a Tier 1-4 property as a sign-up bonus. Image courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa.

Sign-up bonus: 2 nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton property after you spend $4,000 in the first three months

Annual fee: $450

With a $450 annual fee, this is the most expensive card on the list, but it does come with more premium benefits like a $300 annual travel credit. The value that you’ll get from the sign-up bonus depends on the nightly rate at your Tier 1-4 property of choice, but in his valuation of the card’s benefits TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen pegged each night at $400.

6. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months (plus 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months)

Annual fee: $49 (waived the first year)

This sign-up offer can take you far — especially if you redeem for a stay at a PointBreaks property at a rate of 5,000 points per night. You could also redeem your rewards for a one-night stay at a top-tier property such as the InterContinental Hong Kong at a rate of 60,000 points per night. This card offers a 10% rebate on redemptions, and you’ll enjoy a free anniversary night each year.

7. Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card

Get the most out of the Wyndham card’s sign-up bonus by redeeming your points at an expensive property like the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach. Image courtesy of the hotel.

Sign-up bonus: 15,000 points after your first purchase, plus an additional 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days

Annual fee: $75

The more premium version of Wyndham’s Visa card offers a sign-up bonus of up to 30,000 points — enough for two free nights at any property since the hotel program has a flat rate of 15,000 points per award night. You’ll obviously get the most value out of your points by redeeming them at a more expensive hotel, such as the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach in Miami. This card also offers a bonus of 6,000 points each year after your account anniversary.

8. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points after your first purchase, plus an additional 35,000 points after you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days

Annual fee: $75

If you earn 85,000 points by meeting the $2,500 spending requirement in the first 90 days from account opening, you’ll have enough for a nine-night stay at a Category 1 Club Carlson hotel, or for a one-night stay at a Category 6 property such as the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island, among other redemption options. Plus, this card offers you 40,000 points each year when you renew your card, along with a free night each year when you charge $10,000 to your card. Note that this card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you won’t want to use it for purchases abroad.

Bottom Line

No matter which hotel chain you prefer to stay with, a credit card welcome bonus can help you book an award stay. Not all the options mentioned above are currently offering elevated bonuses but depending on your travel goals and preferences, any of these cards could be worth applying for. And additional perks and benefits such as a free anniversary night on select cards only sweeten the deal!

For rates and fees of the SPG Amex Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the SPG Business Amex Card, please click here.

Featured image courtesy of Le Meridien Angkor, a Category 2 Starwood property.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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