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7 Hotel Credit Cards That Guarantee a Free Night Every Year

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 9/25/2020 Eric Rosen

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. We don't review or include all companies, or all available products. Moreover, the editorial content on this page was not provided by any of the companies mentioned and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of Condé Nast Traveler's editorial team.

While most folks seem to be traveling much less these days, if at all, hotel credit cards can still be an important part of any savvy traveler’s rewards strategy—especially once social distancing restrictions begin to ease and borders start to reopen. For the time being, even a huge welcome offer of 100,000 points or more might not be quite enough to get you to open or use a hotel credit card. However, many of these products come with other attractive benefits that still merit consideration, including a few that you should be able to take advantage of sometime in the near future. Those perks might include on-property credits to use during stays, and automatic elite status, with extras like earning bonus points and a shot at room upgrades. But one of the most valuable benefits any hotel credit card can offer—and a good reason to keep paying a card’s annual fee—is the promise of a free night each year.

As with anything related to credit cards, annual free night rewards are subject to specific terms and conditions. Some require cardholders to hit a certain spending threshold each year. Others award these nights to cardholders automatically after their account anniversary rolls around and they pay their annual fee. Some free nights offered by credit cards can only be redeemed at lower-end properties in their portfolio, while still others are only good for weekend stays. That said, even a one-night stay with restrictions can still be worth hundreds of dollars, more than offsetting a credit card’s annual fee. One thing to note at this particular moment: Even if you don’t plan on booking hotel stays in the near future, many of these cards have extended the expiration dates on the reward night certificates they issue to give cardholders even more time to put them to use. Keep reading for seven of the best hotel credit cards that guarantee a free night every year on your card anniversary without having to jump through too many hoops, and if you already have one or more of these, make sure you’re getting the most value from your free nights.

a bedroom with a bed and desk in a room: Redeem your free night at IHG brands like Intercontinental. © Courtesy InterContinental Hotels Group Redeem your free night at IHG brands like Intercontinental.

IHG Rewards Club Premier card

Free night benefit:

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program of brands like Intercontinental, Hotel Indigo, Kimpton, and Holiday Inn, among many others. Each year you renew and pay the annual fee for this card, you'll be issued a free night award worth up to 40,000 points to use at IHG properties. This should cover a night at many mid-range options like the Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown and the Intercontinental Phuket, where room rates tend to be over $200 during typical travel times. However, that redemption ceiling does exclude IHG’s higher-end options that range from 45,000 to 70,000 points per night, including many Kimpton locations, and flagship Intercontinental properties like the Intercontinental London Park Lane and the recently opened Intercontinental Maldives Maamunagau.

Welcome offer:

Currently, you can earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. While that's a respectable offer, it's good to note that this card's bonus was recently as high as 140,000 points.

Annual fee: $89

Why we love it:

This card's affordable annual fee and perks package make it worthwhile for frequent IHG guests to carry. It earns 10 points per dollar on IHG stays; two points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; and one point per dollar everywhere else. If you spend $20,000 or more on it per account anniversary year, you will receive an additional 10,000 bonus points. It confers automatic Platinum elite status, which means perks like room upgrades and late check-out. As for travel benefits, cardholders receive up to $100 statement credit once every four years for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee paid for using their card.

Learn more about applying for the IHG Rewards Club Premier card here.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

Free night benefit:

Each year after their account anniversary and paying the annual fee, cardholders receive one free night award worth up to 50,000 points. That will automatically disqualify many of Marriott's most luxurious hotels, like the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which can cost upwards of 85,000 points per night. However, many fabulous accommodations are still within reach, such as the stately The Westin Palace, Madrid, and the historic La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa in New Mexico.

Welcome offer:

New applicants can currently earn up to 75,000 points when they spend $3,000 in the first three months. However, the welcome offer has hit 100,000 points in the past, so you might want to wait and see if it rises that high again.

Annual fee: $450

Why we love it:

In addition to that reward night, cardholders receive up to $300 in statement credits toward Marriott purchases (including hotel stays) each year starting at account opening, so you don’t have to wait to use it. They can also receive a $100 credit for on-property charges each time they book a two-night-minimum stay at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties using a special cardholder rate. Cardmembers receive automatic Marriott Gold elite status and associated benefits like room upgrades and bonus points on stays, can enroll in the Priority Pass Select airport lounge network, and are eligible for an application fee statement credit either for Global Entry once every four years, or TSA PreCheck once every 4.5 years. Normally, this card earns six points per dollar on Marriott purchases, three points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and two points per dollar on everything else. However, given the extraordinary circumstances at the moment, American Express is offering some limited-time earning bumps through October 31, 2020. During that time, cardholders can rack up 10 points per dollar on up to $7,500 in purchases in three categories: at U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, and at participating Marriott hotels.

Learn more about applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card here.

a view of a large building: You can score a free room at the St. Regis Bangkok with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card. © Courtesy St. Regis Bangkok You can score a free room at the St. Regis Bangkok with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

Free night benefit:

Bonvoy Boundless cardholders enjoy a free night award worth up to 35,000 points every year after their account anniversary. Though it's not as valuable as the Brilliant’s free night benefit, you'll still be able to score a room at places like the W Atlanta Buckhead, where starting rates can top $200 per night.

Welcome offer:

This card is currently offering its best-ever offer—new applicants can earn up to 100,000 bonus points after using their card to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months.

Annual fee: $95

Why we love it:

If the sticker shock of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s $450 annual fee is too much, you might want to try this Chase counterpart instead. Cardholders are endowed with automatic Silver elite status (Marriott’s lowest tier), though they can hit Gold by spending $35,000 or more on purchases per account year. This card earns six points per dollar on Marriott purchases, and two points per dollar on everything else, so you can rack up points toward more free stays quickly.

Learn more about applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Chase card here.

Marriott Bonvoy Business

Free night benefit:

Like the Boundless, this AmEx card’s anniversary free night is only good for redemptions at hotels costing up to 35,000 points.

Welcome offer:

Right now, this card is offering 75,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months.

Annual fee: $125

Why we love it:

This card is a great option for folks looking for a business travel rewards card rather than another personal one. While it’s geared toward small business owners, you can still qualify as a sole proprietor, or even a freelancer—you don’t need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to apply, but can use your Social Security Number instead. Among the reasons you might want to do so are its earning rates of six points per dollar at Marriott properties; four points per dollar at restaurants and gas stations in the U.S., on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping, and two points per dollar on everything else. Like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, now through October 31, 2020, cardholders can actually earn 10 points per dollar on up to $7,500 each in purchases at Marriott properties, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. restaurants. They can also count on automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver status and premium on-property internet access during stays.

Learn more about applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express card here.

a group of people in a garden: A free night at the Grand Hyatt Berlin is well worth the World of Hyatt's $95 annual fee. © Condé Nast Traveler A free night at the Grand Hyatt Berlin is well worth the World of Hyatt's $95 annual fee.

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Free night benefit:

Folks with this card receive a certificate every year after their account anniversary that can be redeemed against a free night at any Category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel or resort. That category cap puts many top-tier hotels like the Park Hyatt New York out of reach. However, there are still some excellent options like the Andaz Savannah and the Park Hyatt Istanbul Maçka Palas. Cardholders can earn an additional Category 1 to 4 free night after spending $15,000 or more on purchases each account year.

Welcome offer:

Earn up to 50,000 bonus points: 25,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, and an additional 25,000 bonus points if you spend a total of $6,000 within six months.

Annual fee: $95

Why we love it:

Other than the anniversary free night easily outweighing the annual fee, this card has several additional benefits. Cardmembers enjoy automatic Discoverist elite status, which includes perks like bonus points and room upgrades. The card earns four points per dollar at Hyatt properties, participating Small Luxury Hotels, Exhale Spas, and on Lindblad Expeditions; two points per dollar on local transit and commuting, at restaurants, on airline tickets, and on fitness club memberships; and one point per dollar everywhere else. That preponderance of bonus categories means you can really accrue points toward award nights quickly.

Learn more about applying for the World of Hyatt card here.

a pool next to a body of water: With a Hilton Honors Aspire card, you can earn a free night and annual statement credits to be used on property. © Adam Bruzzone/Courtesy Conrad Koh Samui With a Hilton Honors Aspire card, you can earn a free night and annual statement credits to be used on property.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card

Free night benefit:

Every year you renew this high-end Hilton card, you can expect one weekend night (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) reward good at Hilton hotels and resorts around the world, including stunners like the tropical Conrad Bora Bora Nui, where room rates regularly top $1,000 per night. Cardholders can earn an additional award night by making $60,000 in purchases in a year. Due to COVID-19, American Express and Hilton announced that new free weekend night rewards issued through December 31, 2020, can be used any night of the week rather than just weekends, and that those issued from May 1 to December 31, 2020, will be valid for 24 months from their date of issue rather than the standard 12.

Welcome offer:

Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first three months of card opening. This is as high as the welcome offer for this card has ever gotten.

Annual fee: $450

Why we love it:

Among the other perks that account for this card’s expensive annual fee are a $250 annual statement credit for airline incidentals such as checked bags or seat selection, and $250 back on purchases at Hilton Resorts each year. Cardholders who book a two-night minimum stay at luxurious Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels are eligible for $100 in statement credits toward on-property charges like spa treatments, golf tee times, and restaurant bills. They also receive Hilton’s top-tier Diamond elite status automatically (with perks like room upgrades and free breakfast) and can access Priority Pass Select airport lounges. The card earns 14 points per dollar on Hilton purchases; seven points per dollar on flights booked through AmEx Travel or directly through airlines, on car rentals, and at U.S. restaurants; and three points per dollar on everything else. For the true Hilton Honors loyalists out there, the bonus points earned through purchases in 2020 will also count toward lifetime status with the program. If this card’s annual fee is too high for you, you might consider the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, which only costs $95 per year. It does not come with a free weekend night automatically, but if you spend $15,000 or more on it in a calendar year, you can also score one.

Learn more about signing up for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card here.

Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature

Free night benefit:

Don’t forget about this loyalty program, which comprises brands like Radisson Blu and Park Inn. Every year you renew this card and pay the annual fee, you are automatically gifted 40,000 bonus points, which is enough for a free night at many of the chain’s hotels, including the Radisson Hotel Baltimore Downtown–Inner Harbor and the Radisson Collection Hotel in Warsaw. Cardholders can also earn one free night e-certificate for every $10,000 they spend on the card each year up three nights.

Welcome offer:

This card’s bonus is usually 85,000 points when you spend $2,500 on it in the first 90 days, but it does field offers as high as 120,000 points, so check on current options before applying.

Annual fee: $75

Why we love it:

Cardholders receive automatic mid-tier Gold elite status and earn 10 points per dollar at Radisson properties, plus a decent five points per dollar on everything else.

Learn more about applying for the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa card here.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

This story was last published in June 2019. It has since been updated with new information.

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