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What Are the Best Hotel Credit Cards for Earning Free Nights?

A while back I wrote about the best hotel rewards program for earning free nights based on non-elite earning rates, which came down to Hilton HHonors, Club Carlson and Wyndham Rewards. Barring a really great mattress running opportunity, most of us in the points and miles world earn our hotel stays via credit card sign-up bonuses and spending. So what is the best hotel credit card for earning free nights? Below is a breakdown of each co-branded hotel credit card, the amount of points paid out for non-bonus category spending, followed by the amount of spending required to earn a free night in each category.

Hilton Munich Airport Suite Upgrade

Use rewards from the Hilton credit cards for a free night at hotels like the Hilton Munich

Once again, it comes down to Hilton, Club Carlson and Wyndham hotels. Three of the co-branded Hilton HHonors credit cards require the last amount of non-bonus credit spending for a Category 1 hotel ($1,666.67 to be exact). When it comes to earning free nights at top-tier hotels, Club Carlson and Wyndham come out ahead. All it takes is $14,000 worth of non-bonus category spending to earn a free night with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa or the Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card. Wyndham is a bit unique because all award nights, regardless of hotel category, cost just 15,000 points per night. With the Wydnam Rewards Visa Signature Card, this translates to just $7,500 worth of spending to earn a free night.

Personally, this is an area where I’ve been putting Barclay Arrival Miles to great use because 1.) some co-branded hotel credit cards have terrible accrual rates on non-bonus category spending and 2.) depending on the cost of paid stays, it can actually be a better value to redeem Arrival Miles rather than hotel points for hotel bookings. There’s also the added bonus of earning points through the rewards program when redeeming credit card points like those earned through the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard.

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card and Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card

  • 5 points per $1 spent on all spending
  • Club Carlson Award Chart
    • Category 1 = $1,800
    • Category 2 = $3,000
    • Category 3 = $5,600
    • Category 4 = $7,600
    • Category 5 = $8,800
    • Category 6 = $10,000
    • Category 7 = $14,000

Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • 3 points per $1 spent on all spending
  • Club Carlson Award Chart
    • Category 1 = $3,000
    • Category 2 = $5,000
    • Category 3 = $9,333.33
    • Category 4 = $12,666.67
    • Category 5 = $14,666.67
    • Category 6 = $16,666.67
    • Category 7 = $23,333.33

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card and Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express and Hilton HHonors Card from American Express

  • 3 points per $1 spent on all spending
  • Hilton HHonors Award Chart
    • Category 1 = $1,666.67
    • Category 2 = $3,333.33
    • Category 3 = $6,666.67
    • Category 4 = $6,666.67 – $10,000
    • Category 5 = $10,000 – $13,333.33
    • Category 6 = $10,000 – $1,666.67
    • Category 7 = $10,000 – $20,000
    • Category 8 = $13,333.33 – $23,333.33
    • Category 9 = $16,666.67 – $26,666.67
    • Category 10 = $23,333.33 – $31,666.67

Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

  • 2 points per $1 spent on all spending
  • Hilton HHonors Award Chart
    • Category 1 = $2,500
    • Category 2 = $5,000
    • Category 3 = $10,000
    • Category 4 = $10,000 – $15,000
    • Category 5 = $15,000 – $20,000
    • Category 6 = $15,000 – $25,000
    • Category 7 = $15,000 – $30,000
    • Category 8 = $20,000 – $35,000
    • Category 9 = $25,000 – $40,000
    • Category 10 = $35,000 – $47,500

Chase Hyatt Credit Card

  • Non-elite point earning rate: 1 points per $1
  • Hyatt Gold Passport Award Chart
    • Category 1 = $5,000
    • Category 2 = $8,000
    • Category 3 = $12,000
    • Category 4 = $15,000
    • Category 5 = $20,000
    • Category 6 = $25,000
    • Category 7 = $30,000

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

  • 1 points per $1 on all spending
  • IHG Rewards Club Award Chart
    • Pointbreaks = $5,000
    • Category 1 = $10,000
    • Category 2 = $15,000
    • Category 3 = $20,000
    • Category 4 = $25,000
    • Category 5 = $30,000
    • Category 6 = $35,000
    • Category 7 = $40,000
    • Category 8 = $45,000
    • Category 9 = $50,000
    • Category 10 = $55,000
    • Category 11 = $60,000

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

  • 1 points per $1 on all spending
  • Marriott Rewards Award Chart
    • Category 1 PointSavers = $6,000
    • Category 1 = $7,500
    • Category 2 PointSavers = $7,500
    • Category 2 = $10,000
    • Category 3 PointSavers = $10,000
    • Category 3 = $15,000
    • Category 4 PointSavers = $15,000
    • Category 4 = $20,000
    • Category 5 PointSavers = $20,000
    • Category 5 = $25,000
    • Category 6 PointSavers = $25,000
    • Category 6 = $30,000
    • Category 7 PointSavers = $30,000
    • Category 7 = $35,000
    • Category 8 PointSavers = $35,000
    • Category 8 = $40,000
    • Category 9 PointSavers = $40,000
    • Category 9 = $45,000

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

  • 1 points per $1 on all spending
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Award Chart
    • Category 1: $2,000 – $3,000
    • Category 2: $3,000 – $4,000
    • Category 3: $7,000
    • Category 4: $10,000
    • Category 5: $12,000 – $16,000
    • Category 6: $20,000 – $25,000
    • Category 7: $30,000 – $35,000

Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card

  • 2 points per $1 on all spending
  • All hotels 15,000 points per night = $7,500 worth of credit card spending

Which, if any, of these credit cards do you use to generate points for hotel stays?

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Ariana Arghandewal

15 Comments

  1. We’ve been concentrating on Hilton spend over the last 6 months. Previously it was Club Carlson, but everyone knows how that imploded. We’re going to start spend on Wyndham shortly. I have 5 rooms booked this weekend @ the Dolce Stockton Seaview for 75K pts.. Per night w/ tax it is $345.00, so using pts. is an excellent value. I want to accumulate Wyndham for their new 5 star hotel in Barbados, opening in 2018. I can MS 15K Wyndham pts. for about $40.00.

  2. A few minor typos: 1) *least* amount of non-bonus credit spending, and 2) Hilton category 9 low end of range $16,666.67

  3. Ariana – thank you! I have only been following you a short while but you have already become one of my favorite bloggers for your practical, candid insights. I’d love to see a blog more broadly on your personal approach to credit cards and churn. It appears you do more MS and less churn than many. If so, why? How many credit cards with annual fees do you have open, and what makes the fees worth paying for you? If you were starting new, what are the first 10-15 cards you would open (in rank order)? Etc. Thanks. Keep up the great work!

  4. I mainly use a variety of Hilton cards and Club Carlson. As much as I want to get rid of the Club Carlson card, I have an upcoming 4 night stay at the Radisson in Puerto Montt, Chile. I paid the AF again because I wanted the 40,000 anniversary points towards this stay. So far I have enough points for 3 nights and I’ve been MS’ing to get that 4 night. Hopefully I can cancel after this.

    I learned you have to be careful with saving for Hilton points. I opened two new Hilton cards to try and get enough points for a 5 night stay at the Hilton Tokyo next March. I earned enough points by May and found they had dramatically increased the points needed. Apparently Hilton does this when they’ve run out of standard point rooms. It seems they don’t open as many standard point rooms for awards during certain times(March is cherry blossom season in Japan). Fortunately, the annual free night awards my wife and I each got for MS’ing $10,000 on the HH Reserve cards were still available to use at the Conrod Hilton Tokyo for two nights.

    • I totally get that – I just recently got the Club Carlson card again after closing my account. I was trying to book a trip to London and the hotels there are ridiculously expensive. I kept thinking if I’d kept my Club Carlson card, I could easily ms the points needed for around $100/night. I think it’s going to be a keeper going forward. Hilton is great, but sometimes it is tough to book awards with them when standard rooms aren’t available. Hope your trip goes well – I’d love to hear your feedback when you return!

  5. Fun renewal of this discussion….. appreciate your dogged reiteration of support for Club Carlson, even as I remain even more so the critic of what’s left of the ever shrinking Club Carlson chain. (We were in your neck of the woods last week — and so very few cc’s left out there…. Take Fresno area. They went from five down to two in the past month — and the one being a recent HI conversion) Curiously, the (once upon a time category 1) Fresno Park Inn by Radisson is still using their former name — but you can’t use club carlson points to stay there! (sic — not making that up — google it, and that’s a REALLY curious situation…. called them up — and they confirmed my impression that the Club Carlson chain is imploding…. yes, the rep. I spoke with was rather sarcastic about it too) Nothing left of Club Carlson in San Fran or Oakland. (and the one radisson in san jose just converted to a country inn…. Ok, maybe I’ve just hit all the bad spots…. determined to stay at the cat. 1, Country Inn at Atlanta airport before that last of a category disappears 🙂

    As for Wyndham, I hear you on the value to be had from spending there….. though high end Wyndham properties are few and far between. Just spent 3 free days at the Wyndham Viva Maya — in Playa del Carmen, Mex….. beautiful, gorgeous, truly fun beach there, with lots of nice water sports activities, but the property, the hotel itself is simply NOT being run well. Horrendous, dangerous heat in the dining areas (inexcusable), so-so food, and no free internet. (nightmare….. dozens of us daily making the half mile trek to the nearby Star Bucks…. comical actually, when not infuriating – and a disgrace to Wyndham that one of their signature properties doesn’t have decent internet. (Still, for how easy it is to get the Wyndham points, if they ever fix the net issues at the Viva properties at PdC (the premium version didn’t work either), we might well go back. (We also stayed at the glorious, all-beach facing suites, Cancun Zilara same trip…. unfair comparison to be sure, with Zilara being the creme de la creme of all-inclusives — but it’s on a VERY rough beach area…. as is the Zilara Montego Bay…. Can you say powerful undertow, leg twisting waves, and red flag warnings? By contrast, the Rivierra area protected by an offshore island…. )

  6. I second a previous comment on Thank you so much for doing all the Math for us and breaking all this down to spend!!!

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