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In addition to credit cards that earn airline miles or transferable currencies which can be used for free flights, there exists a separate niche for cards that earn hotel points for free stays. These points can be extremely valuable when used efficiently, and an added benefit of many hotel co-branded credit cards is that they come with an annual free night certificate for use at the associated hotel chain.

Today we’ll take a look at some of the best credit cards that offer an annual free night certificate as part of their benefits.

Free Night Certificates

Welcome drinks at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, which we booked with a Free Night Certificate from the World of Hyatt credit card. The cash rate during our stay was $350 per night.

One of the major differences between credit cards that earn airline miles or transferable currencies and those that are co-branded with hotels are the incentives. Both offer various benefits to entice customers to open and use the products, but many hotel credit cards offer free night certificates as well to sweeten the pot.

In recent years, many hotel chains have moved from static to dynamic pricing and have also capped their free night certificates at a particular value, meaning that it’s harder (though not impossible) to get incredibly outsized value from these benefits. Still, it’s not difficult to completely offset the cost of the card’s annual fee using free night certificates for nights you may have otherwise paid for and so it makes sense to utilize hotel credit cards as part of your award travel strategy.

Top Hotel Credit Cards with Annual Free Night Certificates

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Free Night Cert Details: Free night certificate awarded each year after anniversary, and another if you spend more than $15,000 on the card within a calendar year. Free night certificates are usable on Category 1-4 Hyatt hotels.
  • Comments: This card is one of my favorites and it’s easy to get much more value from the free night certificate than the cost of the annual fee, even though it’s capped at Category 1-4. For example, the Park Hyatt Siem Reap is a Category 3 and rates are usually $350+ per night.
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Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

  • Annual Fee: $450 (Rates & Fees)
  • Free Night Cert Details: Free weekend night certificate provided when you open the card and on each anniversary. Only usable on weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night).
  • Comments: This credit card has a hefty annual fee but tons of other benefits such as complementary top-tier Diamond status (lounge access and free breakfast at Hilton properties), Priority Pass airport lounge membership, and a $250 resort credit that make it a great choice for most people. Terms Apply.
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IHG(R) Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

  • Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $89
  • Free Night Cert Details: Includes one free night certificate each year which can be used on hotels priced up to 40,000 points per night.
  • Comments: This is another favorite card of mine that always pays for its annual fee and much more. You can often find Kimpton hotels off-peak within the U.S. or Intercontinental Hotels overseas that fall within the 40,000 point threshold – no need to waste the certs on a Holiday Inn!
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Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

  • Annual Fee: $450 (Rates & Fees)
  • Free Night Cert Details: This card offers one free night certificate every year on your account anniversary which can be used on hotels priced up to 50,000 points per night.
  • Comments: Similar to the Aspire card for Hilton, the Brilliant card offers many ancillary benefits (including a free night certificate) that can often justify the high annual fee if you stay at Marriott properties often. Terms Apply.
  • Learn more.

Marriot Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Free Night Cert Details: Current increased welcome bonus includes one free night certificate usable on hotels priced up to 50,000 points per night. You also receive a free night certificate each year after account anniversary, which is usable on hotels priced up to 35,000 points per night.
  • Comments: Though the current welcome offer includes a free night certificate, this is not usually the case and you would usually only get one after each cardmember anniversary.
  • Learn more. 

Marriot Bonvoy(TM) Business Card from American Express

  • Annual Fee: $125 (Rates & Fees)
  • Free Night Cert Details: Normally comes with one free night certificate but currently has an increased offer (until 11/3/21) where they’re offering two once you meet the minimum spend requirement ($5k in 3 months). Free night certificates can be used on hotels priced up to 50,000 points per night. They also provide a free night certificate each cardmember year valued at 35,000 points.
  • Comments: Remember how I said you should sign up for business credit cards? This is why. The offer for two free night certificates as part of the limited-time welcome bonus is fantastic, and if you’re only looking at consumer credit cards this wouldn’t even come up on your radar. This one is well worth the annual fee. Terms Apply.
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Final Thoughts

The view from our Sea View room at the Intercontinental in Beirut, Lebanon. The cash rate for this night was $318 plus tax, but we stayed for free with our certificate from the IHG credit card.

As I’ve discussed above, there are several excellent co-branded credit cards that offer free night certificates for hotel stays. Marriott Bonvoy offers the most number of credit cards with this feature, and due to current increased welcome bonuses they are even better. That being said, the Hilton Aspire card is the only one which also includes top-tier hotel status along with a free night certificate, which can be extremely valuable for award stays. Do note that the World of Hyatt, IHG Premier, and Bonvoy Boundless cards are offered by Chase so their 5/24 rule applies. Likewise, the Bonvoy Brilliant, Bonvoy Business, and Hilton Aspire cards are offered by American Express which has a once-per-lifetime limitation on earning welcome bonuses.

I have personally used dozens of free night certificates over the years with great success. I happily pay the annual fee for cards I have with this feature because I am always able to use the certificates for good (but not always excellent) value. It’s incredibly handy to have them in addition to points you earn from welcome bonuses and earnings from regular spend on your cards and should not be overlooked.

 

 

Brandon Chase is a financially independent writer, endurance athlete, and travel hacking enthusiast originally from Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Cairo, Egypt, and Nicosia, Cyprus, and Islamabad, Pakistan. Since getting hooked on “the hobby” in 2013, he and his wife have accumulated and redeemed millions of points and miles for luxury travel, including a $35,000 trip around the world for 97% off retail which he wrote about on his blog Fit For Miles. In addition to travel, he loves to be outdoors and has summited Mr. Kilimanjaro, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and completed ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances. Brandon is thrilled to share his knowledge of credit cards, award travel, and optimization with the Go Curry Cracker readers and hopes to help people travel more and better than they ever thought possible.

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Editorial Note – Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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